|Posted by StephenRBeet on May 29, 2016 at 11:15 PM||comments (1)|
A Tribute to a Great Man with a Towering Personality
by one of our members:
Many people have written about “The Vicar”, as we used to call him. It was the ex- M.P. for Derby, the late Philip Whitehead who described him in 1979 as “a true English Worthy” and reminded us of the bucolic world of the past that he represented, living in that rambling haunted Vicarage (with the ghosts of The Blue Lady, and the Monk), just as the county parsons of old England had always done. But he was not a man who lived in the past; he was a man of the people who accepted everyone as they were and tried to lead them to better things. Maurice Darwin, a one-time Curate of Mr. Barber, who preached at his funeral on the 8th of the 8th ’88 said he was a “saintly man” and closer to God than anyone he had known.
Somehow, his presence seemed to open a window to heaven through which we could briefly look out from our earthly lives. Mrs Sheila Hitchcocks, a long-time member of Mr. Barber’s congregation (whose watch stopped at precisely eleven o’clock on that August morning, and has refused to go ever since), said these moments came very suddenly, once for her when she was listening to one of the Vicar’s sermons. What she described as a “funny feeling” came over her and she knew that somehow God was close. How many of us who knew Mr. Barber so well, recall such an experience when, briefly we felt some spiritual reality.
Brief though those moments were, we knew that the Vicar had a ‘Special Presence’. I remember one lady saing that she could fee that he was in church even before she had opened the door, and, equally, she knew when he was not! To us, especially the boys of the choir, servers and Boys’ Club, he was everything: a true friend, mentor, a tower of strength and something unshifting, yet flexible, in the world in which we were growing up. Many came to him with their own special problems: things they could not discuss with parents or others, but would pour them out into that sympathetic ear. For those who had done wrong, he sent them away with the assurance of God’s forgiveness and the command to make a fresh start and to “begin life all over again.” Many went to Sacramental Confession and believed in the power invested in him at his Ordination to pronounce God’s forgiveness. “By this laying on of hands” we somehow knew that our sins have been forgiven.” All the hurts and worries of life melted away in his presence. Just sitting in the cub room with him was a privilege. Listening to our problems, he would somehow take the burden upon himself and carry it away to another place. To hear him speak the words of the Communion Service or “Mass” as we called it in those days, was described by Archdeacon Rawlinson of Derby as “a special privilege”. He also wrote of the Vicar’s skill with the sick and dying. Even to hear his footsteps orhis voice was a special comfort.
One boy remarked at camp once that “you just don’t want to behave badly when the Vicar is here.” If he couldn’t always teach us to be good, he taught us to be careful!
But as the time passes, memories go dim; the long 30 years or more have intervened since we were last in that presence, and what we believed so firmly in childhood is now uncertain; we have forgotten the emotions and feelings that were so special at the time, blurred and even corrupted by the realities of modern secular life. Individual kind deeds and happy memories remain, but that spiritual presence is harder to recall and certainly almost impossible to convey to someone who was not there at the time. How can we ever describe to our children and grandchildren what he meant to us, if we have in part forgotten ourselves? We have lost connection with the past and we are tempted to ask “Was it really so? Have we not exaggerated the effect of this great man?”
But then , occasionally, an event, sight or sound reminds us; and then, in that brief flash the long years of doubt are banished, at least for a time. Only such a spiritual presence could inspire the absolute loyalty we felt for him, and still do . So fierce was this loyalty, that the way he was treated in his last years by the church authorities is still as painfully felt now bby some as it was the time.
On the eve of his funeral in Spondon Church, an all-night vigil was kept by his coffin by members of the Boys’ Club, one boy even climbing down a tree outside his bedroom in defiance of his father so that he may keep watch in the small hours!
It seemed right that Mr Barber died during the then new Vicar’s vacation abroad, leaving the church in the charge of a much more agreeable young curate, who approved all the traditional funeral rites that had been swept away. When the Vicar’s coffin was brought into the church after Evensong on the Sunday, over 100 members of the Boys’ Club were there to pay their respects. Some stayed on for several hours to join the rosta of boys who were keeping vigil in two-hour shifts throughout the night. At 8 a.m. the next morning, there was a traditional Requiem Mass taken by Canon Ross when over 100 took communion. And then at 11am the church was packed for the funeral itself at which Maurice Darwin, Mr. Barber’s one-time faithful Curate, gave his memorable address. Pete Meakin, in his classic oblique style hits the nail exactly on the head in his recent tribute to the vicar:
A word of criticism from the Rev. Barber, only ever given with the greatest care and consideration, would cut deeper than the sharpest knife.
