Marley and me: I am related to the King of Reggae!


HIS image and his music will forever be associated with Jamaica, but Bob Marley’s roots lie in East Sussex, as Simon Holden reports in this article for the Kent and Sussex Courier.

Thirty-two years after his death, Marley’s Groombridge-based cousin, Allie Stewart, told the Courier how researching her family tree led to the stunning discovery she was related to the king of reggae.

Marley would have been 68 this year, and until now the focus of his family tree has been on his white philandering father Captain Norval Sinclair Marley, who worked in Jamaica in the 1940s. But as Mrs Stewart discovered, his ancestry on his father’s side goes back to a couple who lived in East Sussex in the late 1700s.

She found a direct link to both herself and Marley from William Tiltman and Ann Laurence, a family of coastguards from Rye.

Mrs Stewart’s research began in 2007 after her mother died and she needed something to help her cope with bereavement. “My family had dwindled, and then I started finding this enormous new one,” she said.

After some early false starts, the pieces slowly began to fall into place. Her breakthrough came when she rang a cousin on the Isle of Wight.

“He suddenly said ‘Do you know about the Bob Marley connection?’ I didn’t but carried on researching and sure enough it was there. He was my fourth cousin.

“I have a photo of Norval’s brother Robert, who clearly has the ‘Marley nose’. Bob Marley was very skinny and fine-featured as a young man, features which are clear to see in his uncle.”

She addded: “I was amazed about the link. It is pretty left-field and I cannot claim to have much musical talent, apart from singing at a few festivals,” said Mrs Stewart, a life coach and consultant. “I love people so perhaps we have that in common.”

She added: “One thing which really struck me in connecting with the Marleys was that I was brought up to embrace different kinds of people.

“My father was a prisoner of war in Singapore but he never expressed hatred or revenge towards his captors. He always encouraged me to listen first to people’s stories before I decided who I thought they were or what they should do with their lives.

“For Bob Marley having parents from different ethnic backgrounds would have been very difficult, and much harder than it is now.”

Mrs Stewart said she would have loved to have met Marley when he came to Britain in the 1970s, but had no idea of their link at that time. She has since made contact with his family in Jamaica, but has not yet been able to visit them.

She said: “This research shows he had incredible people in his background, not just the high-achievers but self-made people such as tailors and merchant seamen. Bob Marley left a tremendous legacy, he was a multi-millionaire superstar with a cousin who was from the British establishment and made a difference in the Second World War.

She added: “What the story shows is that we all worry about our futures and try to control them. But we never know what will happen or who will come into our lives.”

For the original report go to

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