Long Lost Family
Devon and Cornwall
Davina McCall’s shows tend to run their course. Big Brother was a national obsession, until suddenly we all felt it had nothing new to give us.
Her stint as a judge on The Masked Singer is going well enough, but who remembers telly filler such as Got To Dance or This Time Next Year?
Long Lost Family (ITV), though, is different. In the past year, Davina told us as the show returned for its tenth season, more than 4,000 viewers wrote in, asking for help in finding relatives — children given up for adoption, siblings sent away, parents they never knew.
That’s far more than Davina and co-presenter Nicky Campbell can ever hope to cover. This series could outlast them both — in fact, it might run for ever.
Long Lost Family (ITV), though, is different. In the past year, Davina told us as the show returned for its tenth season, more than 4,000 viewers wrote in, asking for help in finding relatives. Pictured: Davina McCall and co-presenter Nicky Campbell from Long Lost Family
It surely will, if they can keep discovering cases that are as moving as the story of Irish couple Phyllis and Kevin, who ran away together as teenagers in the 1970s and had a baby in London.
They called him Sean, and for five happy weeks he was the centre of their world — until their landlady discovered his existence.
They were thrown out, made homeless for the sin of having an illegitimate child.
A Catholic children’s charity offered to take care of Sean until the couple found their feet… and promptly had him adopted. Phyllis and Kevin went to court to get their baby back, but the judge ruled against them: their baby had found a new home, he said, one better able to meet his needs.
Long Lost Family is an important show, not only for the work it does reuniting people, but for the light is shines on Britain in our recent past.
The change in attitudes towards unmarried parents is not the most obvious or dramatic of the social shifts in the past 50 years, but it might be the most significant for countless people.
Irish couple Phyllis (right) and Kevin (left), who ran away together as teenagers in the 1970s and had a baby in London who was later adopted, were reunited with their son Ruben (centre)
No one watches for the sociology lessons, of course. We love the programme for its emotion, and there was lashings of that as Sean — brought up in Spain and now called Ruben — met his birth parents for the first time.
‘I hope he lives in the mountains,’ said Kevin, and he got his wish: Ruben is a member of an elite mountain rescue team.
The second story was sadder but equally satisfying, as 64-year-old Michael from Teesside finally found out the truth behind the family legend, that he was left with a babysitter by his birth mum, who never came back for him.
That sounds like a tale dreamed up by Roald Dahl. In fact, his young mother’s family forced her to give him up, because the father was a married man.
How strange, the stories that were invented to get around the taboo of illegitimate births.
The stories in Devon And Cornwall (C4) are bland by comparison, but it’s worth watching just to see the glorious coastline and picturesque villages.
Schedulers are well aware of our need for glimpses of holiday havens, which is why BBC2 is airing two series also set in England’s western tip — the culture-and-cookery show Rick Stein’s Cornwall, and the more rugged Cornwall: This Fishing Life.
C4 spent the day at the seaside, watching the rowers train for a gig race off Newquay. Gigs are narrow rowing boats, ideal for rough seas and traditionally used for taking pilots to ships, rescues, smuggling and plundering wrecks. They needed to be fast, to get to the booty first.
It all made for some fabulous aerial shots. And when the hard work was over, it was time for some ‘proper job Cornish belly-timber’ — that’s hot pasties, for the rest of us.