Chris Hollins Interview

Find My Past presenter Chris Hollins talks about fascinating stories and his own family traits.

Chris Hollins

You're more widely known for news and sport - and dancing! - so what was it about Find My Past that attracted you?

I've always been fascinated by social history, always wanted to know why we are the way we are and always, as a journalist, been interested in individual stories.

Find My Past really does provide that perfect blend. Not only are you re-telling key moments in British history, remarkable moments in British history, unusual moments in British history, but you’re telling them through individual stories and through people that actually took part.

Some stories, as in history, differ and people have different opinions on how and why things are and this programme sums that all up.

Throughout the series, what did you find to be the most interesting story that was uncovered?

There are a number of different answers to that. When you think about the First World War and the Second World War you probably think, through history books and experiences and chats with your grandparents, that you pretty much know everything.

But there were amazing courageous efforts by pretty ordinary people during the Second World War – I'm thinking D-Day, Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain – and something always surprises you, it really does.

And then part of the First World War, there's a remarkable story about being shot at dawn and how little we knew about mechanised war and how little we knew about shell shock - all this still amazes me. We were on the edge of defeat so many times and yet remarkable feats by individuals, pretty ordinary people, saved the day.

Then there were stories that I didn't really know anything about, like the royal scandal involving the Prince of Wales [in the late nineteenth century] which I found fascinating.

Out of all the events you looked into which was your favourite and why?

There wasn't one in particular but the suffragette story really interested me because I didn't really know that much about it. Like most people at home, I would think 'Emily Davison, she was hit by the horse on Derby Day' but when you actually break it down and find out more about the story you think, was it an accident? Did she mean to do it on purpose? What happened to the jockey? Did it change his life?

Also, the fact that we tracked down the great, great granddaughter of the home secretary [at the time]. When you speak to her, she says she would have been a suffragette, campaigning for political freedom and yet she still obviously understands the difficult position the home secretary was in, having to imprison women who were protesting and having to force feed them at times - it was a really brilliant story.

People seem to have become much more interested in genealogy over the past few years. Why do you think this is?

Yes, it's very fashionable isn't it? Who Do You Think You Are? kicked it all off. Everybody has suddenly become fascinated with where we've come from and how we've got there, who were our great, great, great grandparents and what were they doing.

I think I'm one of them - I always want to know how we got here. Sometimes you have pretty ordinary stories, but in our programme every single one of them has a fascinating story.

Have you researched your own family history?

No, I've got as far as one of my great grandparents but that's about it. I'd like to do more. If I have some time I will. And if I can get the help of various people like findmypast.co.uk, then hopefully it will help make it a lot easier.

Often, family and relations share similar characteristics. Are there any Hollins family traits and do you share them?

Now that has been a real characterisation of our programme in that we have found people who not only defend their relatives and their roles, even if they were controversial in history (they always want to see the good in them), but parts of them are reflected in their relatives as well. We had a couple of soldiers and you can see in their sons and daughters signs of leadership and courage - it's been really fascinating.

A Hollins family trait? Well, 'never give up', 'keep fighting' – a 'never say die' attitude. 'Always be positive' is a Hollins trait. If you're thinking about the men, then you're suddenly starting to say that we can be a bit lazy!