Who Do You Think You Are

Researcher Dr Eileen Clark recently worked on an episode of the television program Who Do You Think You Are (Australia) shown on the SBS channel on Tuesday 18 June 2024 and now on SBS On Demand https://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/. The show features comedic actor and writer Stephen Curry, well known for his role in The Castle and for playing Graham Kennedy in The King, among many others.

In the program, Eileen sat down with Stephen in one of the wards of the former Mayday Hills Psychiatric Hospital in Beechworth to share her research into his great-great-great-grandfather John Flower. He was an English immigrant who sought his fortune on the Indigo goldfields, later moving to Melbourne and being committed to the Yarra Bend Asylum in 1864, before being transferred to the Beechworth Asylum in 1869.

Eileen used John Flower’s medical record to explain his condition to Stephen, pointing out that there were few, if any, treatments for mental illness in those days. John Flower remained in Beechworth Asylum until his death in 1877 at the age of 41. In the touching final scene of the program, Stephen finds John Flower’s unmarked grave in the Beechworth Cemetery.

Eileen said that her involvement in the program was a great thrill:

‘I’ve been an avid viewer of every episode, and it was really interesting to see how the show was produced. One feature is the secrecy surrounding who each program is about. After doing the research into John Flower, it wasn’t until a few days before filming that I found out I would be working with Stephen.’

‘I wasn’t nervous appearing in front of the cameras. Stephen, the producers and crew made everything very easy and once we started talking about the first document I became so absorbed in the story, I forgot about the cameras.’

Eileen believes it is important that stories like that of John Flower are told so as to lift the veil of silence around mental illness:

‘An important aim of our research has been to make our findings available in many ways, to show that mental illness can happen to anyone at any time. We must remove the stigma surrounding it, so people are comfortable seeking help.’

Dr Eileen Clark, Adjunct Research Fellow at Charles Sturt University.
See Eileen’s full bio here

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