Enjoyed the last few relaxing (but probably wet) days off work? You have Sir Ian McKellen’s great-great-grandfather to thank. Well, in part, anyway. That’s because the little-known ancestor of the Oscar-nominated actor helped to invent the weekend as we know it.
To be revealed in next week’s Who Do You Think You Are, the man under Gandalf’s wizard’s hat is related to Robert Lowes, a Manchester-based warehouse clerk who campaigned for local business owners to allow their workers to take a half-day on Saturdays.
According to the Telegraph, documents from 1843 show how Lowes won his fight for workers’ rights, which allowed staff to leave at 1pm on Saturdays – before that a working day was 14 hours, six days a week. One expert on the show said: “He can be viewed as the grandfather of the modern weekend.”
After unearthing the discovery, McKellen said, “I’m very, very impressed with what Robert did. The world changes because somebody has an argument with somebody, a discussion and then an agreement. One initiative like this doesn’t change the world, but it certainly helps.”
And despite not finding a royal relative like William the Conqueror descendent Danny Dyer, McKellen’s climb through his family tree uncovers fellow (albeit, less successful) actors, plus an engraver who helped entice people to the Lake District with his fine books – both completely unknown to the Lord of The Rings star.
Who Do You Think You Are? is on 8pm Wednesday on BBC1