Co Antrim couple get surprise of a lifetime

Matthew Jones returns the treasured items to Betty Murphy
Matthew Jones returns the treasured items to Betty Murphy

A couple from Co Antrim who are preparing to celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary have been reunited with a box of treasured memories they forgot they had even owned.

The extraordinary reunion came about after the family heirlooms belonging to Betty and William Murphy were found in an attic of a house in Newtownabbey, 16 years after the couple had moved out of the house.

Betty was astounded when she discovered that someone was trying to trace her via social media to give her back the personal items which including baby photos, letters from relatives overseas and her husband’s Mason’s certificate.

Matthew Jones began the hunt for Betty and William after finding the items in the roofspace of a property recently bought by his sister on the Shore Road in Newtownabbey.

He explained: “Our first check was with the previous owner but they didn’t own them. Eventually I decided to share the appeal on various social media sites to find the owners of the items.

“I shared some pictures and details that might help locate the owners of these things. I didn’t think it was right for them to be thrown away.

“There was a lot of interest and I got a lot of help from people. For example someone was able to tell me about Royal Chapter Number 226 of the Masons, which William had been a member of.

“And then I got a message from a woman called Elaine (Rajkumar) from Good Morning Carrickfergus (a support service for older and vulnerable people in the area) who said she thought she knew the people who the items belonged to.”

As it transpired, Elaine was right and she was able to arrange a meeting between Matthew and the Murphys to reunite them with the lost treasures.

It took place this Wednesday at Betty and William’s home in Carrickfergus.

Betty said: “I didn’t even know these things existed anymore.

“It brought back so many happy memories looking through the photos, letters and other items.

“I can’t believe someone went out of their way to track us down. It was so kind of Matthew.”

Betty said the photos had triggered happy memories and brought a smile to the face of her husband William, who has dementia.

The pair, who are both in their eighties, will celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary this year.

Betty worked in a number of jobs included 10 years with the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service. Included in the items recovered from the roofspace was Betty’s invitation for an interview.

William worked for most of his life as a steelworker at the shipyards.

For 35 years they had lived in the house in Newtownabbey, located beside the police station and initially used to house station sergeants, before moving to Carrick.

It is thought several owners lived in the house before Matthew discovered the items and set himself the task of returning them.

Many of the photos will now be used in a family tree being compiled by a nephew of the couple who lives overseas.