Founded in 1939

Spondon Church Boys' Club

In memory of our great Vicar and friend TEM Barber

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Anonymous Tribute sent by an Old Boy

Posted by StephenRBeet on April 7, 2012 at 12:45 AM Comments comments (0)

  I've just received this tribute by e-mail from an old boy who asked me to post it on his behalf:   

                                   A Great Man I shall Never Forget

   It had been a long time since I had thought about the Vic until this site was set up some months ago.  At first I was reluctant to contribute because I didn’t want to re-visit past memories.  After all, what did it matter what happened thirty years ago.  And then I realised why this was so.   I was lying in bed and I suddenly admitted to myself why I had been reluctant to contribute.  It was because I believe I have let the Vicar down in my life since he died, and I did not want to admit this to myself.  I’d even persuaded myself that the past was some sort of dream: surely no man could have been so great and spiritual as he was.  Surely no-one could have believed in us in such a way as he did. And it did not matter if we let such a man as this down.  And as the years passed, it became easier to believe this.  I’d even forgotten what I’d promised him before he died.


     But then, when I read the other contributionsto the site, all the memories came flooding back.  And then last month some soundfiles were posted of the camps and OMG!  I was listening to them with my wife, and trying to explain why the Vic had been so important.  Somehow, I couldn’t even explain.  Then I heard the Vic’s voice again after all these years and just burst into tears.  I was transported back to a teenage boy and I was crying like a child.

    I’m sure this site will help other people too and I just want to remind them what the Vicar meant to us all those years ago, in case they have forgotten also.  I’m sure we’ve all let him down, but I’m  sure too that he would understand why.  And I’m now wondering how I can make it all up to him again.



Tribute by Dr. Pete Meakin

Posted by StephenRBeet on January 2, 2012 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (1)

                                                          Rev. T.E.M. Barber


   The fly continued its buzzing. Undaunted, it searched and scoured the car windscreen, intent on finding an exit through the glass and into the freedom of another idyllic summer’s day in a farmer’s field in Sidmouth. The Reverend T. E. M. Barber stretched out a hand, cupped his fingers and, with care and precision, guided the fly across the windscreen and out through the open side-window. The fly flew off without a hint of gratitude or even acknowledgement. The Vicar, sitting in the driver’s seat, passed no comment. Nor did I, sitting beside him. Yet this recollection would never leave me. In a simple, unremarked way, it seemed to encapsulate the essence of a far-from-simple, remarkable man.


   What were the hallmarks of that brief incident on a Boys’ Club Camp in the 1970s? And what do they tell us about the man himself? First of all, I suppose, they indicate a man who was anything but run of the mill. To the rest of us, a fly is a nuisance. It lives to be squatted. (We’d exterminated several hundred of them on the canvas of our tents earlier that same morning. The Vapona fly-repellent hanging in the Officers’ tent was a clear warning to flies that they were not welcome here.) But to the Rev. Barber, that single, simple fly must have been another reminder of the wonder of God’s creation. A world where life is of infinite variety and all life is of value.


   Even more critically, perhaps, is the fact that the incident passed without comment. “In the beginning was the Word.” And words were never wasted with the Vicar. They were used sparingly, but always to the utmost effect. 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. Put simply, that was putting others before oneself. Or, in biblical terms, loving thy neighbour as thyself. 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.



Pete Meakin



The Boys Club

Posted by Albert Bennett on December 13, 2011 at 9:15 AM Comments comments (2)

My fondest memories of Mr Barber go back to the very early years of the Boys Club when he opened up the back half of the vicorage to be used for the club rooms, that included the kitchen with its big cast iron range that we used for making fried bread, a real treat in those days. We also had the stable or garage for indoor foot ball and two rooms up stairs for table tennis. Club nights were always something to look forward too and Mr Barber let us borrow his radio gram to play records and most nights he would join in with the fun. Times I shall never forget. Very many thanks to to the VICAR as we all colled him.   Albert Bennett  

From Bill Frearson

Posted by StephenRBeet on November 20, 2011 at 8:30 AM Comments comments (0)

   My first camping holiday with the Reverend Barber was to Coombe Martin in Devon.  The last one was in Wales at Llanfairfechen.  I'm not sure of the dates now but it must have been 1943--45.

