One man’s experience may prove that, sometimes, coincidences do happen. British Army veteran Roy Aspinall was walking home from a Remembrance ceremony in Wigan, in the north of the United Kingdom, when he stopped to talk to a homeless man. Subsequently, he discovered something that came as a huge surprise.
Having been in the military for four years as an equipment tester for his battalion, service means a lot to Aspinall. The 36-year-old father of six children had paid his respects at a Remembrance Sunday church service and was heading home. That’s when he saw a homeless man in the graveyard.
Aspinall told Wigan Today, “We had done what we needed to do at the memorial… I left and walked back through the churchyard to get my bus and I saw this guy sitting on the brick wall. The recognition of his face was there.” With this in mind, Aspinall approached the man.
The man piqued Aspinall’s curiosity. He looked like he must be on the streets because he had a bag and sleeping bag with him. So Aspinall walked up to him and offered him a smoke. They started to talk, and wanting to see why the man was so familiar, Aspinall asked if he knew a relation of his.
For Aspinall, it was a strange moment, trying to think if he really recognised the man or not. He said, “I was talking to a complete stranger but was trying to get answers.” Finally, Aspinall asked the homeless man if his name was William.
Aspinall said, “He said yes but they called him Billy. I rang my sister… and we confirmed it.” In fact, the homeless man Aspinall was speaking to was none other than his long-lost brother, Billy White. In this case, the two hadn’t seen each other in 15 years.
His sister had not had any contact with White for 15 years either, and Aspinall himself had last known him when he had been beginning to walk. Aspinall said, “Billy had a little talk with her and they were both over the moon. We couldn’t believe how amazing this day was.”
As soon as the man had finished talking to Aspinall’s sister, Aspinall got him to come along to his home. Before long, White started to look human again. And not just that, he could come off the streets, because Aspinall had a sofa bed he could use.
The two brothers had been split up by circumstance, sharing the same mother, Lorraine White. Significantly, White had become pregnant at a young age and put Aspinall in the care of her older sister when he was an infant. Moreover, he’d been raised to think his aunt was his mom.
Billy White had been born much later than his brother, and he spent his early years moving between various houses with his mother. When she died, he was sent into care. Correspondingly, neither brother knew what had happened to the other.
Aspinall has since expressed sadness that he never got the opportunity to actually meet his real mother. White said, “Our mum was amazing, she wouldn’t hurt a fly and she was the sweetest woman going. I wish Roy could have met her, things could have been different.”
Both brothers suffered over the years, spending periods living rough at various times. Additionally, Aspinall and White have struggled with addiction. Perhaps that was why Aspinall was quick to strike up a conversation with White, recognizing a kindred spirit.
At the present time, the brothers live together and are discovering what it means to have a brother. Aspinall said, “We’ve just spent all this week getting to know each other and we’ve both been in tears more than once. For me it’s just a case of, ‘Where have you been all my life?’”
Furthermore, the brothers have found a real connection. Aspinall continued, “Some of the things we have found out are uncanny. We have very similar personal do and don’ts, and I thought I was the only person in my family to drink coffee until Billy came along and ordered exactly the same thing I had.”
For White, it has been a bizarre experience. He said, “I didn’t actually believe him at first when he came over [in the churchyard]. I then started looking closer and the more I spoke to him I could see the resemblances coming out. I’ve seen pictures of him when he was younger and he really [looks like me] in those.”
White had always known he had a big brother because his mom talked about Aspinall a great deal. She had given White the full story, but even knowing a lot about Aspinall, he still wouldn’t know him if he passed him in the street. Indeed, he hadn’t even known they lived in the same area.
Aspinall’s time in the military saw him injured, and he receives help with housing from EDs, a charity for veterans. Due to White being a veteran’s family member, he also qualifies for help from the charity. Thanks to the charity’s help, both men are on their way to brighter futures.
EDs projects manager Darryl Picton said, “This is one of those good news stories you don’t get very often. It’s amazing how it has come about. It’s an honor to be able to help support both Billy and Roy.” Through EDs, Aspinall and White are able to access care, support and addiction groups.
Since Aspinall found White, the previously homeless man’s life has turned around. As a result, White now has a job with a local logistics firm, and helps his brother out. For instance, when Aspinall slipped a disc in his back, White was there to look after his older brother.
White said, “My life changed when Roy came over to me. He looks after me, like a big brother should. We’re non-stop talking all the time, but we’ve now got the rest of our lives to know each other.” For once, a story about harsh struggle turns out to have a happy ending.