Hugh Bonneville and John Bishop discover 'staggering' link while exploring Irish roots for ITV

Hugh Bonneville and John Bishop discover 'staggering' link while exploring Irish roots for ITV

BRITISH stars Hugh Bonneville and John Bishop discovered a 'staggering' link in their ancestral history while exploring their Irish roots for ITV show DNA Journey.

The Downton Abbey star and the stand-up comedian both knew they were of Irish heritage and headed to Dublin to find out more about their families' past.

And the pair, whose paths first crossed when they met during the Covid pandemic, discovered a bizarre coincidence involving their ancestors that mirrored their recently-formed friendship.

Chance meeting

Lockdown hampered Bishop's opportunities to get to know people after relocating to the South Downs in southern England, but he struck up a friendship with Bonneville after a chance meeting at a vaccine centre where the actor was volunteering.

Incredibly, on the latest episode DNA Journey, the unlikely friends then discovered that almost two centuries earlier, their ancestors worked simultaneously in shops just four doors apart on the same street in Dublin.

"That is staggering, to be less than 30 yards from each other," said Bishop.

The comedian's great-great-great-grandfather on his maternal line, Andrew Keegan, worked at renowned instrument makers J. McNeill's on Capel Street.

Meanwhile, Bonneville's great-great-grandfather on his maternal line, John Freeman Sr, worked a stone's throw away at Boland's bakery.

Bishop then asked ancestry expert Brad Argent if it was likely the pair knew each other.

"They're four doors down from each other, it's a bakery — where did he buy his lunch?!" quipped Argent.

A stunned Bishop said to Bonneville: "I thought it was a coincidence you were at the vaccine centre!"

Further revelations

Nor was that the only coincidence.

Argent revealed that Keegan, a supporter of Irish nationalism, and bakers' union official Freeman likely both took part in the same march on July 4, 1843.

The procession — which was led by Daniel O'Connell as it made its way down Capel Street — was supported by bakers and instrument makers, among other professions, and called for a repeal of the Acts of Union.

"We become friends and then we found that generations before, our grandfathers of various stages were working within 30 yards of each other," said Bishop.

Capel Street in Dublin (Image: Sam Boal /

"And then were on a march on the same day that started the path of the discussion for Irish independence.

"It's amazing."

Also in the episode, Bishop hears of a remarkable coincidence involving his childhood home in Cheshire and another Irish great-great-great-grandfather, Mayo man Patrick Reardon.

Meanwhile, Bonneville is regaled with stories about his grandfather's sister, Fanny Freeman, 'the it girl of Dublin' at the turn of the century.

You can watch series 5 episode 1 of DNA Journey on ITVX by clicking here.