Graham Norton Family History
Graham William Walker, better known as the UK talk show host Graham Norton, was born on April 4th, 1963 to Billy and Rhoda Walker at Clondalkin in county Dublin. He grew up in a Protestant family in the town of Bandon in county Cork, which he said made him feel somewhat isolated.
For Graham at that time, there was no obvious signpost to success. So he set off to see some of the world, visitng San Francisco, Paris, and London. In London he attended drama school. He then spent eight years as an unemployed actor. These were long, difficult years working as a barman and a waiter.
Upon joining the actors’ union Equity, he chose Norton (his great-grandmother’s maiden name) as his new surname as there was already an actor called Graham Walker represented by the union.
Then, one evening in 1997 at the Edinburgh Festival, someone saw him and suddenly he was guesting on television. His own show, a chat show on Channel 4, rapidly followed. After a switch to BBC in 2005, his chat show The Graham Norton Show has been a staple for the network from 2007 until today.
While London has been his home for most of his working life, Graham has felt more Irish as the years have gone by. He can understand Irishness in a way he cannot Englishness, and this is reflected in the novels he has started writing. They always have an Irish context, often in county Cork where he grew up.
Graham’s roots are Irish, but Protestant in Ireland. His paternal forefathers were originally English, tenant farmers on the Fitzwilliam Wentworth estate in south Yorkshire. John Walker, born in Greasbrough in 1691, crossed the Irish Sea with his wife and two children around 1713 to tenant farm for them in Carnew, county Wicklow. And they remained tenant farmers for the Fitzwilliams for many generations.
Thomas Walker, born in 1773, lived through the bloody 1798 rebellion when the Society of United Irishmen rose up against English rule. It was recorded that John Walker, a relative, was shot and piked by the rebels. But Carnew, a Protestant stronghold, resisted the Catholic onslaught and in fact was the scene for the massacre of 41 Catholic prisoners held there.
The Walkers were a notable family in Protestant Carnew. Thomas’s son Joseph was a chuchwarden there, a position with civic responsibilities at the time. And Joseph’s grandson George was the town sexton or grave-digger, also a position of responsibilty.
George’s son and Graham’s father Billy left Carnew for Dublin where he worked as a sales representative for Guinness. In 1970 he moved his family to the mainly Protestant town of Bandon in county Cork.
Graham’s paternal line may have come from Wicklow. But his maternal line, according to the BBC program Who Do You Think You Are, originated further north in county Antrim.
In Ahoghill, a village five miles outside of Ballymena, Margaret Logan – Graham’s grandmother – was recorded as having at least four children and no father listed for any of them. However, in one case the name Fred Dooey was scratched out of the records, suggesting that he was perhaps the father.
Going back a generation, Margaret’s mother Mary did get married, but she was, it turned out, eight months pregnant when she went down the aisle in Ballymena.
Graham Walker’s Family Tree
- Thomas Walker (b. 1773) from Wicklow m. White
- – Joseph Walker (1805-1857), churchwarden at Carnew
- Joseph Walker from Wicklow m. Jane Condell (1813-1899) in 1837
- – Joseph Walker (b. 1840)
- – William Walker (1842-1911)
- – Jane Walker (b. 1844)
- William Walker from Wicklow
- – George Walker, sexton in Carnew
- George Walker from Wicklow
- – William (Billy) Walker (died in 2000)
- – May Walker
- William (Billy) Walker m. Rhoda Logan from Antrim (b. 1938)
- – Paula Walker (b. 1959) m. Noel Giles, divorced
- – Graham Walker/Graham Norton (b. 1963)
- Graham Norton m. partner Jonathan McCleod in Cork in 2022
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