Prince Barnu should not to be confused with the New Zealander Bob Russell who wrestled in the 1950s as Prince Banu.
In the 1960s when we read in the Wrestling Review programme about this exotic sounding star we were hooked. A flamboyant costume and accompanied to the ring by his equally flamboyant lady valet Princess Ira. Not that Ira was too much of a lady once the wrestling began, removing her stilettos and putting them to good use on Barnu's opponent.
But this alleged Brazilian of the 1960s independent halls was Coventry's Fred "Darkie" Barnes, a scrap dealer, running H.M. Barnes Salvage in Shakleton Road, Coventry. Fred later had his own scrap yard in Baginton, a village between Coventry and Leamington Spa. The scrap yard achieved some fame in 1981 when two men searching for spare parts for an Hillman Minx car found the head of a 35 feet tall zulu warrior, which had towered over the entrance to Coventry Zoo until 1951.
Frederick Desmond Edward Barnes was born in Nuneaton on 5th August, 1918, the son of Frederick and Margaret. In 1918 at the outbreak of war he was working as a motor mechanic.
Darkie Barnes was one of Coventry's colourful characters and a good friend of wrestler Adolph Dabrowski. Just where the name Prince Barnu came from we don't know, but we would put half a crown on the character being the creation of wrestler and promoter Jack Taylor. Prince Barnu was a regular worker for Taylor in the mid 1960s, matched with independent stars that included Stoker Brooks, Cliffe Milla, Killer Ken Davies and Gentleman Jim Lewis.
The most high profile opponent was former world champion boxer Randy Turpin who had a short and sad career as a wrestler. On this occasion Turpin's fame did not earn him the win and the two men were counted out after both falling from the ring.
In the scheme of wrestling Prince Barnu's career was short, coming late in to the professional business in his forties, most of of his matches between 1965 and 1967. We did find one last match, far removed from the rest, in 1979, when he was sixty years old.
But Freddie made his mark and certainly did his bit for wrestling, training young wrestlers at St Peter's School Gym in Hillfield, Coventry in the 1960s. On the left keeping a watchful eye over a couple of trainees. He was also well known as a regular wrestling columnist for the Coventry Telegraph, previewing and reviewing the city's Dale Martin shows.
One of Coventry's well known characters he was by all accounts a popular figure amongst those who knew him and were quick to testify he was a very nice man.
Friends and family were shocked when Fred collapsed and died at his scrap yard in Baginton on 10th July 1989.