What happened to Joe Lycett's great grandfather Robert Wilkinson?

IN tonight's episode, we see Comedian Joe Lycett come face to face with his family's history.

In a shocking discovery, Joe is left “moved” with his findings –  here’s what he finds out.

Who is Robert Wilkinson? 

Joe made the shocking discovery that his great, great grandfather Robert Wilkinson was a member of the fraternal Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes (RAOB) organisation.

The group, known as the 'Buffs' was established in 1822 and was created as an imitation of freemasonry.

Robert was a chimney sweeper in Nottingham.

He was employed illegally, and Joe hears how young sweeps had to harden their elbows and knees using brine and how they would be left streaming with blood.

Speaking on the show, Joe says: "It's awful, I feel very cross about it on Robert's behalf."

What happened to Robert Wilkinson? 

Robert joined the Royal Marines after being a chimney sweeper.

He had involvement in razing villages in China following the Opium Wars.

Joe is shocked to discover how torturous they were, as he says: "Wow. They've really obliterated them. There's a lot of killing here, it's a massacre.

"It's scary."

Robert packed up and travelled the world after he left the Marines which led to alcoholism and a breakdown.

What has Joe Lycett said about Robert Wilkinson?

Joe told the British Comedy Guide about the mental health struggles he discovered in Wilkinson's past and the problems that arose from his time in the Royal Marines.

"Mental illness is woefully catered for in 2021 – it was much worse back in Robert's time." he explains.

"Interestingly, because of the nature of information when he was alive, I expect most of his family never knew about his struggles with mental illness and the crimes he committed, so it felt strange to think that I knew more about him potentially than his own children and wife."

Joe also discovers that Wilkinson could have been in a same-sex relationship. Although, due to it being unclear, it could have simply been a very close friend who was documented in his history.

Lycett said: "Queer stories from the past are pretty difficult to find as they were rarely documented. Robert's could just have been an intense friendship with a man, or something more."

A Spokesman for the RadioTimes described Joe's reaction, saying that: “At first, the comedian came across fairly flippant about his ancestors, but as the investigation uncovered more detail, Joe became more absorbed in the stories about Robert’s life and made such a real connection to him.

“This was all until he suddenly comes to the realisation that Robert is long gone and how the story of his two-times great grandad ends.”

Series 18 of Who Do You Think You Are? continues with Joe Lycett tonight (Tuesday, November 2) on BBC One at 9pm.

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