Boy George has described his Irish family’s sad history as “a great Irish song ... a lament.”
Born George Alan O’Dowd to Irish parents in London, Culture Club singer Boy George was always aware of his Irish roots but his family’s heartbreaking tale, as shown in his episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” was sadder than he ever could have imagined.
Viewers were very taken with Boy George’s episode and especially his rendition of Irish rebel song Kevin Barry with folk group Lankum in the Gravediggers Pub after a visit to Glasnevin Cemetery. Having grown up singing the tune and believing himself to have been related in some way to the teenage rebel Barry, it materialized that, while he may not have shared this exact connection to Ireland’s history of rebellion, he did have a great-uncle who was also executed by the British for his role in a rising of arms.
Inspired by the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, George’s great-uncle Thomas Byrne joined the Irish Volunteers and was arrested, sentenced and hung for carrying out a military drill. His wife Annie Glynn was pregnant at the time of his arrest but the baby died at just one day old only four days before Byrne’s execution.
That has to be the saddest #whodoyouthinkyouare I've ever watched, but also v interesting. No-one from Boy George's family got a run of luck. No one. Interesting that his family are so steeped in Irish revolutionary history, including a state funeral, which is a conferred honour.— Fiona Kenny (@FionaKenny1) July 25, 2018
“I really hope he didn’t know,” George says in the episode, where he visits Kilmainham Gaol to see his ancestor’s cell and the place where he was put to death.
The heartbreaking tale reaches further to home, however, when the early years of Boy George’s own grandmother in Dublin are revealed, telling how she was brought into an industrial school aged 6 and spent the next decade living there away from her family.
“This story is like a great Irish song,” he said of his roots.
“It’s the sort of thing you’d hear someone singing at a funeral or a wedding . . . a traditional lament.”
Viewers were big fans and we can easily say why. George took the tragic news with tremendous grace and humor in spite of the heartbreaking stories about his Irish family:
Boy George's Who Do You Think You Are on BBC1 right now is excellent ?— Caolan Mc Aree (@Caolanmcaree) July 25, 2018
Boy George there belting out Kevin Barry on BBC1.
Next up: Meatloaf singing Boys of the Old Brigade.— Tin Man (@Paddy_Scotsman) July 25, 2018
Boy George singing a dying rebel and Kevin Barry has made my night— ?Collette? (@collette1251) July 25, 2018
The Boy George programme was powerful viewing. The barbarity of the British in response to Ireland's bid for freedom was very emotional to watch. We have work still to do to deliver the Ireland those hero's fought and died for.— An_fear_ciuin (@An_Fear_Ciuin) July 25, 2018
I think this is one of the most amazing episodes I've ever seen.— Lisa (@crankshaw_lisa) July 25, 2018
Did you watch Boy George’s episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” Let us know what you thought of it in the comments section, below.