Sir Ian McKellen Who Do You Think You Are?


Sir Ian McKellen

As the 'last of the McKellens', actor and civil rights champion Sir Ian McKellen admits to a degree of melancholy as he delves into his family history.


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'Life's but a walking shadow...

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'..a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage...

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'..and then is heard no more.'

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Sir Ian McKellen has been one of Britain's leading actors

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for over 50 years.

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Since his breakthrough in the 1960s,

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he's enjoyed a glittering career on stage, television and screen,

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with roles like the wizard Gandalf

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in The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit

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bringing him worldwide fame.

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I was born in North Lancashire,

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and my youth was in Bolton.

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My mother died when I was 12 - breast cancer.

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Probably got a bit introverted and certainly got shy.

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I was a shy child.

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But in the 1940s and '50s,

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there were three professional theatres

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in a town with only 150,000 people.

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By the time I was early teens, I was going on my own.

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I would stand in the wings,

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see the performers getting ready to go on

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and then stepping out of the dark into the light onto the stage.

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And that seemed to me the most magical thing

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I'd ever seen in my life.

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Alongside his acting career,

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Ian is also one of the UK's leading campaigners

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for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights.

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People say, "When did you first know you were gay?"

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And I say, "Well, when did you first know that you weren't?"

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But don't forget, at that time, it was a silent territory.

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Nobody talked about it.

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And by the time I might have plucked up courage to broach it

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with my dad, he too was dead.

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He died when I was 24.

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And my sister Jean died a few years ago

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so, now, I am the last of the McKellens.

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The last of my line.

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I'm not producing any children with my name.

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I suppose that's the point to be made.

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So I'm just left with some photographs, really.

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And there's no-one left for me to ask about the people in them.

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I'm intrigued by my paternal grandmother, Alice McKellen.

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Known as Mother Mac.

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She died two years before I was born.

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But when I was growing up,

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everyone talked about her as a real star of the family.

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Alice was apparently a wonderful singer,

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but I don't know where she'd come from.

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I don't know, really, anything about her family.

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So if I come out of this knowing more about my grandmother,

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who clearly made such an impact on everyone she met,

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and I didn't meet her,

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so perhaps I can now get to meet her a little more.

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To find out more about his paternal grandmother, Alice,

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Ian is heading north to Cheshire,

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where she lived with her husband, William McKellen.

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'..ask you to sit back, relax, and enjoy your journey to Manchester Piccadilly. Thank you.'

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Born Alice Murray, after her marriage,

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Ian's grandmother became known to all as Mother Mac.

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When my grandmother died, Mother Mac,

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her son - my father, Dennis -

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made this. And it is just a collection of letters

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that were written to the family and here is a tribute to her.

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"Mrs McKellen, Mother Mac,

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"had an excellent mezzo-soprano voice."

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The story I was told was that my grandad, Mr McKellen,

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met his future bride because he had enjoyed her singing.

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There's another little bit written by Reverend Will Powicke.

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"She is associated in my mind with many happy and serious experiences

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"in the old Christian Endeavour Society at Hatherlow."

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Mother Mac and her husband William

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were both active members of a religious movement

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called Christian Endeavour,

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which aimed to improve the lives of inner-city workers

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during the early 20th century.

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They lived just outside Stockport for over 40 years

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and worshipped here at Hatherlow Church.

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-Hello. How are you?

-Hello, Ian.

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Religious historian Martin Palmer

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has been researching Ian's family history.

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-Are we going in?

-Please, come on in.

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So, Ian, welcome to what is in a sense your dynastic church.

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This is a record going back to 1846

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of the baptisms that took place here.

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August 20, 1939. Why is my name in here?

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-Because you were baptised here.

-I was baptised here?!

-Yes.

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And we even have the font at the front there

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-that you were baptised in.

-Well!

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Does that mean I'm going to heaven?

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-Yes, I'm afraid so.

-That's fine.

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So this was our family church.

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When Mother Mac was here, she was a huge figure

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in the Sunday school and the choir - particularly the choir.

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Well, the family story is that Grandad McKellen heard her singing.

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Well, in 1902, the Christian Endeavour Movement

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held a huge gathering in Manchester.

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The main event at which your grandmother sang

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was at the Free Trade Hall, which held 10,000 people,

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and this is the programme

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for this event.

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Oh! Secretary, Mr WH McKellen.

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So this is my grandfather.

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-It's a funny feeling, seeing your own name.

-Yeah.

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Mr McKellen. Because I'm the only Mr McKellen I know! But..

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And this is the opening grand ceremonial event.

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May 17, 1902, Free Trade Hall.

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Well, there's a hymn and then there's a prayer.

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Solo, Miss Murray...

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-..my grandmother.

-And let's put that in context.

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You probably had 1,000 churches sent people to this event.

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Each of them would have had a choir, 30 or 40 strong.

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Each of them would have had someone who thought that they were

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the bees' knees as far as singing.

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The fact that your grandmother was chosen to give the solo,

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this is Britain's Got Talent circa 1902.

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She must have had some notes, mustn't she?

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She certainly must've done.

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Anything else you know about Alice?

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I have found her birth certificate.

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Alice Beatrice, yes.

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August, 1879.

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3 Barton Road, Stretford.

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-Central Manchester, isn't it?

-Yes, edge of inner-city Manchester.

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Her father was William Whyte - with a Y - Murray.

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And her mother, also called Alice, was formerly Lowes.

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You mentioned the Lowes.

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Well, I've found a little bit more about them.

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This is the 1871 census.

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Here is your great-grandmother, Alice Lowes.

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This is Mother Mac's mother.

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-That's right.

-Age 21.

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And just above, her older brother, I suppose, Frank.

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Aged 24.

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Occupation...

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-Actor?!

-Yes.

-Oh, stop it!

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MARTIN LAUGHS

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-Actor?

-Yes.

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Actor.

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So Mother Mac's uncle Frank...

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Was a professional actor.

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Oh, stop it!

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You're not the first.

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Your great-great-uncle beat you to the stage.

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Well, that's all right.

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It all sort of fits together, doesn't it?

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Mother Mac was a performer,

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but no-one mentioned to me that she shone so brightly

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in the Free Trade Hall.

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And then to discover that her Uncle Frank...

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..her mother's elder brother Frank Lowes

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is down in the census as an actor.

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Well!

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But where was he acting?

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What was he acting?

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Ian has discovered that his great-great-uncle

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was a professional actor

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called Frank Lowes.

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In the 1860s, Frank had just begun his theatrical career,

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and was living with his family in Manchester.

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To find out more, Ian's come to the city's central library

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to meet theatrical historian Dr Anne Featherstone.

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-Hello, love. How are you?

-Lovely to meet you.

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The library's theatrical records stretch back over 250 years.

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Right, Ian. Here we are

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in the bowels of Manchester Central Library.

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I'm going to have to climb up this ladder.

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-Off you go.

-Right.

-And I'll help you.

-Thank you.

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So these are full of programmes, are they?

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They're full of posters.

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-That's the one.

-Goodness.

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-Steady on.

-Here we go.

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-Right. I think you will love this.

-OK.

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So here we have the playbills for the Queen's Theatre in Manchester.

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Oh! How beautiful.

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And we have here True Steel.

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What year are we here?

