Shirley to open Homecoming exhibition

FROM Comely Bank to California, it has been a long road for Shirley Manson.
But the Garbage lead singer and star of TV Terminator spin-off The Sarah Connor Chronicles will have a real homecoming today when she opens an exhibition exploring her family history.
Shirley, 42, is returning to the Capital from her Los Angeles home as part of the Homecoming 2009 celebrations.
She is the latest star to take part in the Famous Scots exhibition at the ScotlandsPeople family history centre, after Billy Connolly and scientist Sir James Black.
The star said: “I’m honoured to be included in the Famous Scots exhibition. It’s great to be part of an event to celebrate my Scottish roots, of which I’m very proud. I’m looking forward to seeing what the experts in ScotlandsPeople find out about my ancestry for this exhibition.”
Among the stories uncovered is that of her biological grandmother, Minnie MacKay, who fell pregnant while unmarried in 1935.
Working as a governess for a rich family in Sutherland she probably feared for her job, so put her daughter – Shirley’s mother Muriel – up for adoption. She later wed Muriel’s father, Hugh Ross, but they had no more children.
Muriel, who died in November, spent the first four years of her life in foster homes before being adopted by Ronald and Florence MacDonald.
The exhibition also explores the tough, dangerous lives of the Shetland fishermen from whom Shirley’s father John is descended. At least five generations of his family lived in the remote fishing settlement of Hillswick. Her great-grandfather William S Manson, who was born in 1867, ran a general shop in the village, and his son, William Jr – Shirley’s grandfather – was the first in the line to move away from Shetland.
He went on to serve with the Royal Flying Corps – later the RAF – in the First World War. He didn’t return to Shetland, becoming a travelling salesman.
On his travels he met and married Shirley’s grandmother, Margaret Allan Mitchell, who taught maths at Boroughmuir School. Her initials led pupils to refer to her as Ma Manson. Their son, John, is Shirley’s father.
John, 71, said he looked forward to the show, but added: “This comes at a difficult time as Shirley lost her mother just before Christmas, but it’s nice to think that she can trace her family roots back.
“I will be going along to the opening, which I think will be both a great celebration of family roots, but tinged with a bit of sadness.”
Shirley herself enjoyed a musical childhood in the Capital, learning recorder, fiddle and clarinet at Flora Stevenson Primary School, and studying at City of Edinburgh Music School.
Another three celebrities, yet to be named, will feature in future exhibitions.
Curator Tristram Clarke said: “We’re trying to really inspire people to start doing their own family tree and showing them some services that perhaps they don’t already know about.”
The centre has more than half a million registers recording the lives of Scots, stretching back over 400 years. Records are digitised and available on a computer screen at every desk, while those not able to get to the centre can research online at www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk
The exhibition is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 4.30pm until 17 July. There will also be some evening openings – see www.scotlandspeoplehub.gov.uk for details.