   I can remember running for Spondon Church Boys' Club in Nottingham and playing football for them on our home pitch up Locko Road.

Bill Frearson

Tribute by Dave Carruthers

Posted by StephenRBeet on November 20, 2011 at 8:15 AM Comments comments (0)

   The Reverend Barber certainly was the person I consider as the most influential factor in my formative years. He, and the Boys' Club he created, sustained the message my parents were trying to transmit to me that hard work and integrity, applied to all equally, would yield many of life's benefits.

    I loved the Sidmouth camps. I loved the Boys' Club nights but most of all I loved the football and cricket teams.


   God bless you Reverend Barber:  you provided a security blanket for those boys you strove to protect and you kept us on the straight and narrow.


   My biggest regret in life is that I was unable to attend your funeral but, to this day, whenever I am back in Spondon I first visit the grave of my parents and then SIR I come and cry at your grave. We all called you Sir ... no one else I know deserved the honour more!


Dave Carruthers

The 'Vic' - A Tribute by Ian

Posted by StephenRBeet on November 18, 2011 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Twenty-Five Years On


    It hardly seems possible that it is getting on twenty-five years since that terrible day when the whole of Spondon seemed hushed and a vast crowd gathered in St. Werburgh’s church to say “Farewell - but never forgotten,” to the man many of us regarded as our hero throughout our childhood years.   Now a whole generation in Spondon has grown up never knowing what it was like to come under his influence, and it’s frightening to think that to have really known  ‘The Vic’, or ’Sir’ - as we affectionately, but always respectfully knew him - one must be coming up to forty or beyond!   Where have all the years gone? And what has happened to us all?


     It’s a fact that most of the original members have now ‘passed into Paradise,’ as the Vic always described it, and must be enjoying his company once again, but what has happened to those who remain?  Let’s hope that this site will re-unite those now travelling or living all over the world in far-flung places, where to them Spondon  and the days in the Club and the Church will be a distant memory.


    But  though a distant memory (even for the youngest who helped keep vigil over his coffin during the night before his funeral, and stood over his grave later that August day in 1988) , it’s to be sure that the memories have grown stronger in our hearts all through the intervening years.


    Our lives have gone on and many landmarks passed:  weddings, birth of children, grandchildren, and many  deaths .  Happy and sad times, all of which we wished we could have shared with him. Some members have reached great success in their professional and personal lives, others have remained as we always were.  But always we are thankful for the help and guidance he gave to each one of us individually when we were young and in need of support.   Only in our hearts can it all be told.


    Your leaving us, Sir, left a great gap in so many lives but we try to hold on to the belief that what you taught us was true.  When several of us were gathered round your deathbed that last night we were told by your sister that you would soon slip away, and that you were even then in a coma and would never speak again.  But you woke up and spoke your last words clearly and strongly to us and assured us that you would be with us throughout our lives and would be waiting for us in the end.  The next morning you were gone, but I’ve always believed your words to be true, Sir.  Every time I come to Spondon I go to your grave and shed a tear for not only my loss but the loss to us all of such a great man who could never be replaced.


    Many of us have been through joys and sorrows since that time, but the death of our Vicar was probably the hardest to bear.  If any think I exaggerate, then they did not know this great man!




A Tribute by the Late Phillip Whitehead

Posted by StephenRBeet on November 16, 2011 at 1:25 AM Comments comments (0)


The Vicar of Spondon - An English Worthy - by the late Phillip Whitehead, former Labour MP for Derby

(published 14th March 1979)


Domesday Book tells us what it was like in the beginning. "In Spondune Stori had 5 c. of land taxable. Land for 5 ploughs. Now in lordship 3 ploughs ... 14 villagers and 2 smallholders have 4 ploughs.  A priest and a church; 1 mill, 5s 4d."


   Spondon has changed very greatly since then, and never more so that in the last 30 years. Stori is forgotten, and Henry de Ferrers, the Norman after him.  The ploughs no longer keep pace with the people.  The 14 villagers have become 20,000.


   But there is still a priest, and a church [which] in its foundation is the same church, re-built in its present form after a great fire had destroyed the first stone structure. For the last 40 years, St. Werburgh's Church has been in the care of one man, the Rev. T.E.M. Barber, who became vicar on March 17th, 1939.