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We're 1876.

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And a list of characters. Oh!

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Ohhh...ever since I heard about him, I've been thinking about him.

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Mr Frank Lowe plays Charles Williams.

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Let's show you another.

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I've only just discovered that there's another actor in the family.

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-Ah!

-But a little confusion.

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On the census, his name is not Lowe but Lowes, with an S.

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-Yes.

-Are we sure we've got the right man?

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Yes, absolutely. He has just cut to Frank Lowe.

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And then I'm going to turn over again.

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Always Ready. "A North Country Story."

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That's the important bit, I think.

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"With north country actors" like, look here...

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Frederik Lauder played by Mr Frank Lowe.

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This is a sensational melodrama.

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It's about money, it's about morals and virtue and seduction.

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And these start to arrive in the 1850s and '60s.

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I'm sorry. I've just seen in the next play -

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they did two plays on same day - he is playing a leading part.

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-Yes.

-The Rev Mr Webb is played by Mr Frank Lowe.

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Yes. This is really quite a plum part for him.

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He'd be only 30 now.

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And he is top of the bill.

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What more can you tell me about him? Anything?

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Well, we have a review of the play from The Era,

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the Bible of the profession.

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-The Era.

-Yes.

-Yes, I've heard of that.

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Huddersfield Theatre Royal.

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-Arrah-na-Boyne...

-Arrah-na-Pogue.

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Oh. "Arrah-na-Pogue was produced here on Monday

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"by the company from the new Queen's Theatre, Manchester,

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"and has been favourably received during the week.

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"Miss Lillian Harris plays the heroine with great pathos.

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"Mr Frank Lowe, however, deserves the laurels

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"for his masterly conception of the sneak, Michael Feeny.

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"He looks and acts the character to the life."

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-You know, you could not have a better review than that.

-Nope.

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Frank Lowe's early career coincided with a theatrical boom

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in the north of England.

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By 1875, Manchester theatres alone

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were selling over 15,000 tickets a night.

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But acting was still a very precarious way to make a living.

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And catching the eye of one of the region's powerful theatre producers

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was essential if you wanted to climb up the bill.

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So Frank is picking up work regularly.

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He's made a name for himself, but in order to move his career on,

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he needs a bit of a... He needs a break.

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-Don't we all(?)

-Yes.

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One of the things I wanted to show you

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was an advert, again from The Era, from 1875.

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"The two orphans. Mr J Pitney Weston..."

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In big letters, "has selected the following artists."

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So we've got Frank Lowe...

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Oh, wait a minute... "Mrs Frank Lowe."

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-That must be Frank Lowe's wife.

-That's right.

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But it is the Two Orphans which is the big break.

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-I see.

-Mr Pitney Weston bought the rights to The Two Orphans,

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a successful London production,

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and was going to produce it across the north.

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And of course, we know where Mr Weston is based.

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Bolton! He's based in Bolton?

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-Mmm.

-Where I used to live when I was a teenager.

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Theatre and Opera House...

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Ooh!

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The Two Orphans.

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"And Mr Frank Lowe gave an excellent impersonation

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"of the Minister of Police."

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So Frank lived in Bolton for a time, or stayed in Bolton, in digs,

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I suppose. Well, well, well, well, well.

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I first came to this street when I was three years old

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to see Peter Pan at the Opera House just down there.

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But now I know

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that the Free Trade Hall was where, in 1902,

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my grandmother, Mother Mac, sang.

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But just here now I realise...

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..the Theatre Royal, Bolton, 1845,

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was just the sort of theatre that Mother Mac's uncle,

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Frank Lowe, actor, would have performed.

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So I'm seeing this street with new eyes.

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As a fellow professional, I wonder what life was like for Frank.

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Did he do all his acting in the north?

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Was he earning enough money, and where did his career lead to?

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Well, it certainly took him to Bolton,

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which is where I spent my youth, so it's a bit spooky

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to think that I didn't know that I had a great-great-uncle,

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professionally acting in my hometown.

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Ian's family moved to Bolton when he was 11,

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and he gave his first performance here as a young amateur actor

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in the 1950s.

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This is the grandeur of Bolton.

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The grandeur of the north of England.

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Of course, the streets all look a little bit different.

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Market square where the fair used to come twice a year -

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I used to love that.

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This is where the two theatres were.

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The Grand Theatre,

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which was a variety theatre,

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and then the Theatre Royal, which took in touring companies.

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They were beautiful, beautiful, intimate theatres.

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Why did they pull them down?

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Ian knows that his great-great-uncle Frank Lowes

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also performed here in Bolton in 1876.

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To find out more about Frank's time here,

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he's come to meet theatrical historian Professor James Moran.

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-Ian, great to see.

-Very nice to see you.

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-Welcome back to your old stomping ground.

-Thank you very much.

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In the 1870s, there were three large theatres in Bolton

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run by the impresario James Pitney Weston.

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Today, The Octagon is the town's only professional theatre.

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Frank is in this play which you know about.

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-Two Orphans, yeah.

-And James Pitney Weston,

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this big character in Bolton's entertainment industry,

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acquires the rights to tour it outside London

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and recruits Frank to be in that production.

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So a job that lasted a long time?

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Well, I'll give you a document that gives you some indication of that.

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Yeah, OK.

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This says "Mr Frank Lowe."

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I love it when they call actors "Mr", don't you?

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"Mr Frank Lowe as Count De Linieres

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"in Two Orphans for the 150th time."

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So is this a little ad he's put in the paper?

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This is an advert that Frank himself has put into a theatrical newspaper.

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Most of the actors at this time are touting for business.

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This may been a very canny way of him telling theatre managers

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that he's had this lovely run of 150 performances.

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I see!

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-I see.

-The play itself, The Two Orphans, is a melodrama,

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so it's a drama of heightened emotion.

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Yeah. Has anyone ever read it?

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-Does it exist?

-I have a copy here, would you like to...?

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Of course I would. Of course I would!

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In fact, would you like to try it on the stage?

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-All right. First read-through.

-Sure.

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So what is Frank's part?

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Frank's playing the French nobleman,

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and the count suspects that his wife has this terrible secret,

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and I will read in the part of your nephew,

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who is a noble young man who wants to prevent you from

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ruining yourself and your family. OK.

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Now, Chevalier, speak out.

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What did the Countess say?

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I desire to know all.

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-Monsieur...

-I beg of you.

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-I command!

-I have really nothing to say, monsieur.

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Very well, monsieur.

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Twice in this one day have you opposed my orders, my entreaties.

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Nevertheless, I shall discover the mystery

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which you refuse to unveil.

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Monsieur, you shall read no further.

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-Who will hinder me?

-Count, I will.

-You?!

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Rash fool!

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So there you go.

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You are reading the lines that Frank read here in Bolton...

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-Oh, stop it.

-..over 140 years ago.

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Wow. Why did nobody in my family ever tell me

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that we had an actor in the family?

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Either they didn't know or they weren't very pleased about it.

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So I think The Two Orphans is

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probably a great gig for Frank to get.

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Because it's a steady income

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and he's been engaged by James Pitney Weston.

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The problem is, Weston is very, very ambitious

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and emigrates to the USA, so that's potentially a real blow

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for Frank, who has lost someone who's been supporting his career.

