Sport on TV: Coe's legacy is bitter-sweet as the past catches up with him

When Sebastian Coe agreed to take part in Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC1, Wednesday), he may have thought it would make a pleasant distraction from organising London 2012, but there was no running away from his past. He is forever being asked about the legacy of the Olympic Games, so it was no surprise that he should find himself poring over the last wills and testaments of his forefathers to find out what they left behind. It was to be a legacy of leg-overs and leg-chains.

If ever character traits were to run in the family, you would think it would happen to the former gold medallist. They all have protuberant noses. But he takes more pleasure from discovering that his mother's ancestors lived in Jamaica, "the powerhouse of world athletics". They were sugar plantation owners with more wealth than the aristocracy because sugar, known as "white gold", was in huge demand back home. One of the plantocracy's brood, Hyde John Clarke, was born in Trelawny, the parish that produced Usain Bolt.

The Hyde Clarkes also poured their money back into the British economy to fuel the Industrial Revolution and set up a stately home at Hyde Hall in Cheshire. "I think I raced there as a kid," says Coe. "It was 30 miles from where I did all my training."

Hyde John Clarke left the sugar behind to become a Navy captain and then a benefactor back in Blighty. It's surprising he didn't run for office. Coe said: "I've always naturally been drawn to people who have contributed." Not least those who handed over their bank details to buy tickets for the Olympics.

But there is a darker side to this story: the sea captain was one of six illegitimate children fathered by George Hyde Clarke, the plantation owner who enjoyed all the fruits of a decadent colonial existence, and who was variously described in the wills as an "execrable villain" and a "profligate, abandoned nephew".

Over everything hung the spectre of slavery. George had hundreds of slaves but it was his father, Major Edward, who felt their resentment most keenly. He was the lieutenant governor of New York in 1741 when a slave uprising in the fetid swamp that was Manhattan led to vast swathes of the nascent city being burned to the ground.

The Major's solution to the problem of finding the ringleaders of the riot was to offer slaves their freedom and a £100 lump sum, three times the annual wage of a skilled artisan. The culprits were duly identified and executed, and New York was saved as a colonial outpost.

So if anyone is thinking of burning down a few of the constructions taking shape in the fetid swamp of London's East End, they had better beat a hasty retreat because Lord Coe will be hot on their heels.

Gavin Henson is a sportsman who might qualify for "who do you think you are?" in the other sense. Right now he would be hard-pressed to trace his own rugby career, let alone his family tree. As the Wales players head off to the World Cup, he's strutting his stuff on The Bachelor (Five, Friday), perhaps planning to expand his own dynasty quite soon.

He ditched 10 of his 25 suitors straightaway, including identical twins, though it was unclear if they came as a package. But this series will still drag on longer than the Dragonhood's World Cup campaign.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Brand Marketing Manager - Essex - £45,000 + £5000 car allowance

£40000 - £45000 per annum + car allowance: Ashdown Group: Senior Brand Manager...

Guru Careers: .NET Developer /.NET Software Developer

£26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer /.NET Software ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

Guru Careers: Technical Operations Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Technical Ope...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there