Midnight Oil drummer Rob Hirst opens up on being reunited with his secret daughter
Midnight Oil drummer Rob Hirst was just 17 years old, gigging in pubs with his band and about to head off to uni. Then he discovered his girlfriend was pregnant.
At that point in time – in the mid-70s – the prospect of raising a child was not on the cards for the young couple and the baby was given up for adoption, Hirst told The Sunday Project’s Lisa Wilkinson.
“It was very brutal, Lisa, back then,” he said. “Usually the young teenage mother was whisked away interstate for a ‘holiday’ somewhere.
“And then the child was given up for adoption almost immediately. Sometimes all the names were changed to protect the guilty. So we weren’t told the sex of the child. They just said, ‘You kids get on with your life. You’ll never find this child.’”
However, in a remarkable twist of fate, Hirst’s daughter – 46-year-old country singer Jay O’Shea, who at one point moved to Nashville, Tennessee to further her musical career – set off on a journey to discover her birth parents in her early 20s.
“I wanted to know if there was anybody out there who looked like me, who could sing, who might be musical,” she said. “And it felt like a book that I could never read the end of. “People were kind of really nice on the phone. ‘Sure, absolutely. I’ll look it up for you.’ Then I hit brick wall after brick wall after brick wall. This went on for a good six or seven years.”
Then in 2010, O’Shea got a lead.
“There was an email saying, ‘Your birth mother has made contact. How would you like me to proceed?’ I remember bolting up right in bed. Bawling my eyes out. And just knowing that it was real. I just felt it. I knew it was real,” she said.
She flew back to Sydney from Nashville and after meeting her birth mother, O’Shea soon discovered the identity of her father – and everything fell into place.
Bizarrely, O’Shea and her husband, a fellow musician, were good friends with Midnight Oil bass player Bones who was coming around for dinner that night. She said she and her husband looked at each other and wondered, “How on earth are we going to tell Bones?”
“It’s like The Bold And The Beautiful. This will be weird,” O’Shea laughed. “We told them and just at that time the phone rang. And it was Rob. And I remember just feeling like my hand started to shake and I grabbed the phone out of his hand and I felt like a little girl.
“He said, ‘Hi, Darl. How are you going?’”
There was one more person Hirst needed to tell – his wife Lesley and their children.
“When did you first tell Lesley there was a child out there somewhere?” Wilkinson asked.
“When the letter arrived in the letterbox,” he replied, joking that he’d “forgotten” to tell anyone for 36 years that he’d fathered a child as a teenager.
“I think it was part of … the whole part of your life that you, you’ve – it would be likely to be painful if you resurrected that,” Hirst said. “So it was a self-defence in a way but I
definitely should have mentioned it before that day.”
Now Hirst is grandfather to O’Shea’s two daughters and they are busy making music together as a father and daughter duo.
“I’m a grandfather to the girls,” he said. “And that’s been joyful. And the other side of course is this musical companionship that we have as well.”
“It’s a fairytale ending,” O’Shea added.
Their new album The Lost and the Found will be released later this month.
Originally published as Oils star reunites with secret daughter