I’ve always liked Chris Moyles; he’s large, he’s gobby, he’s down to earth and he’s funny, and, judging by last night’s latest instalment of Who Do You Think You Are, he’s done well to overcome the misery and adversity – DNA-wise – that dogged his ancestors.
His forebears all hailed from Ireland and according to Chris, “Before I came along, I don’t think our family amounted to anything.”
Well, maybe not, but they were sorta busy coping with famines, wars and rampant dying from TB.
Chris’s family history is liberally littered with sad stories, one of which was that of his granny who grew up in the slums of Dublin and ultimately found herself sharing one room with her very large family. Also, Chris’s great-grandmother was just 33 years old when she died of TB in a workhouse. She’d been sent there so as not to infect her children. And on his paternal side, things weren’t a whole lot better…
Chris discovered that on his dad’s side, one relative had had fifteen kids, and ten of those children died and were buried in unmarked graves because the family couldn’t afford to buy headstones.
Arguably though, the most touching moments in last night’s show came when we saw the normally thick-skinned and always cheery Moylesy weep when he heard how his great granddad was shot through the head as he peeped out over the lip of a trench in Passchendaele near Ypres. The historian accompanying Chris showed him the newspaper accounts of an eye-witness to his great grandfather’s death which read that Jimmy Moyles “was one of the pleasantest men in the trench” and the father of, “a big young family.”
It was fascinating to hear the story of the war in general and the role that James Moyles played in it. Equally interesting was the moment when the historian found a buckle belonging to one of the long gone British troops who’d fought there.
“The fields are full of this stuff” he said, while Chris held the buckle reverently; it was a very tangible piece of the history he was hearing about and the effect on him was noticeably profound.
One of the things that struck me most was that Chris’s celebrity persona – that of the loud, mouthy and often rude DJ – was not much in evidence as he solemnly and carefully listened to accounts of the lives of his ancestors. And, though there was little to be cheerful about, at least Chris can take heart that his forebears were interesting enough to warrant a show about them. Michael Parkinson’s, apparently, were not.
If you missed this show, it’s well worth watching on iPlayer just to see another side to Britain’s – and my own – favourite DJ.