A pensioner has discovered he is the direct descendant of the Cornish doctor who inspired Jacob Marley from ‘A Christmas Carol’ – 70 years after being turned down for the role in his school play.
Christopher Marley, 73, was totally unaware his great great grandfather was the doctor Charles Dickens knew and based the character on, until a conversation with a Cornish historian revealed all.
He said as a child his nickname was ‘Jake’ from Jacob because of his surname, but never knew his family had a direct link.
Christopher even auditioned for the role of ‘Marley’s ghost’ in the school nativity, but didn’t get it and played Scrooge’s cleaner instead.
And alongside the cast list in the programme the school even wrote “no relation to Jacob Marley” – even though he now knows he actually was.
But in July he spoke with Cornish historian Barry West, who revealed he had spent years researching the origins of Dickens’ novella.
Barry had uncovered a link between Jacob and a Dr Miles Marley who was buried in Cornwall.
Christopher, of Loose, Kent, was himself looking into his family tree at the time and last week visited his ancestor’s grave in Cornwall.
Christopher said: “The funny thing was when my prep school asked to play a part in the Christmas Carol play we put on, I did not play Jacob Marley but was one of the cleaners.
“In the list of players, the school wrote ‘Christopher Marley – but no relation to Jacob Marley’.
”It is highly amusing looking back with a different eye. If we had known at the time maybe I would have been given the role.
“We did not know anything about the Dickens link. It is funny that I only got a minor role as a cleaner in Scrooge’s house.
“I remember it very clearly. I must have been ten or 11 at the time, so it was nearly 70 years ago.
”In hindsight maybe they would have given me it, but little did they or I know.
“I have been in touch with the school since I found out to tell them but haven’t had any response.”
The original link between Dr Miles Marley of Cornwall and Dickens character was first uncovered by revealed by Mr West in 2017.
He has spent years carrying out meticulous research to prove that large parts of the iconic festive tale were set in his home county of Cornwall.
During the course of his research, Barry says he uncovered proof Dickens had befriended Dr Marley while he worked as a physician in London and they joked about his ‘unusual name.’
The author also reportedly told him he would “soon be a household name” shortly before it became immortalised in the 19th century classic.
In July this year, Christopher spotted a local newspaper article about Mr West’s findings and responded to a plea for anyone interested to get in touch.
He added: “I was aware of who Dr Miles Marley was in relation to my family tree but I had no idea about his links to Dickens until I first spoke to Barry.
“I learnt he had quite an established practice and was a great friend of Dickens who asked to dine with him to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.
“During the course of the conversation, they were talking about unusual names and Dr Marley said ‘my name is a bit unusual, isn’t it?’ To which Dickens replied ‘Your name will be very well known by the end of the year.
“That was on March 17 1843. Little did he know his name would be used for Jacob Marley in the Christmas Carol later that year.
“And little did I know that despite being a great fan for my entire life, it would take 70 years to find out my family’s associations. But I am so glad we have.
“We knew his name as my daughter had some geology work done and knew he was a surgeon working in London.
“It is absolutely fascinating. The children didn’t have much information on the Marley side and all of a sudden, they have loads.
“I have always been a fan of Dickens and I think I would now like to get a first edition of the Christmas Carol as a bit of a family heirloom.”
Mr West, from St Austell, added: “I fortunate enough to meet Christopher Marley at St Endellion Church, high on the hill above Port Isaac where Dr Miles Marley, the man who was to become Jacob Marley in a Christmas Carol, spent his final days.
“Dr Marley’s health had taken a turn for the worse and he it seems came to be closer to his son who was the doctor at nearby Padstow.
“I had been researching Dickens’ connections with Dr Miles Marley for five years so it has been wonderful to meet and make a connection with a direct descendant that was interested in my findings.”