The Daily Telegraph

Doc­tor Who star’s dis­may at how fam­ily prof­ited from strike

- By Anita Singh Arts And En­ter­tain­ment Editor Doctor Who · Jodie Whittaker · BBC One · Skelmanthorpe

CELEBRI­TIES who ap­pear on Who Do You Think You Are? hope to un­cover stir­ring tales about their fore­bears. But Jodie Whit­taker, star of Doc­tor Who, was forced to con­front the “un­com­fort­able” truth that her an­ces­tors were col­liery own­ers who be­came mil­lion­aires by ex­ploit­ing their work­force.

The ac­tress said that the in­for­ma­tion gleaned in the BBC One ge­neal­ogy pro­gramme was dif­fi­cult for some­one who leans “emo­tion­ally” to the Left.

Dur­ing her re­search, she learnt about the Gen­eral Strike of 1926, which be­gan when col­liery bosses de­manded that min­ers work longer hours for less pay.

Her fam­ily-owned col­liery was one of the few to re­main open dur­ing the strike, and made sig­nif­i­cant prof­its by sell­ing coal for nearly three times the rate it fetched be­fore the stop­page, while strik­ing min­ers and their fam­i­lies went hun­gry and faced a bleak win­ter.

Whit­taker said she had grown up in Skel­man­thorpe, West Yorks, know­ing that her ma­ter­nal fam­ily had been re­garded by lo­cals as “scabs” be­cause they worked through the strike. Through re­search for the pro­gramme, which airs on Oct 12, she learnt that her great-great-grand­fa­ther, Ed­win Auck­land, be­gan work­ing down a mine aged just eight. From those lowly be­gin­nings, he and his sons be­came mine own­ers.

When Whit­taker’s great-grand­fa­ther, also called Ed­win, died in 1942 he left £31,367 – equiv­a­lent to £1.5 mil­lion in to­day’s money. To­gether, the broth­ers were worth £7 mil­lion.

“There’s a way of look­ing at this that is just filled with pride be­cause a man bet­tered him­self and then his en­tire fam­ily, and that fam­ily took on that work ethic of graft­ing and took it to an­other level... That is a huge suc­cess from [be­ing] an eight-year-old miner,” she said. “But the prob­lem is when it comes at a cost. On your doorstep, there must have been enough fam­i­lies that you saw sac­ri­fic­ing so much just to try to have their ba­sic rights.

“I feel un­com­fort­able be­cause I don’t want in any way to sound as if I’ve been rude to­wards peo­ple in my fam­ily, but it ’s where you lean emo­tion­ally and [ges­tur­ing left] I lean that way.”

Whit­taker, 38, told Ra­dio Times that she did not agree with her an­ces­tors’ ac­tions “emo­tion­ally or po­lit­i­cally”. But she added: “My pol­i­tics rep­re­sent me. I didn’t live in that time. I’ve got hind­sight.”

At the out­set of the pro­gramme, Whit­taker said that liv­ing through the min­ers’ strike of the Eight­ies meant that the con­cept of de­fy­ing a strike “goes against ev­ery­thing you’re brought up to be­lieve in”.

Upon learning how wealthy the fam­ily had been, Whit­taker was stunned.

The fam­ily wealth was not passed down to Whit­taker be­cause her grand­fa­ther went bank­rupt in his 20s.

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 ??  ?? Jodie Whit­taker, right, dis­cov­ered that her mi­ne­own­ing an­ces­tors, above with po­lice of­fi­cers, kept the col­liery open to profit dur­ing the Gen­eral Strike in 1926
Jodie Whit­taker, right, dis­cov­ered that her mi­ne­own­ing an­ces­tors, above with po­lice of­fi­cers, kept the col­liery open to profit dur­ing the Gen­eral Strike in 1926

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