Donovan's Jewish journey

By Simon Rocker, September 2, 2010

If there were a Hall of Jewish Pop Fame, Jason Donovan could now claim a plinth.

The BBC's celebrity genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? has thrown up a few Jewish stories but the former Neighbours star's story is an unusual one.

His great-grandma down the maternal line was Eileen Lyons, a promising singer described as a "sweet-faced little Jewess" in the Australian press of her day.

Her grandfather, he discovered, was Joseph Lyons, an East End of London scrap dealer who was sentenced in 1842 to 10 years' transportation to Tasmania for handling stolen goods worth just £3 at today's prices.

After two years' hard labour, he was taken under the wing of a Jewish family in Hobart, and worked for them. Remarkably, Joseph was able to arrange for his wife Rosetta to join him from London.They later returned to Whitechapel but their son Simeon – Eileen's father – came back to Australia.

Donovan's dad also speculated that his son was part of the Lyons Corner House clan - which would make him a relative of Nigella Lawson.

Last updated: 11:28am, September 2 2010