Rebecca Tyrrel: 'For such a bastion of Home Counties values, Lord Coe has quite the gene pool'

 

Share
Related Topics

Who knew that Olympics overlord Sebastian Coe is one quarter Punjabi? His grandfather, Sardari Lal, was among the first wave of Indians who came to England to study. He met and married Sebastian's maternal grandmother, Vera Swan, while a London University law student in the 1920s.

The couple later returned to Delhi, where Mr Lal ran one of the city's grander hotels. But interracial marriage was no more a picnic in India then than in England, and an unhappy Vera returned to London with Sebastian's mother, Angela, and his aunt Sheila, settling in the slightly less exotic locale of Willesden Green.

Lal is a Hindu name (translating as 'red', it appears not to have influenced Seb's political leanings). It is not known which caste Sardari belonged to, though his grandson was certainly untouchable in middle-distance races of the 1980s, winning two Olympic gold medals for the 1,500m and setting countless world records over various distances, before swapping the track for the world of the Tory Brahmin. When the Labour landslide of 1997 ended his stint as Conservative MP for Torbay, he reinvented himself as William Hague's 'chief of staff' – and rather predictably earnt himself a peerage. He is now Baron Coe of Ranmore, which is neither in the Punjab nor a suburb of Delhi, but in the county of Surrey.

For such an apparent bastion of Home Counties values, Seb has quite the gene pool. Apart from Sardari, whose hobbies included womanising and driving his Cadillac the wrong way down Delhi's one-way streets, a great-great-great-great grandfather, George Hyde-Clarke, fathered six children out of wedlock while making his fortune from Jamaican sugar cane. Lord Coe discovered this as he took part in the amateur-genealogy-and-conspicuous-weeping show, Who Do You Think You Are?. George was the keeper of 279 slaves and Usain Bolt was born in the parish in which the plantation once stood, so a handy ice-breaker there if and when these past and present megastars of athletics meet in the days ahead.

Although Sebastian has never been close to the Punjabi side of the family, he did visit his grandfather's Lutyens-designed hotel on a trip to Delhi on Olympic business. And in one way at least, he pays homage to his heritage. Lord Coe is a member of the East India, the private gentleman's club in Piccadilly.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A press image from the company  

If men are so obsessed by their genitals, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities of sex?

Chloë Hamilton
Workers clean the area in front of the new Turkish Presidential Palace prior to an official reception for Republic day in Ankara  

Up Ankara, for a tour of great crapital cities

Dom Joly
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory