SHE was suddenly in another world, no longer beneath bright lights, unable to hear Cilla Black’s words to an applauding studio audience and millions of television viewers.
Elspeth Ross had eyes – and ears – only for her lost child who had, in the 35 years since she had last seen him, grown into a tall, handsome man.
As Eric White walked towards her, she experienced only one deeply personal private emotion which, 20 years later, the now 71-year-old great-gran describes in the simplest terms: “After so many years of loss and pain, I felt my heart healing.”
It was 1997 and Elspeth had been in the audience of ITV’s Surprise Surprise.
Her daughter, Pamela, had fooled her mum into believing she had won a competition to see the show and even when Cilla called her on to the stage she thought it was to talk about her collection of ornamental teddy bears.
But the greatest surprise was yet to come when the late entertainer revealed Elspeth had a child when she was in her teens, a son who had been taken for adoption. And now, they were to be reunited in the flesh.
She said: “Everything was a blur. Time stopped. I was overwhelmed. We clung to each other. It was as if I had never lost him.”
There was greater joy for the retired childminder when her son introduced her to her grandson, Daniel, then nine.
She added: “I had never known such happiness. My gratitude to Pamela – and to Cilla – cannot be measured. My daughter’s determination to reunite me with Eric created a happiness which has lasted to this day.”
But her happiness was a long time coming. She was 16 when she became pregnant to the boy she would later marry and was sent by her widowed mother to Cleveden House, an imposing villa in Glasgow’s Kelvinside, which was run as a mother and baby home by the Salvation Army.
Elspeth, from East Kilbride, said: “I was so naïve. It was only when I was in the home that the other girls told me I’d leave without my baby, that it would be taken for adoption. No one had had explained that to me.”
The teenager gave birth on May 5, 1962, to a son she named David.
She said: “I’d never seen anyone so beautiful. The love was overwhelming.”
But her joy would not last.
She added: “One day, I was sitting with the other mums, feeding David, when one of the staff took him from me and said I had to go to the office.
“My next memory is going to the front door and opening it. As I looked out, a red car was driving off and I knew instinctively he was in it.
“I couldn’t breathe, I was too traumatised to even cry.”
Elspeth has fractured memories of being “towered over” by a “very frightening lawyer” demanding she sign papers – after her child was gone.
She said: “I was terrified and, even today, I have no memory of signing.”
But sign or not, David, who became Eric, was gone and she returned to her home in Glasgow’s Oatlands.
“Once I was home, it was as if nothing had ever happened. Everything was back to normal.”
But nothing was normal ever again.
She added: “I don’t blame my mother. She had done what she thought was for the best.”
Elspeth went on to marry her lost son’s dad and they would have two more children, a son and Pamela, before the couple separated after 18 years. Her loss informed her parenting.
She added: “I was overprotective. I believe I was so afraid they, too, would be taken from me. It was almost as if I was afraid to love them, which I did with all my heart.”
Read more: Lorraine Kelly: I was nearly given away
Her daughter Pamela was born on the same day as her lost brother eight years after his birth.
Elspeth added: “Every year my daughter’s birthday was another reminder of the baby taken from me.
“The loss overwhelmed me, eating at me until it was all I could think about.
“I knew I couldn’t rest until I held him once more.”
And so began Pamela’s quest to make that happen. Unknown to Elspeth, her David was now Eric White, who at the age of six had been taken from Glasgow to Australia where the now 55-year-old businessman lives with his children and grandchildren.
When he was an adult, he began searching for his birth mother.
Pamela and Elspeth contacted Barnardo’s and the charity helped put them in touch. However, by the time of Surprise Surprise, they had only exchanged letters and a brief call.
Elspeth added: “I never expected to see him as he lived on the other side of the world. But that moment was such a joy and when he asked if I minded if he called me mum, I wept. He told me he always felt that I had loved him.”
Allied to the joy of finding her son, there is a deep anger in Elspeth’s heart for those who separated them.
She said: “The hole in my heart has healed – but my baby should never have been taken and I won’t rest until I find out why this happened.
“Even as a child my greatest joy was looking after other people’s children. Why would I have voluntarily given up a child of my own?”
Her daughter added: “I’m proud of mum for speaking out about what was done to all those women. I know how hard it is for her to speak about this. Even today she fears being judged which is painful for me as I know what a wonderful mum she is.
“I hope more women find the courage to come forward so they can get the support they need. The only ones who should feel shame are those who took their babies away.”