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Edinburgh Live
Edinburgh Live
Ashleigh Rainbird & Jacob Farr

Sir David Jason surprised to discover he has 52-year-old daughter after DNA test

Only Fools and Horses star Sir David Jason has made a surprising discovery that he has a 52-year-old daughter that he was unaware of for his whole life.

The much loved TV actor also revealed that he has a 10-year-old grandson and that he has welcomed both his new daughter and grandson into his family.

Sir David said that he was keen to build a relationship with the pair after decades apart, he said: “To say it was a surprise is an understatement.” He is understood to be overjoyed by the news that he is a dad to Abi Harris and grandad to her son, Charlie.

READ MORE: Scottish grandad sentenced at Edinburgh court after sexually assaulting 11-year-old

At first, the information came as a shock to his wife Lady Gill White, 62, 22-year-old daughter Sophie, and himself, but once the dust settled they decided to welcome them into their family with open arms. The 83-year-old entertainment icon says that he is committed to make up for lost time by creating a bond with Abi - who was born in 1970 after her actor mum Jennifer Hill had a short relationship with Sir David, the Mirror reports.

Abi had an inkling that he could have been her biological father after learning of the relationship with mum Jennifer and noticing she had a similar shaped nose. Sir David said: “To say it was a surprise to find out I had a daughter from years ago is an understatement.

“However, on settling with the news, I am delighted that I am now able to get to know Abi and so we meet up when we can.

“My wife, Gill, and daughter, Sophie, have been very supportive and understanding and have embraced Abi and welcomed her and her young son into her now wider family.”

Abi, who is also an actor, and her son Charlie, spent some time over Christmas with Sir David at his home in Ellesborough, Bucks. They were said to have played board games together and his grandson was gifted a John Lewis Build Your Own Electronics Set as a Christmas present by him.

Whilst visiting, his grandson is invited into Dir David’s workshop where the pair work together to repair items. The young lad has also been introduced to the world of model rockets.

Charlie is also understood to have partaken in collecting eggs with the former Del Boy actor. A source close to the family said: “David’s very sanguine and accepting.

“It seems like an impossible task for everyone, you can’t make up for lost time. That’s just a regret everyone has to carry.

“But what they can do is make the most of their relationships moving forward, and that’s exciting.

“It’s early days, but they are meeting up when they can during holidays.

“They want to become closer until things feel even more open and relaxed. And now there are two new sisters who want to get to know each other, too.”

Friends revealed Abi, who lives in Brighton, has now developed a stronger sense of identity, after spending years wondering about her roots.

The source added: “She finally has a sense of who she is, and where she has got her genes from. It’s been a difficult process, but one everyone has handled with kindness and compassion, and it seems like - everything is now settling into place.”

Sir David and Jennifer’s relationship began at the start of 1970, when he was 30. They both starred in Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood at London’s May Fair theatre. A year later he appeared in a film version of the classic.

The pair stayed in touch through a shared circle of friends. Abi was born in October that year. She and Sir David have crossed paths several times through mutual friends but he had no idea they were related.

Jennifer Hill in Octopussy. (The Mirror.)

Jennifer was married to screen star Geoffrey Davion, who appeared in Miss Marple and The Stars Look Down, and Abi believed he was her father until his death in 1996.

Jennifer, who has appeared in Doctor Who and Bond movie, Octopussy, and Sir David were reunited in 2008 for a reprisal of Under Milk Wood, featuring many of the same cast from the 1970 production.

But in a remarkable turn of events, it also starred Abi alongside her mum. It would be another five years before Abi started to suspect Sir David could be her real father, after conversations with Jennifer.

The source said: “Things just didn’t seem to add up.”

Abi and Sir David happened to be standing beside one another at an event for a mutual friend when she spotted they had similar side profiles. She then became convinced he was her father.

Understandably, she felt reluctant to broach such a sensitive subject for many years afterwards, though it played on her mind often. But it was watching Charlie grow, and fearing there could be a line of her family’s hereditary health conditions she knew nothing about, that finally compelled her to act.

Abi bravely decided to write Sir David a letter and, fittingly, opened with a line from Dylan’s play which read: “To begin at the beginning. Or to be more precise, my beginning…”

In the note, she told Sir David of her hunch and asked him if he would take a -paternity test. The letter naturally came as a shock to Sir David, who became a father to Sophie at the age of 61 in 2001.

But rather than being horrified, he was sympathetic to Abi’s request. The source said: “It’s a lovely letter, which David has kept.

