Saturday 18 November 2017

Will & Grace star Sean Patrick Hayes searches for Irish roots

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20: Actor Sean Hayes attends the Barlow Respiratory Hospital;s 4th Annual Bernie Brillstein Golf Classic Awards Dinner at the Wilshire Country Club on October 20, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20: Actor Sean Hayes attends the Barlow Respiratory Hospital;s 4th Annual Bernie Brillstein Golf Classic Awards Dinner at the Wilshire Country Club on October 20, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

He is better known here as Jack McFarland in the popular NBC sitcom ‘Will & Grace’ but actor Sean Patrick Hayes is a Kerryman and wants to come home.

The Emmy Award-winning actor and a film crew were in Ballylongford, Co Kerry last week filming for the series ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ which takes a well known celebrity on a journey through their genealogical history, finding out where their family came from.

The latest series, which  airs in the US in March, will also feature Angie Harmon of Law & Order fame, actor and director Bill Paxton and CBS News anchor Julie Chen.

Previously, the show featured Martin Sheen and his Tipperary family roots.

The cast of Will & Grace
The cast of Will & Grace

Publican Michael Finucane, of Finucane’s Bar in Ballylongford, also known as O’Rahilly’s, even found out he was related to Hayes (44), as his grand-aunt married Hayes’s grand-uncle in America.

Mr Finucane owns the pub where Hayes’s great-grandfather John Hayes bought his passage to America in 1864, as O’Rahilly’s was the emigration agent in Ballylongford at the time.

“We first heard about it on the October bank holiday weekend when some of the crew and researchers came over, but we were sworn to secrecy,” Mr Finucane told the Herald.

“I met Sean then when they came back in the first week of December. He was a lovely fellow and fierce interested in Ballylongford.

“He was fascinated by all the ‘for sale’ signs that were up on houses and said he’d love to come back here again.

“He’s very busy at the moment but he said he was definitely going to come back on a holiday,” he added.

Mr Finucane said his famous American relative also showed a lot of interest in what it was like growing up in Ballylongford and had numerous questions both for him and his son, Micheal.

The visit of the film crew coincided with the North Kerry Harriers’ Hunt, a tradition going back to the landlords that was revived 15 years ago.

“By accident this was on that day and they were fascinated by it altogether and filmed it as well,” Mr Finucane added.

Researchers began their search for the Hayes family in the county library and then the parish records of Ballylongford but they also relied on the expertise of local historians Padraig Lynch and Donal O’Connor, from Tarbert, and Padraig O’Connor, from Ballylongford.

“The Hayes’s were boatmen and fishermen from Saleen, and John Hayes would have sailed to America in one of the boats that were anchored off Scattery Island leaving from Saleen Pier,” Mr Finucane said.

He said he and his family enjoyed meeting their new relative but, unfortunately, some new family snaps were out of the question as secrecy around the filming was so tight.

They even had to wait from the October bank holiday weekend until the first week of December until the identity of the celebrity was revealed.

hnews@herald.ie

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