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John Barnes - love & education are the best things you could give your child

John Barnes - love & education are the best things you could give your child

Source: The Guardian 


My mother, Jeanne, was a TV and radio presenter in Jamaica. Bob Marley used to appear on her shows all the time and so she knew him quite well. My father coached the Jamaican football team, and came across Marley [who was a keen footballer] before he was famous.


My dad was a proper old English gentleman, even though he was from the Caribbean. He used to stand up and salute during the Queen’s Christmas speech. When Michael Manley became Jamaica’s prime minister in the 1970s, my dad was deputy head of the army. Manley was quite socialist and getting friendly with Cuba. My dad was asked where his allegiances lay. My dad said with the country. That wasn’t the right answer, and so he got sent to England for four years, as a military attache, to get my dad out of the way. My mum was happy that my dad was “exiled” as she likes to call it, because Jamaica was turbulent during the 70s.

My first and lasting memory of England was of looking through the airplane window just before we landed at Heathrow in January 1976 and seeing a football pitch full of children my age (12) in kits with a referee. In Jamaica, we didn’t have organised football, so although it was freezing, when I saw that, I thought thank God I’m here!

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Love and a good education are the two most important things you can give your children. I have seven children – four adult children aged 21-31 from my first marriage and three young children aged six, 10 and 12 from my second marriage. I also have two grandchildren. My 21-year-old daughter is finishing her degree in criminology at Liverpool University; my other daughter started working as a doctor in April; my second-eldest son, who is a banker, got a first in maths from Leeds University; and my eldest son is a consultant plastic surgeon who deals with car crashes and burns.

When my mother was about 68 she decided she wanted to become a barrister. She did a degree and started practising at 71. She does a lot of juvenile cases. My mum lives in Jamaica and goes to America regularly to see my sisters. We’re glad for her to keep working. I’ve seen people get old quick when they reach a certain age and stop working. My mum is in her 50s in her head, but she is actually 81.

My dad had prostate cancer and went from a big, strong man of 15 or 16 stone to nine stone. He died in 2009. Edward Seaga, who was prime minister of Jamaica for a very long time, came to his funeral and gave a eulogy.

John is supporting the national young person’s charity Onside Youth Zones, as an ambassador for The Hive, the Wirral’s newYouth Zone. See

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