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British trumpeter’s ‘last chance’ to find Maltese father

British-born jazz trumpeter Ray Butcher shoots for the moon as he tries to look for his Maltese biological father after he ran out on his mother almost 40 years ago.

Bianca Caruana
1 July 2012, 12:00am
Ray Butcher: the trumpeter adopted by a British couple in search for his Maltese biological father
"I don't want to get my hopes up. It's been almost 40 years but I feel like it's my last chance to try and find my Maltese biological father who is most likely 65 or even 70 years old."

I meet Ray Butcher in Bugibba for a drink and chat in the sun about his life as a professional musician and his search for his Maltese roots.

"I was fostered then adopted at the age of three by my adoptive mother, Mrs Butcher. My adoptive father passed away due to lung cancer but both my parents had a policy when I was growing up to answer any question I might have about my past as best they could," Butcher says.

Butcher is a jazz trumpet player, playing since the age of 8, who has since performed for Princess Diana, worked with Mica Paris and Jean Toussaint, and recorded on Ivor Novello winner Scott Matthew's second album 'Elsewhere'.

He has also supported BB King among many other performances both in Europe and the US.

"I've played at quite a number of jazz and blues festivals. I'll be playing at a jazz festival in Birmingham when I return to England and another performance in Tenerife in August. I love Malta and would love to play at the Malta Jazz Festival one day," he admits.

Invited to perform on One Productions Ltd's television programme, 'Ilsien In-Nisa', which aired last Thursday, Butcher says his acceptance to perform on the show was "double-edged".

The word Maltese came up during a clip he saw on YouTube and he was intrigued by the value given to what Maltese people do around the world.

"I sent an e-mail to the programme simply to say that I liked the show which I came across on YouTube. I was actually looking at videos related to marine life and oceanography, and it popped up.

 "Clare Agius, one of the presenters, e-mailed me back to say thank you and tell me she liked my music. I was very surprised! I wasn't even expecting a reply but she also invited me to play on the show. I accepted and decided to take the chance to go on TV," he says.

Butcher also mentioned his background to Agius in the e-mail correspondence and says he not only accepted because he enjoys playing in different countries but is still trying to find his biological father.

"My father's name is unknown, but I was always told he was Maltese by my adoptive parents. I wasn't really encouraged to look for my father as a child, but then it seemed like a stunted growth situation. I wanted to find out but I left it for about 10 years before I contacted my mother," Butcher explains. 

When contacting his biological mother, Scottish-born Norma Marlyn Corbett (later known as 'Pat'), through his half sister on Facebook, Butcher was confronted with hostility and perpetual swearing.

"She doesn't want me to learn about my father and never even told me his name. She's a very hostile woman but I still try to call her at least once a year just to remain in contact and question her, even though she convinced everyone that I was causing trouble. She doesn't seem to want to understand that I'm not taking sides, I just want to know where I come from," he says.

He has even considered bribing his 59-year-old mother to provide him with information although he believes he risks possible police arrest for disturbance should he go anywhere near her house in his search.

"During the earliest occasions of me speaking to my birth mother, she claimed my father was Maltese, and the social services report also refers to him as being 'of Maltese origin'. I was born in December 1973 in Portsmouth, England," Butcher says.

Corbett told her son that his father bolted out on her, as soon as he heard about the pregnancy and is one of the reasons why she won't disclose his name.

The plot thickens...

Corbett was also being investigated for prostitution offences at the time but had been living with his biological father for six months on St Andrews Road, Southsea in Portsmouth so Butcher does not believe that his birth mother was prostituting at the time.

"After he left, my birth mother married an Adrian Harding around 1974, I think. She then also met an Abdul Khalique who was assumed to be my father, but I'm convinced this is incorrect because further investigation revealed Abdul did not meet my mother until 1975 which was long after my Maltese father left the scene and I was born... It's a bit confusing but I still have hope," Butcher says.

Whether his father returned to Malta or not is unknown, but Butcher thinks he may have had to come back in the '70s' for a number of reasons.

"He might have tried to contact me at some point. I think he may have been in the Navy and based in Portsmouth around the time he met my birth mother but had to return to Malta," he says.

Realising that he is almost literally looking for a needle in a haystack, someone encouraged him to utilise the services of a private investigator.

"It costs £95 or €118 an hour to hire a private investigator. After a consultation, I was told I should try to find Adrian Harding but I discovered he changed his first name. Now, whoever changes their first name must have done something wrong in my opinion, but I feel as though I need to meet him to get some more information," Butcher says.

Nearing desperation while on holiday in Malta, Butcher admits he more than likely scared a few old men in Paola on Wednesday when he was out with a friend.

"I was getting really random and going up to old men asking if they knew anyone who had lived in Portsmouth for a while. I knew it was a long shot but because Malta is so small, I didn't think there was any harm in trying," he says.

Butcher says he had already tried asking for assistance from another Maltese newspaper a year ago but never received any correspondence following the initial receipt of his e-mail.

"I decided to contact the Times of Malta after my first visit to Malta with my friend, Freddie Pirotta, who coincidentally is Maltese. He's a lawyer and musician who moved to England when he was 14 years old. He gave me a grand tour of the island and definitely knows his history," he says.

Leaving the day after the interview, Butcher departs with a lovely sun tan and returns to the gloomy English weather to run his music venue in Birmingham.

"I love the weather here and the way of living. I've gotten the impression that Malta is quite a biblical country... but it feels like home, strangely enough, and I've only been here three times," he says.

Before we part ways, Butcher makes a final point.

 "I just want to make it clear, should my biological father see this or anyone who knows him, I am not interested in gaining anything. I'm almost 40 years old and I forgive him for leaving. I have no hard feelings toward him at all. I just want to know and learn about my roots. Nothing more," he says.

Should anyone have any information regarding Ray Butcher's father, please send an e-mail to bcaruana@mediatoday.com.mt for details on how to contact Butcher directly.

For more details regarding Butcher's music, visit: http://www.raybutcher.co.uk/