0:18:580:19:02

Yes. So when Weston went off to States...

0:19:020:19:05

Frank is out of work, or... What happens to him?

0:19:070:19:10

I've got a record that I found from 1884 in Coventry.

0:19:100:19:14

Coventry, it's where I had my first job acting

0:19:140:19:17

for the first time professionally.

0:19:170:19:19

"Theatre Royal. Somewhat meagre attendances this week

0:19:200:19:24

"but notwithstanding the depressing effect of small audiences,

0:19:240:19:28

"the artists play with considerable spirit.

0:19:280:19:31

"Mr Frank Lowe plays Bob Garfield, the village blacksmith,

0:19:310:19:36

"very artistically."

0:19:360:19:38

So I think he's struggling with a pretty terrible part

0:19:380:19:40

in a fairly fourth-rate play.

0:19:400:19:42

I afraid that is probably the case.

0:19:420:19:45

By now he is late 30s,

0:19:450:19:47

so he's been in the business for quite a while

0:19:470:19:49

and the records that we do have from the 1880s

0:19:490:19:52

show him in productions of what we might say was

0:19:520:19:55

really very variable quality.

0:19:550:19:57

So obviously, pickings are rather thin, but do you know anything else?

0:19:570:20:02

He's married. He might have had children by this time.

0:20:020:20:06

Well, I do have a census return from 1891

0:20:060:20:09

which gives some information about Frank and his wife

0:20:090:20:12

and their domestic circumstances.

0:20:120:20:14

This is from Wavertree. that's Liverpool, isn't it?

0:20:140:20:18

-That's right.

-Frank Lowe, head of the household by this time.

0:20:180:20:23

43, actor,

0:20:230:20:26

Ellen Lowe, wife.

0:20:260:20:30

So his wife is called Ellen.

0:20:300:20:32

Doesn't give her an occupation.

0:20:320:20:34

So it looks as though Frank and Ellen don't have children.

0:20:340:20:38

No. And they're living in Liverpool.

0:20:380:20:40

This is Ellen's hometown

0:20:400:20:43

and I think she's probably living with Frank and her extended family.

0:20:430:20:48

I see.

0:20:480:20:50

And Frank goes missing from the archive entirely

0:20:500:20:52

between 1886 and 1889. I couldn't find anything about him.

0:20:520:20:57

So I think it might be a good idea perhaps to go to Liverpool

0:20:570:21:01

and see what you can find there.

0:21:010:21:02

-Well, thank you very much. I will.

-You're very welcome.

0:21:040:21:06

However successful or unsuccessful Frank was,

0:21:100:21:13

I do like the idea that he contributed to

0:21:130:21:18

the gaiety of things by being in a show.

0:21:180:21:23

You know? And touring round, bringing entertainment to people.

0:21:230:21:28

That's what my mother apparently said.

0:21:280:21:30

"If Ian decides to be an actor,

0:21:300:21:33

"it's a good job because it brings pleasure to people."

0:21:330:21:37

And my sister, who was an amateur actor to the day she died,

0:21:370:21:41

would have loved to know this about Frank Lowe.

0:21:410:21:44

As much as I do. But I feel I'm sort of on my own,

0:21:440:21:47

a bit of an orphan.

0:21:470:21:48

So there is a bit of melancholy going on...

0:21:520:21:54

HE LAUGHS

0:21:540:21:56

..in the midst of the thrill of discovery.

0:21:560:21:59

Ian has travelled to Liverpool,

0:22:120:22:14

where his great-great-uncle Frank Lowes

0:22:140:22:16

lived with his wife Ellen in the 1890s.

0:22:160:22:19

To discover what happened to Frank's career as an actor,

0:22:200:22:24

he has come to the city's Central Library

0:22:240:22:26

to meet theatrical historian Dr Caroline Radcliffe.

0:22:260:22:30

In the census of 1891, Frank Lowe is down as living here in Liverpool.

0:22:300:22:37

Anything you know...

0:22:370:22:39

Well, I've got this document. It's very small, so...

0:22:390:22:42

-The amusements in Liverpool.

-Yeah.

0:22:420:22:45

We're looking at 1892.

0:22:450:22:47

And now the Paddington Palace Of Varieties.

0:22:470:22:51

"Here as usual, tempting fare

0:22:510:22:53

"has been fully appreciated by large audiences.

0:22:530:22:56

"Mr Frank Lowe, with company."

0:22:560:22:59

Oh, can you explain this? The Palace Of Varieties.

0:22:590:23:03

Variety was just a posh name for music hall,

0:23:030:23:06

-and it was trying to compete with the legitimate theatres.

-I see.

0:23:060:23:10

But for a professional actor like Frank Lowe,

0:23:100:23:14

it was a real drop down -

0:23:140:23:16

to be in a music hall was something

0:23:160:23:18

which he probably wouldn't have chosen.

0:23:180:23:21

He is at the bottom of the bill now in a musical hall,

0:23:210:23:24

in a rather rough area of Liverpool.

0:23:240:23:27

By the 1890s, the new variety palaces

0:23:280:23:32

had started to replace the more traditional music halls

0:23:320:23:35

and were competing with the dramatic theatre for audiences.

0:23:350:23:40

To gain respectability, they added plush theatre-style seating,

0:23:400:23:44

banned alcohol and smoking

0:23:440:23:46

and employed actors like Frank Lowes

0:23:460:23:49

to perform short dramatic sketches

0:23:490:23:52

alongside more traditional music-hall acts.

0:23:520:23:55

Now we know that Frank was performing drama

0:23:550:23:59

because he is listed with a company,

0:23:590:24:02

but they could only perform a short scene.

0:24:020:24:04

-So these would be extracts?

-Yeah.

-Famous plays?

0:24:040:24:08

Yes, you had Shakespeare

0:24:080:24:10

or you had the latest big production from London.

0:24:100:24:14

And then that would be interspersed with people singing?

0:24:140:24:17

That would be mixed with musicians, and conjurers, dog orchestras.

0:24:170:24:23

Oh, dear.

0:24:230:24:25

Now, the Palace Of Varieties where he was performing,

0:24:250:24:28

would this be a season?

0:24:280:24:30

No, a music hall ran a week of entertainment.

0:24:300:24:33

And then the company would...

0:24:330:24:36

They'd move off and they'd have to find some other engagement.

0:24:360:24:39

It was extremely unreliable and precarious.

0:24:390:24:42

So he's not quite on his uppers even when he is in employment.

0:24:420:24:46

Actually, this is the last record that we found of him

0:24:460:24:50

performing on stage - on any type of stage.

0:24:500:24:53

Oh, do you know anything more?

0:24:530:24:55

What he did instead?

0:24:550:24:57

Well, we do have another document.

0:24:570:24:59

What is this book?

0:25:050:25:06

This is the admissions book to the Liverpool workhouse.

0:25:060:25:10

No! Dear, oh, dear.

0:25:100:25:13

And this is in 1893

0:25:130:25:16

which is the year just after the Paddington Palace Of Varieties.

0:25:160:25:21

No. Frank,

0:25:210:25:25

he's down as an actor, not as a performer or a comic or anything.

0:25:250:25:29

Married. And he was admitted by his wife Ellen.

0:25:290:25:37

It's odd. Ellen's address is given here in pencil - 4 Mill Row.

