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David Wenham searches for clues to his father’s past

Monday, August 24, 2015

'My ten year old daughter…came to me and said ‘oh, dad, we’ve got a school project, um, you – you’ll have to help me with the family tree’, and I said ‘well, darling I’d love to but it’s going to be a very small tree, in fact, it’s going to be a shrub.’ - David Wenham

Actor David Wenham rose to fame as ‘Diver Dan’ in the long-running TV series SeaChange. He has inhabited countless characters in a 30-year career spanning theatre, TV and film but the characters in David’s own bloodline remain largely unknown to him.

David may be a household name in Australia but Wenham is a surname that he is not biologically linked to. 

David was very close to his father, Bill Wenham yet he knows remarkably little about his background. In the new series of Who Do You Think You Are? David delves into the mystery behind his father’s fostered childhood and uncovers tales of horror and valour in the trenches of Gallipoli and the Somme, the double life of a homecoming hero, and a mother’s desperate struggle to remain connected to her son.

David knows that about 15 years prior to his father dying he tried to research his own background but believes he learned very little. David’s first port of call is to visit two of his sisters, Kathryn and Anne, to see what they know about Bill Wenham’s late life search for clues to his past.

From his sisters, David learns the names of his birth grandparents Stanley Rupert Bateup and Lillian Violet Kidney,and that his dad Bill, at birth, bore the name of his biological father – Stanley. They also show him a photograph of a couple with a baby and although they presume it’s Bill with his parents, nobody knows for sure. David’s sisters came across one more item from Bill Wenham’s personal archive – a letter written when he was eight years old to his birth grandfather, but which grandfather it is, is unclear.  Why did this letter remain so precious to David’s father, and who is the couple holding the baby? Each new clue seems to throw up more questions for David.

David never understood why family history wasn’t discussed by his father, but he finishes his WDYTYA journey with a new appreciation of secrets and an understanding of why sometimes things are left unsaid.
Season seven of Who Do You Think You Are?stars Geoffrey Rush, Toni Collette, Luke Nguyen, Dawn Fraser, Ray Martin, GreigPickhaver (HG Nelson) and Peter Rowsthorn.Who Do You Think You Are?is produced by Artemis International and Serendipity Productions for SBS. 

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For more information, contact Jessica Parry (02) 9430 3786 || 0428 767 836