Sue Barker’s pregnant mother drank gin and threw herself down the stairs in an attempt to abort her, TV legend and has revealed
Sue Barker has revealed she was an unplanned baby and that in a bid to terminate the pregnancy, her mother ‘drank a lot of gin and bounced down the stairs’.
On Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs today, the former British tennis champion, 66, says that her parents were in shock at having to provide for a third child.
She adds: ‘My dad particularly, he worked really hard, but they had just budgeted for two kids and they didn’t have a lot of money left over. Then, a few months after my brother was born, suddenly my mum Betty was pregnant again.
‘She apparently drank a lot of gin and bounced down the stairs one time. She always said to me, ‘I didn’t want you. I feel so bad about it.’ ‘
Despite her late mother’s confession, Barker, who grew up in Paignton, Devon, says she was extremely close to her parents who supported her tennis career despite their financial worries.
CLOSE: Sue with her mother Betty, who lived to 100 despite her lifestyle
She says: ‘My mum and I had the most wonderful relationship, even though they cut corners, which is why I really salute them in giving me my tennis career as well. Even to buy me a tennis racket was a huge thing, because if you have three children you can’t favour one.’
Barker also reveals that Betty lived to 100 despite paying little regard to her health.
‘She wasn’t known as ‘Betty six gins’ for nothing,’ says Barker. ‘Every time the clock pinged up to six o’clock, the gin and tonic would come out. But also everything she ate was wrong. Everything was white bread, processed meats. No water, never drank water. She lived to 100, so maybe we’re all getting it wrong.’
Barker, the wholesome host of BBC TV’s A Question Of Sport for 24 years, also reveals she was a tearaway at her convent school, and was often a major headache for the nuns, whom she likened to ‘penguins’ in posters.
‘We were naughty,’ she says. ‘We went to a convent and I put up all these signs about ‘down with penguins’. We removed the science room door and hid it and also the staffroom door and hid it. My parents were down at school often.’
In 2020, the BBC faced allegations of sexism and ageism when it axed Barker and her long-running captains Phil Tufnell and Matt Dawson from A Question Of Sport.
Barker says the trio of ‘best mates’ did not choose to leave and it made her rethink her 30-year association as the face of tennis on the BBC.
She adds: ‘I think the way it was handled made me think more about Wimbledon and about why I then wanted to walk away on my own terms rather than be pushed out the door.
‘To be taken into a room after 24 years and be told we don’t want you any more, I just wish they had handled the end a little better.’
- Desert Island Discs is on BBC Radio 4 today at 11am. It will be repeated on Friday at 9am
Barker also reveals that Betty lived to 100 despite paying little regard to her health. Pictured: Sue on Desert Island Discs
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