After 86 years, Max finds his family

When Max McLeod blew out the candles on his birthday cake this year, he didn't bother making a special birthday wish - it had already come true.

For the first time in 86 years, he was celebrating his birthday with family by his side.

It was a momentous occasion for Mr McLeod, an orphan, who has lived his life knowing little of who he was or where he'd come from.

"It was very good but it's so late, I wish it could've been earlier," Mr McLeod said of the February celebration.

His great-niece Emma Miller-Olsen is beaming, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Mr McLeod in happy snaps from the special day.

She made the trip to Corrimal from Geelong after meeting with her great-uncle for the first time only weeks earlier.

Mr McLeod was placed into a Melbourne home for babies at just 23 days old and never grew up with a family, nor had one of his own.

He stayed in the orphanage system until early adulthood, when he decided to leave his birth city and move to Wollongong as a 20-year-old.

For years he worked selling and checking fire extinguishers around the state, socialising with people he met along the way.

"I get on well with everybody, so when I was doing the fire extinguishers I had 1500 [clients] and I'd mix with everyone and that was my family," Mr McLeod said.

"And I've had a family with the Anglican church, the church has been good to me for years."

As a 16-year-old Mr McLeod travelled to Camperdown, Melbourne, in search of his mother and found his way to the doorstep of Mary McLeod's home - but it was the wrong one.

The disappointment led him to give up his search.

"After that I just never bothered, and I didn't think much of it, really," he said.

It wasn't until a chance meeting with genealogist Robin Stutchbury at an orphanage reunion late last year, that the hunt was reignited.

Mr Stutchbury not only discovered information about Mr McLeod's mother, Elma Mary McLeod (the Elma had worn off Mr McLeod's original copy of his birth certificate) - he found a family ready to open their arms to him.

Through Mr Stutchbury, Mr McLeod found his niece Sandra McLeod and great-niece, Ms Miller-Olsen, whom he met up with in February.

They presented him with an album of family information and photographs, with photos of Mr McLeod's mother on her wedding day and just prior to her death.

As it turned out Mr McLeod had four older brothers - one of whom shared his "wide nose" - who have, sadly, passed away.

Mr McLeod, who plans to visit his nephew in Perth soon, said his only regret was not persisting with the search for his family earlier in his life.

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