A MAN is planning to cycle from West Yorkshire to Iraq in a bid to find the father and family he has never met.
Nick Shields, 56, was adopted as a baby, but the land of his father’s birth is proving a magnet he can no longer resist.
Mr Shields, a member of the national cycling charity Cycling UK, has worked in the circus and been a gig promoter during his career.
Now an IT manager, he has decided to put all his savings into cycling to the Middle East, having raised some cash for the trip by taking part in medical tests for a drug to help treat Alzheimer’s disease.
He is leaving his home in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, today forn Iran. He said: “Earlier this year I was chucked out of my flat but it didn’t cause the urgent push to rehouse myself that I expected.
“I began to reject the idea of committing to another spell inside yet another private, money-sapping let and the idea popped into my head that I was going to cycle to Iran.
“Some years ago I spent three seasons working as an engineer for Snapdragon Circus, which was based in my home town of Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire.
“As well as touring the UK and Europe we spent a week in Israel. I suddenly felt this incredible affinity with that part of the world – even my skin changed colour to an olive tone in the sun.
“I was adopted and didn’t know then that my father was Iranian, but in hindsight it all makes sense the way I felt in the Middle East.”
Mr Shields was brought up by George and Betty Shields and has a sister, Jackie.
He explained: “According to my adoption certificate, my blood father was called Hamid Hamidi. He was born and grew up in Persia, modern-day Iran, and was studying dermatology in London when he met my mother, Margaret Thompson. As soon as he heard that I was on the way you couldn’t see him for dust.”
Forty years later Mr Shields met Margaret – or Marguerite, as she had become known. Mr Shields, who was born Nick Thompson, heard that his father was married and probably in Tehran.
Mr Shields said: “Mum was born and grew up in Whitby. I managed to track her down, initially via a lady called Dot I spoke to in the Whitby Tourist Office. Eventually I spoke to my mother on the phone, then flew down to London and visited her where she lived in Pimlico.”
He added: “Hamid Hamidi is a very common name, but the fact my blood father was a dermatologist certainly narrows the field down.
“He would be in his 90s now if he is still alive, but even if he is long gone there are likely to be two generations of family in Iran blissfully unaware of my existence. If by some miracle the news of my activities reaches a family member I’d be overjoyed to meet them. My identity is English and always has been, but Iran is calling to me.”
He will use his long-distance quest to raise funds for Médecins Sans Frontières – an organisation he describes as “heroes”.
Mr Shields has quit smoking and alcohol for the trek. He will ride to Hull and take a ferry across the North Sea to Rotterdam. He said: “I’m going to wing it – accept the wisdom of fellow travellers I meet on the road about the best way to go. I am master of my own destiny.”