Here's a photograph of a man who went by the name of Shakespeare Hirst. Was he a relative of mine? I don’t know, but it seems likely given the surname, with its i spelling rather than the more common u, and the fact that he lived in Bolton where my own family come from. His father, Henry Hirst, was the owner of The Shakespeare Hotel, a pub in Huddersfield, and was so obsessed with the Bard that he named his son after him – Shakespeare was his genuine first name, the one he was baptised with – a tradition Shakespeare Hirst himself continued with his own five children: Henry, Cordelia, Ophelia, Miranda and Elsheimer, the latter taken from Adam Elsheimer, an artist supposedly responsible for a lost portrait of William Shakespeare. Hirst eventually took over The Shakespeare Hotel from his father and turned it into a semi-theatre, staging productions of his namesake's works. He also toured as a performer, wrote numerous books about Shakespeare and amassed a large body of art which include works by Leonardo, Raphael and Rubens. He even briefly became something of a celebrity when he claimed to be in the possession of the Elsheimer portrait of Shakespeare, something rightly greeted with scepticism by the press, but with a snobbiness and a sneeriness which I find leaves me feeling oddly defensive of this strange and silly man to whom I may or may not be related.