Jonnie Peacock makes some amazing family discoveries

After losing his lower right leg to meningitis as a five-year-old, determination and undeniable talent have defined Jonnie Peacock’s life and career, leading him to become a gold medal-winning Paralympian.

So in tonight’s Who Do You Think You Are?, the former Strictly star is thrilled to learn that he has equally strong-willed ancestors.

Here Jonnie Peackock, 25, tells all about his intriguing discoveries in Who Do You Think You Are?

Were you keen to do the show?

Jonnie Peackock: “Yes. On my dad’s side I went to a ‘Peacock party’ and we had a big family tree, but that only went back about 70 years. So the chance to find out more was too good an opportunity to turn down.”

You never met your grandfather Johnnie. Was it special to find out he was an amateur footballer in the 1950s and 1960s?

Who Do You Think You Are? BBC1

Jonnie’s grandfather was a promising footballer, and was scouted by Leeds United

JP: “Yes, it was unfortunate he died shortly before I was born. I love football and looked at doing disabled football myself. Johnnie had a lot of talent and potential and scored so many goals and broke records. I feel proud and he passed down a few good genes!”

Johnnie was scouted by Leeds United, but his father, Edward, made him become a decorator. Was that frustrating to discover?

JP: “It was sad he never got a proper chance. But then I found out how Edward’s siblings had died because they didn’t have enough food, so it made sense. Edward never wanted his children to be in that situation and painting paid a decent wage while football was a risk.”

Were you shocked when you discovered that Edward’s father, Isaac, died of anthrax poisoning, possibly due to a cargo of dried animal bones and blood that he’d handled as a docker?

JP: “Yes, he was under pressure to earn money and carried on working for seven days before seeking medical help. He was stubborn and could maybe have been saved if he’d 
gone into hospital earlier. But anthrax is blood poisoning and 
so is meningitis, which I had, 
so I feel lucky that things have 
also progressed medically.”

Your four times great-grandmother Louisa Voss had four illegitimate children and took one of their alleged fathers to court for maintenance and accused another of assault.

JP: “She was incredible. I feel huge pride because she was ahead of her time and an independent woman. I got emotional and broke down learning about her. One of the men she took to court was her ex-boss, so you had to be brave to do that but she wasn’t scared.”

Do you share any of your ancestors’ strength?

JP: “Unfortunately, 
I’ve inherited the stubbornness from both sides! All my family are proud, strong people.”

You were great on Strictly – will you be tuning in to the new series?

JP: “Of course! It’s an incredible show. I can’t wait to see who Oti [Mabuse, Jonnie’s pro partner] knocks into shape this time.”

What advice would you give the new contenders?

JP: “You get wrapped up in it, so it becomes everything. But relax and appreciate the opportunity to see if you can shake your hips!”

Jonnie Peacock is on Who Do You Think You Are tonight at 9pm on BBC1.