Former foster child returns to Islington to celebrate 90th with Mayor

Audrey Bailey celebrating her 90th birthday in the Mayor's Parlour at Islington Town Hall accompanie

Audrey Bailey celebrating her 90th birthday in the Mayor's Parlour at Islington Town Hall accompanied by her husband George Bailey and her daughter Sara - Credit: Archant

She was just three weeks old when her mother handed her over to strangers. But now, nearly 90 years on, former Islington resident Audrey Bailey has been welcomed back to her birthplace by the Mayor himself.

Audrey Bailey

Audrey Bailey - Credit: Archant

Mrs Bailey, who will celebrate her birthday on Monday, was invited along with her husband George and daughter Sara Davison to have tea at Islington Town Hall, where she was presented with flowers and a card by Mayor Richard Greening and his wife.

“It’s been a great day,” she told the Gazette later that day. “It was very smart – not what I’m used to. We spoke about what I can remember from the old days before the mayor’s time.”

The borough, she said, has changed a great deal since her childhood, which she spent in foster care.

“It’s got a lot busier and it’s much more multicultural than it used to be. But I got a real feel for the place it used to be when I went to Upper Street and Highbury Fields,” she said.

Mrs Bailey, who now lives in Harlow, Essex, also visited her old school, Highbury Hill High School (now Highbury Fields School), in Highbury Hill, where she was given a tour by the head teacher and shown photographs from her schooldays.

“It brought back so many memories,” she said.

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Her trip down memory lane was organised by Mrs Bailey’s daughter from her first marriage, Sara, 45.

“A few days ago, some flowers came with a little note mentioning the Mayor of Islington. I thought: what’s this?” said Mrs Bailey.

Mrs Bailey was aged three weeks when she was given up by her mother in 1925 and sent to live with a foster mother in Basire Street. Her birth mother, who was aged 23 and single, was unable to look after her at the time. At the time, having a baby out of wedlock was considered a disgrace.

When she was 13, her birth mother got married and contacted her daughter to ask if she’d like to live with her and her new husband. But Mrs Bailey decided to stay with her foster mother.

In 1939, at the age of 14, she was evacuated to Huntingdon and her home in Islington suffered extensive bomb damage. The family then relocated to Enfield – and a car park now stands where their house used to be.

Mrs Bailey lost all trace of her birth mother after her teens, but decided decades later, when she was in her sixties, to try to track her down through the phonebook.

Sara, who is herself adopted, said: “When my mother phoned, her own mum was in such shock that she had to say ‘I’ll call you back’. In the end, they formed quite a bond. Her mother was the only blood relative she knew because my sister and I are both adopted.”

For Mrs Bailey, the meeting was nothing short of “wonderful.” She and her mother talked about what had happened in their lives, and there was no rancour about the past.

“She was a lovely lady, like my foster mother,” said Mrs Bailey, who was later introduced to a half-brother and sister, to whom she is now very close.

Sara added: “Her half-sister is very different to her but her half-brother has the same sense of humour.”

Mrs Bailey’s half-brother will be joining the family on Sunday, and on Monday the family are planning a trip to a musical.

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