Four generations of incredible foster family reunite in Canning Town

Four generations of an extraordinary family reunited in Canning Town on Saturday as a testament to the magic of fostering.

Matriarch of the family Shirley Tilley organised an East End-themed 40th birthday party in the Abbey Arms pub for the foster sons she adopted Peter and Paul.

But Shirley has appeared in the Recorder before – last time on the front page – when she was appealing for information after the disappearance of her three adopted Nigerian sons.

Tundie, Semi, and Tony were adopted by Shirley and her husband Ginger in the ’60s and lived with them in East Ham – until their mother took them back to Nigeria after she offered to take them “on holiday” but never returned.

The couple ran an appeal with the Recorder and the Nigerian Embassy when the trio unexpectedly telephoned them from a phone box in west London having returned as teenagers nine years later.

In the meantime, Shirley and Paul had adopted Peter and Paul and the five of them grew up to have families of their own – and now her fostering means she’s surrounded by 26 grandchildren.

Shirley said: “I’ll have them all round on Christmas Day, there’s quite a lot of them, and they eat dinner in relays. I couldn’t ask for five better boys.”

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Shirley has since been offered an MBE for her pioneering foster work, which she refused saying: “I didn’t do it for that, I did it because I wanted the babies!”