Who Do You Think You Are? Episode 1 of 6, RTÉ One, Sunday, September 9th at 9.30pm
Damien Dempsey explores the life of his grandfather Thomas, who was born in America. Why did his mother bring him home to Ireland, but without his older brother, or her husband? It’s a story that leads Damien to 19th century Fall River Massachusetts to find out about the lives of his ancestors who worked there in the cotton mill industry and right through to Letterfrack in Connemara where he discovers the harsh realities of what life was like for his grandfather who was incarcerated in its notorious industrial school.
Also on his father’s side, Damien learns about the heroics of his great grand aunt Jenny Shanahan who fought in Dublin Castle with James Connolly’s Irish Citizen Army in the 1916 Rising. He reflects on the hardship of her life as she struggled to receive her military pension and died at a young age.
On his mother’s side, the uncommon surname of Bridgeman opens up a window into an aspect of 19th Century Dublin that Damien had no knowledge of: his ancestor was a respected Freeman of the City – one of few Catholics afforded the privilege – who ends up being accused of treason and rebellion in the era of the Young Irelanders and was incarcerated in the same prison as one of Ireland’s greatest civil rights campaigners Daniel O’Connell.
This brand new series of the genealogical series Who Do You Think You Are? follows six very different Irish celebrities as they embark on a quest to uncover their own family history. They trace their family tree often finding out previously unknown secrets and surprises from their past.
Comedian and actor Pat Shortt, presenter Laura Whitmore, singer Damien Dempsey, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, actor Adrian Dunbar and former US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power peel back the layers to find out the roles played by their relatives and ancestors in our history. Incorporating murder, scandal and incredible hardship while journeying through major historical events like the 1916 Rising, the Spanish Civil War, the War of Independence and Civil War, each person’s family history touches on major moments in our own country’s past as well as telling us a lot about the social conditions they endured in their lifetimes.