0:25:370:25:44

Where he slept last night was at 8 Moore Place.

0:25:440:25:49

Well, what we see is that Ellen at this time

0:25:490:25:51

was living at a different address,

0:25:510:25:53

and he had spent the night obviously somewhere else.

0:25:530:25:57

We don't know how long they had been separated for.

0:25:570:26:01

All we know is that they were separated, at that time.

0:26:010:26:05

And in the last column,

0:26:050:26:07

it gives us an indication of what was wrong with him.

0:26:070:26:11

-And what?

-"Bronchial."

0:26:110:26:13

So he had bronchial problems.

0:26:130:26:16

Oh, Frank.

0:26:170:26:19

Well, at that time, there was no hospitals, no insurance.

0:26:190:26:24

So if you were an actor on very little money,

0:26:240:26:27

the workhouse was the last resort to get help.

0:26:270:26:31

And do we know how long he stayed?

0:26:310:26:33

We do.

0:26:330:26:35

This is the death certificate.

0:26:350:26:38

-Of who?!

-For Frank.

0:26:380:26:40

Ohhh!

0:26:430:26:45

"Frank Lowe, 47 years,

0:26:450:26:49

"actor", and he died on January 2, 1894.

0:26:490:26:55

At the Liverpool workhouse.

0:26:560:26:58

The cause of death...phthisis?

0:26:590:27:02

It's another word for TB or tuberculosis.

0:27:020:27:05

Oh!

0:27:050:27:06

And exhaustion.

0:27:070:27:10

But he would have been pleased, I suppose,

0:27:100:27:12

that he was defined by that occupation, actor.

0:27:120:27:16

I don't know many actors - and I wasn't one of them -

0:27:220:27:25

who thought, "Oh, I'm going to become an actor

0:27:250:27:27

"because I'm going to be rich and famous."

0:27:270:27:30

And you know, so many of my own friends,

0:27:300:27:32

and so many actors I've admired...

0:27:320:27:34

-HE SIGHS

-..didn't have very easy lives.

0:27:360:27:39

Didn't make a lot of money.

0:27:390:27:41

And that is the fact about being an actor, that...

0:27:440:27:47

..the few of us who are lucky enough to be in work constantly

0:27:480:27:52

and rewarding work and varied work, I mean, we are the exceptions.

0:27:520:27:57

But I would like to know what the Lowe family thought.

0:27:590:28:02

Maybe they just said, when they heard over in Manchester

0:28:020:28:05

that he'd died in the workhouse in Liverpool, separated from his wife,

0:28:050:28:09

"Well, there you go.

0:28:090:28:11

"That's what happens when you go into the theatre."

0:28:110:28:14

Ian knows that, as a young man,

0:28:190:28:21

Frank lived with his family in Manchester,

0:28:210:28:24

and that his father was a clerk called Robert Lowes,

0:28:240:28:28

Ian's great-great-grandfather.

0:28:280:28:30

To find out more about Robert, Ian is heading back to Manchester.

0:28:330:28:37

Professor Martin Hewitt has been looking into

0:28:400:28:43

Robert Lowes' life in the city,

0:28:430:28:45

And has asked Ian to meet him at Salford Old Town Hall.

0:28:450:28:49

Ian, good to meet you, Martin.

0:28:490:28:50

-Very nice to see you.

-Welcome to Salford.

0:28:500:28:52

I hear that you're interested in finding out

0:28:520:28:54

-something more about Robert Lowes.

-Yes.

0:28:540:28:56

I found him in the census in 1841.

0:28:560:28:59

-Right.

-He was working as a clerk,

0:28:590:29:01

but he had quite strong connections with this building here,

0:29:010:29:05

-which is the Salford Town Hall.

-I see.

0:29:050:29:07

So this is from the Manchester Times in 1843.

0:29:090:29:13

Salford Lyceum.

0:29:130:29:15

"The first and second of a course of lectures

0:29:150:29:18

"on humour and pathos by Mr RJ Lowes."

0:29:180:29:23

So this is our Robert?

0:29:240:29:25

Absolutely. And that lecture was given here in this building,

0:29:250:29:29

-the Salford Town Hall.

-I don't know what year this is.

0:29:290:29:31

1843.

0:29:310:29:33

So Robert would have been 27 - he's still a young man.

0:29:330:29:36

"Each lecture was concluded with a dramatic illustration,

0:29:360:29:39

"the characters in which were creditably sustained

0:29:390:29:42

"by amateurs and members

0:29:420:29:44

"connected with the classes of the institution."

0:29:440:29:47

Now, what institution?

0:29:470:29:48

That would be the Salford Lyceum.

0:29:480:29:50

And Lyceum, is that from the same root as "lycee" in French?

0:29:500:29:54

It means teaching of some sort.

0:29:540:29:56

The Lyceums were all about making more of yourself,

0:29:560:30:00

building your education, reading, writing.

0:30:000:30:03

Perhaps literary classes.

0:30:030:30:04

-Getting on and improving yourself.

-Yeah, absolutely.

0:30:040:30:07

It was that classic Victorian thing, rational recreation,

0:30:070:30:10

which is obviously about enjoying your leisure time,

0:30:100:30:13

but to make sure that it's done in a way which is improving.

0:30:130:30:17

Robert worked as a clerk,

0:30:170:30:18

but he was one of the directors of the Lyceum

0:30:180:30:21

and would have been very much involved

0:30:210:30:24

in the government of the institution.

0:30:240:30:27

Wow. Who would come to these lectures?

0:30:270:30:30

Middle classes? Lower-middle, working classes?

0:30:300:30:32

Working class or very lower-middle class.

0:30:320:30:35

So after a heavy day in the factory you'd come along here?

0:30:350:30:38

And that's the big challenge.

0:30:380:30:40

You've got to try and fit this education and this leisure

0:30:400:30:43

into a week which is already full of very long days.

0:30:430:30:47

Six days a week, or...?

0:30:470:30:48

They would at this stage have been working six days a week

0:30:480:30:51

and that was also a challenge that Robert decided

0:30:510:30:55

that he was going to have to take on.

0:30:550:30:57

By the 1840s,

0:30:570:30:59

Manchester was the largest industrial city in the world.

0:30:590:31:03

The textiles produced by its mills and factories

0:31:030:31:07

were housed in hundreds of giant warehouses.

0:31:070:31:10

Thousands of warehousemen

0:31:100:31:11

were employed across the city to move stock in and out.

0:31:110:31:16

And warehouse clerks like Robert Lowes

0:31:160:31:19

kept records of business.

0:31:190:31:21

With no trade unions, a working day in the warehouse could last up to

0:31:210:31:25

15 hours, 6 days a week.

0:31:250:31:28

This is from the Manchester Courier,

0:31:290:31:32

from the start of September 1843.

0:31:320:31:35

"A public meeting of salesmen, clerks..." Which Robert was.

0:31:350:31:41

"..warehousemen and others at which upwards of 1,000 persons attended.

0:31:410:31:47

"Mr RJ Lowes."

0:31:470:31:49

Robert. "..honorary secretary,

0:31:490:31:53

"having read an address to the employers

0:31:530:31:55

"praying their consent to the closing of warehouses

0:31:550:31:59

"on Friday afternoons."

