Well, Graham Norton’s great-great-great grandfather and my g-g-g grandfather, to be strictly accurate. They would have known each other. They probably wanted to kill each other. (Luckily, I quite like him and he doesn’t know I exist, so that’s all right!)
How did I find this out?
Four years ago, long before this blog was thought of, I was gripped by BBC TV’s series Who Do You Think You Are?
I was fascinated by the unravelling of family myths and mysteries (we’ve got a few of our own) and envious of the fantastic resources that the Beeb could pull together.
Then, on November 2, 2007, I leapt out of my seat punching the air and shouting: “Carnew! The ball alley!”
Graham Norton was retracing his Irish roots and, to my amazement, his ancestor was in that southernmost Co Wicklow town at the same time as mine, in May 1798, when the terrible Carnew massacre was carried out.
On the other side.
While Nicholas Delaney was working in Robert Blaney’s bog – at the moment Richard Twamley and George Heppenstall were being killed – Graham’s ancestor, Thomas Walker, was among the yeomen in the town.
Indeed one of his relations, John Walker, was shot and piked by the rebels. Just as Twamley and Heppenstall were, according to ‘Croppy Biddy’ Dolan.
And there was Graham in the ball alley in Carnew Castle, where the infamous massacre took place. The same ball alley my mother and I were shown by the castle’s owner, who pointed out to us the bullet holes in the wall which still bear witness to the day when unarmed local United Irish prisoners were gunned down in cold blood by the yeos.
It was a strange moment.
I’ll write more about the Carnew Massacre soon. It’s not just a tragic story in its own right, but probably one of the incidents that spurred the people of Co Wexford, next door, to rise in arms and play their colossal part in 1798.
Since writing this I’ve found a clip of Graham in the Ball Alley – it’s just as good second time around.
Update: The May 2015 edition of Irish Lives Remembered features more about Graham and his Carnew ancestors.