But it wasn’t only what he said which made him the most remarkable man you or I are ever likely to meet. It was what he did. His actions, his manners, his demeanour, his very being unceasingly reaffirmed what was of true value and meaning in life.... In living for others, we beheld a man who was wholly himself. A one-off. Unique. His imprint, like the watermark in a ten-pound note, remains in all of us who were lucky enough to know him and to grow up under his care. His influence is still felt. His spirit shines on.
|Posted by albert pointon on December 8, 2015 at 4:10 AM||comments (5)|
|Posted by Albert Bennett on June 5, 2015 at 10:10 AM||comments (3)|
Yes I am still here at the age of 88 and just enjoyed reading the memories of Mr Barber by Carolin Ferguson ( my Cousin Len Dickins Daughter ) and the memories of Shirely Hitchcock, I don't know Shirley but both brought back wonderful memories of my time as a founder member of Spondon Church Boys Club. Thank you both very much for bringing back memories of happy simes .Albert Bennett
|Posted by lens daughter on May 31, 2015 at 5:20 PM||comments (3)|
|Posted by StephenRBeet on May 31, 2015 at 8:20 AM||comments (4)|
Memories of Shirley Hitchcock
We moved to Spondon, Devas Gardens, in September 1965, my son Paul was 21 months old, and my daughter was born there in 1967.
After settling into our new home I decided to visit St. Werburgh's, such a beautiful church. My next dooe neighbour but one was Frank Smith and I would speak to him about the music etc. after evensong. He was a lovely organist and I always felt very welcome at the church.
One night Mr. Barber came over to me and was very interested in my family history (my mother, being orphaned at an early age, was taken to in by her aunt in Spondon - I did not know the family, but the name was Richardson. Mr. Barber remembered the family and we struck up a bond straight away.
If I wrote a hundred pages to you I'm sure I could not do Mr. Barber justice. He was unique: a true 'shepherd' of the people. He was very highly educated, as you know, but his gift as a vicar and human being was, I am sure, in his humble approach to all, loftf or lowly.
When he was about three I took him along to the Sunday School, then held in the old C. of E. school on Chapel Street. The dear old Superintendent (her name just escapes me) said: "Leave him, he'll be o.k with me." I left feeling quite nervous, and when I returned to collect him he was talking to Mr. Barber. he continued to go for many years.
As the children grew, they started their education at the C. of E. School, firstly in Chapel Street and then the new school in Church in Church Street. Later on Paul joined the choir, the Boys' Club and was a server for many years at St Werburgh's. They both continued to go to Sunday School and we all enjoyed the usual celebrations at the church.
Now for some of my wonderful memories of Mr. Barber, some very touching but some amusing as well.
I worked at the local surgery and had to be on duty some Saturday mornings. Before Paul moved to the senior school, he would serve at church at 8 a.m. on Saturday - I was relieving at the Chaddesden surgery this particular Saturday morning and took a call from Mr. Barber - apparently Paul hadtaken ill, feverish and dizzy. Mr. Barber, as soon as he could,drove him home, took his temperature, asked him to go into my room where the phone was, then rang me with the details. The doctor visited him when I returned home. He was really such a caring dependable man.
Paul was quite poorly and Mr. Barber visited every morning, assuring me that I could go to work and he would contact me immediately if there was any change. Of course, he made a complete recovery and his treat on getting better was to go fishing with Mr. Barber. What an outing! The picnic basket was full of goodies from the local delicatesan store and Paul said it was one of his best days out ever.
Such a kind man, he seemed to know what to talk about and when. When my daughter was a baby, she had a serious illness. The doctor (who was later to become my employer) Peter Lowe said he thought she would have to go into hospital - suspected meningitis. I said no, I would nurs her at home. She was such a shy child and would never have survived in a hospital with strangers - in those days parents could not stay with them. Anyway, I was obviously missed at church and Mr. Barber found out, perhaps from Mr. Smith, I never got to know. But what a wonderful support he was to me, and I'm sure his positive thoughts and prayers got me through - I am eternally grateful to him.
