Mariella Frostrup has become the latest celeb to walk down her family’s memory lane for a TV show, only to discover that one of her ancestors spent some time behind bars.
For her episode of ‘Secrets from the Clink’, Mariella uncovered the rollercoaster tale of her great, great grandfather, William Martin Eckersley, a rogue with a big heart from the sounds of things, who was imprisoned in HMP Lancaster Castle for trying to defraud his creditors.
Mariella Frostrup uncovers the strange tale of her great, great grandfather
On further investigation, it transpires William was a Victorian entrepeneur who went bust when the economy crashed in the 1870s. With no social security, William siphoned off the equivalent of £2,000 and was eventually convicted of fraud.
“I don’t take responsibility for my husband, let alone my ancestors, so I’m not ashamed of my family,” she tells HuffPostUK.
Mariella admits, though, that she found this kind of crime "a bit tacky" at first, but her mood changed about her ancestor with the discovery that the shock of prison brought on a stroke in the otherwise fit 30-year-old, and he was consigned to bed in his prison cell.
Mariella visited the prison where her relative suffered a stroke through the shock of being locked up
Without spoiling it for viewers, what came next was as moving for Mariella as it was surprising.
“I thought he was a fantastic character, and a lot of his story was tragic," she reflects now. "He was a total chancer, who went through some hard times, and then totally reinvented himself, as a father of five, and a school governor to boot.
“He has my admiration. I wish I’d known him.”
Mariella joins Len Goodman and Johnny Vegas for the new series of 'Secrets from the Clink', which starts on Wednesday 6 August at 9pm on ITV.