Three brothers whose family was torn apart when they were children have been reunited after 65 years apart. Patrick, Vincent and John O'Hara had not been in the same room together since the 1940s, when they lived with their parents in Ireland. After their mother fell ill, Patrick and John were sent to the notorious St Joseph's Industrial School in Letterfrack, County Galway. Vincent, who was only four years old at the time, was sent to live with an aunt, before he too was sent to the school.
Patrick, Vincent and John O'Hara
Brothers reunited: Patrick, Vincent and John O'Hara met up this week for the first time in 65 years
Between them, the O'Haras spent almost 25 years at Letterfrack, where they were split up, before eventually leaving at different times and going on to make their own way in the world. Patrick settled in Rochdale, where he still lives, while Vincent ended up in Birmingham and John in Edinburgh. For more than 60 years, none of them knew if the others were alive or dead.
Then Patrick, aged 78, and Vincent, aged 69, met for the first time last year, thanks to Patrick's grandson Danny Larkin, who with help from his sisters and mother, launched a search for the brothers. He scoured the internet and visited libraries in Ireland, before eventually tracking them down with the help of Barnardo's. The last piece of the 65-year-old puzzle fell into place earlier this week, when John, 76, travelled to Rochdale to see his brothers for the first time since he was 11 years old.
Patrick said: 'We were in the situation that we didn't know if the others were alive, scattered to the four corners of the Earth. 'We had never spent a birthday or a Christmas together. This week, we are together for the first time and we are delighted.'
Before they were reunited, the brothers had never felt able to speak about their childhoods, even to their wives and families, but agree that meeting each other is helping them finally lay the past to rest.
Letterfrack Industrial school
The O'Hara brothers were all sent to the notorious St Joseph's Industrial School in Letterfrack, County Galway. The school's regime of savage corporal punishment, cruelty and neglect, was eventually investigated and exposed and it was closed down in the 1970s. Vincent said: 'That place was like a concentration camp. I'm convinced that if they'd have had gas ovens, they'd have used them. 'When you came out, you couldn't have a conversation with people, because you just didn't know how to. You had to learn how to mix with people and be sociable. Now we've all been given a second chance, one that none of us could turn down.' Patrick added: 'We lived in fear. That place was a living hell, but we survived and we're together again, that's the main thing now.
The O'Haras also had two other brothers, but Frank died some years ago, and Michael died as a child while at the school. Danny said: 'Hopefully this will be the closing chapter of this story. It was hard for them to move on, because they hadn't been able to see each other. 'They all went through the same experience, so they've been able to talk about it with each other. Now they can put it behind them and don't have to dwell on it any more.'
John said: 'I got the call telling me about them and I knew straight away that I wanted to meet my brothers. If it wasn't for Danny, we wouldn't be together now. It's marvellous that we are finally all together again.'