Man swapped as baby springs surprise on mum

Helen Churchman is greeted on her birthday outside her Dunedin home yesterday by Fred George, of...
Helen Churchman is greeted on her birthday outside her Dunedin home yesterday by Fred George, of Boston, her son who was switched at birth. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Helen Churchman received a "terrific" 88th birthday present yesterday.

Fred George, a son she did not know she had until five years ago, flew from Boston in the United States to pay a surprise visit.

"Isn't it terrific," Mrs Churchman said. "I wondered why Fred hadn't rung."

They have met in person twice since the discovery through DNA testing that Mr George (62) and Jim Churchman had been switched at birth in hospital in Dunedin on Christmas Eve 1946.

Mrs Churchman has written to her son in Boston every week since this revelation.

"She didn't have to look after me as a youngster so she's making up for it," Mr George quipped.

The Georges and the Churchmans are from opposite sides of Dunedin religiously, culturally and racially - one Lebanese, Catholic and poor, the other Presbyterian and middle class. Each gave love to sons who were different in appearance and character to their siblings and who, it turned out, had different birth mothers.

Their story became public 20 months ago through an Otago Daily Times article and through Mr George's book Switched at Birth: My Life in Someone Else's World (

Mr George has also featured widely in the US media in recent months.

In Dunedin, he is still meeting new relatives, it being the turn yesterday of niece Hannah King, who was visiting her grandmother.

Mr George will also be spending much of the next week in Dunedin with members of his large George family, and Georges and Churchmans will be getting together with him and the other swapped baby, Jim Churchman, on Friday evening.

"I feel I've two families," Mr George said. "And I've been so lucky to have had two mothers."

• Mrs Churchman is Philip Somerville's aunt.


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