An underage bride, desertion, divorce, larceny and fraud made for fascinating viewing as Shane Bourne explored the ins and outs of his grandparent’s lives in the latest episode of Who Do You Think You Are. This episode takes place in Victoria, Sydney and Canberra, featuring the collections of the State Library of Victoria, Public Record Office Victoria and the National Film and Sound Archive.
Shane was raised solely by his mother from the age of 7, with visits from his father occurring about once a year. With a history of absent fathers on both sides of his family, Shane described it is as “almost a theme”. This is a startling contrast to Shane’s own close relationship with his daughter Ruby.
Shane began his family history journey by looking through the life of his absent grandfather Arthur Pericival ‘Percy’ Freeman. Percy and Shane’s grandmother Dorothy divorced early on in their marriage. Their two children were raised by Dorothy and with the exception of one meeting, they never saw their father. Shane’s journey takes him through the “dodgy” and more legitimate elements of Percy life.
Through the State Library’s newspaper collection, Shane was able to discover fascinating articles about Percy’s performing and criminal life. Shane found the Argus article concerning Percy’s sentence for larceny, particularly amusing. This part of the episode was filmed in the library’s breathtaking Domed Reading Room and if you look closely you may even spot some Genealogy staff members in the background!
Shane’s trip to the Public Record Office Victoria, supplied him with Percy’s prison records, including the name of his alias and mugshot. Shane replied with my favourite quote of the episode “he’s got an alias? my god what a dodgy dude”.
And what was Percy’s crime? He rented a piano and then sold it to an auction house for 6 pounds! This proved a fairly minor incident compared with his later fraudulent dealings.
Following up on his grandmother’s life, Shane traveled to the National Film and Sound Archive to investigate her acting past. Dorothy starred in such films as How Mcdougal topped the score a cricketing comedy in 1924 and a melodrama called Environment. The performing gene seems to run rampant in Shane’s family with himself, his daughter, his father and grandparents all being (or had been) talented performers.
The episode ended with a touching scene between Shane and his daughter Ruby, showing that the theme of absent fathers has finally come to an end.