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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 January, 2004, 13:01 GMT
Bob Marley's family on 'Welsh' roots
By Joanne Gallacher
BBC Wales News Online

Bob Marley
Bob Marley is said to have little recollection of his father, Norval
Claims that reggae star Bob Marley's father was an army captain from north Wales have circulated for many years.

Republished on the internet and in newspapers once again last week, the claims came just a week after it was revealed that Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise's great,great grandfather emigrated from Flint to the US in 1850.

There was documentary evidence to support Mr Cruise's Welsh connections - but the same could not be said for Marley.

Could one of the greatest musical icons of the 20th century really have laid claim to roots in the north Wales seaside town of Prestatyn, as well as his home of Jamaica?

Armed with a telephone directory, the 1901 census, army personnel contacts and the internet, I decided to get to the bottom of this latest claim to Welsh heritage.

Alas, the truth was out there and, it seems, Bob Marley did not have a Welsh father after all.

Cedella Marley, Chris Marley and his daughter
Chris Marley, his daughter and Bob Marley's mother Cedella

In fact, there is not a vast amount of detail about Norval Marley chronicling his relationship with his son Bob.

Unofficial biographies into the life of the famous Rastafarian singer claim he had scant recollection of his father.

My search for Norval Marley has taken me from north Wales to Jamaica, over to Florida and back to Great Britain - Liverpool to be precise.

And after tracking down Bob Marley's second cousin, Chris Marley in Fort Lauderdale, I can conclude that Norval - who died in 1955 - may have passed through north Wales as a soldier. But we cannot lay claim to be his place of birth.

"He was born in Jamaica," said Norval's great nephew, Chris Marley.

He was definitely born in Jamaica and not England
Chris Marley

I managed to catch Chris and his wife at their home in Florida. With a six-hour time difference between there and Wales, I spoke to them as they had breakfast, just before they headed off to work.

After finally tracking down a real life member of the Marley family, I was keen to find out why so many people believed Norval had a connection with north Wales.

In truth, it all seems to come down to geography and confusion over the border between north east Wales and England.

It is possible that Norval Marley was stationed in Prestatyn at some point

Norval Marley was, indeed, born in Jamaica, to an English father from Sussex.

"He travelled from Jamaica to England where he joined the British Army on 14 August 1916 at Liverpool," Chris Marley explained.

After enlisting, he ended up back in Jamaica where he met Bob Marley's mother Cedella. Bob Marley was born 6 February 1945 in a small village called Nine Miles in the parish of St Ann, Jamaica.

How much contact he had with his father is unclear, but he would have been around nine or 10 when Norval died.

Part of the confusion arose because his family believed he had been stationed in Wales during World War I.

Chris Marley told me Norval was stationed in Prees Heath and Oswestry during the conflict - and he had always believed these towns to be in Wales.

War record

However, Oswestry and Prees Heath are actually in Shropshire.

Granted, they are just over the border and referred to as the "Welsh Marches" but the two towns are, nevertheless, in England.

So the best we can say that Bob Marley's father was once stationed just a few miles over the border from Wales with the British Army.

We could even guess that he may have travelled with his Labour corps to Prestatyn, where there was indeed a camp.

There are no records available to back up this claim, but local historians say it was commonplace for soldiers to travel back and forth over the border.

Alas, no-one in the north Wales beach resort has any recollection or anecdotes about the man who went onto father the world's most famous reggae singer.

Cruise's Welsh roots uncovered
18 Jan 04  |  North East Wales
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04 Nov 03  |  Americas
Cruise's ancestral town uncovered
20 Jan 04  |  North East Wales


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