Neil Kinnock's 'a thousand generations' past revealed

Born and bred in the south Wales valleys, former Labour leader Neil Kinnock is proud of his humble beginnings.

He once famously declared he was the first in his family for "a thousand generations" to attend university.

But he has now learned that a great-uncle had something of privileged start in life by going to an exclusive public school school in Surrey.

He was taking part in BBC Wales family history programme Coming Home.

The programme, to be shown on BBC One Wales on Wednesday, goes to the heart of his political and family life - from his working class roots to the House of Lords.

Neil Kinnock was born in 1942 in the coal mining town of Tredegar and later gained a degree in industrial relations and history at Cardiff, where he met his wife, Glenys, a future MEP. He also gained a postgraduate diploma in education.

During the programme, he makes an emotional journey to trace his ancestry.

Following the death of his great-grandfather, Gordon Kinnock, in 1892, his widow Emily was left to raise 10 children.

Among them were Archie, Lord Kinnock's grandfather; Harold and Wilfred.

Harold was sent away to an exclusive public school - King Edward School in Surrey, and he later enjoyed a successful career as a civil servant.


Lord Kinnock made his often quoted remarks about his background at a Welsh Labour party conference just before the 1987 election, saying it was not the lack of talent or strength which held people back, but opportunity.

Image caption Neil Kinnock was leader of the Labour party between 1983 and 1992

In his speech, the then Labour leader asked the question: "Why am I the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to be able to get to university? Why is Glenys the first woman in her family in a thousand generations to be able to get to university?"

In the programme, Lord Kinnock defends his political statement, in light of the discovery, and said: "Going to this school doesn't naturally convey the fact he had a good education."

Lord Kinnock also finds out the reason his grandfather first moved to the south Wales valleys might not have been to escape a dominant father after all.

Revealing why he took part in the programme, Lord Kinnock said: "Even when your life has been churned over in biographies, you still retain a sense of curiosity about bits that were missing."

Later in the series, actors Trevor Eve, Alison Steadman and Charles Dale travel back to Wales, finding out about their hidden past.

Coming Home: Neil Kinnock is on BBC One Wales on Wednesday, November 30 at 20:30 GMT

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