Breakthrough in South Downs abandoned baby mystery
A woman who was abandoned in Sussex as a baby has unearthed new information which could solve the mystery of her parentage.
Anthea Ring was discovered on August 26, 1937 in a blackberry bush on the highest point of the South Downs near Dankton Lane, Sompting after a family of holidaymakers from South London were attracted to her cries.
When she was found, her arms had been bound together with a strip of fabric torn from the bottom of her dress and she was covered in scratches from the brambles, but was otherwise in a good condition.
After searching for more than 25 years, Mrs Ring, 80, has discovered that she is 92 per cent Irish – and that a former convent school in Sompting is linked to the area in Ireland that she is descended from.
Mrs Ring said: “I am happily married with children and grandchildren but it is still a big mystery to me. If I had been a week old baby that is one thing, but I wasn’t badly looked after. Someone, somewhere looked after me for a long time before I was abandoned.”
Mrs Ring is believed to have been about nine months old when she was found, and had been on the Downs for four hours.
She was then taken to Yew Tree Farm in Sompting where the police were called.
The story caused a media sensation, with Scotland Yard investigating the incident as an attempted murder and families around the world writing to Worthing Hospital, where she was living, to adopt her.
When the case was closed due to lack of evidence on February 4, Mrs Ring was adopted by a couple in Surrey.
She discovered the circumstances of her adoption in her twenties, and aged 55 began her search to find out who her parents were.
After working with genealogist Julia Bell and doing a series of DNA tests, Mrs Ring discovered she is 92 per cent Irish, with great-grandparents named O’Donnell from Charlestown in County Mayo, Ireland and a likely ancestor named Coyne from County Galway in Ireland.
And with help from Worthing Library and a local family history group, Mrs Ring found out that Rectory House in Sompting was formerly a convent school run by The Daughters of Providence order of nuns.
The order had a convent in Ireland, and the convent school advertised for teaching staff in Charlestown.
This new information suggests that Mrs Ring’s mother could have been a nun, or a girl sent to the convent school from Ireland.
Mrs Ring hoped this latest breakthrough could encourage people with the names O’Donnell or Coyne in the area or anyone with information to come forward.
She said: “It would be wonderful to be reunited with my family, just to know who they are. I don’t feel that my parents are alive any more, but the three things I would like to know is who they are, what my name was when I was born and where they are from.
“I do not need parents or a family if they aren’t interested in me, and I don’t want anything from them other than to know who they are. It’s all about knowing who I am, my identity.”
If anyone has any information that could help Anthea get closer to identifying her family, call her on 01225 864 016.