A man who settled in Leighton Buzzard 15 years ago is flying back to his native New Zealand next month to meet his birth mother and siblings he never knew existed.
Leighton golf club professional Maurice Campbell was hit by the bombshell just weeks after burying the mother he adored, unaware that she had adopted him days after he was born in a Hamilton hospital 44 years ago.
After a happy childhood Maurice left his homeland in 1995 after securing 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 club in 2001.
With son Callum barely a year old, the Campbell family settled in Cotefield Drive, Leighton, with daughter Olivia being born just three years later.
Their happiness was complete when parents 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, 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 are still alive;
> he has 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.
“I have talked with my mother and she has explained the circumstances which led to me being adopted. I fully understand her explanation, accept it, and move on. I look forward to meeting her next month and developing a relationship which can only benefit us both.
“I talked to Charmaine and my other sisters, Katie, 34 and Sarah, 31, and just can’t wait to travel to New Zealand to meet them and catch up on all those lost years.”
So the mid-October 12,000-mile flight to Auckland is already booked, with Maurice being accompanied by wife Nicola, Cedars student Callum, 15 and Linslade Academy pupil Olivia, 12.
They’ve already arranged family get-togethers and outings and also meet-ups with Maurice’s former school colleagues and golfing graduates, including Neil McFarqhuar, a golf chum with whom he has remained in regular contact and who has two successful car franchise centres.
Maurice has also been told why he was adopted just a day after being born in Hamilton 44 years ago, explaining: “It turns out that my mother was only 16 when I was born. Her father concluded that the best option was for me to be adopted, and that’s what happened.
“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.
“The bottom line is that I’ve had the best of both worlds. Rod and Rena gave me education and opportunity; they funded my determination to seek a career in golf, to emigrate to England to fulfil that dream and then join me here with my family.
“No sooner have they gone, and I have a new family; how lucky is that. I have no bitterness, no regrets... just happy that I and my family have the chance to meet relatives we didn’t know existed.”
Adds Nicola: “Thankfully, Maurice is a stoical guy who takes things in his stride – though events in recent weeks have tested him to the limit.
“What’s great is that we as a family are all starting out from the same position and from the contact we have had so far, we don’t see any reconciliation issues that can’t be overcome with time and patience.
“He’s lived in England now for 20 years and while this is his home and his future, he’s proud to be a Kiwi. And that’s how we’d like it to remain.”
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 receieved many accolades for its 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.