Annie Lennox: I feel privileged to share my story

Annie Lennox talks to TV Times magazine about discovering poverty and privation at the roots of her family tree…

Why did you want to take part in Who Do You Think You Are? (Weds, BBC1)

“Usually I’m fairly low key when it comes to revealing much about my personal life, but I just love the programme. I think it has a lot of integrity and is beautifully made. I just thought it was an incredible opportunity to find out something about my family history.”

You come across some extraordinary revelations in regards to your great, great-grandmother Jessie Fraser…

“I had no idea that Jessie, my great, great-grandmother, had worked in a mill for several years from the age of 15, during the mid 1800s. I’m pretty sure my grandmother had no idea about that as her father died when she was only three. It was quite an extraordinary thing to discover.”

Reflecting on your experience, are you glad you agreed to take part?

“The process of piecing together all the information to turn them into a narrative that becomes part of the fabric of your existence is an incredible thing to take part in. It all felt like a series of small revelations, but one thing that was quite astonishing for me was that I was brought up in the 1960s in a two-roomed tenement flat across the road from a massive flax mill.”

Was there anything that particularly moved you?

“I wish life could have been less harsh for my great, great grandparents. I honestly don’t know how people survived. Going back to the Victorian era, with all the themes Dickens wrote about – poverty, disease, illiteracy, hardship etc – it struck me that these themes are still right here in abundance in the 21st century.”

What did you learn from your Who Do You Think You Are? experience?

“I found out that our hidden pasts really do connect us to who we are presently. The process gave me an entire new insight into history – it personalised the past for me. It’s all so fascinating and I feel privileged to take part in it and subsequently share the story.”