0:31:590:32:01

-So what is this about?

-It's about a half holiday.

0:32:010:32:05

-They want a half holiday.

-Yes. One half day a week.

0:32:050:32:08

The suggestion here I think is that it should be Friday.

0:32:080:32:11

What Robert is trying to do is to persuade 300 or 400

0:32:110:32:16

of the leading merchant princes of Manchester to allow the clerks

0:32:160:32:19

and warehouseman to have a half holiday

0:32:190:32:22

without any reduction in pay.

0:32:220:32:24

The kind of thing that no other workers at this time would have had.

0:32:240:32:27

So this is something quite new, really, quite radical.

0:32:270:32:30

Did this sort of pressure...

0:32:300:32:34

yield fruit?

0:32:340:32:35

Recreation is a really controversial question in this period.

0:32:350:32:39

This kind of activity could very easily be associated with some of

0:32:390:32:43

the more dangerous radical movements,

0:32:430:32:46

which could backfire on him personally.

0:32:460:32:48

-Absolutely.

-It's going to take a slick operator to pull this off.

0:32:480:32:52

By 1843, driven in part by the city's appalling working conditions,

0:32:530:32:58

Manchester had become a hotbed of political radicalism.

0:32:580:33:03

And those pressing for social reform were often viewed with suspicion by

0:33:030:33:07

the authorities.

0:33:070:33:09

But Robert Lowes and his committee of clerks and warehouseman

0:33:090:33:13

pressed ahead with their campaign to persuade their employers

0:33:130:33:17

to grant them half a day off every week,

0:33:170:33:20

changing their initial request from a Friday

0:33:200:33:22

to a Saturday half day holiday.

0:33:220:33:25

Professor Hewitt has brought Ian to the chief librarian's office

0:33:280:33:32

at Manchester Central Library.

0:33:320:33:34

-Ian, come in.

-Lovely.

-Come in.

0:33:350:33:39

-Thank you.

-I've brought you here because I got a document here

0:33:390:33:43

that I think you are going to be very interested in.

0:33:430:33:45

Take this out.

0:33:450:33:47

It's a little bit fragile.

0:33:470:33:49

-Oh, I see.

-You unroll it and I will weigh it down.

0:33:490:33:53

It's, as you can see, a scroll.

0:33:530:33:55

And you can begin to see...

0:33:570:33:59

"Names of the committee,

0:33:590:34:02

"for obtaining the half holiday.

0:34:020:34:06

"Robert J Lowes."

0:34:060:34:09

-What does that say?

-It says honorary secretary.

0:34:090:34:11

-Secretary.

-And here are the bosses.

0:34:110:34:16

"We the undersigned bankers, merchants,

0:34:160:34:19

"manufacturers and calico printers of Manchester at the respectful

0:34:190:34:24

"solicitation of those in our employment agreed to close

0:34:240:34:28

"our places of business at one o'clock every Saturday afternoon

0:34:280:34:33

"and to allow our servants to leave for the day."

0:34:330:34:36

-Wow.

-These are the Merchant Princes of Manchester.

0:34:380:34:42

Between 300 and 400, all individually signed.

0:34:420:34:46

These are the people they are petitioning.

0:34:460:34:48

These are all the people who have agreed...

0:34:480:34:51

..to grant the half holiday that Robert Lowes asked for.

0:34:520:34:57

So the first Saturday half holiday

0:34:570:35:00

anywhere in Britain to which these 400 merchants agreed to grant,

0:35:000:35:05

was given the 10th of November 1843.

0:35:050:35:10

Good Lord.

0:35:100:35:12

Well, I can't...

0:35:120:35:13

I mean...

0:35:130:35:15

-Astonishing.

-And it is achieved by Robert Lowe.

0:35:150:35:18

My great-great-grandfather.

0:35:190:35:21

-Absolutely.

-Wonderful.

0:35:210:35:24

Wonderful.

0:35:240:35:26

I'm very, very impressed with what Robert did.

0:35:290:35:32

This guy is in public life.

0:35:320:35:35

He talks in public.

0:35:350:35:37

The world changes because somebody has an argument with somebody,

0:35:370:35:41

and a discussion, and then an agreement,

0:35:410:35:43

and you get people on your side.

0:35:430:35:45

And I know that from being involved in my activism.

0:35:470:35:50

One initiative like this doesn't change the world,

0:35:500:35:54

but it certainly helps.

0:35:540:35:55

Robert Lowes and his committee's success in cutting the working week

0:35:570:36:01

for Manchester's clerks and warehouseman

0:36:010:36:04

from 6 to 5½ days

0:36:040:36:06

was a significant breakthrough.

0:36:060:36:09

But they were only a small percentage

0:36:090:36:11

of Manchester's vast industrial workforce, who were otherwise

0:36:110:36:15

still excluded from the new half-holiday agreement.

0:36:150:36:19

To find out what happened next to his great-great-grandfather,

0:36:230:36:27

Robert Lowes, Ian has come to meet social historian

0:36:270:36:30

Dr Amanda Wilkinson.

0:36:300:36:31

-Hello.

-Hello, Ian. Amanda.

-Nice to see you.

0:36:310:36:34

Welcome to Manchester's famous 19th-century retail area.

0:36:340:36:37

-Yep.

-Shall we go and get a cup of tea?

-Yep.

0:36:370:36:40

So after the success of Robert's half-holiday campaign, what next?

0:36:460:36:51

Can you fill in the blanks?

0:36:510:36:53

In 1845, Robert gives up his job as a clerk and he sets himself up

0:36:530:36:59

as a publisher and a printer.

0:36:590:37:01

He runs it as a business but he also begins to print this -

0:37:010:37:06

the Lancashire Witches Holiday Herald.

0:37:060:37:09

This is his means to expand campaigning for the half holiday

0:37:090:37:13

-through this...

-Magazine.

0:37:130:37:15

Yes. It's a collection of stories, political articles, poems,

0:37:150:37:20

campaigning for the half holiday to be extended to the needlewomen.

0:37:200:37:24

OK. So these women are...

0:37:240:37:26

Needlewomen in the 1840s

0:37:260:37:29

are amongst the most exploited and put-upon workers in Britain.

0:37:290:37:35

These girls worked in the most horrific conditions in rooms

0:37:350:37:39

often in the back of shops, poorly lit, very little ventilation.

0:37:390:37:43

They're preparing all these beautiful, beautiful gowns.

0:37:430:37:46

These amazing hats, for the shops at the front,

0:37:460:37:48

for the rich women to buy.

0:37:480:37:49

And they're working up to 19 hours a day.

0:37:490:37:52

-Even really quite young children.

-19 hours.

0:37:520:37:55

There are reports of them working up to 19 hours a day with nothing

0:37:550:37:59

but a bucket in the corner for their toilet.

0:37:590:38:01

They work every day.

0:38:010:38:03

And they get paid a pittance.

0:38:030:38:05

These are the women that Robert is now campaigning for

0:38:050:38:08

to try and get them some holidays, to try get them a break,

0:38:080:38:11

to get them out in the fresh air,

0:38:110:38:12

to give them a chance to better themselves.

0:38:120:38:15

Tell me that Robert Lowes made a difference.

0:38:150:38:18

This is the Manchester Times in 1845,

0:38:180:38:23

and here is a speech by Robert Lowes.

