'Forgotten Scots' made to give babies up for adoption in 1960s

A 79-year-old mother from the United States has launched a desperate search for the son she gave up for adoption in Scotland in the 1960s and has highlighted the plight of the “forgotten people” who were separated from their children at birth given social attitudes of the day.

Rosamond King, originally from Glasgow but now of Rochester, New York, is trying to find her child who was born at Bellshill Maternity Hospital in the early 1960s.

Her son was born following a two-year relationship with Dexter Clark, a submariner who served with the US Navy at Holy Loch during the Cold War. The pair met at a Greek restaurant in Glasgow when they were both 20.

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It was “a love at first sight” moment for both of them, with the young sailor then accepted into her family and a happy relationship following.

Rosamond King and Dexter Clark today. The former couple, who have made contact for the first time after 55 years, are now searching for the son who was given up for adoption at birth in Scotland in the early 1960s. PIC: Contributed.

Their son was born but he completely disappeared after her family arranged his adoption to hide her pregnancy.

"I did not hold him, I did not see him, they grabbed him and ran as soon as he was born. I stayed in hospital for a week, the only woman there without a baby,” Ms King said.

Dexter too went away, as duty called him home to the United States given the Cuban Missile crisis.

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The USS Abraham Lincoln in the dry dock in Holy Loch in 1963, when Mr Clark, a former submariner, was stationed there with the US Navy. PIC: US Navy Archive.

Now, after more than 55 years, Ms King launched a search for her son, prompted not least by recent surprise contact from Mr Clark, of Arizona, who also wants to find him.

Ms King said she was now “swimming in a sea of emptiness” as she tries to navigate from afar the official adoption tracing system in Scotland, as well as numerous fee-charging people tracing agencies who act akin to private investigators, often using social media for their searches.

She said: “I want someone to help the plight of Scots women who can’t find their adopted children.

“It is time for Scotland to come out of the dark ages and help the forgotten people. There must be so many women like me out there who gave birth decades ago and were forced to give up their children due to the way society viewed unmarried mothers.”

Glasgow City Centre, 1962. The couple met in a Greek restaurant and went on to have a happy two year relationship before their son was born and put up for adoption in order to hide the young woman's pregnancy outwith marriage. PIC: geograph.org.

Adoption records are held by both courts and National Records of Scotland, who describe the documents as among the “most confidential” they hold and include original birth certificates, details of the new parents and the circumstances surrounding the adoption.

The sealed papers, which are closed to general public access for 100 years, can only be opened up following an application from the adopted person, a person appointed on their behalf, such as a social worker, or an organisation involved in adoption.

Legal adoptions in Scotland began in 1930 with the system broadly designed to protect the identities and well being of adopted children with birth parents having few legal rights.

Meanwhile, the Edinburgh-based charity Birthlink operates the Adoption Contact Register which was set up in 1984 to “empower birth parents" and to offer emotional and practical support to those searching for family.

Rosamond King and Dexter Clark around the time they met in Glasgow in the early 1960s. PIC: Contribbuted.

At Birthlink parents and their relatives - such as siblings - can register their details but a match can only be made between relatives of both parties are registered as looking for each other.

More than 11,000 people are on the register – parents, adopted children and siblings - looking for their lost relatives with a large number linked to adoptions in the 50s, 60s and 70s given societal pressures of the time. In the Birthlink office, a bell is rung every time a match is made.

Ms King said: “I hope that some day, he may look for us so we can meet him, before it is too late.”

As her search deepens, Ms King has also been quoted thousands of pounds by a myriad of private people tracing agencies, although they do not have access to official adoption records and often use social media in their searches.

Ms King, who moved to New York for a new start following the pain of her forced adoption, said she believes there are many women in Scotland in the same position as her.

She said: “The Americans were at Holy Loch for 30 years and there will have been many, many children born out of wedlock.

"In those days, girls were really shamed if they got pregnant outwith marriage, particularly if they were from a good, respectable family. I had to go away up to Elgin to stay with a friend.

“After I gave birth, I had to just go home, go to work and just continue like nothing had happened. It was a very hard time.

“I just had to compartmentalise everything in my brain – both my baby and Dex – and I never thought I would see them again.”

In the US, a career and marriage followed for Ms King, her lost loves buried away somewhere in her heart and head.

"Life was OK, there was obviously something missing, but life was ok,” she added.

In July last year, she received a phone call at work out of the blue.

“It was Dex. I almost fell off my chair. Never in my dreams did I think I would hear from him again. I told him at first he had the wrong number.

"I was like everything that had been locked away, compartmentalised in that box just came out. I hadn’t cried for years, but then I just cried.

“We only hope that our son has a good home, is well educated and that he knows he was loved, and never forgotten.”

Dr Clare Hancock-Fraser, a senior lecturer in social work at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen who has a special interest in adoptions, said the statutory system was in place to protect the adopted child.

She said: “From 1930, adopted people could gain access to the original records. Adopted people certainly have more rights and are protected in law. Birth families don’t have that.

“Social media has really changed the process of search and reunion. There is supposed to be a tight system in place but a lot of people, both adoptees and birth families, are ignoring this and going down different routes. There are risks. There is no support for those involved. The whole idea of going through the register is that people are supported through the process and if people do the search directly, well it can be like a grenade exploding.”

She said that Ms King’s story was “fairly typical” of the time.

“It all comes from the shame and the stigma of having a child outside of marriage. It was very much felt that it was better for everyone, for the birth mother and the child, to have a fresh start.

“Those adoptions in the 1960s, 70s and 80s generally had a different profile to more recent adoptions – which today are often linked to child protection issues and children who are adopted from local authority care.

“For a lot of adopted people, whatever the circumstances of their adoption, they have lived with a sense of rejection. It takes a lot of courage to instigate contact.”

Anyone who would like to make contact with Rosamond King can contact Birthlink at [email protected] or [email protected]

The adopted child’s birth name or date of birth has not been disclosed given privacy safeguards set out by the Independent Press Standards Organisation

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