Family tragedy helps shape brave Bairstow |

Family tragedy helps shape brave Bairstow

12 November 2017
Our voices

After losing his father almost 20 years ago, England’s wicketkeeper-batsman carries a healthy perspective on life

About the Writer:

Chris Stocks is a freelance cricket writer based in London. He is a regular contributor to the Guardian, Daily Mail, Independent and London Evening Standard.

The unique atmosphere and pressure of an Ashes series, especially away from home, can be overbearing for many players.

However, Jonny Bairstow, England's prolific wicketkeeper-batsman, will approach the upcoming challenge of taking on Australia with a healthy perspective borne from family tragedy.

It is almost 20 years since Bairstow returned home to find his father David, also a wicketkeeper for Yorkshire and England, dead after he had committed suicide.

His father, a popular figure known as Bluey, suffered from depression after retiring from cricket. His wife, Janet, was also battling cancer at the time. Jonny was just eight.

It would be glib to suggest his ascension to both Yorkshire and England honours since then has been driven by a desire to honour his father.

But it is no doubt an experience that has shaped Bairstow and if during this Ashes series he scores a century you will notice he will mark it by pointing upwards to the sky in honour of his dad.

That's why the title of his recently released book in the UK – A Clear Blue Sky – is particularly apt.


Bairstow spent much of his free time before flying out to Australia promoting it.

In it, he is refreshingly honest about a chapter of his life that for years he understandably found difficult to talk about.

The very start of the book opens with his recollection of that dark English winter's evening in 1998 when he found his father, Bairstow saying: "My dad David Bairstow was only 46 years and 126 days old when he committed suicide almost 20 years ago. My mum Janet, my sister Becky and I found him when we returned home at 8.30pm on one of those typically lampblack and cold January nights. He had hanged himself from the staircase."

As hard as that tragedy was for the Bairstow family to deal with, this is an uplifting tale of triumph over adversity and is particularly poignant given Jonny is one of three members of this England Ashes squad who has lost a father at a young age.

Ben Foakes, Bairstow's deputy as wicketkeeper, was 13 when his dad, Premier League football referee Peter Foakes, died of a heart attack in 2006.

Tom Curran, called into England's squad to replace the injured Steven Finn, also lost his father, the former Zimbabwe cricketer Kevin Curran, to heart attack when he was 17.

The Ashes will be trivial in comparison but Bairstow has been touched that his story has helped so many others.

Unbeaten half century for England wicketkeeper


"Absolutely," he says. "It's been remarkable. I'm very, very proud of the book. It's not necessarily easy to put something out there that some people will know about and some people won't know about.

"Some people will have had an opinion on it, some people will think they know what happened. But to open yourself up and say this is actually what happened – and it wasn't just me that spoke about it, it was mum that spoke about it, Uncle Ted, my dad's best friend, spoke about it, my best friend from school, my sister – it's something that's been really well received.

"The amount of people who have said thank you for doing it because it's enabled me to speak about it, after 20 years is remarkable. Even when we were doing the book-signing there was a chap who said, 'thank you ever so much because we went through this last year and we have not spoken about it yet and I think this will be great'.

Bairstow ton nets England win in Manchester


"There's loads of ways you can be affected by it and I think it's a good thing. It's not just a cricket book, it could be about family life, it could be about illness – and if it can stop someone from thinking in a negative way, if it can help someone speak about things that should be a good thing."

David Bairstow played four Tests for England, including the 1980 centenary Test against Australia at Lord's.

There's no doubt he would be delighted with what his son has gone on to achieve, with Bairstow junior set to play his 50th Test against Australia at Sydney in January.

#maiden #proud #neverforget #family A post shared by Jonny Bairstow (@jbairstow21) on


"It seems to have gone blooming quick," said Bairstow.

"If I reach that milestone it will be a special, special day. The family will be out and it's part of the journey isn't it? Everyone wants to play 100 Tests and reach that milestone, and it's a stepping stone hopefully. It gives you confidence that, yes, you've been through a lot of ups and downs, yes you will keep on going through a lot of ups and downs, but at the same time to know that you've been through those and come out the other side of those, to learn about yourself, that's something that can definitely stand you in good stead personally and for the side.

"Because the experiences that you gain from being put in uncomfortable situations and learning about how you get out of those is a good thing."

Jonny Bairstow  goes on the attack in England's tour match against the Cricket Australia XI // Getty
Jonny Bairstow goes on the attack in England's tour match against the Cricket Australia XI // Getty

Bairstow averages 50.24 since making his first Test century against South Africa at Cape Town in January 2016 and should go on to play 100 Tests for his country if he can continue the form that, bar captain Joe Root, has made him England's most consistent batsmen during that period.

"I just want to be playing as many as I can," he says.

"I want to play in as many games for England as possible. That's my aim. It's a dream to play 100 Tests."

Whether he gets there or not, Bairstow has already been on a remarkable journey, both on a personal and professional level.

Old Bluey would be proud.

2017-18 International Fixtures:

Magellan Ashes Series

First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets

Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets

Gillette ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets

Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets

Gillette T20 INTL Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 13

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21