0:38:230:38:28

Ah. "To the principals in the retail millinery,

0:38:280:38:33

"dress and straw bonnet-making establishments of Manchester.

0:38:330:38:36

"Ladies and gentlemen,

0:38:360:38:38

"we call upon the whole body of employers to listen to the painful

0:38:380:38:41

"outcry of human suffering, to respect the sympathy of the public

0:38:410:38:45

"and to agree upon such steps as would check the growth of these

0:38:450:38:48

"destructive evils and yield to those who suffer by them

0:38:480:38:52

"a brief period of healthful breathing time and rest."

0:38:520:38:58

Oh, I can hear him saying this.

0:38:580:39:01

"No! Justice to our own consciences,

0:39:010:39:05

"to the laws of God and to the established uses of society,

0:39:050:39:09

"demand its discontinuance!"

0:39:090:39:13

And it is signed by RJ Lowe, chairman.

0:39:130:39:16

Now, he was secretary of the previous initiative.

0:39:160:39:20

-Now he is chairman.

-Running this outfit.

0:39:200:39:22

He is, at 29.

0:39:220:39:24

So what success did he have with speeches like this?

0:39:240:39:27

Well, a month after the speech was given there was a response here

0:39:270:39:30

in the Manchester Courier.

0:39:300:39:32

"The result has been that 160 establishments signed an agreement

0:39:320:39:37

"to close on the Saturday afternoon.

0:39:370:39:40

"This noble example has been followed

0:39:400:39:43

"by the wine and spirit merchants,

0:39:430:39:45

"saddlers, the Crown plate-glass company,

0:39:450:39:47

"the ironmongers have nearly agreed

0:39:470:39:50

"and the tailors have already gained their holiday."

0:39:500:39:53

Oof!

0:39:530:39:55

This is a staggering result.

0:39:550:39:57

The news of the half holiday spreads like wildfire across the country.

0:39:570:40:01

We have cities like Bradford and Norwich

0:40:010:40:04

very rapidly commencing their own half holidays

0:40:040:40:08

based on the principles of Robert Lowes and his committee.

0:40:080:40:11

By the 1870s, the needlewomen in London have their half holiday.

0:40:110:40:15

And we start to see the evolution of the weekend as we understand it now.

0:40:150:40:20

So we can say that not only is Robert Lowes your great-great-grandfather,

0:40:200:40:25

but he can also be viewed as the grandfather of the modern weekend.

0:40:250:40:29

HE LAUGHS

0:40:290:40:31

Well, the negative side of that is that actors

0:40:320:40:35

have to work at the weekend, because everybody else is not.

0:40:350:40:38

Thank you, Robert. But anyway, look, that's wonderful news.

0:40:400:40:44

-Does that mean it's the end of the campaigning?

-No.

0:40:450:40:48

Robert and his committee carried on campaigning

0:40:480:40:51

right the way through the 1850s, 1860s.

0:40:510:40:55

The original campaign fund that was set up for the warehousemen and clerks keeps going.

0:40:550:41:00

But Robert and his committee are making charitable donations

0:41:000:41:04

to all sorts of other worthy causes.

0:41:040:41:07

I see.

0:41:070:41:08

And they make their final donation in the year of 1868.

0:41:080:41:14

"..£4,000, which has been raised in aid of the building fund of the

0:41:140:41:19

"Manchester District Warehousemen And Clerks' Orphans' School

0:41:190:41:25

"at Cheadle Hulme."

0:41:250:41:27

Amanda, I know that school!

0:41:290:41:32

Because my grandfather,

0:41:320:41:34

William H McKellen, went to this school.

0:41:340:41:38

I'd always known that my grandfather, WH McKellen,

0:41:450:41:48

had been to a school for orphans in Cheadle Hulme,

0:41:480:41:52

and now I discover that this school was founded through the efforts of

0:41:520:41:58

Robert, the grandfather of the woman he was going to marry, Mother Mac.

0:41:580:42:04

Ian is the first person in his family

0:42:060:42:08

to discover this extraordinary coincidence -

0:42:080:42:11

that in 1868,

0:42:110:42:13

Robert Lowes and his committee

0:42:130:42:15

helped to fund the building of the school that Ian's grandfather,

0:42:150:42:19

William McKellen, later attended as a pupil.

0:42:190:42:21

William never knew Robert,

0:42:230:42:25

but later met and married Robert's granddaughter, Alice.

0:42:250:42:29

Joining the Lowes and McKellen families.

0:42:290:42:32

148 years later, Cheadle Hulme School, as it's now known,

0:42:370:42:42

is still going strong.

0:42:420:42:43

Last year, Ian was invited to speak to students here on behalf of Stonewall -

0:42:450:42:50

the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights pressure group

0:42:500:42:55

which he helped to set up in 1989.

0:42:550:42:59

-Well, I didn't think I'd be back so soon.

-Welcome back.

0:42:590:43:02

School librarian Kay Smith has been looking into the school's link

0:43:020:43:05

with Ian's great-great-grandfather, Robert Lowes.

0:43:050:43:09

As you now know, Robert Lowes contributed £4,000

0:43:110:43:15

to the school's building fund.

0:43:150:43:18

And just to put that in some sort of context,

0:43:180:43:21

the original estimate for this building was £7,603,

0:43:210:43:25

16 shillings and tuppence.

0:43:250:43:27

It made it possible for the school to go on and prosper.

0:43:270:43:30

Did you have to be an orphan to come here?

0:43:300:43:33

Orphan in our sense meant the loss of one parent.

0:43:330:43:35

-I see.

-And to come here on a free place as an orphan

0:43:350:43:39

you would have to have had somebody in the family paying a subscription to the school.

0:43:390:43:43

I've got the annual reports for 1869 and in it,

0:43:430:43:48

there is a list of all the people who were actually subscribing

0:43:480:43:52

to the school at that time.

0:43:520:43:53

-Robert Lowes, that's him.

-Yeah. That's him.

0:43:530:43:57

And he's contributed a guinea.

0:43:570:43:59

And that was the standard subscription at the time,

0:43:590:44:02

which would enable his children - should he or his wife die

0:44:020:44:06

or become incapacitated - to have a guaranteed place at the school.

0:44:060:44:09

There may well be a very specific reason why Robert decided

0:44:090:44:13

to subscribe to the school in the first place.

0:44:130:44:16

Well, this is a death certificate.

0:44:160:44:19

1868...

0:44:190:44:20

..in January.

0:44:220:44:23

So that's around the time of the donation.

0:44:230:44:26

Jane Lowes...

0:44:260:44:27

..aged 48, wife of Robert Lowes.

0:44:290:44:32

Robert was now a widower,

0:44:320:44:33

and he would have been left with seven children to look after.

0:44:330:44:36

Seven children, wow.

0:44:360:44:38

So possibly this event concentrated Robert's mind that he might

0:44:380:44:43

need to make provision for his younger children,

0:44:430:44:45

should anything happen to him.

0:44:450:44:46

Yes, yes. So do we know if any of his children came here as students?

0:44:460:44:51

They didn't, actually.

0:44:510:44:53

He only subscribed until the following year, 1870.

0:44:530:44:57

And then suddenly stopped.

0:44:570:44:59

There could been a number of reasons for this.

