The night I found a baby in a phone box in Drogheda

We first thought the cries were coming from a flat in a five-storey house along the street

Paul Murphy, a freelance journalist working with the Meath Chronicle

Paul Murphy, a freelance journalist working with the Meath Chronicle

 

It was a midnight in May 1965 on Laurence Street, Drogheda, in the shadow of the 13th-century St Laurence Gate, when myself and a man called Pat Bailey were walking home from a rehearsal of The Year of the Hiker, a John B Keane play about to be staged by the St Oliver Plunkett Drama Group.

Laurence Street was a good deal darker and quieter than it is today, and as we passed Whitworth Hall, we thought we heard the cries of a baby. We stopped for a moment in the darkness.

At first we surmised the cries might be coming from a flat in one of the five-storey houses along the street, but further inspection revealed that they emanated from an old-fashioned telephone kiosk. I opened the heavy door and, looking up at myself and Pat, was a very young baby lying swaddled in a blue blanket and placed in a holdall with the zip open.

I immediately dialled 999 and got through to the local Garda station. A few minutes later a patrol car arrived and a garda took charge of the situation. The baby was taken in the patrol car to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital where the baby boy was received into the care of a maternity nurse.

A man had phoned the office wanting to speak to me about the 1965 episode. The phone call was an emotional one

The next morning was a busy one for me. At 7.30am I phoned the news desk of the Evening Press, where the news editor let out a massive whoop and went into overdrive, shouting down another phone to get a photographer on the road to Drogheda.

I phoned the story over to a copytaker, and about an hour later the photographer collected Pat and me and we were driven to the hospital to meet the baby. We were photographed with the little fellow, and the nurse cuddled him in her arms. A few hours later the Evening Press appeared and the baby was the page 1 splash, complete with a terrific photograph. It caused a minor sensation in the town.

The baby disappeared from our lives, until 48 years later. The “baby” was now a man and he was researching his background. In January 2013, after 50 years in journalism, I was again in a freelance role and was covering a District Court hearing when I got a text message from the Drogheda Independent editor saying that a man had phoned the office wanting to speak to me about the 1965 episode. The phone call was an emotional one.

We met in Drogheda the following morning, where we embraced. My sister Breda, well aware of the story, was also in the hotel and she told him that our late mother, Bridget, had prayed for him on May 2nd every year, on his presumed First Communion and Confirmation days, and on his presumed 21st birthday.

He and I walked up to Laurence Street, where we relived the moment he was found. A few days later we again came to town, where there was another emotional reunion with the garda, nurse, Pat and me.

It turned out he had been adopted and had the happiest of childhoods, and later had a family of his own.

Paul Murphy is a freelance journalist working with the Meath Chronicle

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