Over the years, the children became involved in all the usual activities connected to the church and also the Cubs, Brownies, Scouts, Guides etc. as well as continuing at Sunday School. On one occasion I remember Mr. Barber being amused as Paul to receive a prize from the Sunday School and had hasked for and "unusual" book. Mr. Towers was not too pleased about the request but Mr. Barber, slight smile on his lips said it would be okay. Seems nothing today but nearly fifty years ago it was quite unusual. He proudly received his 'Book of Ghost Stories' and another special prize - "Physics Level 1"!!
I always enjoyed Mr. Barber's sermons - I 'm sure they were his own works: I understand they can be purchased but his always had personal details. I clearly remember one Sunday evening, he was well into his sermon and I felt a strange sensation; he was telling us about a parishioner, many years before who was suffering from cancer. He was called to the home and gave his Holy Unction. The man survived without a trace of the disiese. I always knew he was special and didn't really need the proof but it was a wonderful feeling to be in his presence.
One funny memory I have is, on returning from Canada (I had taken my daughter to visit my school friend) in 1978 and on return was invited to a work colleague's wedding. In the 70's women wore large fenine hats for weddings! Walking towards the church door, where Mr. Barber stood to greet us, very amused, and pointing towards my large blue hat-creation saying: "Nice hat!" My husband and I could hardly keep our composure throughout the ceremony. I have a lovely photograph of that day and a special one taken with the bride and groom of Mr. Barber, still with a wry smile on his lips.
I received a 'phone call one day from Mr. Barber asking if I would make my usual cakes for the annual garden party, and a few scones etc. if possible. He finished the conversation by saying he really appreciated everything I did to help him and the church. I said I thought I did very little compared to many in the village, but in his usual lovely way he insisted I was always ready to lend a hand.
We often laugh at this particular occasion, at my expense, I hasten to add. I visited the gardebn party, entered the children in the fancy dress, all the usual things we did. At the close of the day, I offered to help clear up etc. and was amazed when returning to the cake stall to find my sponge sandwich cake still for sale but the lovely cake stand had vanished!! Mr. Barber wa strying to be serious but couldn't hide his amusement. Once again, his quite unusual quality shone through.
Paul was confirmed while he lived in Spondon but when we moved, for a short while to Alvaston, we continued to worship at St. Werburgh's. And when my daughter Sarah was preparing for Confirmation my husband surprised me by saying he would also to be confirmed. He asked if I would ask Mr. Barber if that would be in order. Not only did he welcome him but when i asked if I could could join them in their classes of preparation he welcomed me, but he asked when I wanted to join the classes. I said that my husband had said that I was happy in 'the church' and he would would like to be confirmed along with sarah and that I hoped we could all enjoy the teachings together. He asked me where I had been confirmed as a child and I told him St. Luke's in Derby and that the vicar had been so lovely and kind that I had never forgotten him. Towards the time of confirmation when individuals go would go the Vicar and after confession, I waited until all had been and Mr. Barber welcomed me also. I will never forget how moving this was, I was overcome and felt very priviliged to be in this lovely person's company and to receive his blessing.
When Mr. Barber was about to celebrate his 40th year as Vicar of Spondon, he invited Paul to serve the Bishop Stephen of Repton. The service was so moving and meaningful, we all fel very happy to be sharing this wonderful day with Mr. Barber. One thing that upset me slightly was when I found out that the Archbishop of Canterbury, who [as Bishop of Durham] had officiated at the Queen's Coronation and was at Repton School and Cambrdge with Mr. Barber, was too buy to be present. This always saddens me, but as Philip Whitehead said in his praise of Mr. Barber:" ..he is a true English Worthy" - yes, he was and always will be to me and thousands of others, I am sure, who have been touched by hs wonderful shepherding. Such an educated, knowledgable man but humble enough to stay in one parish all those years. And how sad to know he had to move to Ockbrook for his final days. I'm so pleased to know that he lies in the local cemetry with the parish he loved.
At Mr. Barber's funeral on 8/8/88 Paul and I arrived early and as the clock struck 11 a.m. I happened to look at my watch - it is still at that time, several repairers have tried to get it working, but to no avail!
I visit St. Werburgh's from time to time, held my parents' funerals there, also my aunts and uncles were taken there. My daughter was christened, confirmed and married there. Sadly when I'm visiting for friends' and work colleagues' funerals I cannot walk through the doors without Mr. Barber's presence. He was a lovely, wnderful person, never heard an adverse comment about him. We as a family appreciated everything he did for us and will never forget him.
