Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Looking for Esther: Podcaster’s moving search for a mother prompts call for apology on forced adoption scandal

© Andrew CawleyEsther Robertson, pictured recently in Broughty Ferry, tells her story in a podcast series, Looking For Esther
Esther Robertson, pictured recently in Broughty Ferry, tells her story in a podcast series, Looking For Esther

By the age of three, Esther Robertson had been given three different names.

Born Catherine Ann Lindenberg in a mother-and-baby nursing home in Glasgow in 1961, she believes she was one of the thousands of victims, mums and their children, of forced adoption.

A campaign, backed by The Sunday Post, for a formal apology from the Scottish Government for what has been branded one of the country’s worst human rights scandals has gathered momentum in recent years.

“An apology from the government would, I think, be phenomenal,” said Robertson. “They all deserve it, the mothers and the children. It wasn’t their choice, it was forced upon them, and so many lives have been affected by something that just didn’t need to be the case, including my own.”

© Murdo MacLeod
Esther at the time of her adoption by the Robertsons

Her mother was a 17-year-old, white, middle-class girl from Edinburgh and her father a black, American airman but, under pressure from her family over the perceived stigma, her mother put her up for adoption.

“My second name was Esther Robertson, given to me by my adoptive family, the Reverend Crichton Robertson, his wife Doris and their five children,” she said. “They had also recently fostered a little British/African girl who they wanted a playmate for so at seven months old I had a new family.

“However, after a while, running the manse and having seven children to look after started to take its toll on my mother was just exhausted, so they put me up for readoption. At just three years old, I now had a new family and a new name to go with it. I became Doreen Ann Graham. But remarkably, after only three months, the Robertsons decided that they missed me. So back to the manse I went, back to being Esther Robertson.

“I’d had all these different identities before I was three and the crazy part is that I didn’t find out about a lot of it until I was in my 20s and 30s. I kept uncovering more shocks and surprises, more stuff that had been kept from me.

“All those early moves have affected me throughout my life. I would flit from different jobs to different flats to different friends’ groups, I was so transient. And being one of the only black people in the circles I frequented added to that feeling of never fitting in.”

© Andrew Cawley
Esther and partner Gayle (Pic: Andrew Cawley)

Robertson’s remarkable story forms an eight-part podcast on Spotify, Looking For Esther, which follows, in real time, her search for her birth mother, and for her true identity.

“In 2018, I was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer and it led to a big shift in my mindset about my life and the regrets I had about not finding out more about the truth surrounding my adoption,” she said.

“If you can face up to cancer, you can pretty much face up to anything. Then I was on Twitter one day with my partner and read about a Spotify competition called Sound Up UK and I thought, I would like to tell my story. So I entered and I was one of the winners. I went to Manchester and met all these other women of colour and learned about their stories and how to create a podcast.”

Robertson’s partner, Gayle Anderson, is the writer and producer of Looking For Esther, and has a background in journalism.  “The journalist in me was so eager to get to the truth of the story for Esther,” said Anderson.

“It’s been a truly amazing experience putting it all together and the structure of podcasting means we have been able to delve really deep into each half-hour episode.

“As well as Esther’s story, we spoke to so many different people in Scotland who have been affected by forced adoption. We also spoke to people involved in the campaign to get the apology that’s needed for all these mothers and babies.”

Esther Robertson (Pic: Andrew Cawley)

Robertson added: “The podcast is for anyone who has ever felt apart, felt displaced whether it’s through heritage or blood or for any other reason.

“It’s for those searching for their mums. Those who have chosen not to search for their mums and those who have had a difficult or fractured relationship with their mums.

“It’s for everyone who’s ever felt incredibly lonely, who’s ever thought there was no one like them, who’s spent their lives staring in envy at those perfect families.”

Looking For Esther, Spotify Original, from today