Interesting story from the Telegraph on Paul Merton's family history
Nick Barratt's investigation into our hidden histories. This week: Paul Merton
Renowned for his off-the-wall sense of humour on the BBC1 political comedy series Have I Got News For You, Paul Merton is one of Britain's most popular entertainers. This is the story of his family's background.
WHO IS HE RELATED TO?
Paul was born Paul James Martin in Parsons Green, south-west London, in 1957 — on joining Equity he found that Paul Martin was already taken, so he took the name of the London borough where he grew up.
His Irish Catholic mother, Mary Ann Power, returned to work as a nurse after the birth of his younger sister, while his father, Albert Martin, worked as a guard for London Underground. Rather implausibly, Albert's father — also called Albert — is listed as a museum attendant on his son's marriage certificate in 1956, but he appears to have had a number of different jobs during his life, including working as a theatre clerk.
Perhaps his enthusiasm for the stage passed through the genes to Paul.
There certainly seems to be an element of drama surrounding Albert senior's mother, Alice — as well as the parentage of Albert himself. She was born in 1867 as Alice Sawyer, the daughter of a labourer living in Flood Street, Chelsea. She married a postman in 1883 called William Hartley.
The son of a police officer, he claimed to be a year older than her, but he was only 17, while she added two years to her age by stating she was 18. Sadly though, this story of young love had a tragic outcome.
They were together barely two years when William died of a ''chronic inflammation of the brain".
Within seven months of her husband's death, Alice had married George John Martin, who also lived in Flood Street. George was older than Alice — at the time of their wedding at Christ Church, Chelsea, he claimed to be 30 when he was closer to 40.
The couple can be found in the 1891 census with the first three of their six children, Alice, Elizabeth and George. Yet by 1901, Alice claimed to be a widow once more, which suggests that George had died – were it not for several pieces of evidence.
First, Albert Martin was born in 1903 with Alice claiming to be the mother — no father's name is listed. But, in 1901 another family lived with Alice Martin and her six children — her ''cousin" Alexander Lawrence, a 40-year-old widower, and his four children.
It is highly likely that Alexander was the natural father of Albert, a theory strengthened by the fact that Alice and Alexander married in December 1918. The timing of the wedding is of interest, as it comes one year after the death of a George Martin in Chelsea aged 69 — the age he would have been if he had not ''died" prior to 1901.
A search of the national death indexes shows no entry for a George Martin before the date that Alice claimed to be a widow. The most likely conclusion is that the couple separated, and Alice and Alexander married after George's death.
As Paul Merton has admitted in interviews, he was somewhat victimised for being working class while studying at Wimbledon College.
There appears to be little in the family background to contradict the assessment of ''doors to manual".