Abandoned orphan Joseph Guilfoyle, 74, wants nothing more than to find his Irish family before it’s too late
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Abandoned orphan Joseph Guilfoyle, 74, wants nothing more than to find his Irish family before it’s too late

"IT'S like you are a lost child in a sense", says 74-year-old Joseph Guilfoyle, an orphan who still holds out hope that he can find members of his Irish family. 

Mr Guilfoyle, originally from Nenagh, Co Tipperary was raised in an orphanage in Co. Cork.

Today he lives with his wife Irene in their home in Harlesden, northwest London. The couple has two children, Tracey and Julie and four grandchildren.

It was becoming a grandfather that motivated Mr Guilfoyle to go in search of his own family.

"I have two girls of my own and four grandchildren and I would like to be able to leave them some information about what my past was like. It wasn't a very happy past."

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Mr Guilfoyle has lived in Britain for over 30 years.

He emigrated in 1963, aged 17, looking for work and a better life and landed first at the London Irish Centre in Camden and later in Kilburn.

Life was hard. He recalls being met from the boat and taken to the Irish center in Camden. "You were only there for a short time then you had to go out and find your own way...It was a case of go to Cricklewood if you want to get a job."

Mr Guilfoyle got work, digging trenches for electricity cables. "It was hard work", he explains "and there were the usual signs on the doors saying 'No dogs, No blacks, No Irish'."

guilfoyle copy Irene Guilfoyle and Joseph Guilfoyle pictured with one of their four grandchildren, Kaila (Picture courtesy of the Guilfoyle family)

Abandoned as a baby 

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Joseph Guilfoyle's childhood was not a happy one. Many details of his early life are unclear but from his own research and the information he was able to obtain from Barnardos in Dublin he knows the following...

Joe Baby-n The only picture of Joseph Guilfoyle as a baby (Picture couresty of the Guilfoyle family)

He was born March 20, 1942. He believes his mother may have become pregnant out of wedlock.

His grandmother's name was Norah Callahan, his grandfather was Daniel Guilfoyle and they had 10 children.

His grandad came from Tipperary and grandmother from Tipperary or Kilkenny. They were married either on May 7, 1904 or June 28, 1904.

Their 10 children were named: Thomas, Mary, Michael, John, Patrick Joseph, Daniel Francis, Bridget (or possibly Josephine), Anne, Anthony and Joseph.

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Mr Guilfoyle has no idea who cared for him for the first two years of his life, but he thinks he was ill as a child.

Aged two, he was placed in an orphanage in Upton in Cork with about seven hundred other boys, where he was raised by the Christian Brothers.

Asked about his strict upbringing, Mr Guilfoyle says "It left a lot to be desired, quite truthfully."

He remained in the boys' school until he was 16 years of age.

"I was quite happy to get out of it", he says.

Clues to his past 

"I tried to take it further and it came to a full stop," says Mr Guilfoyle, a former lollipop man who is now retired, about his hunt to find any living relatives.

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He knows he had an aunt named Mary Murphy (née Guilfoyle) who lived in Cork. He once met his aunt, when he was about 14 years old while on a month long summer holiday from the boys' school. He believes he may have met his mother too, but didn't know who she was at the time.

He knows his aunt Mary is now dead, but believes she may have living children who would be his cousins. He recalls there were two other teenagers in the house when he visited his aunt– a boy and a girl, aged about 15 or 16 years old.

His mother is also dead. Her first name was either Bridget or Josephine. "Whether she got married or not I don't know."

Mr Guilfoyle also knows his mother was in England for some time.

"She stayed in a house in Wolverhampton with a man whose name was Patrick Delahunty."

"I have no idea at all what she was doing there", he continues. "I don't know whether she was married to the man or not."

Mr Guilfoyle is aware that his mother passed away in 1983.

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I have two girls of my own and four grandchildren and I would like to be able to leave them some information about what my past was like. It wasn't a very happy past.

Appeal for help 

"He’s gone back to Nenagh in Tipperary and he’s walking down the street past people that could be related to him", says Mr Guilfoyle's daughter Julie, who contacted The Irish Post. 

"When Long Lost Family comes on TV he says 'Why can't that happen to me? It's frustrating, and you're upset for him", she explains.

After some success searching on his own, his daughter says the trail has now "run dry" but they believe there must be people out there who can help her father fill in the blanks in his memory.

Asked why it is so important to him to find out about his past, Mr Guilfoyle says: "It would be nice to find out where I came from and pass on some information to my grandchildren."

If you have any information please contact Katy Harrington on 0208 900 4182 or email [email protected]  

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