A 71-year-old Beverley man has been united with two brothers he had never met, after a lifetime of searching for his family.
This week Tony Bailey met his younger brother Brian Moore (69) for the first time, after older brother Michael Sharples (75) enlisted the help of the Salvation Army to bring them together. Michael had been trying for over 40 years to track down his brothers.
Two weeks ago Tony and Michael met for the first time when Michael drove from his home in Exeter for an emotional get together at Tony’s home in Burden road in Beverley.
The three brothers, believed to be the only survivors of their family of eight, are now planning to keep in regular contact with each other, even though they live in different parts of the country.
Brian had travelled from his home in Sutton in Ashfield to meet up with Tony, finally filling in the missing pieces of the complicated family jigsaw.
Tony says that finding his brothers is like winning the Lottery, after decades of trying to find out more information about his family.
The brothers were all variously adopted or fostered after their mother died shortly after Brian was born.
Tony, who was born in Worksop, was brought up by his adoptive parents Samuel and Mary Bailey in Giltbrook in Nottingham, where they ran a grocery shop and a fish and chip shop.
At the age of 18, Tony joined the RAF and travelled to postings around the world, including Cyprus, Libya and North Africa.
He was eventually posted to Cowden in East Yorkshire, and was based at Leconfield until he was demobbed in 1964.
He settled in Beverley, where he had various jobs including window cleaning, labouring, and working at Armstrong Patents.
“After five years in the Air Force I didn’t want to go home and stand behind a shop counter for the rest of my life. I was happy in Beverley, made a few friends and settled down here,” he says.
Tony also set about trying to find out details of his family, but says he did not know much about his birth parents, and although he wrote to Somerset House in London he could not find the information he was looking for.
Unknown to him, another brother, John Foster, who has since died, was also trying to trace his family, with more success, and five of the brothers got together for the first time in 1987.
But they still were not able to find Tony until Michael was able to trace him a few months ago, with the help of the Salvation Army.
“I got a letter from the Salvation Army which said ‘We have a Michael Sharples who is looking for you’,” said Tony. “I was gobsmacked - I was jumping up and down.
“I could not believe it because I had been searching for my family for all my life.”
Tony said they were very emotional moments when he finally met both of his brothers.
“It feels as if I have won the Lottery,” he added.
Brian said he is delighted that all the brothers have been reunited. “It is nice to meet our Tony at last. It has been a very long time, too long,” he said.