FORMER ST Cyres pupil Tanni Grey-Thompson was brought to tears after researching into her family tree as part of a BBC documentary.
Paralympic champion Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson said it was an “emotional experience” to look back into the previous generations of her family as part of the Welsh heritage series ‘Coming Home’.
During the filming Tanni meets genealogist Mike Churchill-Jones at Trinity Presbyterian Church where she hears about her family’s roots in the Vale of Glamorgan.
Tanni’s great-great-grandfather Captain William Lobb’s adventures dominate her journey into her family’s past. Rising from ship’s boy to Master Mariner, William was finally appointed as captain of his own ship. Still serving at the remarkable age of 74, he was given an award for his incredible bravery during World War One. And, unknown to her late parents, just like Tanni, William was also honoured at Buckingham Palace.
“We didn’t have any idea about what he had achieved as all my dad could remember was that he had been in the navy,” she said.
“It was quite emotional reading what he had done as I didn’t expect it.
“I was so impressed that he put his body on the line.
“I don’t cry at much stuff but I was brought to tears by that.”
She added that she learnt a lot about her heritage by studying her family tree.
“They asked me at the start if I thought I was Welsh and I said yes straight away, but then they found loads of stuff to prove I wasn’t!”
Tanni, who now lives in Stockton-on-Tees, also returned to her old school, Penarth pier and St Fagan’s.
She added that it was “weird” revisiting her old haunts at St Cyres and Penarh pier.
“It hasn’t changed that much!” she said.
“I used to spend a lot of time down the seafront as we used to go to Rabiotti’s during our lunch periods.
Tanni stayed with her sister, who still lives in Penarth, during filming for the programme.
“The hardest part after the first day was trying to remember everything to tell my sister!” she said.
“One of the funny things we discovered was that my grandmother used to work as a domestic servant on the same road that my sister lives on now.”
During the programme Tanni also learns of the tragic loss of her great-grandmother who died soon after giving birth at the age of 29, and realises the implications it had on her upbringing. At St Fagans, she uncovers the intriguing and sometimes gruesome occupation of her ancestor William Billington, originally a labourer from Cheshire, who went on to become a surgeon.
She added that looking into her family tree had inspired her to more digging into the lives of her relatives.
“My sister and I want to find out more about our family,” she said.
“We know their names now but we want to find out about their jobs and other things.”