When we moved from Spondon to Alvaston, Mr. Barber would ring and say he was visiting the printing firm there etc. etc. and he'd love to have a word. He was more than welcome and we reassured him we would always regard St. Werburgh's as 'our` church. He did once ask if we would consider returning - we couldn't but always stayed in touch. I would 'phone him at Ockbrook and realised he was a tired, sick man. But, in true style, stayed the perfect Vicar right up to the end. I only wish he was still here for a friendly chat and uplifting sermon.
|Posted by Ian on September 17, 2014 at 3:00 AM||comments (4)|
I have posted several additions to the official Wikipedia entry for St. Werburgh's, Spondon. The church the Vic served for nearly 50 years. Yet, every time I write something, the entry is taken down. Personally I will never enter the church doors again until the Vicar's name is properly honoured. It was disgraceful the way he was treated towards the end, both by the Church of England and by certain people in Spondon who should have known better.
|Posted by Tony Tinley on February 4, 2013 at 7:15 PM||comments (2)|
Just got back from reunion. Great night Old friends and new friends, shared memories new stories and old stories. whens the next one?
|Posted by John Earnshaw on April 11, 2012 at 7:30 PM||comments (0)|
Like many of the other members I browse through the updates each time they appear. I was surprised to see and read this article, view the lead photograph and shocked to see the lad in the tartan shirt at the front of the picture - why? because it is me. The suggestion that it is early 1960's is in error simply because the last Camp I attended at Sidmouth was in 1959. The people photographed were TEMB, Len Dickens, Kenny Swainson, Maurice Nicholson, Alan McHale, Arthur Hawtin(Archie), Brian (Tub)Turner the person between Alan McHale and Archie Hawtin I cannot make out on the small copy I printed. This photograph happens to be one of the very few I have seen of my youth simply because I was not able to obtain any copies from albums my parents compiled over the years as they simply disappeared when my mother died in 1992. So I hope this note might persuade the person who submitted it to the Daily Telegraph to email a copy of it so that I might have a better record than the printed version of the newspaper.
I was also interested to see the photo of Alan Startin, Albert Hall and Robert Mee. I do not remember Albert Hall but I would have known Alan Startin and Robert Mee without the aid of the caption. I remember Alan well because of his friendship with Geoff Coupey and he had a Triumph Tiger Cub Motorcycle. Rob would sometimes meet us on the way the Boys Club or on the way to school in earlier times when we lived in Windsor Drive.
|Posted by Albert Bennett on April 11, 2012 at 4:15 AM||comments (2)|
I have just come back to normality again after reading Ian Penman's memories of Mr Barber and the club, For the last half hour or so I have totally forgotten the problems that come with getting old and with the help of Ian's memories, although much later on my fondest memories of Mr Barber come flooding back .I am so pleased that members of the club are finding out about the Website and find time to add their stories for all to read. Albert Bennett
|Posted by Ian P on April 8, 2012 at 7:45 PM||comments (2)|
Thank you for placing the article in the Bygones section of the Derby Evening Telegraph in 2009 and for inviting me to join this group. It brought back floods of memories, which prompted me to drop you a line with a few of my recollections of Mr Barber and my time as a member of the Spondon Church Boys Club.
I am 46 years old and I joined the Spondon Church Boys Club circa 1977, although I do not appear in the photograph of the same year, which was published with the above article.
My half-brother, Gary Mann, who is 14 years older than me, joined the Club in about 1963. My other brother, David, and I joined at about the same time after being invited to join by a friend of ours, Neil Hames.
Gary used to go fly-fishing with Mr Barber and they regularly took trout home for my Mum. I suspect Mr Barber may have hung up his rods by the time I joined the Boys Club, but I was to learn other skills and qualities from him; some of which I will mention later on in this tribute.
Mr Barber was one of those rare people who, on first meeting, would command instant respect and trust. I can recall that he appeared to have instant faith in me and, indeed, negotiated my first job for me when I was about 14 years old. This was working at The Salad Bowl greengrocers shop at Sitwell Street, Spondon earning the princely sum of 60p per hour! In the short period between my leaving school and starting work, he also employed me to act as an Usher during some of the funeral services. He did this purely to help me out and provide me with a small amount of pocket money.
