After a break over Christmas, the celebrity genealogy show returns as we look into the ancestry of Sir Ian McKellen.
McKellen, who is the only member of his family still alive, begins by looking after his parental grandmother, known as “Mother Mac”, and learns about her career as a singer. From there he learns that his Great Great Uncle, Frank Lowes, was an actor in the 19th century who had success early in his life, but it was sadly not to last.
Later McKellen learns about his 3xGreat Grandfather, Robert Lowes, who helped to campaign to give workers half-day holidays, and was so successful that it is argued that Robert Lowes invented the modern weekend. Lastly, McKellen goes back another generation to James Lowes, an engraver who worked on the highly important two-volume History of Cumberland.
This has been one of the better episodes of the series, partly because of the poignant nature of it as McKellen is the last of the family line. But also, it is interesting to see how similar some of McKellen’s ancestors are to him: not only is there the acting side of McKellen’s life and as reflected by Frank Lowes, but also the activism. Robert Lowes campaigned to help people get more free time, while McKellen campaigned for gay rights. It was wonderful to see all of these lives crossover.
Who Do You Think You Are? is on BBC One at 20.00.