Thursday, 15 August 2013


Oh how I wept last night as the drama of actress Lesley Sharp's geneology background unfolded before my tear soaked eyes as the incredible Who Do You Think You Are? family history series continued.

I've been a fan since the programme began in 2004. It doesn't matter which celebrity is featured, or whether I'm a fan or a critic, there is usually something so sad in their stories that they have me reaching for the tissues.

But Sharp's had me in tears all the way through from the moment she began to talk and describe her adoption as a five week old baby, the little knitted booties she showed off that her real mum kept for years as the only thing left to remember her by, the difficult relationship Sharp had with her adoptive mum, and the love she has for her adoptive father who in every sense of the word, except for biologically, was her real dad - the one who loved, cared and nurtured her into the person she is today.

Her biological mum had an affair with an older married man with two kids of his own. When she fell pregnant with Lesley - who was named Karen at birth - it was a sign of the times that a working class single pregnant woman's only choice was to give her away because "it would be best for the baby." That was a sentiment that was repeated often as Sharp spoke to her mother's sisters. The actress traced her real mum, now deceased, in 1990. But you sensed the tragedy of an illegitimate birth and the wrench of a new baby from a family that wanted to love her but couldn't because of the moral judgment of the society of the day. The aunts cried tears of loss, regret and shame as they told Sharp as much as they could about her biological dad who never told his own grown up children about her.

Unlike others in the series who want to follow their biological pedigree as far back as possible and learn something of the characters in their family background, Sharp just wanted to learn something about her blood and where she came from. She found someone she could respect in her great great grandfather Charles Patient who not only took on a woman who had a child that wasn't his two days after the birth, but a man who lived a full life up to the age of 85 taking in orphaned Barnado's children in his great old age with a new wife who he apparently married after the death of his first.

What was even more poignant about this episode for me was that Sharp chose not to follow her biological father's blood line back any further but instead went to Canada to find out what happened to an unrelated orphan sent there after Charles's death. She clearly felt more affinity with a lost and unwanted child who was loved and cared for by an adoptive family than the roots that made her.

She saw a wretched photo of a scruffy, dirty unloved toddler whose own mother died in childbirth. He clung close to his slightly older sister as his older brother stood next to them. The programme didn't say what happened to them but I hope they ended up as happy as the boy who was given a chance in life because of Sharp's ancestor's kindness and commitment to making a child feel part of a family that wasn't his own. The photo taken of him after his years with Charles showed a very different child - happy, clean and with the confidence and assurance that comes only from a child encouraged and loved.

Those who didn't watch it can see the full story HERE on BBC iPlayer but make sure the tissues are handy. Crying is cathartic but I've had no reason to weep for a long time so last night's emotional roller coaster on the back of this incredible story must have done me some good.

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