   It is a formidable time for any man's ministry.  If you look on the list of vicars in Spondon Church you will see only one man since 1300 who has gone for more than 40 years.  I doubt if even in Mr. Manlove's 42 years he became so thoroughly a part of the place.


   The rambling vicarage and its walled garden are surrounded now by the new estates, whose very shape and style spell change.  The land that was tilled within earshot of the sacristan's bell for a thousand years is now an estate agent's paradise.


   But if you walk through the vicarage gates in the gloaming and come upon the bucolic figure of the vicar with his dogs, you could still be in a country parsonage 200 years ago.


   Ted Barber was born to the cloth, though he did not immediately don it.  His father was the vicar of Hucknall, Canon T.G. Barber, who earned some celebrity (and a Greek decoration for his efforts) by opening Lord Byron's tomb on the centenary of the poet's death, thus becoming the first man for a century to glimpse those famous features (Lord Byron's body had been embalmed before being sent home from Greece, where he had died in the War of Independence).  Ted and his sisters were present on this macabre occasion.


    Ted went to school at Repton, and spent some time as a traffic apprentice with the L.M.S. before going to Cambridge, where he was a hurdler of distinction.  He was now sure of his vocation, ad after a period at theological college, and one position as a curate-in-charge, he was recommended to the Drury-Lowe family for Spondon living.  And here he has been ever since, through the was, and the huge post-war expansion of Spondon.

    One of the first things he did was to found a boys' club in Spondon which is still flourishig.  It started out in two rooms at the back of the vicarage, with games facilities in the gardens, and it maintained a close link with worship at St. Werburgh's.  Many of the boys were also choirboys and servers there.

    One of the first generation, Mr. Dickens, went on to become church warden.  They form a network of friendships and mutual help throughout Derby today, and the vicar, more often than not, baptises a child now whose parents he not only christened but watched grow up in his club.   I know from personal experience how far this interest goes.  If there is a possible eviction on the horizon, or a prisoner to be visited, Ted Barber will have been there to give what help he can.

     He is not a great one for the stuffier socialising, and having never married does not have to add a wife's aspirations in that direction to his own.  A passing tramp will get as warm a welcome at his door as a prelate.  He is his own man, in this and all things, helped from time to time by his three sisters, but always four square on his own feet.  No doubt this helps in a parish where you have to face both the stresses of modern life, and the claims of the past.

    Despite the press of the new estates you are very conscious of the past in Spondon church.  Outside, there are still the deep grooves in the stone where the longbow-men sharpened their arrows, before practising at the butts for the real thing, which perhaps overtook them at Agincourt, or some homespun foray in the Wars of the Roses.

   There is still the window through which the lepers watched divine service.  If you hear that service today, it will still be in the cadences of the 1662 Prayer Book and the Authorised Version.   There is no pressure to change. "he's seen off three bishops, after all," they say in Spodon. *

   Mr. Barber has also seen off a ghost, which may be more difficult.   In his early years at the vicarage, he was conscious of the presence of a monk, murmuring  "Patience and Endurance." as he passed.  After  the discovery of a well in the vicarage gardens some years ago the monk was heard no more.  the imagination can run riot on a story like that.

   Next Sunday his parishioners, plus a brace of bishops, will celebrate Ted Barber's 40th anniversary at t Werburgh's with him.    "He is closer to God than anyone I know," one of them says.  Let us just say that he is much loved.

    When you meet him, still ruddy of face and firm of stride at 72, you will know you have met a fortunate man too, who can be described best in the old style - an English Worthy.

 * [Editor's note:  Would that the 1662 Prayerbook services were still available in St Werburgh's Church.  These were discontinued by the new vicar in 1986! ]




Memories and Tributes

Posted by StephenRBeet on November 13, 2011 at 7:20 AM Comments comments (1)
    Mr. Barber's diminishing number surviving old boys are now scattered througout the world, and it is the aim of this site not only to bring them together in this virtual world but to share with others just what the club meant to us all those years ago. It is our determination that Mr Barber's great work should never be forgotten.  At present it lies buried in the hearts of all whom he knew and helped, but it seems appropriate that we should share some of our memories in the hope that by so doing, his great work may in some way continue.
    Plese contribute here your memories