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Esther Tang is the mother of the Turners foster daughter May Tang, she was a refugee who was assumed dead but is actually alive and wants her daughter.

Overview[]

Pre Series[]

Esther Tang was a Hong Kong refugee, with no other option she turned to prostitution to support herself and she ended up pregnant as a result. In this time Esther was battling with a drug addiction, when she gave birth her daughter who she named May had the same addiction. The midwife who cared for them Sister Mildred (later Mother Mildred) noted that May screamed for almost two weeks but was eventually weaned off the opium. Esther truly loved her daughter but was simply unable to support her, May ended up in an orphanage being cared for by a nun named Sister Veronica, but Esther was determined to reform herself and her horrendous life. She came to get May at the orphanage three times, each time talking about a job as a servant, place at a night school but all three times Esther brought May back with a black eye or cigarette burn. Sister Mildred would wonder which was most in need of care, Esther had love but not the common sense needed in raising her daughter. Some time after that Esther was presumed deceased and May was put onto the Hong Kong adoption project to be adopted in Britain.

Series 9[]

Unknown to everyone Esther was alive and well, having got past her drug addiction and got a job as an amah (childcare giver) to a British forces family. When the family ended up in England, Esther decided to track down her daughter. May was living with the Turners at this time who were on the cusp of adopting May themselves, she wants to see her daughter and this devastates the whole family and the thought of losing their fourth child shakes Patrick and Shelagh to the core but they agree. When meeting the Turners they bring her pictures and she gets emotional about how big and healthy her daughter looks, she is happy to hear that her daughter goes to school and is good at counting.

Despite being happy with the pictures she still wants to meet her daughter in person. The Turners agree again but to Esther’s horror May is scared of her and no longer understands Chinese, she blames the Turners for turning her own child against her. That makes up Esther’s mind, Esther would need to sign the adoption papers for the Turners to adopt May but she refuses and decides to take May back to Hong Kong. The place the two already faced terror and horror before, in one last attempt to save their daughter from a sickening life becoming real they speak to Sister Julienne.

Esther and Sister Julienne

Sister Julienne asks her how she plans on supporting May and Esther answers she has a job looking after English children and they love her; they go to her before their own parents. But Sister Julienne points out she will lose that job when her employers know she has a child of her own, Esther is still insistent that May would be better off with her mother speaking her own language instead of living in a country where she will forget where she comes from and will have to face racism like the whole of Hong Kong did at the hands of the British. Sister Julienne asks her if she is sure May won’t end up back in an orphanage, Esther begins crying and asks if she signs the paper her child will never know how much she loves her.

In the end Esther and the Turners come to a compromise of sorts, Esther would return to Hong Kong alone and May will stay with the Turners. But Esther will remain May’s legal mother and won’t sign the papers, it is pointed out by a social worker the Turners could pursue adoption through the court and the decision would more than likely go in their favour. She knows that but begs them not to, Patrick points out May needs a legal next of kin in Britain, if May was injured they wouldn’t be able to see her. The end point was this would not be a long-term solution that worked for everyone but Esther still refuses. At the end of the episode she is seen preparing to return to Hong Kong, with the family she works for but without her daughter.

Post Series 9[]

Shelagh mentions in the 2021 Christmas special that it had been a few months since they last heard from Esther, meaning the Turners have kept at least some degree of contact with Esther. The next time she is mentioned is in S11 E05 where May gets injured in the playground and Shelagh gets rather overzealous about her cause to improve the equipment. It is later revealed that Shelagh was really worried about how Esther would react when she got she report of the injury but Patrick tells her that May will get hurt and she is an excellent mother. Four years after the meeting Esther remained in Hong Kong and the Turners kept on fostering May, and it appeared the state of limbo had no sign of ending until May was in an accident on the beach and ended up with water aspiration which could have been fatal but treatment at the hospital was successful and May was fine. But Esther heard of the news and lost confidence in the Turners and asked for a review of the arrangement and if she was not satisfied May might be moved to a place Esther had more confidence.

It turned out before this happened Esther in unknown circumstances was let go of her job with the army family and found herself back on the streets and had to sell herself to survive once again. Esther ended up pregnant and the sisters like Sister Margery took her in again where she gave birth to a baby boy, she is put on the phone with her daughter May overseas where she asks May if she wants to adopted by the Turners which she says yes, Esther then decides to allow the adoption to go ahead after all.

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