A BROTHER and sister have been reunited for the first time since they were separated as young children thanks to the magic of Facebook.
Allan Healy, aged 66, spent 60 years looking for his long-lost sister Margaret Mitchell after they were split up as youngsters in 1954.
A photo he posted on the social networking site turned out to be the key to unlocking the mystery and allowing the pair to meet after a lifetime apart.
Allan tracked Margaret, 67, to just a mile away from where the pair grew up together in Dundee, Scotland, their parents having moved north from Plymouth before they were born.
Allan, who now lives in Kent, said: “I scoured birth and marriage certificates, and other records to try and find my sister.
“My search took me to Scotland, where I at first drew a blank because of the different system with data protection.
“Then I thought about Facebook and a cousin sent me a photograph taken when we were children.
“I made it my Facebook profile picture and put out a message for anyone who might know Margaret Healy to get in touch.”
But what Allan didn’t know was that former care assistant Margaret and her neighbour Kathie McGill were also using the site to try to trace him.
Margaret said: “My neighbour Kathie McGill is interested in family history and she helped me by putting out a message for an Allan Healy, who I thought might still be in Plymouth.
“Then Kathie came through and said there was a photograph on Facebook with a young Allan Healy and a girl with him – and I was the girl. I was amazed.”
Parents John and Elizabeth Healy, who are still alive, travelled to Dundee from Plymouth and made a home for their three children, Alan, Margaret and Stewart, in Broughty Ferry.
But domestic life was hard and the couple decided to separate in 1954.
John then took his sons 500 miles away back to the south coast of England, leaving Margaret and Elizabeth behind.
John, now aged 90, then found a new wife in Plymouth and a new job as a cooper.
But the job came with a house that was too small to keep the two boys who were sent away to live in a Barnardos home in the city.
The boys kept in touch with their father with Allan eventually pursuing a career in the army.
After discovering the picture of their childhood days online Alan and Margaret had a tear-filled phone conversation for the first time in 60 years.
Allan then journeyed north to meet his long-lost sibling face-to-face.
He said: “I got out of the car, looked over and saw Margaret standing there. I ran over and we hugged and cried. We couldn’t believe that we were together again.”
A special moment came when Allan visited his mother, now 88, at the Dundee care home where she now lives.
Margaret had worries that Elizabeth’s Alzheimers might mean she wouldn’t remember her son. But she needn’t have worried.
Margaret said: “I said ‘hello Mum, I’ve brought Allan to see you’.
“She looked up and put my hand on his hand and her hand on top and said ‘we’re all together again now’.”
Margaret Mitchell said her brother was “shocked” to hear their mother was still alive when they spoke on the phone.
She said: “When I spoke with him on the phone I was struggling for things to say at first.
But I ended up speaking about Mum and he was so shocked to hear she was still alive.
“He just couldn’t believe it and burst into tears when I told him. We went to visit her and even though she has Alzheimer’s she still recognised him and held our hands together.
“I couldn’t believe it seeing them together- Allan is just my Mum’s double. It was a really touching moment.”
Margaret added that she had “given up hope” of ever seeing her brother again after they were separated in 1954.
She said: “He’s been searching for me for years but I have to say that I never thought I’d see him again.
“I don’t understand about all these modern Facebook things so I was just amazed that we managed to find him.
“There was so much to catch up on when he was here. It was all go, go, go.
“But I’m planning on going down to see him soon so hopefully this is the first visit of many.”