Pearse Egan is on an life-changing journey to find his father.
Pearse Egan is 28. He was born in Dublin, but now lives in London where he works as an actor. Like lots of people his age, Pearse chalks up some of the best moments of his life to the time he spent travelling – living in Australia, backpacking in New Zealand and Thailand, and meeting fellow travellers.
But it was on his travels in the early years of his twenties that he started to notice something.
“When I went travelling, everybody just seemed to love their dads. Every single person I seemed to meet. ‘Oh, I love my dad. What does your father say? Mine does this.’ And I was like, ‘Have I ever actually said the word ‘dad’ out loud?’
Pearse doesn’t know his dad. He knows his dad’s name. He knows he used to be a doorman for a club in New York. He knows that he looks like him, courtesy of the one photo Pearse’s mother still has. But he doesn’t know him in the way a son would like to know his father.
Pearse’s mum was 17 and working in a bar in New York when she met Pearse’s father in 1987. When she found out she was pregnant, she moved back to Ireland where she shared the news with her parents. Her pregnancy was difficult for them to accept and created animosity between her and her family. After Pearse was born, his mum raised him by herself.
While there was some contact between Pearse’s mum and dad, Pearse grew up with very little information about his father and next to no contact himself. One of the only memories Pearse has is of speaking to his dad from a public phone box when he was six.
“To me, at the time, [his voice] sounded almost a bit like Arnold Schwarzenegger, probably because it was so different to any Irish accent I had ever heard.”
“I remember my mum said I was in the phone box and I don’t know if I said his name, or I said ‘Dad’, but I said, ‘How come you only sent me a birthday card when I turned 6, but not on my other birthdays?’ And he replied, ‘Your mum wouldn’t allow me’. I think I kicked her in the phone box and ran away.”
Later, Pearse would find out that after he ran away, his dad begged Pearse’s mother not to hang up the phone and cut off contact.
But there was no more contact. That was the last time Pearse heard from his father.
Over the next 20 years, Pearse got on with the business of living, all the while unable to shake the feeling that something within him was missing. He grew from being a boy to man, not quite sure how to navigate that journey without a father figure to guide him.
“When I went to teach myself how to shave, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t really have friends at school. I was with my mum. And I had this big bush of a ginger head – I looked like a giant leprechaun. I’d snuck down to the store and bought Gillette and I put it on over my face and I looked in the mirror. And I didn’t realise I was crying but there were tears in the suds and I just went, ‘I don’t know what to do. I don’t have a man. I don’t have a dad. I don’t have a father. Who can I ask this to? Who do I look up to?”
“That’s when I felt a longing, a pull, but you don’t know where you’re going. It’s very confusing.”
As Pearse entered into his twenties, his need to know was beginning to get the better of him. In the hope of finding out more information, his mother called the bar in America where his dad used to work and spoke to his colleague. She found out that Pearse’s father had moved to Las Vegas two years earlier. Then she heard some news that would change everything for Pearse.
“When my mum said he was sick, I thought – what if I never meet him? So I rang my best friend who said, ‘You have to be prepared that – because he’s a lot older, he could be in his 60s now – that he’s passed away. Would you still continue looking for him if you knew that?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I would, because I want to know something – even if it was a friend, even it was someone that could tell me what he was like.”
And then came a second catalyst.
While on a flight to Abu Dhabi, Pearse watched the film Lion – the powerful true story of Saroo Brierley who, after being lost in India and adopted by a family in Australia, goes on an incredible journey to find his birth mother. “I sat there thinking, ‘That’s it. That’s me. That’s my whole life – I’m missing something and I don’t even know what it is, but I know it’s something, and it’s a massive part of me. There’s a massive weight on me, and regardless of what happens, I need to either open it and find out as much as I can, or completely shut if off.
“And I just thought – I want to find out everything I can, whatever it is, so I can be like [Saroo] because at the end he’s so happy, he’s so at peace, so at one.”
Determined to find out as much as he could, Pearse questioned his mum who then remembered a key piece of information. His father had a son to a previous relationship two years before Pearse was born. Pearse had a half-brother and a new lead to finding his father.
Pearse turned to social media in hope that he might be able to track his brother down. He posted to Facebook about his father, sharing the only information he knows and hopeful that the post might reach the right person.
Pearse’s Facebook post has since been shared over 1000 times and received 500 comments. His search even caught the attention of KSNV News 3 in Las Vegas who interviewed Pearse to help widen his search.
Every Wednesday night for 10 weeks of the year, we tune in to watch Long Lost Family on ITV. For 45 minutes each week, we watch as mothers are reunited with daughters, siblings reconnect with siblings, sons find their fathers. Sometimes, there are disappointments, but mostly, long lost family is found in some way or another; hopeful searchers have the reunion they so desperately need.
Pearse is hopeful for such a reunion with his dad, or with his half-brother. He’s hopeful for anything that gets him that much closer to not just finding his father, but knowing more about who his dad was or the life that he’s lived.
Maybe the power of social media will help him find out more or maybe it will be his impending AncestryDNA results that make that one connection he needs to find his family. Whatever the means and whatever happens, Pearse is ready for what comes next.
“I have one picture, and I have one goal: to find this man. I can’t even think of anything else.”