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Amazing grace - I was found!

14 September 2015

Amazing grace - I was found!

Caption: Salvation Army representative Catherine Hindle catches up with George (right), who attributes his quality of life to the Salvos

“I was one of the lucky ones – The Salvation Army found me.” –  George McCarthy

At 85, George McCarthy is a passionate donor and advocate of The Salvation Army and has pledged a bequest in his will. It is, he says, because “I just know from what The Salvation Army has done for me, it will do for others!” 

George, born in Britain as the eighth child of 11, lives in the Sydney suburb of Balmain, and says with certainty that he would be “long dead” without the intervention of The Salvation Army in his life.

As a four-year-old, in the middle of the great depression in the 1930s, George, his two brothers and his five sisters were sent to various orphanages. They had no contact with each other.

After growing up in two orphanages, George joined the Merchant Navy and spent four enjoyable years travelling the world. However, during his time at sea, he also learned to drink. It was simply part of the seafaring the culture of the time, he says.

He moved to Australia, worked and raised two children, but tragically lost his son, aged 20, to a brain tumour. Eventually George’s first marriage fell apart and his life began to revolve ever-more around alcohol consumption.

Despite managing to hold down a number of managerial jobs, years of blackouts followed and George started a cycle of hospital visits, looking for a solution to his drinking. But nothing worked.

One day the ever-restless George drunkenly decided to board a flight to Auckland, New Zealand, and spent the Easter weekend living in a park. After days of binge drinking he finally asked a police officer for help and was taken to The Salvation Army.

Undertaking the “Bridge” residential rehabilitation program, he says he found understanding, professionalism and genuine kindness, and explains that “was the beginning of my life changing!” He stayed a year and successfully beat his addiction.

While George was completing the Bridge Program in New Zealand, his sisters in England were desperately trying to find him and finally reunite their family. They contacted The Salvation Army Family Tracing Service in London, which contacted the Sydney service, which in turn tracked down George.

In 1987, George finally rediscovered his lost family when he walked into the arrivals hall at London Gatwick Airport and fell into the arms of his sisters Eileen and Daphne.

George says: “At 85, I am independent and healthy. I still have a good life. I am forever grateful for it, and I think the fact is, it was The Salvation Army (that made it possible).

“My sister Eileen in 92 years of age and I hope to outlive her,” he laughs.

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The Salvation Army acknowledges the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and recognises their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures; and to elders both past and present.

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