Reunited With My Dad After 47 Years
Published: December 14, 2007 | 6905th good news item since 2003
WHEN Ken Agland and Carol Wallace met for the first time in 47 years, neither could help shedding tears.
They had been brought together in a hotel in Inverurie, a father and daughter who hadn’t seen each other in nearly five decades.
Until that moment, all Ken had been to Carol was a hazy memory of a bulky figure who used to build her toy models.
For Ken, Carol was still the little girl he had last seen when she was aged just four and whose photographs he had treasured all that time.
But when the tears finally subsided, the two strangers faced trying to get to know each other once again.
Thankfully, time had not broken the father-and-daughter bond and the pair are now, just four months since they were reunited, the best of friends.
Ken, 76, said: “Meeting Carol has made my life complete.
“I have never forgotten her and I can still remember the last time I saw her.
“That’s an image I have carried with me through the years. Meeting her again was an incredibly traumatic and emotional moment. But, at the same time, it never actually felt as if we had been apart for all those years.
“It was just like seeing someone who had just come back into my life but who I have always known, especially once we were able to dry our tears and actually start talking.”
Mum-of-six Carol, 51, added: “I was incredibly nervous and anxious about meeting Ken.
“I didn’t know what to expect but, once we had been together five or 10 minutes and stopped wiping the tears from our eyes, it just seemed so easy.
“It felt strangely familiar and we had a great conversation.”
Ken, who is originally from London, met Carol’s mum, Jean, when he was stationed with the RAF near Peterhead in Aberdeenshire.
They married in 1956 and baby Carol arrived not long after. They were a happy family but problems arose when Ken, who had left the RAF after five years, struggled to find work as an electrician.
He said: “I ended up having to work away from home a lot, which isn’t what you want when you are a newly married man.
“It eventually came to a point where I couldn’t get regular work, so I decided it would be best to come down south, find better employment and a home for us all to live in.
“Then Jean told me there was no way she was leaving Scotland and I didn’t want to go back into the situation where I couldn’t work.
“I am sorry to say things just went downhill from there. Looking back, I don’t think you can blame anyone, it was just such a different world back then.”
Over time, Ken lost all contact with his ex-wife and daughter Carol.
He said: “The hardest times were weekends and holidays when you saw other dads out with their children.
“Even after I married again and had another two children of my own, I never forgot Carol.
“I even remembered the date and time of her birth, which always surprises a lot of people.”
Back in Peterhead, Carol was growing up calling another man dad. Her mum had also remarried and, while Carol had a few shady memories of a man who used to play with her and who took her to stockcar racing, she always thought he was an uncle or family friend.
It wasn’t until she was getting married and needed her birth certificate at the age of 21 that she found out the truth.
Carol said: “It was very hard. Finding that out completely stumped me, took the wind right out of my sails.
“I was shocked and spoke to my husband-to-be about it all and we decided we would deal with the wedding first and then see where things went from there. But events overtook us.”
While Carol was on honeymoon, the man she had grown-up calling dad died.
Then her mum Jean fell ill with motor neurone disease.
Carol, who now lives in Oldmeldrum in Aberdeenshire, said: “She was struggling hard enough to communicate anyway, so I didn’t feel comfortable pushing her with questions.
“With all that going on, the issue of my birth father just sort of fell into the background and that wasn’t helped by the fact that the rest of the family never spoke about him.
“Now I think they were just trying to protect me and, of course, back then those kind of family secrets were big deals.”
Over the years, Ken made several attempts to trace Carol.
After the first few attempts failed, he found himself on holiday in the north of England one year and decided to drive up to Peterhead to see if he could find his lost daughter.
It was a fruitless search but a few years later his other daughter made a bit more headway on the internet. But after discovering Carol’s married name and a few other details she, too, hit a brick wall.
So by the time a letter from the Salvation Army landed on his desk four months ago, Ken had just about given up ever seeing his eldest daughter again.
He said: “It was totally out of the blue and my first thought was how on earth did they get my name and address?
“Then I read it and re-read it and knew that I just had to phone. It took just minutes to establish that the Carol looking for her father was my daughter.”
The Salvation Army passed on Ken’s address to Carol who wrote her father a letter immediately.
Carol said: “My husband and I had discussed trying to track Ken down when my children were small but we decided then there was no point. There didn’t seem to be a good reason for us to do it at that stage. And, looking back, I think I probably wasn’t ready for it either.
“Things changed this year and I think the change was brought on by a string of family events.
“One of my uncles died, which brought the realisation we are mortal and losing the next generation. Then two of my children got married this year, which made me realise that there was a bit missing from my family.
“It was then I decided to look for Ken.”
When Ken received the letter from Carol he answered her straight away, including his phone number and a message telling his eldest daughter she could phone him any time.
He said: “I think she hummed and hawed when she got the letter and then picked up the phone. But it wasn’t at all strange to hear her voice, she just sounded familiar.
“What was lovely was my wife, Celia, took the phone from me and told Carol, ‘welcome to the family’ and thanked her for the blessing of another six grandkids.
“Family are everything and without that, you have nothing.”
Ken and Carol were finally reunited at the start of September. For four days they did nothing but talk, getting to know each other again after 47 years.
Ken said: “Carol and I decided that everything started from the moment we met again. The past is gone and we can never make that up.
“Thankfully, what happened doesn’t seem to have done Carol any harm. We have become great friends.”
Ken and his wife have since been guests at one of Carol’s daughter’s weddings and went to her Uncle Gordon’s 50th wedding anniversary party – after all Ken had been his best man.
Ken said: “It is great, we now have one great big enlarged family. I would tell anyone thinking about getting in touch with a family member they have lost touch with to do it and do it now.
“None of us know how much time we have in front of us and this is the time of year to do it. Believe me it is more than worth it.”
Ken and Carol’s story will be told as part of the Reunited programme on BBC1 at 10.45pm on Tuesday, December 18.It is part of the BBC’s Hard Christmas season.
‘Anyone thinking about getting in touch with family they’ve lost touch with should do it now. None of us know how much time we have in front of us …’