Brian Cox delves into his family history

Brian browses the archives
Brian browses the archives

By Cara Sulieman

HOLLYWOOD star Brian Cox delved into his ‘born’ identity yesterday – only to discover a secret family tragedy.

The biggest shock was finding out that his great grandfather Patrick McCann had died in an asylum in 1911 after being admitted with his six year old son Samuel.

Shocked Brian, 63, in Edinburgh to trace his roots yesterday, said: “I didn’t know about my mother’s grandfather.

Lunatic asylum

“I didn’t know he died in a lunatic asylum.

“As far as we can tell, he just became demented – no work and a work injury seemed to contribute.

“And the most amazing thing was he entered this thing with his six year old son – going in to an asylum with a young boy.

“His wife had died and his oldest son, my grandfather, had disappeared and he had no one left.”

The star of Troy and the Bourne Identity thrillers said that connecting with the past was an emotional experience and really made him think about how lucky he was.


He said: “It’s quite overwhelming.

“I regard myself as very fortunate to have all this information and to be able to find out what my ancestors did and all their stories.

“It makes you kind of pause and think about their lives and what they went through. To be able to see all this is truly overwhelming.

“We are truly lucky today.”

Weaver’s son Cox was also able to delve into his past and discover his ties to the jute factories of Dundee, the home city he remains fiercely proud of.

Three-year-old Brian Cox
Three-year-old Brian Cox

The BAFTA winning actor visited an exhibition tracing his family’s roots at New Registers House yesterday with his eldest sister Elizabeth Gaffney and his son Alan.

Part of Homecoming 2009, the Famous Scots exhibition has already uncovered the past of stars like Billy Connolly and Shirley Manson.

And although the Cox family had already researched quite a bit of their ancestors, there were still some surprises in store for the 63-year-old actor.

Many of the actor’s aunts and uncles fought in the First World War and one of his uncles even went on to become a masseur for the French football team.

But despite these interesting connections, it is his Dundonian past that Brian is most proud of.

“Treated badly”

He said: “We are almost 100 per cent from Dundee. I am very proud of my Dundee roots

“Dundee is very, very powerful. It is a city that, a bit like its people, has been treated very badly.

“It is a city of discovery and, even more so, of survival. It constantly comes back up and the people of Dundee have an amazing resilience that this kind of story shows.

“I look at these wonderful pictures of Dundee and wonder what happened. I wish the city still looked like that.

“It was destroyed in the 1960s – these crooks were never dealt with in the way they should have been dealt with.”

“Excellent pictures”

And Brian’s eldest sister, Elizabeth Gaffney, was at the exhibition which she helped supply some pictures for.

She said: “It is nice to see where we come from. There are some excellent pictures that we have dug out of Brian when he was small and our older relatives.

“The things that they have managed to find out about our family are so interesting. They even have old wills from our aunts and uncles, and stories of people we didn’t even know existed.”

The Keeper of the Records, George MacKenzie, said that he was keen to encourage everyone with Scottish roots to dig into their history to see what they could find.


He said: “These exhibitions, which have previously featured Billy Connolly, Sir James Black and Shirley Manson, are proving popular, giving people a much more individual insight to our shared past and some of our biggest stars’ family stories.

“These stories are inspiring and fascinating and they are available to everyone for free.

“I encourage as many people as possible to see these impressive exhibitions at the Scotlands People Centre for themselves and, those unable to join us here in Edinburgh, to investigate their own family ancestry through the website.”