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David Tennant on ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’

Who Do You Think You Are? is a BBC series where they trace the family history of celebrities. There was a particularly good episode tonight with David Tennant (Doctor Who, among other acting credits). Good both because he’s an articulate, personable man and because they had some good material to work with; one branch of the family were cotters on Mull who were forced to move to Glasgow by the Clearances, and another branch were deeply involved with Protestant sectarianism in Ulster.

Two points spring to mind. One is that the appeal of the program is very much what I was saying about biography: sometimes history seems more vivid when you narrow the focus. You don’t really learn anything new about the Clearances by seeing David Tennant on the site of the town where his ancestors lived and where now there are only some stone walls standing amid the bracken, but it does help you understand the individual human cost.

The other point is that every time I see film of the west coast and islands of Scotland, it looks unutterably beautiful. If there’s a more photogenic place on earth, I don’t know where it is. I really should get up there some time, to see the phalaropes and corncrakes and sea eagles as well as the scenery.

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