Who Do You Think You Are? – BBC1

Comedian Paul Merton learns some shocks and surprises in his family history in this week’s Who Do You Think You Are? on BBC1

After nearly 40 years in improv and around 30 on Have I Got News for You?, Paul Merton is used to thinking on his feet, but the things he discovers about his family tree in this week’s Who Do You Think You Are? on BBC1 still take him by surprise.

He begins his search by travelling to Ireland to learn more about his maternal grandfather, James Power, who he believes drowned at sea.

But the truth of how James met his end is very different, while information about how he fought for the British Army and then for Irish independence also comes as a shock.

Meanwhile, Paul is thrilled to find musicians on his father’s side, but the discovery that his great-great-grandmother, a singer, was sent to prison aged just 14, leaves him reeling… 

Here, the London-born comedian, 62, tells us about his discoveries…

James Power in Who Do You Think You Are?

Paul learns the truth about the fate of his grandfather James Power (above) in BBC1’s Who Do You Think You Are?

You’d been told your Irish maternal grandfather, James Power, had drowned at sea. But in Who Do You Think You Are?, you find that wasn’t the case, was it?

I knew very little and what I knew was wrong!

My middle name’s James, after him, and we knew he died in 1927 when my mother, Mary Ann, was about one but, other than that, we only had a photograph.

I don’t want to give anything away but the real story about his death was a surprise.

I’m the first member of the family to know the truth.

Several paternal ancestors were musicians, it seems…

Yes, it went back to the early 19th Century. It’s good to know that I’m a performer now and people I’m related to were doing the same sort of thing.

What’s next for you?

I’ve got a compilation of comic writing coming out and Have I Got News for You is back this Autumn.

It’s still great fun.

TV Times rating: ****