Tommy Hagan’s dream came true at WWT Washington when he met two exotic black swans for the very first time.
The beautiful birds, named Tommy and Gloria, in honour of their special visitor and his wife, greeted the 81-year-old. He was over the moon to tick off a wish from his humble bucket list he devised to compensate for a traumatised childhood.
Tommy, from Irvine, was placed in an orphanage at the age of three just before the Second World War, spending 13 years in the system and enduring serious physical abuse.
Working with local mental health charity Mind Mosaic, supported by Future Pathways, he’s found the confidence to speak out about the past and has embraced the future with open arms.
“It’s never too late to start living and I’m enjoying making up for lost time
“I’ve met so many great people along the way who have helped me tick off my list and I’m having quite the adventure.
“These swans are even more beautiful than I imagined. Being from this part of the world, you just can’t imagine a swan any other colour than white. It’s incredible.”
Gill Pipes, Centre Manager at WWT Washington, said:
“When we heard that one of Tommy’s wishes was to meet black swans we immediately got in touch with him.
“Tommy’s story is an inspirational one and we wanted to help out in any way we could.
“We hope we’ve given this wonderful man a day to remember and that he goes on to fulfil his bucket list. He certainly deserves it.”
Elaine Wroe, project Coordinator of the Survivor Service at Mind Mosaic, said:
“I’ve been working with Tommy for three years now and he’s really come out of his shell. He’s extremely brave to speak out about a difficult past and now it’s his turn to have fun.”
Tommy was beaten every morning and forced into ice cold baths until he turned blue.
He was finally allowed to leave the orphanage at age 16, but his experience in care left him with emotional scars.
He carried the weight of his terrible experiences on his shoulders for decades until deciding to speak out recently.
To celebrate putting the past behind him, Tommy has been working his way through a bucket list and to date has taken up drumming lessons, flown to Rome and visited a butterfly farm.