Founded in 1939

Spondon Church Boys' Club

In memory of our great Vicar and friend TEM Barber

The Vic - Memories/Tributes Post New Entry

Memories from Mrs Shirley Hitchcock

Posted by StephenRBeet on May 31, 2015 at 8:20 AM

                                                   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.


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Reply Stephen Beet
3:43 AM on August 31, 2020 
Sarah Railton says...
Many thanks for your comments.
What a great account. Father Barber was truly something else and everything that a vicar should be. As for the Sunday School on Chapel Street, my younger brother and I used to attend. I believe that the superintendent you are referring to was Miss Cope. She used to run the Sunday School along with Mr Towers and they were assisted by Cath Rees, if my memory serves me well.
Reply john belfield
2:43 PM on December 31, 2016 
Sarah Railton says...
The superintendent you are referring to was Miss Cope. She used to run the Sunday School along with Mr Towers and they were assisted by Cath Rees, if my memory serves me well.

Unfortunately, Kath Rees died on the 14th of this month. She was 66.
Reply Sarah Railton
11:00 AM on October 11, 2015 
What a great account. Father Barber was truly something else and everything that a vicar should be. As for the Sunday School on Chapel Street, my younger brother and I used to attend. I believe that the superintendent you are referring to was Miss Cope. She used to run the Sunday School along with Mr Towers and they were assisted by Cath Rees, if my memory serves me well.