“Do I know who I am?”  One man’s search for his family. Peter Slater 29th April 2019

Peter has been a sports reporter for BBC radio for many years.

He began by telling us that he was adopted at birth.

His adoption has led to many questions in pursuit of his birth family during his life.

In his childhood he lived in a council house in Pedmore with his father, Gerald Slater, and his mother.  One day they brought home a baby girl, but she stayed only one day.

(Her mother had decided that she wanted to keep her).

When he was 4 years old he was taken somewhere and in a room, which contained several cots, he was told to choose his new baby sister.  He pointed at the nearest cot and Suzanne joined the family.  He did not know about his adoption.

When he was 6 years old they moved house to Middlesborough, which took him away from his relations and school friends, so he lost touch with uncles and aunts and cousins and had to start again.  At times he felt quite isolated.

In 1966 when he was 14 he wondered about his ‘nuclear’ family.  He was good at or interested in public speaking competitions, sport, girls, pop music, etc.  His parents were not, so why was he?  His feeling of isolation didn’t decrease when they moved house again and he had to start again making friends.

In 1968 he entered a DJ competition at a holiday camp and he knew he was going to win.

He had found his way and from then on did Amateur Dramatics, School plays, County Youth Theatre and later, at Sheffield University  where he was reading English, he was into Student radio and Politics.

On his 21st birthday in 1973 his uncle Roger sent him an adoption certificate which made him realise why he was so different from the rest of his family.  He was adopted!!

His birth mother, Freida Kelly, had called him Stanley Kelly.

In 1976 he met his wife-to-be, Alison, and no longer felt isolated.  He graduated, and found his first job and knew that this is what he had been born to do, but why?

He married Alison and they began their own ‘nuclear’ family.  He got a job on a local radio station.  His parents moved to Cheltenham.

It was time to find out about Stanley Kelly.

Peter’s birth certificate told him that Freda Kelly was a clerk in a bacon distributors but he knew nothing else.  He got in touch with a social worker called Joe Theaker who found the original adoption notes.

These notes told him that Freda Kelly was a model, that she went to the National School, that she was Irish, that his father was married but posed as a single man and that he was Irish.

So Peter is Irish by birth!  He would not find out more about his mother in London – he would have to go to Dublin.

He found certificates in Dublin.

His father, Joe Devoy:-  Birth certificate, Marriage certificate, Death certificate, and that he had 6 children.

Freida:-  just her birth certificate and that her parents were musicians.  He thought she must have emigrated.  He gave up the search.

A friend, Jim Beglin, said, “Why don’t you put an advert in the Irish Independent and the Dublin Evening News?”  Peter tried this last effort without much hope.

He got a letter from a Mrs. J. Millman Read, saying that she may be able to help him if he explained what he wanted.  He replied, telling her about his search.

He found out that she was his Auntie Joyce but she would not let him meet his mother because Freida was married and her husband did not know about Peter.  However, 2 weeks later he got a letter and photograph from Freida.

The letter told him that, when she was pregnant, Joe Devoy dumped her (he was married with 4 children).  She went to England, had the child, went back to Dublin, did not get on with her mother (surprise!) so went back to England.  There she met Desmond, got pregnant, was dumped again but kept this child.  She later met a man called Peter and married him but did not tell him about Stanley in case she was dumped again.

A few weeks later Peter (Slater) met Freida because her husband was away working.

In June 1996 he met his mother and had a long chat.  He found out that he had a half-brother called Roy.  He received a letter from Roy and met him, then later at Freida’s 80th birthday they had a photo taken together.

Both Roy and Freida have passed away but, in 2015, Peter ‘Googled’ Joe Devoy’s wife, found her death notice but also that she was the mother of 9 children.  He sent an e-mail to the eldest of the siblings and got e-mails from Carmel and Maria.  They asked him about his baby teeth  and when he said that the teeth were very poor they said that he definitely was one of the family!

In May 2015 Peter went to Dublin, was met by 5 women waving placards with his name and has met his 4 half-brothers.  DNA tests that are 99% matches show that they are all children of Joe Devoy and they are happy to welcome Peter.

This was a very interesting story, delivered by an expert speaker/presenter.  Full marks!