Fearne Wood (born 3 September 1981), known professionally by her maiden name Cotton, she is an English television and radio presenter, best known for presenting a number of popular television programmes such as Top of the Pops and the Red Nose Day telethons.
In the BBC episode shown on the 24th Aug TV presenter Fearne Cotton traces her family history, paying particular attention to her great-grandfather on her dad’s side Evan Meredith. Evan had worked down a coal mine from the age of 13 before training as a chemist, but one part of his life he was unwilling to talk about were his experiences in the First World War. Fearne delves into this period and discovers how he risked his freedom and reputation to follow his conscience. Evan Meredith was imprisoned for being a conscientious objector during World War I, Evan was a “category B” conscientious objector – someone who most likely opposed the war on political rather than religious grounds.
He was arrested and taken to Beacon Barracks, before being sentenced to six months imprisonment in Wormwood Scrubs Prison in London. The 23-year-old once prisoned went on hunger strike - and four days later he was a free man, along with his fellow prisoners who’d refused to fight.
“He must have gone to hell and back but he got through it. He didn’t want to be there anymore so he led a hunger strike and it worked. He freed all the men. That was really brave and amazing. It could have ended up going really badly.”
When compulsory military service was introduced in 1916, 16,000 men refused, of the 800 Welsh objectors, five died in jail during the war.
Fearne later discovers her mother's side of the family and uncovers an ambitious ancestor who had a memorable encounter with Queen Victoria. Her four-times great-grandfather on her mother’s side William Gilmour who despite not having a medical degree he was variously a druggist, a GP became Medical Superintendent on the SS Great Britain going to and from the Crimea and once had lunch with Queen Victoria.
Fearne’s Who Do You Think You Are? Episode airs on BBC1 on Thursday, August 24th
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