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The Past Is Orange For Who

He may be the latest incarnation of Doctor Who, the television time lord who nonchalantly charges back through the centuries in an old police box, but the Scottish actor David Tennant was shocked by his family’s secret past when he indulged in some real-life time travelling. While filming a documentary about his roots, the Paisley-born Tennant, the son of a Church of Scotland minister, found that his ancestors were “entrenched in sectarianism” after tracing his grandmother’s paternal line to Londonderry in Northern Ireland, a city synonymous with the Irish sectarian troubles.  
In a “difficult journey” he discovered both his great grandfather William Blair and his great-great grandfather James Blair were members of the Orange Lodge, a Protestant fraternity society, which Tennant previously considered a “symbol of aggression”. With the help of living family members and historians he found that James served on Derry’s Union Council in the early 20th century and was accused of anti-Catholic gerrymandering — vote rigging that allowed the protestant minority to hold on to power. He also discovered William was one of more than 200,000 Irish men to sign the 1912 Ulster Covenant, stating that home rule would be “disastrous” for Ireland and was a threat to be overcome by “any means which may be found necessary”. Tennant, who lived in a protestant area of Glasgow while at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama researched his family tree as part of the BBC genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? Tennant was comforted by James’s obituary, which revealed that he was highly regarded for his sense of social justice and fought for wage increases and better conditions for the poor. He also met cousin Barry McLoughlin, a Catholic who campaigned for civil rights in Ireland during the troubles. Professor John Brewer, a sociologist from Aberdeen University said it was important to see Tennant’s family connections in a historical context. “Every ‘respectable’ protestant in the beginning of the 20th century would have been a unionist,” he said. “But in terms of modern sensibilities, people can be embarrassed by their relatives’ involvement in issues like this.”
Source: The Sunday Times