Mr Barber was a man who would never sit in judgement or make judgemental remarks and, consequently, I felt that I could talk to him about anything. I can recall an occasion in 1982 when I sought advice from him about my then current girlfriend. His advice must have been sound, as the two of us are now well into our 26th year of marriage with three grown-up sons!
I used to really look forward to the Monday and Friday nights down at the club playing indoor football, snooker, table tennis, darts, outdoor football and volley ball. Although I had played some snooker before, this was my first experience of table tennis. I went on to represent the club at table tennis and darts. Mr Barber would sit in the same place, all night, down at the club, at one end of the snooker table. He kept the list of people waiting to play and when it was nearly my turn I would go and sit by him and have a quick chat whilst I was waiting to be called on. He always had time to speak to you and made all of the lads feel part of the club. I particularly used to enjoy his tales of ghosts, which allegedly roamed in and around the vicarage! Despite the presence of lots of adolescent boys, I do not recall any instances of conflict down at the clubhouse and I believe that this was due to the enormous amount of respect that all of the boys had for him.
The clubhouse itself was a rather run down wooden hut and the indoor football ‘arena’ consisted of an old brick room with no windows and a concrete floor. There was an old fireplace at one end and some wooden stairs with a cubbyhole underneath at the other. These served as the goals! We were, of course, oblivious to these makeshift facilities and I spent many, many enjoyable hours in there during the winter months.
For me going down to the club was the highlight of my week and, consequently, my time down there seemed to go really quickly. It was a real shame when the vicarage was turned into a nursing home and the old wooden hut disappeared. From memory, I think that the club survived the re-assignation of the vicarage for a few years, moving to St Werburghs School on Church Street. It was then run by some of the former members but, sadly, it petered out. Unfortunately, people as dedicated and committed as Mr Barber are very few and far between and, no matter how well intentioned others might be, very few can commit such time to running a voluntary youth organisation.
Going on camp to Sidmouth was extremely exciting and the camaraderie was priceless. I made some very good friends down at the club and, to have missed the opportunity to go on holiday with them once a year was unthinkable. In 1982 I sold my first motorbike just so that I could afford to go! We played cards on the coach on the way down the M5 and tried to avoid losing our £10 spending money, which had to last for the full 10 days of the holiday. I can recall going down to the club on the night before camp and helping to load up the Bell Tents and equipment into the coach trunk. I would guess that this equipment was as old as the Boys Club itself!
The sun always seemed to shine in Sidmouth! I cannot recall any bad weather; or is this just my selective memory playing tricks on me? The tents always seemed to go up and come down dry. Latrines were dug and the small tents were erected over the crude toilets. Predictably, these filled with hundreds of flies overnight. Not surprisingly, one of the less popular fatigues was filling in the old and digging out a new latrine - normally juniors supervised by seniors! My favourite fatigue was going on the trailer behind a tractor to fetch the urns of water from the local farm.
Kit inspection used to be fun with points given to the tent with the neatest and most creative design fashioned from towels, plates, clothes and cutlery. I was there when Charles and Diana got married in 1981 and I can recall the designs, which had been thoughtfully linked into this memorable event. After kit inspection came games with stump cricket being my favourite.
Following lunch we would head down the hill into Sidmouth. The afternoon would be spent eating chips, playing on the putting green and chatting up the local girls! Supper at 9.30 was non-negotiable! I can recall one unfortunate occasion, probably in 1981, when I had had a sniff of a Barmaid’s apron, whilst in the company of Neil Hames, Kev Reed and my brother Dave. We were sat outside The Ship Inn when we suddenly realised how late it was. We ran all the way back up to camp, arriving there just as supper was being served. I can recall Mr Barber’s face as if it was yesterday; scrutinising us like a hawk, as we went up for our horlicks! The run back had directed the beer straight to our heads and the level of our inebriation must have been obvious. Mr Barber sentenced us to an unforgettable night in the freezing cold marquee! The look of disappointment on his face, however, was far more punishing than those few uncomfortable hours.
The last evening at camp was always a great event with songs such as "You'll never go to heaven..." being sung until, what appeared to be, late into the night.
Neil Hames and I have remained friends and we still reminisce about the Boys Club virtually every time we meet up; such is the imprint that has been left on our lives. It was a terribly sad day in 1988, when one of the most selfless men I have ever met passed away. His influence, however, is still present with all of us former members and I, for one, have a lot to thank him for.