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Football joy and heartbreak for actor Ralf Little as Chirk family tales revealed

A top TV actor went from elation to heartbreak in a family history show that focused on his familial roots in Chirk.

Ralf Little at Chirk FC. Photo: BBC/Wall To Wall Media Ltd/Stephen Perry
Ralf Little at Chirk FC. Photo: BBC/Wall To Wall Media Ltd/Stephen Perry

Death in Paradise star Ralf Little's great-grandfather Albert Lockley played and scored a goal in Chirk's winning Wales and Border Challenge Cup Final in 1894.

"Yes, that has absolutely made my day," said the 42-year-old Bury-born actor on the latest episode of Who Do You Think You Are?.

"It's so funny, this is more than 100 years ago and I'm genuinely delighted to read about my great granddad winning this cup."

A newspaper clipping of the Chirk v Westminster Rovers cup final. Photo: BBC

Mr Little is known also for playing Antony in the TV comedy The Royle Family.

He plays a good level of football himself and wondered if there was evidence of any of his relatives playing at a decent level. There was a family rumour that he has a Welsh international footballer on his family tree.

He discovered that miner Albert, then aged 20, was the centre forward for Chirk in their cup final clash with Westminster Rovers in the clash on March 25, 1894. He also played for Wales, it was revealed.

The cup final itself was described as a glorious sunny day with 3,000 people in attendance. Chirk won the toss but it was 0-0 at half time with honours even.

But barely into the second half Albert latched on to a pass from a teammate and scored.

Mr Little, sitting in the stand at Chirk to relive the moment, cheered.

Ralf Little in the stand at Chirk. Photo: BBC

And a newspaper report of the match reported that Chirk won the cup 2-0 and that Rovers seemed a beaten team.

Mr Little also headed to the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland to investigate his grandfather Arthur’s experiences during the Second World War. He was astonished to discover that Arthur was caught up in one of the most important battles of the conflict.

His maternal grandfather Arthur Bailey was on HMS Indefatigable when it became the first British ship to be hit by a kamikaze pilot in 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa.

But Mr Little's joy turned to despair when he learned that his great-grandfather’s devotion to the beautiful game was severely tested by a wave of religious fervour that swept through Wales in the early 1900s. He gave up the game in 1904 amid a religious revival throughout Wales.

He said: "So he gave up playing football for religion? I can't begin to tell you, as an atheist, how upsetting that is to me." He admitted to being 'heartbroken'.

Finally, on returning to his hometown of Manchester, Ralf was delighted to learn that another ancestor played a key role in the development of the great industrial city.

The episode will be on iPlayer after being broadcast on BBC One at 9pm on Thursday.

Watch the programme at bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0018ss9.

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