Christmas arrived early for a Leighton Buzzard man who has recently completed a 25,000 mile round-trip... to meet his mother and siblings he never knew existed.
Leighton Buzzard Golf Club professional Maurice Campbell discovered just weeks after burying the “mother” he adored that she had in fact fostered him days after he was born in a New Zealand hospital 44 years ago.
Now Maurice, who settled in Leighton Buzzard 15 years ago, is back at his Cotefield Drive home after spending three weeks in his native country with wife Nicola, son Callum and daughter Olivia, catching up for lost time with his birth mother, three sisters and seven nephews and nieces he never knew he had – “the best Xmas present I could wish for,” he said.
After a happy childhood in Hamilton, Maurice left his homeland in 1995 having secured a job as an assistant training professional with the Little Hey club near Hemel Hempstead. After meeting his wife-to-be Nicola at a charity function, he married and was appointed professional at the Leighton Buzzard’s Plantation Road club in 2001.
With son Callum barely a year old, the Campbell family settled in Leighton, with daughter Olivia being born just three years later. Their happiness was complete when “father” Rod and mother Rena retired from running a service station and moved to the UK to live in Milton Keynes close to their son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren.
Sadly, Rod passed away in 2012 and when Rena died in late June this year, she was interred with her husband at a cemetery in Bletchley.
But just days after the funeral, Maurice received a letter from New Zealand asking him to contact the adoption authorities there.
To his absolute amazement he was told that within 24 hours of his birth, he had been adopted; his birth name was Christopher Louis Callagher; his maternal mother and grandmother were still alive; that he had three sibling sisters, two cousins and five nephews and nieces; that his name was changed to Campbell by his adoptive parents when he was aged two; and that his family were keen to make contact.
“I was absolutely gob-smacked, elated and desperate to make contact,” said Maurice, who within hours had made contact with the elder of the three sisters, Charmaine to be told that their mother, Louise Moses and grandmother Florence Callagher, now 87, were both alive and anxious to contact him (unfortunately, grandmother Florence died just two weeks before the Campbells arrived in New Zealand).
And that’s just what Bedfordshire County golf coach Maurice did with his wife and family, taking 25 hours to complete the flight to Auckland where he met up with his now-extended family, ex-school colleagues and golfing pals.
Maurice said: “It was the best Christmas present I could have ever had. I had already had lengthy phone calls with my mother who had explained the circumstances which led to me being adopted.
“Meeting her and my sisters Charmaine, Katie and Sarah, was an unbelieveably emotional experience. We talked for days just exchanging experiences and catching up on all those lost years, travelled around both North and South islands, and relaxed on beautiful beaches visited glaciers. I even got to see the New Zealand rugby team beat Australia at Eden Park – what a treat.
“It might be difficult for my whole family to come over to the UK, but we will definitely be going out there again. Not only do I now have a great family out there, but it’s a fantastic country to visit as well.”
Added wife Nicola: “We couldn’t have been made more welcome out there; Maurice has an amazing family; it’s just a pity it took 44 years to find out they existed.”
Maurice was adopted just a day after being born as his mother was only 16 and her father concluded that the best option was for him to be adopted.
But Maurice said: “I had a privileged upbringing with Rod and Rena and cannot thank them enough for what they did for me. I fully understand why they never told me I was adopted. I loved what I had.”
Maurice was a two handicap golfer when he turned professional in New Zealand, having travelled to the UK in 1988 to help the Kiwi team finish runners-up behind Sweden in the World Schools championships at Sunningdale Old Course.
Since joining the Leighton club, Maurice has become one of the most successful golf coaches in the UK, tutoring the Bedfordshire County teams and being named Professional of the Year in 2011.
He was appointed Golf Director of the Plantation Road club two years ago, since which time, working with Head Greenkeeper Paul Harris, the course has received many accolades for its high quality.
The Leighton club has 600 playing members and 200 social members living in the Leighton Buzzard, Milton Keynes and Dunstable areas and surrounding villages.