Explore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.
3 Oct 2014
Click for a Text Only version of this page
BBC Homepage
BBC Radio
Home Truths - with John Peel BBC Radio 4

Radio 4

Home Truths
Listen Again
About John Peel

Like this page?
Mail it to a friend

Audio Diary

Chris Markham recorded an audio diary for Home Truths when he went to California to visit the father he hadn't seen for forty years...

Chris, Paul, Dad, Irene, and Lily
L to R: Chris, Paul, Dad, Irene, and Lily.

Chris Markham was born in California but was only three and his brother Paul even younger when their parents divorced and they returned to Britain with their mother. There was no contact with their father after that. Although Chris grew up happy, he also secretly kept wondering about his father and first started looking for him in his mid-twenties. When he got married, he and his wife honeymooned in California and again he tried to find his father but no luck. When his sons were born he even hired a Private Detective but again without success. In the meantime Chris had started his own website based mainly around his sporting interests. Just for the hell of it he put something about his missing father on the page. Last Autumn, and completely out of the blue, forty years after there had been contact of any kind, Chris hit the jackpot when his stepbrother Nick saw his website and got in touch.

In February Chris and his brother Paul flew out to Las Vegas to meet their father, and recorded an audio diary of his trip for Home Truths. Chris recalls that he felt pretty nervous about the meeting with his father, more uptight than his brother Paul. He asked Paul how he felt about it all : "It feels very strange after all this time. I never really thought I'd ever see the guy, and here we are and it's about to happen. At some moments of the day I couldn't really care less, 'cos it's been so long that we haven't had a father, and at other times it's exciting news. I'm very confused".

Chris didn't record the actual meeting, he felt it was too personal to put on record.

Once he set out for the long-awaited meeting with his father he felt rather less nervous. He couldn't help reflecting on the series of coincidences that led to the meeting. "It's abit like King Arthur has been looking for the Holy Grail for twenty years, and gets home to find it's been sitting on his mantel piece all along". It was Nick, Chris's stepbrother, who phoned originally. He had been writing a sports-related website. In the past Chris had been a competitive triathlete, so his website contained alot of sports-related information - that was how Nick found it. But then he noticed the button about Chris's search for his dad and clicked on it. Chris wonders now what went through Nick's head as he loaded up the page and looked at a picture of his own stepfather.

The first meeting was pretty nerve-wracking. As well as seeing his father, Chris met his father's wife Lily, who was very welcoming, and his half-sister Irene and her two boys. It was all very emotional. "After having had no contact for so long, and now being in a position where it's here, it's real, these are people we can talk to and touch the hard part is adjusting to that. Our father is certainly thrilled that we're here. He regrets having had no contact with us for the last 40 years, and certainly says he's always wondered what happened to us, didn't know how to go about finding us, and seems very genuine about wanting to redress the balance and be a part of our lives".

Once that initial meeting was out of the way it was much easier. Chris asks Irene about how she felt to find out she had two brothers she had never known about. She admits that she was in shock for quite some time, particularly after she looked at Chris's website, and took some time to really comprehend it. She phoned her mother to look at the website, who phoned her father.

Lily, Chris's father's second wife, was initially very angry that he had had two children and never told anyone about them, and Irene admits that, as a mother she can't understand it either. Chris agrees that this really all started in earnest for him when he had his own children. "The thought of being somewhere for forty years and knowing every single day that they're there somewhere, I find it very hard to comprehend that element of it". Irene talked to her father for a long time after she found out, trying hard not to judge him. She feels glad to be in contact with her newly-discovered brothers. She thinks it was very 'big' of both Chris and Paul to come and visit them.

Bill, Chris's father, says it has been an amazing and wonderful week. "I'm still a little lost for words to know that I have two grown sons that are such nice people".

Having returned home, Chris looks at the photo he thought would never get taken - himself, his brother, his sister, his father - all in one photo. Holding that photo in his hand really brings the enormity of the experience home to him. "It's an awesome thing that has happened".

To have a look at Chris Markham's website, which played such an important role in re-uniting him with his father, click here.

If you have a story that would make an audio diary
do get in touch with us...

Join the discussion on the Home Truths Message Board  

Listen Again
Hear John Peel's Tribute Program

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy