Allan Healy, 66, spent 60 years looking for his long-lost sister Margaret Mitchell after they were separated as children in 1954 – only to finally find her through a Facebook profile picture.

After trawling through official documents, a photo he posted on the social networking site turned out to be the key to unlocking the mystery and allowing the pair to meet after a lifetime apart.

Allan, who now lives in Plymouth, tracked Margaret, 67, to just a mile away from where the pair grew up together in Dundee.

"I scoured birth and marriage certificates, and other records to try and find my sister,” he said.

"My search took me to Scotland, where I at first drew a blank because of the different system with data protection.

Family photo

"Then I thought about Facebook and a cousin sent me a photograph of Stewart, Margaret and myself taken when we were children.

"I made it my Facebook profile picture and put out a message for anyone who might know Margaret Healy to get in touch."

But what Allan didn't know was that former care assistant Margaret and her neighbour Kathie McGill were also using the site to try and trace him.

Margaret said: "My neighbour Kathie McGill is interested in family history and she helped me by putting out a message for an Allan Healy, who I thought might still be in Plymouth.

"Then Kathie came through and said there was a photograph on Facebook with a young Allan Healy and a girl with him - and I was the girl. I was amazed."

Parents John and Elizabeth Healy, who are still alive, moved north to Dundee from Plymouth and made a home for their three children Alan, Margaret and Stewart in Broughty Ferry.

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But domestic life was hard and the couple separated in 1954. John took his sons 550 miles away back to the south coast of England, leaving Margaret and Elizabeth behind in Scotland.

John, now 90, then found a new wife in Plymouth and a new job as a cooper.

But the job came with a house that was too small to keep the two boys who were sent away to live in a Barnardo’s home in the Devon city.

The boys kept in touch with their father, with Allan eventually pursuing a career in the army.

First conversation in 60 years

After discovering the picture of their childhood days online, Alan and Margaret had a tear-filled phone conversation for the first time in 60 years.

Allan then journeyed north to meet his long-lost sibling face-to-face.

He said: "I got out of the car, looked over and saw Margaret standing there. I ran over and we hugged and cried.  We couldn't believe that we were together again."

Meeting with Mum

A special moment came when Allan visited his mother, now 88, at the Dundee care home where she lives. Margaret was concerned that Elizabeth's Alzheimer’s might mean she wouldn't remember her son.

But she needn't have worried. "I said 'Hello Mum, I've brought Allan to see you',” Margaret recalled.

"She looked up and put my hand on his hand and her hand on top and said 'We're all together again now'." Margaret is now planning a return visit to Allan's home in Plymouth.

Photo credit: SWNS