Sun, Apr 24, 2005 - Page 18 News List

A long way from home

Mark Williams was born in Taiwan and then taken to England where he was abandoned. His search for his roots and family have uncovered links to Lyndon Johnson and raised new questions that remain unanswered

By Jules Quartly  /  STAFF REPORTER

Mark Williams was abandoned at an English boarding school when he was 6 and has returned to Taiwan to trace his past and write a book about his experiences.


It's been 10 years this month since 45-year-old Englishman Mark Williams first learned of his Taiwanese roots, but he's still piecing together the strange tale of his childhood: how he was uprooted from his Taipei home and traveled to Hong Kong and New York dressed as a girl before being abandoned at 6 years old in England by his businessman father and a woman from Shanghai named In Chen (殷勤).

When he was abandoned, he had no papers, could not speak English and missed his father and family. He did not understand why he had been dumped in a strange land. Though cared for by nuns at the orphanage, he pined for his father Cheng Shui-jr (鄭水枝). But he would never see his father again.

"Who am I? Where am I from? Who brought me here? And why? How did I get here? And, more importantly, where is my father and family?" Williams writes in a draft of his yet-unpublished book, The Accidental Englishman.

Williams would find out nearly 30 years later that his father died mysteriously on his return to Taipei. His father is also rumored to have made a fortune in the opium trade, though Williams said he did not believe the rumors to be true.

He would also learned that the mysterious In was former US President Lyndon Johnson's translator and possibly the mother of the US president's illegitimate child.

Williams was eventually adopted by a British woman and became one of six adopted children who grew up mainly in London and in Spain.

He adapted to circumstances, learned English and did well at school, graduating in computer science and earning a master's degree in business administration before becoming a banker, marrying and having a son.

An uncomplicated life in finance seemed to beckon, but the pain and mystery of his abandonment resurfaced and Williams had an "itch that will never go away" to discover his roots.

The only clues to his past, however, were his faded memories and a certificate of identity issued by the UK immigration department giving his family name as Cheng and his given name as Tong-tong. His place and date of birth were Formosa, April 27, 1960.

It wasn't much to go on, but he took a banking job in Hong Kong and began his journey of self-discovery.

"I was once asked why I wanted to find my family. To me it was a curious question. Why do men climb mountains and sail the seas? There is no answer. But, if one loses one's family, one is obligated to find them," he writes in his manuscript.

A local TV company picked up his story through an international adoption agency, and Williams became a minor celebrity as families rushed to reclaim him as their long-lost son.

Eventually his real mother Huang Yu-ying (黃玉英) identified him by asking whether he had a scar on his forehead caused by an accident at home when Williams still lived in Taipei.

That was 10 years ago, and since being reunited with his mother and four sisters he has found out that his father had another family and was a merchant seaman and trader. He lost an arm -- allegedly in a taxi accident -- and smuggled the young Williams to Hong Kong, since young men were not allowed to leave the island during Chiang Kai-shek's rule.

His family, however, could not help him find out much about what happened after that, and he has had to piece together the facts from photos his biological mother kept, small scraps of information and letters from the mysterious In to his mother.

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