Harry, 91, travels to Australia to meet a sister he never knew he had!
18 February 2013
We want to share Harry’s remarkable story on this blog as his family contacted us on how this once in a lifetime experience has given him a new lease of life.
Harry, is a resident of Kinloch View, a McCarthy & Stone - built development in Linlithgow. Harry moved to his new home as he found himself struggling to cope with living on his own after his wife had died. The harsh winter of 2009 had made Harry feel isolated in his previous house where he had lived for nearly 60 years, which wasn’t far from where he currently lives.
A grandfather, and at 91-years-old, Harry flew 9,000 miles to Australia to meet a sister he never knew he had after being put in touch by a history group researching the family.
Harry Hogburn always believed his dad, Frederick, a Royal Marine, had died when he was a baby, leaving mum Isabella to raise him as an only child from their home in Dunfermline. However, he recently discovered his father had moved back to Wokingham, where he remarried in 1929 and had a second child, Nora, the following year.
The grandad-of-three only found out about his sister after his son-in-law, Allan, and his then unknown niece, Wanda, contacted the Wokingham Remembers website. Wokingham Remembers traces the lives of servicemen from the town who had fought in both World Wars. They had information about Frederick, who was originally from Wokingham, which led to both families contacting the organisation with conflicting details.
"It was very emotional to find out I had a sister – when you learn something like that at my age it’s a bit of a trauma to be honest. “I’ve been going 90 years on my own, and then to discover this was completely overwhelming. I cried buckets. I was so happy, but also so sad that this hadn't happened much earlier in my life when my wife, Gladys, was still alive to share this marvellous story."
Retired travelling salesman Harry suffers from heart problems and had a chest infection that threatened to stop him from flying for the reunion. His doctor had suggested that it might be a good idea to ensure supplemental oxygen was available on the journey in case he needed it. However, Harry managed to travel on four separate long-haul flights, a total of 37 hours, without needing to use any extra oxygen. One of the stewards on the plane told Harry that he was the oldest passenger he had ever travelled with.
Harry, his daughter Shirley, and his son-in law Allan, made the emotional journey. Nora, 82 was waiting to greet them when they arrived at the airport in Perth, Australia. "I’m quite an emotional person anyway so there were a lot of tears," Harry said. “I had always wanted to be a brother and there I was meeting my sister for the first time. When I met Nora I could see the resemblance straight away. People who have seen the photographs of us together say the same thing, they think we look very alike. We share the same love of music with Mario Lanza being our favourite."
Nora has three daughters; two of them live in Western Australia and the other, Wanda, lives in Bracknell. Harry added "My newly discovered family are also extremely pleased about the reunion as well. It has been delightful to meet them and they are all lovely people." Harry and Nora met every day during the two-week trip and he now plans to keep in touch.
Since returning from Australia, Allan and Wanda have continued their research and have found two more relatives for Harry. Both are surviving children of his father's siblings, one cousin lives in Reading and the other lives in Canada. Harry's next trip will take him to Wokingham in April where he hopes to meet one of his new cousins for the first time, spend more time with his niece Wanda and explore the area where his father was born and spent most of his life.
Shirley, his daughter said it had given her Dad a renewed optimism after the death of Gladys.
“His world fell apart when mum died but now he’s met Nora he said it was one of the highlights of his life. To be having this momentous thing happen to you when you’re 91 is just fabulous. We’re all busy planning our next trip to Australia to see Nora again in 2014!”.
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