Colonel Ken Barnes: Trinidadian-born military leader and father of the footballer John Barnes

When you have been among your country's leading performers and administrators in several sports for more than four decades, inspired a hugely popular film and led the forces of several nations in a successful military operation, it must be quite tough to be remembered primarily for being the father of your even better-known son. That is the lot which befell Ken Barnes. He was the father of John Barnes, the former England footballer currently in charge of Jamaica's celebrated national side, the "Reggae Boyz", and was so much more besides.

Roderick Kenrick Barnes, who was born on 23 August 1935 in Port of Spain, Trinidad, came to Jamaica as a member of the West India Regiment in 1956. He joined the Jamaica Defence Force when it was formed after the island attained independence in 1962, and remained in the Army until he retired in 1989. Barnes was initially commanding officer of the 1st Battalion Jamaica Regiment, and in 1973 was promoted to colonel.

In October 1983, radical elements in the administration in Grenada overthrew and murdered Maurice Bishop, that island's left-leaning prime minister, and several of his cabinet colleagues. The US president, Ronald Reagan, was persuaded by some of the more right-wing governments in the region, not least that of Edward Seaga in Jamaica, to intervene to prevent the disturbance from spreading throughout the Caribbean. Barnes led the combined Caribbean Security Forces in the operation which put down the coup and "restored Grenada to democracy" with the minimum of fuss.

Captain Horace Burrell, the president of the Jamaica Football Federation, served with Barnes both before and during the action in Grenada. He has described Barnes as being his mentor, in matters both military and sporting, and remembers him for being an "officer and a gentleman".

For Barnes, his involvement with the army and with sports – he was initially the army's sports officer – went hand in hand. For many years, he was chairman of the JDF Sports Board and the JDF Officers' Club. He played for and the Jamaican national football team in the 1950s, later becoming captain) and eventually manager. After having had two girls already with his wife, Jeanne, when their third child, a boy [John], was born, his wife placed a tiny football in his cot in the hope that he would become the son his father really wanted. Fortunately, Barnes Snr lived long enough to enjoy John's illustrious career.

Barnes's influence extended far beyond the football field. His reputation as an administrator was such that his services were in demand by a number of sports. He became president of the Jamaica Boxing Board of Control, president of the Swimming Association of Jamaica, and was also manager of the Liguanea Squash Club.

Perhaps Barnes's most incongruous contribution to his country's sport was his part in setting up the island's bobsleigh team. It is said that George Fitch and William Maloney, two Americans, considered that Jamaicans would be good bobsledders because their renowned sprinting ability would give them good lead-off speed. When Jamaican athletes showed little interest, Fitch and Maloney turned to Barnes for advice. As a result, the Jamaican national bobsleigh team, which drew from military personnel, proved to be a sensation. They finished 14th at the Winter Olympic Games at Calgary, Canada in 1988, inspiring the popular film Cool Runnings.

Ken Barnes was diagnosed with prostate cancer in late 2006. During his illness, he lost much weight and in the words of Jeanne, his wife of 48 years, he was weak because his body could no longer support his spirit.

Roderick Kenrick Barnes, military leader and sports administrator: born Port of Spain, Trinidad, 23 August 1935; married Jeanne (one son, two daughters); died St Andrew, Jamaica 19 February 2009.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
Fans take a selfie with Ed Miliband in Kempston, near Bedford, on Tuesday
election 2015
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
  • Get to the point
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 General

Ashdown Group: Accountant - London - £48,000 - 12 month FTC

£40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: International Acc...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Leeds

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Leeds This i...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power