0:44:590:45:02

Possibly financial hardship.

0:45:020:45:04

-Seven children.

-Yes.

0:45:040:45:06

He may not have been well himself.

0:45:060:45:08

Oh, tell me more.

0:45:090:45:11

If you would like to perhaps take a look at that document.

0:45:110:45:16

-Oh. Well, this is his death certificate.

-Yeah.

0:45:160:45:19

Robert Jack Lowes,

0:45:190:45:23

aged 56.

0:45:230:45:25

Cause of death, emphysema.

0:45:250:45:28

I see.

0:45:290:45:31

You might find a little bit more about Robert's death here.

0:45:330:45:36

That's his obituary.

0:45:360:45:38

"Manchester City News lately recorded the death of Mr RJ Lowes" -

0:45:380:45:42

that's our man - "of Hulme, age 56."

0:45:420:45:45

"He was a native of Carlisle," up north,

0:45:450:45:48

"and a son of Mr James Lowes, the engraver of Hutchinson's History Of Cumberland.

0:45:480:45:55

"Mr Lowes' eventful and active life closed on the 17th of last month.

0:45:550:46:01

"It is gratifying to add that his last moments were observed

0:46:010:46:05

"by the kind benevolence of many old friends."

0:46:050:46:10

Robert obviously died in strident circumstances,

0:46:100:46:13

but what he did achieve throughout his life,

0:46:130:46:15

and through the half holiday committee,

0:46:150:46:17

had made an immense difference.

0:46:170:46:18

And, in fact, just five years after Robert died,

0:46:180:46:22

your own grandfather was elected to the school as a pupil.

0:46:220:46:26

-Just five years later?

-Five years later.

0:46:260:46:28

See how these things all fit together.

0:46:290:46:32

Yeah. Amazing coincidence.

0:46:320:46:34

You have to admire Robert's achievements.

0:46:370:46:40

If this school hadn't been endowed by my great-great-grandfather,

0:46:400:46:45

my grandfather, WH McKellen, wouldn't have had an education.

0:46:450:46:49

Probably at all.

0:46:490:46:51

What I'd always hoped was true about

0:46:530:46:57

the McKellens, and people they married,

0:46:570:47:01

was an attitude to life.

0:47:010:47:03

Doing good and helping other people.

0:47:030:47:06

And this bright, radical-thinking clerk

0:47:070:47:13

stood up and changed the world.

0:47:130:47:16

I am... That is the word, proud.

0:47:160:47:19

Ian has decided to explore one last story in his family tree.

0:47:270:47:32

He now knows from Robert Lowes' obituary that Robert's father

0:47:320:47:36

was an engraver called James Lowes,

0:47:360:47:39

and that during the late 18th-century,

0:47:390:47:41

the Lowes family were based in Carlisle

0:47:410:47:44

in the County of Cumberland, now called Cumbria.

0:47:440:47:47

Ian's travelling north to Cumbria to find out more about James,

0:47:490:47:53

his great-great-great-grandfather.

0:47:530:47:57

It's an area that he knows well from his childhood.

0:47:570:48:01

I came to the Lake District before I can remember.

0:48:010:48:04

My family was typical of many Lancastrian families.

0:48:040:48:08

We went to it often.

0:48:080:48:10

Walking.

0:48:100:48:12

My dad was a climber with ropes and special boots,

0:48:120:48:15

going up the mountains that way.

0:48:150:48:17

I've only ever scrambled up them, sometimes on all fours.

0:48:170:48:20

There is a close relationship for Lancastrians

0:48:220:48:26

between the dark Satanic mills

0:48:260:48:29

and the utter beauty of the hills and the fells of the Lake District.

0:48:290:48:32

Ian's come to Carlisle, where James Lowes lived and worked in the 1790s.

0:48:350:48:40

He's arranged to meet curator Melanie Gardner

0:48:430:48:46

at the city's Tullie House Museum,

0:48:460:48:49

to find out more about James.

0:48:490:48:52

-Morning.

-Morning.

0:48:520:48:53

-Pleased to meet you, Ian.

-Very nice to see you.

0:48:530:48:56

Lovely to welcome you to Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery.

0:48:560:48:58

-Thank you very much indeed. All right. What a day!

-It's fantastic.

0:48:580:49:02

-Is it always like this in Carlisle?

-It is.

0:49:020:49:03

Tullie House holds an original copy of Hutchinson's History Of Cumberland,

0:49:030:49:08

which James Lowes helped to illustrate.

0:49:080:49:11

This is the History Of Cumberland.

0:49:110:49:14

It's in two volumes.

0:49:140:49:16

And if we open up... the frontispiece.

0:49:160:49:20

"The History of the County of Cumberland, and some places adjacent."

0:49:210:49:26

The book was published here in Carlisle in 1794.

0:49:260:49:30

-It's the standard history of the county.

-I see.

0:49:300:49:32

It's a very important book.

0:49:320:49:34

And James Lowes produced many of the engravings in this book,

0:49:340:49:38

and they really are the crowning achievement.

0:49:380:49:41

Oh, I say, look at that.

0:49:410:49:43

Carlisle Castle.

0:49:430:49:44

Beautiful.

0:49:460:49:48

And I love the details of the weather, the clouds.

0:49:480:49:51

These images were important, of course.

0:49:510:49:53

If you think, it's the late 18th century,

0:49:530:49:56

the Lake District had been discovered, tourists were visiting,

0:49:560:49:59

looking at the picturesque scenery.

0:49:590:50:01

And this book was so important that it was distributed in London,

0:50:010:50:05

so that it was widely available to the middle classes

0:50:050:50:08

as a very attractive book to purchase.

0:50:080:50:10

It would almost be like a coffee-table book.

0:50:100:50:13

And here is the illustration of Bassenthwaite.

0:50:130:50:16

Oh, but hang on! It says,

0:50:160:50:19

"J Lowes sculpt."

0:50:190:50:23

-Sculped it, or...?

-Yes, he engraved it.

-Engraved it.

0:50:230:50:27

He was a young man at this time,

0:50:270:50:29

developing his skills as an engraver.

0:50:290:50:32

-Beautiful, aren't they?

-Yes.

0:50:320:50:34

-Oh, look. Druid Monument.

-Yes!

0:50:360:50:39

So do you think he would necessarily have to have actually been

0:50:390:50:42

to a scene like that before he engraved it?

0:50:420:50:45

Not necessarily.

0:50:450:50:46

Because he could've been copying another artist's work.

0:50:460:50:49

But if we look at this one...

0:50:490:50:51

Oh, I say. How beautiful.

0:50:520:50:53

"The west view of Lanercost Priory."

0:50:550:50:59

"J Lowes."

0:50:590:51:01

And what does it say after that? "DD"?

0:51:010:51:03

-D-E-L. Del.

-Delineated, maybe.

-Yes.

-OK.

0:51:030:51:07

And over here it says "and sculpted".

0:51:070:51:11

Yes, he not only engraved this west view of Lanercost Priory,

0:51:110:51:16

but he drew it.

0:51:160:51:17

So he was there. He was on the spot.

0:51:170:51:20

At that time, sort of late 18th century,

0:51:200:51:23

artists are exploring the landscape for the first time,

0:51:230:51:27

and Cumbria was in a very important place for that

0:51:270:51:30

because of the beauty of the Lake District.

