Comedian-turned-actor Johnny Vegas got a surprise or two after agreeing to take part in the ITV show Secrets From The Clink.
Not only was the St Helens funnyman shocked to learn that both his great-great-great-great grandfather Philip and his wife, Ann Haines, spent time in prison for stealing and drunkenness - but that Philip was a southerner to boot!
Johnny said: “This is taken from the Bristol Mercury. Bristol! That’s amazing, I thought I was pure blue blood northern. We’re southern!
“I’m going to have to pack up our belongings. They’re going to take my St Helens season ticket off me!”
In episode one of the new two-part series - set to be aired this evening - Johnny visits the record office in Bristol to find out that stealing coins and a knife got Philip banged up for six months, with hard labour.
The punishment seemed to stop him reoffending but his alcoholic wife Ann still needed reforming.
Historian David Taylor explains that the Victorians held wayward women in particular disdain, which is why the press stereotyped Ann as an, “inveterate drunk” and “notorious drunkard”.
Johnny is upset to discover that, while he built his comedy career by sending up being drunk and disorderly, his ancestor had no help or support for her addiction.
Johnny said: “I’ve made a career and been lauded for sending up what was a desperately sad outcome for Ann. She was living it.
“I’ve made a joke of it but she is fundamentally institutionalised.
“It’s very hard when you can’t envisage a Disney ending for this.”