A Leighton Buzzard mum and former owner of Ann’s Bridal Room has finally met her sister thanks to ITV show Long Lost Family.
Ann Beggs, 45, has found her half sister, Cathie Cutler-Evans, who was put up for adoption by her mother, Adrienne, when Adrienne was 19 and a single mother.
Adrienne always told Ann, and Ann’s brother, Mark, that they had an older sister, but sadly Adrienne passed away in February 2012 after spending years searching for her daughter since Cathie turned 18.
Then, earlier this year, Ann received the surprise of a lifetime when she opened a letter from the Long Lost Family team saying they were helping Cathie, who wanted to find her birth mother.
Ann said: “Mum was the best – she was just amazing. We always knew about Cathie – there was never a sit down moment; Cathie was always spoken about for as long as I remember.
“I hope people who watch the show learn what life was like in the 60s – things were very different if you were a single mother; there were no benefits or housing waiting lists.
“I always wanted to find Cathie to the point of obsession and when we met in March the connection was palpable. It’s been an amazing journey.”
It seems that business runs in the family, as while Ann is known as the former owner of Ann’s Bridal Room, Cathie runs a barbers shop in Chester as well as raising her three sons.
The entrepreneur always knew she was adopted, growing up in The Wirral and having a happy childhood.
However, after both her adoptive parents passed away, the desire to find Adrienne meant Cathie contacted ITV for help.
Early on during the filming of the show, Cathie told ITV cameras: “I imagined meeting her (Adrienne) and touching her and holding her and having that instant contact; I hope I can do that.”
However, tragically, the meeting would never happen.
An ITV spokesperson, said: “Long Lost Family searched marriage records and found a marriage for Adrienne Powell in Cheshire in 1966, which seemed very likely to be Cathie’s mum.
“After searching under her married name, we discovered the news that Adrienne had died in 2012 and tragically Cathie would not be able to meet her birth mother.
“Records did show that Adrienne had two other children and our intermediary contacted them with the news that Cathie was searching.
“Mark didn’t want to appear on camera but Ann asked to meet show host, Nicky Campbell, and was overcome with emotion when she saw photo of her big sister.
“Meanwhile, Cathie was told off-camera about her mother’s passing before Davina visited her to reveal that she had a half brother and sister.
“Cathie was overcome with emotion: ‘I know I won’t get to see Adrienne, but I can’t wait to meet Ann… I’ve always wanted a sister and now I’ve got one.’”
One week after receiving the news, Cathie travelled to Liverpool to meet with, Ann, who was to hold the answers to so many burning questions.
When she was a teenager, Cathie’s adoptive parents had shown her a letter from her birth mother, Adrienne, thanking Cathie’s adoptive parents for giving her a loving home and asking them to explain to Cathie how much she loved her.
Cathie’s adoptive mother had also described how young Adrienne was when she gave birth, and how Adrienne wanted Cathie to be part of a family – after caring for her daughter for the first 10 weeks, Adrienne had taken Cathie to an adoption agency in Liverpool.
Fast forward to 2017, and Cathie now knew that she had younger a brother and sister – but had they known about her?
Ann said: “Cathie was really scared that she was going to be a secret, so when Davina revealed that mum always talked about her it meant so much!
“We sat down at the (hotel)table and talked for about two and a half hours – it felt like we had known each other forever.
“She is so incredibly like mum it’s uncanny. In personality too – Cathie wears her heart on her sleeve and would do anything for anybody, just like mum.
“Cathie also has the same mannerisms and I can’t believe somebody that was not raised by mum can be so like her. It really brings into focus the nature versus nurture debate.
“ Cathie and I are thick as thieves; it’s heart-breaking that mum never got to meet her.”
The spooky thing was that last summer, when Cathie was applying for the show, it was also on Ann’s mind, too...
Her daughter, Willow, 15, tried hard to persuade her, but Ann just didn’t believe it would be possible, especially as they had tried to find Cathie before and just hit a brick wall.
Ann said: “I take my hat off to the Long Lost Family team. They take you through every step of the way, and when Cathie and I were filmed you couldn’t even see the cameras.
“No-one interrupts you, and when they’d filmed what they needed to, they just melted into the background.
“They are very passionate about what they do and took great care of our emotions.”
Ann describes how friends who have met Cathie have said: “you’ve got a piece of your mum back”, immediately seeing the similarities to Adrienne.
Ann and Mark also grew up in The Wirral, and when Ann and her children moved to Leighton Buzzard in January 2003, Adrienne followed, becoming a much-loved community member.
Ann said: “Mum was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in her 30s and always had a cause and mission, raising tens of thousands of pounds for charity; she campaigned for better disability access and was one of the first people to use a mobility scooter in the 80s, organising charity ‘scooterthons’ .
“She was also chairwoman of the MS Society in The Wirral, and later chairwoman of Leighton Buzzard’s MS Society.
“What she achieved in her life is incredible!”
Adrienne was a member of the Women’s RAF until she was released due to a head injury, and held several jobs, including as a florist and a photographer.
Her two daughters appeared on ITV’s Lorraine on July 26 and their Long Lost Family episode, produced by Wall To Wall Productions, also aired last Wednesday, available on ITV Player.
Ann lives with her husband, Nick, 55. She has three children from a previous marriage: Olivia, 24, and twins Jake and Callum, 21, and Ann and Nick have a daughter, Willow, 15.
Olivia has also blessed her mum with a granddaughter, 10 month old Orla.
Ann concluded: “Giving Cathie up for adoption devastated mum; I don’t think she ever got over it... she used to write Cathie’s birthday in her diary every year.
“Long Lost Family has been a really positive experience – a nod to mum. We’ve got Cathie now and she’s incredible.”