Fate lends a hand in Don’s quest for his birth-mother

Don with Philomena Lee, whose story inspired the book and film Philomena. She had given birth in Sean Ross, the mother-and-baby hoome in Roscrea from where Don was adopted.
Don with Philomena Lee, whose story inspired the book and film Philomena. She had given birth in Sean Ross, the mother-and-baby hoome in Roscrea from where Don was adopted.

Lifestyle – Singer-songwriter Don Stiffe tells Judy Murphy about the obstacles he faced seeking the truth about his birth

Award-winning singer-songwriter Don Stiffe, who has a thriving solo career as well as performing with Sharon Shannon, Cherish the Ladies and the Kilfenora Céilí Band, turned 50 this year. That’s a milestone in anyone’s life. But for Don, a bigger milestone came last year. That was when he finally held his own birth cert and connected with the family he had lost as a baby, after being given up for adoption.

From Bohermore in the City, Don always knew he was adopted – his parents Margaret and Dominic were open about it since day one. He had a happy childhood and enjoyed a great relationship with them and with his sister, who was also adopted.

But in recent years, Don had an increasing desire to know about his blood family.

“I had no issues,” says the Headford resident. “It’s just you have a longing inside yourself as you get older. You want to know about your mother and father and if you have any siblings.”

When he had married his wife, Elaine nearly 20 years ago, “there was a complication in that I couldn’t get a birth cert”. Because Don was adopted, he didn’t have one. His local priest obtained his baptismal cert and that sufficed, but Don knew that one day, he’d want a record of his birth.

He and Elaine have three children and he wondered about hereditary illnesses that he or the children might be vulnerable to. But Don’s desire to fiind his mother was even more fundamental.

“I often wondered did she ever try to look for me and if any of her family knew of me. Questions like these were always on my mind.”

However, the legislation that governs adoption in Ireland makes it difficult for people like Don to find their birth parents. The law is due to change next year and it can’t happen too soon for him. Meanwhile, he’s hoping that his extraordinary story – the early part of which is documented in the beautiful song You’ll Always Be My Mother – will help others in his situation.

Don’s quest to find his birth mother began more than three years ago when he went to the HSE Civil Registration Service in Galway looking for his birth cert. it wasn’t there and the helpful receptionist finally asked him, in a whisper, if he’d been adopted.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.