“It was light-hearted but serious, without being overwhelming. It was obvious whoever had written it was a nice person who just wanted to find out her heritage. The Dylan quote was the perfect way to start it.

Sir David Jason with wife Gil and daughter Sophie Mae. (The Mirror.)

“It was a sympathetic way of saying, ‘Brace yourself’.”

Sir David agreed to take the paternity test but it still came as a complete surprise to everyone when it showed he was Abi’s father. The stunned family met up at the Landmark Hotel in Marylebone, Central London, to discuss how to connect.

The source added: “Everyone prepared themselves for both scenarios, but it still came as an almighty shock when it came back as a positive match.

“Abi went to pieces. It’s hard to imagine discovering anyone unexpected is your father, but a TV icon, who she idolised growing up, was just astonishing.

“He was a hero of hers. You can’t imagine how incredible a discovery it was. But everyone has been so loving and accepting.”

Actor Abi Harris has told of her delight at discovering her father is Sir David Jason, after years of wondering. But this of course is tinged with sadness at the family’s lost years together. Now, she and her ­10-year-old son Charlie are looking forward to spending more time getting to know her father, his wife, Lady Gill White, 62, and her new sister Sophie, 22.

The 52-year-old said: “In ­discovering my father’s identity, I am starting to piece together my own.

“Of course, I am tickled pink and incredibly proud but, frequently, completely overwhelmed with sorrow for the years we have lost.

“After a measured start, now I hope we can consciously make time to see each other more often, so that I can master the art of being the best big sister and build a ­meaningful father-daughter relationship in its truest sense.”

With Abi and Sophie being brought up as only ­children, it has delighted both of them to suddenly find they have a sister. Sophie has offered to help decorate Abi’s Brighton home, and makes an effort to pop home from university when she and Charlie are visiting Sir David and Gill.

Cheeky Charlie, who was already a fan of Sir David’s work voicing the Big Friendly Giant, even bought his mum a game of Only Fools and Horses-themed Top Trumps for her birthday, in a nod to her dad’s time spent playing Del Boy in the series. Not only does Abi clearly share her father’s genes, she has also inherited his acting talents, appearing in Doctor Who: The Eighth of March, Strange Chemistry and The Avengers: The Comic Strip Adaptations Volume 7.

David Jason with his Only Fools co-stars. (BBC.)

A source said: “It would be a dream come true for Abi, if they could work together again now they know they are related.”

Sir David added: “We hope we are all allowed the privacy to continue our new relationship and get to know each other more and more.”

The actor was knighted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace in December 2005 for services to acting and comedy. His iconic roles include Only Fools and Horses – alongside Nicholas Lyndhurst and Buster Merryfield as Rodney and Uncle Albert – The Darling Buds of May and A Touch of Frost. He also voiced cartoons such as Dangermouse.

Born in Edmonton, North London, in February 1940, his dad was a B­illingsgate market porter and his mum a maid. But while Sir David started out working as an electrician, his love of theatre lured him into acting.

But from early on it was clear his talents stood out, and he was quickly snapped up by agents who then encouraged him to move into TV.

In the 1980s, he starred alongside Ronnie Barker in classic comedy Open All Hours, when he was offered to read a script for a new series called Only Fools and Horses. He was immediately drawn to the character of Peckham market trader Derek “Del Boy” Trotter.

He has said that during their very first read-through with Lennard Pearce, who played Grandad, and Nicholas Lyndhurst, on-screen brother Rodney, the cast knew immediately “there was magic in the room”.

Buster Merryfield later joined as Uncle Albert. The show went on to win six BAFTAs, with two going to Sir David for his portrayal of Del Boy, and 18.8 million viewers tuned in to one episode in 1986.

That year, the cast appeared at the Royal Variety ­Performance, in front of the Queen Mother. Sir David went on to spend 15 series playing ­Detective Jack Frost in A Touch of Frost, throughout the 1990s until 2010.

He then returned to his role as Granville in 2013, for Still Open All Hours, for another 41 episodes. Sir David married Gill, who he met on the set of A Bit of a Do in 1989, in an intimate ceremony with just 50 guests at the Dorchester hotel on November 30, 2005. That was the eve of his investiture ceremony.

In 2000, he and Gill decided to start a family, when he turned 60 and she was aged 40. He wrote in his ­autobiography: “We were older than people conventionally are when they think about these things.

“The idea scared us a lot. We batted it back and forth.”

But “fate answered”, he added, and he became a father to Sophie in 2001 despite thinking his chance had “swept by” due to his workload. He joked in his book that on the night she was born, he did not talk to her in the window of the hospital like Del Boy does with his son Damien.


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