Paul Merton discovers his Irish grandfather fought for the British army and later joined the IRA
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Paul Merton discovers his Irish grandfather fought for the British army and later joined the IRA

HAVE I Got News For You star Paul Merton has discovered his Irish grandad fought for the British Army and then later became a member of the IRA.

The comedian made the discovery as part a new episode of the hit genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? set to air on the BBC later this month.

According to The Mirror, the episode sees Merton discover his maternal grandfather, James Power, served as part of the Royal Irish Regiment of the British Army, in Dublin during the Easter Rising of 1916.

It was a period of unrest that saw Republicans rebel against British rule with violent consequences.

Despite being awarded the Victory Medal and the British Medal for his effort in the military, the Waterford-born soldier handed back both as a show of support for the Irish Republican Army, which he later joined.

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The episode goes on to detail the family tragedy that befell his late mother Mary Ann’s side of the family, starting with her father.

Mary Ann was adopted after losing both her mother Julia and father James at an early age.

But while Merton always believed his grandfather died at sea and that his grandmother passed away after going into premature labour after receiving news of James’ sudden death, the programme reveals an altogether different truth.

With employment opportunities in Ireland proving limited, James headed over to England in the 1920s, taking a job in the Merchant Navy where he worked as a fireman and trimmer.

It was a job that saw him based in Wales and took him to locations as far-flung as Brazil and Argentina. But it was also one that ended in tragedy.

Coming across his grandfather’s death certificate, Merton learns he, in fact, did not die at sea but instead passed away after suffering a heart attack that saw him fall into a nearby canal.

Only in his 30s at the sad time of his passing, the tragedy was further compounded when Merton’s grandmother died a few days later in childbirth, outliving her newborn son by a matter of days.

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Part of an emotional journey for Merton and his sister Angela, the culminates with their arrival at a cemetery in Wales and the unmarked grave of his late grandfather.

“A few days ago I knew very little about James,” Merton reflects [via the Irish Mirror]. “I had a photograph. And I have got to know him over the last few days.

“He certainly saw a lot of the world in his short span of time and played a part in very momentous parts of Irish history.

“My thoughts have fluctuated over the last few days about whether my mother would have wanted to have known more about her father.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that, actually, if there was a place she could have come to, to lay flowers, she would have wanted that.”