0:51:300:51:32

Ian has decided to head into the Lake District to Bassenthwaite Lake,

0:51:340:51:39

which his great-great-great-grandfather -

0:51:390:51:42

the artist James Lowes -

0:51:420:51:44

depicted in the 1790s.

0:51:440:51:46

He is meeting up with Professor Keith Hanley,

0:51:470:51:50

an expert on the history of the Lake District.

0:51:500:51:52

Keith, you look like the hermit of Bassenthwaite.

0:51:540:51:57

I am!

0:51:570:51:59

-Hello, nice to meet you.

-Are you well?

0:51:590:52:01

-Welcome to Bassenthwaite Lake.

-I've never been.

0:52:010:52:03

Well, here you are in the footsteps

0:52:030:52:05

of your great-great-great-grandfather,

0:52:050:52:07

James Lowes, who stood in 1794 on this spot

0:52:070:52:13

when he drew the lake.

0:52:130:52:16

-And it's not changed, has it?

-Hardly at all.

0:52:160:52:19

-Look at his engraving of it.

-Yes.

0:52:190:52:21

You can see all the main features exactly as they were.

0:52:210:52:24

He slightly exaggerated the reality,

0:52:240:52:27

because this rather exciting mountain is there a rather domestic hill.

0:52:270:52:32

But this...feels...

0:52:320:52:35

-..what it feels like to be here.

-Right.

0:52:370:52:40

So what he's got is the feeling.

0:52:400:52:42

-And that's being an artist, isn't it?

-It is an artist, that's right.

0:52:420:52:46

Your great-great-great-grandfather,

0:52:460:52:49

he had a modest role in a major drama,

0:52:490:52:51

whereby this whole region was developed from being

0:52:510:52:55

a relatively neglected provincial backwater,

0:52:550:52:59

to becoming what it is today,

0:52:590:53:02

which is really one of the leading cultural landscapes in the world.

0:53:020:53:05

Wordsworth, of course, who was born at Cockermouth just five miles from

0:53:050:53:10

here, wrote about it being for everyone

0:53:100:53:13

with an eye to see and a heart to feel.

0:53:130:53:16

And he didn't much approve the railways coming here?

0:53:160:53:18

He didn't. Very much later he was very much against it.

0:53:180:53:21

They should get out of their carriages and bloody well walk!

0:53:210:53:23

That's right.

0:53:230:53:24

When we come to the romantics, of course, and especially Wordsworth,

0:53:240:53:28

they are much more interested in real experience,

0:53:280:53:31

the real encounter with nature.

0:53:310:53:33

Would James Lowes have been aware of Wordsworth's views

0:53:330:53:36

and perhaps shared them?

0:53:360:53:38

We actually know he did,

0:53:380:53:39

because he took out an advert in the Carlisle Journal in 1802

0:53:390:53:44

explaining his principles.

0:53:440:53:46

How old would he be now?

0:53:460:53:48

-About...

-28.

-28?

-Yeah.

0:53:480:53:50

"September 25, drawing school at Mr Jollie's.

0:53:500:53:53

"J Lowes, teacher of drawing."

0:53:530:53:58

-By this date, he's been engraving for nine years...

-Yeah.

0:53:580:54:01

..and he's now advertised his services as a drawing master.

0:54:010:54:05

"To delineate faithfully

0:54:060:54:10

"and elegantly the tints and proportions of nature,

0:54:100:54:15

"to catch her veiled forms as they are found to strike the eye

0:54:150:54:20

"is the object of landscape.

0:54:200:54:23

"But how is this to be done?

0:54:230:54:25

"Not surely by shutting ourselves up and copying after a copy

0:54:250:54:30

"but by observing nature's self and seeing her living features.

0:54:300:54:37

Get out the house, put your boots on,

0:54:370:54:40

take your brushes or your pencil.

0:54:400:54:43

-Exactly, yeah.

-And be inside nature.

0:54:430:54:46

-Yeah.

-That's wonderful.

0:54:460:54:48

But, you know, there's another side to the romantic north.

0:54:480:54:51

This is only part of the story, the picturesque landscape, and so on.

0:54:510:54:56

There's also the dark north,

0:54:560:54:59

there are a lot of Druid circles,

0:54:590:55:01

and particularly the one that he depicted here,

0:55:010:55:04

which is the Druid's Monument at Keswick.

0:55:040:55:07

It's wizard country, this.

0:55:070:55:09

It's something that should really interest you.

0:55:090:55:11

Yes. Well, I'm going to romance.

0:55:110:55:14

This man - he's got a hat on, and a pair of britches,

0:55:140:55:17

-and he's got a staff.

-He has.

0:55:170:55:20

I think it's a little self-portrait that James has popped in.

0:55:200:55:24

That could be. Yes, that could be James.

0:55:240:55:26

-Yes, why not.

-But it could be you, too.

0:55:260:55:28

IAN LAUGHS

0:55:280:55:30

To end his journey,

0:55:320:55:34

Ian has decided to retrace his great-great-great-grandfather's footsteps,

0:55:340:55:39

to the ancient stone circle near Keswick,

0:55:390:55:42

which James Lowes engraved 220 years ago.

0:55:420:55:46

"October 5, walked up the Penrith Road two miles or more

0:55:480:55:53

"and, turning into a cornfield to the right, called Castlerigg,

0:55:530:55:58

"saw a large Druid circle of stones."

0:55:580:56:01

"They are 50 in number.

0:56:020:56:04

"Most of them stood erect.

0:56:040:56:07

"The biggest not eight feet high.

0:56:070:56:09

"It is not improbable that the head Druid, with his colleagues,

0:56:090:56:14

"did inform their rites, their divinations, in these places."

0:56:140:56:18

"Know that thou standst on consecrated ground."

0:56:190:56:23

"The mighty pile of magic planted rock.

0:56:240:56:28

"Thus ringed in mystic order,

0:56:280:56:30

"marks the place where but at times of holiest festival,

0:56:300:56:35

"the Druid leads this trail."

0:56:350:56:38

Sort of inevitable, isn't it,

0:56:460:56:48

that James should have loved places like this and recorded them,

0:56:480:56:53

and encouraged other people to come.

0:56:530:56:55

I wonder if James' son, the radical Robert, came up here.

0:56:550:57:00

And I do feel that I can almost touch these people.

0:57:010:57:06

I feel happy in their company.

0:57:060:57:08

They've done remarkable things, and they're talented.

0:57:080:57:12

HE SIGHS

0:57:140:57:16

And part of the world, not...

0:57:160:57:20

Not loners.

0:57:200:57:21

It doesn't matter, really, to me, that I'm the last of the McKellens.

0:57:230:57:28

That's all right.

0:57:280:57:30

But I do feel just a little bit more secure as a person.

0:57:320:57:36

Yes, I think, probably I'll never be quite the same.

0:57:410:57:45

But in a good way!

0:57:450:57:46

As the 'last of the McKellens', Sir Ian admits to a degree of melancholy as he delves into his family history. But the results pay off richly for one of Britain's greatest actors and civil rights champions. Ian's journey uncovers a theatrical ancestor, a Victorian political activist and a link to an ancient druidical landmark in the Lake District.