'Giveaway girl' grateful for birth mother's heart-rending choice

Ms Abbott (far left), who made headlines in 1958 (above) after she was put up for adoption by her mother through The Straits Times, visited Fort Canning Park with Ms Stevens during their trip here. Ms Abbott's adoptive father had worked there as a Br
Ms Abbott (left), who made headlines in 1958 after she was put up for adoption by her mother through The Straits Times, visited Fort Canning Park with Ms Stevens during their trip here. Ms Abbott's adoptive father had worked there as a British Army officer.PHOTOS:DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES, ST FILE
Ms Abbott (far left), who made headlines in 1958 (above) after she was put up for adoption by her mother through The Straits Times, visited Fort Canning Park with Ms Stevens during their trip here. Ms Abbott's adoptive father had worked there as a Br
Ms Abbott, who made headlines in 1958 (above) after she was put up for adoption by her mother through The Straits Times, visited Fort Canning Park with Ms Stevens during their trip here. Ms Abbott's adoptive father had worked there as a British Army officer.PHOTOS:DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES, ST FILE

Divorcee put ad in ST 57 years ago to seek good home for baby she could not afford to bring up

"Baby girl - 66 days old of mixed English and Siamese parentage, for adoption to suitable couple."

This advertisement, buried in The Straits Times classifieds almost 60 years ago, attracted more than just interested parents.

It made the headlines as this newspaper documented the struggle of a then 22-year-old single mother who made a heart-rending decision to give away her infant daughter. That baby was adopted by a British couple who moved back from Singapore to England, where the little girl would grow up.

On Tuesday, Ms Dollar Christine Abbott, 57, returned to the country of her birth for the first time since she left as a baby. Over the span of three days, she visited places significant to both her biological mother and adoptive parents; in a bid to discover her roots and search for a sense of belonging and identity.

"I can say this is where I was born, this is where my mother lived," said Ms Abbott, who works as a counsellor for victims of domestic and sexual abuse in the town of Nuneaton in Britain.

Together with her companion Carolyn Stevens, 58, she visited landmarks around Singapore, where she had been as a baby, and where her parents had lived or worked. Some, such as Fort Canning Park - where her adoptive father worked as a British Army officer - are well-known tourist destinations. Others, including The Straits Times (ST) newsroom and KK Women's and Children's Hospital, are not usually on tourist itineraries.

Ms Abbott said she wanted to visit the ST newsroom because "that is where my story began".

Outside the place of her birth - the old Kandang Kerbau Hospital in Hampshire Road, now headquarters for the Land Transport Authority - Ms Abbott said: "I'm just thinking, I might be standing where (my mother) stood."

She told The Sunday Times that her adoptive parents - her father was British, while her mother was Hawaiian - did not keep the fact that she was adopted a secret.

"My adoptive mother always told me, 'There were kids with red hair and green eyes, blond hair and blue eyes but, out of all the little babies, we chose you'," she said.

Ms Abbott was named after an American heiress in a musical, The Dollar Princess. When she was 13, her mother showed her two newspaper clippings from The Straits Times - reports that told of how this "giveaway baby" was parted from her tearful mother. Most of what she knew about her birth mother, Ms Esther Mary Glynn, were from those two articles.

Ms Glynn, who is ethnically Thai, had a four-year-old son from a previous marriage when she placed that fateful newspaper ad. She then told The Straits Times: "Some people may think I am cold-blooded to advertise my girl like goods for sale. But I am not.

"I think this is the best way to find a married couple who will really love her and give her a good home."

Ms Glynn was divorced, broke and could not support her baby. She had relatives living in Penang, but she lived in Geylang Road, and had worked as a taxi-dancer - a paid dance partner - and bar girl.

Growing up, Ms Abbott grappled with feelings of abandonment. Now, she is grateful for her adoptive parents, who both died before she turned 28. Ms Abbott said they loved her the same as their natural-born son - her older brother.

"I was able to get an education and go to university, which I might not have been able to if I had stayed," she said. "I also knew that I was loved. Sometimes, that is all you need."

Over the years, she tried numerous times to track down her birth mother and half-brother. She wrote to KKH, law firm Rodyk & Davidson, which handled her adoption, and the Registry of Births and Deaths, but her attempts drew blanks. "The hope died and I thought I should give up," she said.

About four years ago, Ms Abbott had a DNA test done which showed that she was born to a Thai mother and Indian father. That renewed her desire to visit Singapore, even if she was not able to meet her birth mother - who would be 79 now.

Ms Stevens, who has known Ms Abbott for 21 years, said it was around that time when "Dollar started seeing Singapore less as a place where her birth mother didn't want her, but where her two mothers had met and lived".

Said Ms Abbott: "I realised then, what a big thing (my birth mother) did for me... I wanted to tell her I've had a nice life, and I'm glad she did what she did."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 27, 2015, with the headline ''Giveaway girl' grateful for birth mother's heart-rending choice'. Print Edition | Subscribe