Richard Osman's 'Who Do You Think You Are?' moves viewers with tale of poverty

Richard Osman on Brighton Beach for Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC)
Richard Osman on Brighton Beach for Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC)

Richard Osman has been praised by viewers for a moving episode of Who Do You Think You Are? where he spoke about struggles to get out of poverty and his luck at having things easier than his ancestors.

The crime author and TV presenter featured in Thursday's episode of the BBC One genealogy show where he discovered that one ancestor, Gabriel Gillam, had spent much of his life in Brighton trying to work his way out of poverty but had still ended up spending his final years in a workhouse.

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At the end of the show, he talked about looking out at the same stretch of sea in Brighton as his ancestors and said: "For everyone who went before me, who's given me an opportunity, there's a lot of luck in life, there's a lot of luck in where you're born, and I was born on a rising tide because of the people we've seen.

"It's a testament to them, I'll carry love in my heart, I'll see the sea in a different way from here on in, and I'm so proud to be able to tell the story that we've told."

Later, Osman tweeted: "Thank you for all your lovely comments about 'Who Do You Think You Are?' It was a very moving experience. And remember we still blame people for their own poverty today."

One viewer tweeted: "Richard Osman’s summing up at the end was one of the most insightful and touching pieces I’ve seen on this. His clear-sightedness of being lucky enough to have “born on a rising tide” is something more could do to take on board."

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Someone else agreed: "Poor Gabriel, working so hard for so long to end up where he did. Absolutely right to talk about luck and how elusive it is for many through no fault of their own. Sadly, seems some things never change."

Richard Osman discovered tales of his ancestors' poverty. (BBC)
Richard Osman discovered tales of his ancestors' poverty. (BBC)

He also discovered that Gabriel had engaged in some amateur detective work during a murder court case that drew similarities with Osman's books about care home sleuths.

Viewers said they were pleased the show had chosen to focus on his ordinary relatives' lives rather than looking for stories of fame or fortune.

One person commented: "Your affection for your ancestors was really genuine. These stories don’t need to be ‘fancy’ to have great meaning. The circumstances we’re born into and our mere existence, are as you say at the flip of a coin. But your warmth as a person is a lovely thing to feel through the TV."

Richard Osman attending the Action for Children's The Ultimate News Quiz 2022, at the Grand Connaught Rooms, central London. Picture date: Thursday March 17, 2022. (Photo by James Manning/PA Images via Getty Images)
The crime author found out his ancestor was an amateur detective. (PA Images via Getty Images)

Someone else tweeted: "Genuinely moving #WDYTYA episode from @richardosman - lovely stories of real people’s lives."

Another person added: "Very moving and very depressing to realise that we have hardly progressed with our attitudes towards the poor."

Osman was a hit with viewers, as one person tweeted: "I am beginning to suspect that @richardosman is fast becoming a national treasure."

Someone else tweeted to The Thursday Murder Club author: "Loved your WDYTYA @richardosman. Looking forward to your 1830s-based detective novel."

Watch: Josh Widdicombe learns he is a descendent of King Edward I on Who Do You Think You Are?