The reaction to the recent TV documentary, The DNA of Ant and Dec, has rocked the Tyneside Irish Centre with people phoning and mailing in their hundreds.
Two years in the making, the programme traced the famous duo’s ancestry back from their early days in Newcastle discovering long-lost cousins in Ireland and the States.
Dec, of course, is well- aware of his Irish heritage (or some of it as the show proved). His father and mother, Phonsie and Anne, came from Tyrone and County Derry to manage the Tyneside Irish Centre in the 1970’s. Declan and his brother , now Rev. Father Dermot, sang their first ballads as boy sopranos at the “Round the Fire” sessions at the centre’s then home in Westmorland Road.
Ant McPartlin, however, had little inkling of his Irish roots especially on his father’s side. The shock on his face was evident in the film when Bill Corcoran of the Tyneside Irish Cultural Society showed him the army records relating to his great grandfather. Amazingly his ancestor was awarded the Military Medal, one of the British army’s highest honours, whilst fighting with the Tyneside Irish Brigade in the first World War.
Since the programme aired on 10th November Lynne Harrison, the manager, and the centre staff say the have been overwhelmed with interest and enquiries from near and far.
Fittingly enough the Cultural Society , based in the Irish club, is developing an Irish Heritage centre there. Barbara Flynn who is leading the project said:
The Ant and Dec effect can only be helpful to us as we seek funding and support. We already have a great stock of Irish books relevant to our aim of creating a hub where people like Ant can explore their Irish roots or research more general themes. We have already secured support from the Government of Ireland’s ESP fund and have submitted a detailed proposal to the Heritage Lottery which will help us create an exhibition of the Tyneside Irish Brigade and its legacy.