MIRFIELD actor Sir Patrick Stewart took an emotional journey ending in a local pub when he took part in BBC family history programme Who Do You Think You Are?
Wednesday’s broadcast concluded with the actor sharing discoveries he had made about his father, Alfred, with younger brother, Trevor, as they sat in the now-closed Yorkshire Puddin’ in Dunbottle Lane, just yards from their former family home on Camm Lane.
Sir Patrick had set out to fill in some of the gaps in his father’s military record – and along the way discovered the likely reason for Alfred’s ill-treatment of his wife and sons when he returned from war service.
The key to this revelation was a 1945 cutting from the Mirfield Reporter – for which Sir Patrick subsequently worked – covering the homecoming of local servicemen.
It recounted some of Alfred Stewart’s experiences during the evacuation from France in 1940 and stated: “This gave him shell shock from which he still suffers”.
Sir Patrick said: “We experienced an angry man, where he hadn’t been angry before, and this could explain why.”
Corporal Alfred Stewart was serving with the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in 1940 when he was caught up in the destruction of the town of Abbeville in Northern France, which was crowded with refugees. On reading accounts of the regiment’s experiences, Sir Patrick said: “It was a nightmare, bloody chaos. It both fascinated and horrified me.”
He was then shown speaking to an expert on post-traumatic stress, who told him that servicemen are often more profoundly affected by witnessing ill-treatment of civilians than by their own combat experiences.
Sir Patrick described how he and his brothers were ‘indulged, spoiled, petted and loved’ by their mother Gladys while their father was away on service, but that their lives changed – “and not for the better” – when Alfred returned.
His father’s violence toward his wife resulted in the police and ambulances being called to Camm Lane more than once.
However, while stating his discoveries have not changed his attitude to domestic violence, Sir Patrick’s view of his father was transformed.
“I found myself warming to this man, Alfred Stewart … I now have a history for him richer than the history I’d had before,” he said.
“We all adored my mother and I suspect she knew these things about my father we have only just discovered.”