Michael Sheen is coming home

WalesOnline are reporting that there is to be a program on BBC Wales next week, about Michael Sheen and his family history. You can read the article below, or online HERE.

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Actor Michael Sheen traces his family’s roots in a new documentary where he gets more than his fair share of surprises

ALTHOUGH best known for acting on the big screen as Tony Blair, David Frost and Brian Clough amongst other stellar roles, Hollywood star Michael Sheen is about to be revealed to television viewers as a real person, writes Kirstie McCrum.

No lines to learn, no part to play – in the new series of BBC Wales’ Coming Home, he is Michael Sheen, son of Wales, and he’s out to discover a bit about where his family came from.

The 41-year-old actor is well-known for his Welsh roots. Born in Newport, he was brought up in Baglan, Port Talbot, and loves returning home to Wales to visit his mum Irene and dad Meyrick, who still live in the house Michael grew up in.

“As soon as I see the steelworks, there is no feeling like it for me,” he says. “I get emotional coming back to this town.

“It really affects me, I absolutely love it. My Welsh roots are everything, it’s where I come from, the people I come from, the land I come from. In my own lifetime it’s made me who I am.”

Michael says that he is often asked if the surname ‘Sheen’ has Irish roots.

“I go, ‘no, no, I think it’s Scandinavian originally’ but it turns out it is an Irish name,” he says.

Genealogist Mike Churchill Jones says the name originates in Waterford courtesy of Edward Sheehan, Michael’s great-great-great grandfather.

On Michael’s quest to find out more about his father’s side of the family, he visits Cardiff’s Catholic cathedral, and uncovers an entry for his great-great grandfather Thomas Sheehan in the baptismal register.

Thomas was one of 14 children born following Edward Sheehan and wife Catherine Hickey’s arrival in Wales in 1850, three of whom were named Michael.

Sadly, eight of the children passed away, seven in infancy, a fact that visibly moves Michael as he inspects the death certificates.

“There’s something rather bizarre about seeing the death certificate of someone with the same name as you,” he says.

“I suppose they had to name three of them Michael for one of them to maybe make it into adulthood.

“I wonder, as a parent, do you just inure yourself to the fact that that’s going to happen and it becomes easier to deal with or does the impact of that rock you as a family,” he adds.

Michael is himself father to 11-year-old Lily, his daughter with actress Kate Beckinsale.

Michael’s father’s side of the family throws up further surprises: great-great grandmother Mary Ann North was a lion tamer.

In 1896, his brave ancestor left for America with one of the founders of the Bostock and Wombwell’s circus that she worked with to set up a new show in New York.

History records that she did return to Aberaeron some time later, settling with her husband, running a market stall.

On his mother’s side, more eye opening revelations are made.

Great-grandmother Mary Margaret Fisher was admitted to the Llanty Nedd workhouse in Neath in 1878, aged 27, with her three children.

“Knowing that she ended up in the workhouse means there’s a very sad story there,” Michael supposes, before finding that the family was abandoned.

Her husband, Aneurin, was unfaithful, and claimed that he could not support his family, forcing them to turn to the workhouse.

Discharging themselves a year later, Mary did get back with Aneurin, but when his unfaithfulness continued, she left him and told people that she was a widow.

It was at this time that she met John Fisher, who took her on as a housekeeper.

When their relationship blossomed, they married, with John Fisher becoming Michael’s second great-grandfather.

“But she was already married, so that marriage doesn’t actually count,” Michael says.

The actor admits to being slightly concerned as to what his mother would have to say about the scandal of her great-grandmother’s turbulent marriage to Aneurin Rees, but he is impressed about the revelations in his family line.

“It’s been an extraordinary journey.

“To find out about the family coming from Ireland and they so obviously wanted a Michael, just seeing my name there and thinking, a Michael did come along eventually who got past the age of six. That was very powerful for me,” Michael says.

“It’s been a fantastic experience. It’s a really unique experience, so I feel very privileged that I’ve had the opportunity to go on this journey.

“These are things that will stay with me for the rest of my life now.

“And in the same way as growing up in this town has, this experience will influence me as well.”

Coming Home – Michael Sheen is on BBC One Wales on Wednesday, November 24 at 7.30pm

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