FROM the outside, Esther Robertson seemed to have the perfect upbringing. She lived in a big house in Dunbartonshire, she had brothers and sisters, a lovely garden to play in and lots of pets. And she knew she was loved.

“Yet something was jarring; ­something was missing,” says the 61-year-old. “I was a brown face in a sea of white and I often felt like I just didn’t fit in.”

An uneasy feeling of ­impermanence persisted throughout her childhood, her adolescence and much of her adult life, leading to her being unable to settle for very long, whether it was at jobs, flats or relationships.

While she knew she’d been ­adopted by the Rev Crichton Robertson, a Church of Scotland minister, and his wife, Doris, she didn’t find out until she was much older that she’d had three different identities by the time she was three-years-old.

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It was only at the age of 35 that she finally discovered that she’d been put up for re-adoption by the ­Robertsons – then taken in by another ­family and given a new name before the ­Robertsons changed their minds and asked for her back again.

With hindsight, Esther believes this early trauma affected her more than anyone ever realised.

The desire to find her birth ­mother and fill in the gaps in her life was always there. She made several ­attempts over the years, but always gave up when it became too emotionally taxing. Then, in 2018, her world was rocked when she was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. It was a diagnosis that spurred her on to ­discover the whole truth.

Along with her partner, the ­journalist Gayle Anderson, she embarked on what became a three-year investigation.

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Gayle and Esther pictured at the beach

“The diagnosis was life-changing as you can imagine,” says ­Esther. “I had a lot of regrets and one of them was never discovering the truth about my ­adoption. Over the years, I’d had a few attempts at piecing together the jigsaw but every time I tried, I opened up a new can of worms.

“This time though, I was ready for whatever the search threw at me. If you can face up to cancer you can face up to anything.”

Little by little, over the 14 years they’ve been together, Gayle says ­Esther has told her everything she knew about her past.

“I desperately wanted to help with this new search. I thought it would be amazing to try and put it all together,” Gayle explains.

The idea of recording their ­progress in a podcast came after Esther was scrolling on Twitter and noticed a Spotify competition called Sound Up UK. It’s a programme to help ­amplify the voices of women of colour through podcasts. Esther was chosen to attend a Sound Up workshop week in Manchester. There, she pitched the idea for the podcast and was one of four winners.

Looking for Esther was given the green light in 2019 and is now being released so listeners can follow them on their journey. It’s a no-holds-barred, honest account of the couple’s highs and lows, including a heated quarrel between them recorded by accident when the pressure became too much.

Along the way they speak to ­adoption experts who confirm that what happened to Esther would not happen now.

Esther was born on January 26, 1961, in a Church of Scotland mother and baby home in Glasgow. Her 17-year-old Edinburgh-born mother had become pregnant to Bob Hubbard, a black American airforceman stationed in Scotland. Due to parental and societal pressure, baby Catherine Ann Lindenberg was put up for adoption.

At three months, she was moved to an orphanage in Galashiels and from there was adopted by the ­Robertsons who named her Esther. As well as having five children of their own, they already fostered a toddler. When caring for such a large family became too much for Doris Robertson, ­Esther was put up for re-adoption. She went to live with the Graham family in Beith, Ayrshire, and was given the third name of her short life – Doreen Ann Graham.

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Then, after only three months, the Robertsons had a change of heart and requested Esther back.

The podcast follows Gayle and Esther’s search for Esther’s birth mum. They won’t reveal the results of their quest as they want listeners to share the highs and lows of the journey with them – but say they’re glad they’ve made it and feel proud of the end result.

“What has been incredible for me is that I am actually seeing my life in eight episodes, laid out for the world to hear and I’m excited about that,” Esther says. “It’s a legacy for me.

“I was making this while I was in remission – thankfully I still am. I’m proud that I used my time wisely. It was a really positive thing to do. I hope it helps others who may feel ­displaced or alone or like they don’t fit in. You’re never too old to start this journey so don’t be afraid and never, ever give up.”

Was it all worth it?

“Absolutely.” Esther nods.

“When you don’t know what’s ­happened in the past you have no sense of identity. It’s always better to know the truth. I feel more complete now. There are still a couple of gaps to fill and that’s ongoing but I feel very enriched by the whole ­experience.”

For Gayle it’s both “the hardest and the best” piece of work she’s ever attempted.

“We want people to experience the journey we experienced which has many highs and many lows,” she says. “It is an emotional rollercoaster and we want people to join us on it. Strap yourselves in though.”

She adds: “It’s rare you can take positivity out of something as ­negative as cancer but that’s exactly what’s ­happened – it was Esther’s diagnosis that led to her desire to ­finally do this.”

Looking for Esther features Janice Forsyth as narrator and was produced in association with The Big Light studios in Glasgow. All eight episodes drop tomorrow on Spotify Originals