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Mr. Happy Man

Johnny Barnes

Mr. Happy Man of Bermuda

If you have been to Bermuda, you must have already met with or heard of this amazing man. It’s hard to believe how Johnny Barnes has been able to reach such heights of happier living and able to maintain it for decades. This cheerful man now in his early 90s, can be seen everyday in the morning at Crow Lane circle waving and cheering at all the commuters heading for Hamilton City. Crow Lane Circle is about a mile east of Hamilton and in Paget parish.
Johnny will be there at 3:45 a.m. everyday (Monday through Friday) without a fail with his backpack and radio, wearing a straw hat, usually a jerkin and a trouser. As the daylight breaks and commuters on two and four wheelers start approaching Hamilton through the Crow Lane round-about for their days work, Johnny swings into action.
He starts cheering and wishing the commuters – “Good Morning!”, “I love you!”, “God bless you” … This is the way he continues to spread joy and goodwill to all till 10 in the morning everyday. To the commuters, a day’s hard work begins with an exchange of love and blessings – the day may not turn out to be as stressful after all.
Johnny Barnes was born on June 23, 1923. His parents came to Bermuda from West Indian island St. Kitts. He was an electrician by profession working in Bermuda Railways. However, in 1948 the railways in Bermuda closed down. Johnny then became a bus driver, and this is the identity by which he is known to most.
He was always a jovial and friendly man. At an age of 60, he suddenly had a new realization in life. One day on his way to work, he stopped at the Crow Lane Circle and decided to wave at the commuters and cheer at them. The joy he felt inside, made him quit his job and take up the responsibility of spreading love for rest of his life.
Initially some people in Bermuda thought that he must be a cracked nut. Some even thought such act may cause accidents. But he never caused accidents and people gradually understood that Johnny Barnes is actually an angel of love. Today, many commuters stop by to shake hands with Johnny, some greet him and some even present him with flowers. Many tourists make it a point that they meet Johnny during their visit to Bermuda and also buy a $1 postcard from him that has his own picture on it. The postcards after all help him sustain his livelihood. Johnny says “The world is made for love, People need to know that love is important”. Over the years, he has gained tremendous popularity in the island as well as all over the world. You can find his portrait at the Visitors Information Center in Hamilton.
I heard that one day he failed to show up. The whole island was shaken up. Phones buzzed everywhere, people wanting to know what happened to Johnny. Well, he had some illness on the day and had to be hospitalized. The next day he was back into action and everything was back to normal.
However this incident left a big question in the mind of people of Bermuda. What happens if Johnny Barnes is actually no more? How does the joy continue to spread? This thought resulted in people of Bermuda creating a charity called the Spirit of Bermuda Trust. People donated generously and commissioned a famous local sculptor Desmond Fountain to create a 6-1/2 foot long statue of Johnny Barnes. In 1998, this statue of Barnes was erected. However it is not at Crow Lane round-about, but placed in a greener pasture nearby and close to Underwater Exploration Institute.
An American film maker Matt Morris has created a short documentary “Mr. Happy Man” on the life of Johnny Barnes. It had its world premiere in the Bermuda International Film Festival in 2011. The film has also been screened at Aspen Shorts festival in the U.S which is one of the most prestigious short film festivals in the world and received a great audience response.

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