In this section we shall describe the history of the Spondon Church Boys' club from its early beginnings at the Vicarage in 1939 to its sad demise following the death of the Vicar in 1988.
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Spondon Church Boys’ Club was founded by the Rev’d T.E.M. Barber shortly after his arriving in Spondon on St. Patrick’s Day, 17th March 1939. Mr. Barber had first run a boys’ club in Hucknall in the parish of his father, Canon T.G. Barber, and during his curacy in Lincoln he had become renowned for his work both as a priest and as a great leader.
The Story of Spondon Church Boys’ Club Camp 1940
“You don’t know how lucky you are to have Mr. Barber", wrote a Lincoln parishoner. “We should have loved to have kept him.” And early in 1939, the previous Vicar the Rev’d. H. Brocklehurst wrote: “ I am confident that [Mr. Barber] will do a great work [in Spondon], and I look forward to hearing how he has been able to fill the old Parish Church in a way it aught to be filled.”
Mr. Barber was 32 years old when he came to Spondon. The membership of the club, which met at the Vicarage, had reached over 80 by the time of the first camp in the summer of 1939 , to which several of his old boys from Lincoln attended. The Camp Magazine for 1939 states that Mr Barber was carried shoulder high at the end of the camp and was declared to be “The finest leader any club could have.”
Members of the Club will know that Mr Barber took camp without a break for the following forty-eight years, a remarkable achievement in itself; but the fact that the Camp of 1940 happened at all is perhaps the most remarkable achievement of those early years. Against all odds, and in the face of opposition, Mr. Barber, with just a few adult officers, took over one hundred and twenty boys to camp in that first dark year of the war. How did he do it? In the pages of the Parish Magazine we read of this remarkable story as it was unfolded month by month.
This account is given the Vicar’s own words, and I have altered nothing of the text. At the beginning of some months, I have added an extract from Mr Barber’s letter to his parishioners before quoting the Club report.
1940 - January
The passing out of the old year and the coming in of the new year laves us wondering […] will 1940 see the war finished and peace and happiness restored, or will it see a Europe smashed to pieces? God only knows.
Our members have reached over eighty and we have decided to divide the club in half. The older boys will meet as usual on Mondays and Saturdays, and the younger boys will meet another day.
The boys are always asking if there will be a camp in 1940. I sincerely hope that it will be possible [and] I suggest that all who would like to come should start paying in now and if it is not possible to hold a camp the money can be returned.
Unless anything unforeseen happens there will be a camp in the Summer, and most probably at Combe Martin, in North Devon. We shall be well away from German aeroplanes. By holding several Whist Drives we hope to keep the cost of the camp at thirty shillings per head. There are bound to be difficulties running a camp in war time, but I know that all who go will try to understand the numerous problems which will confront the Camp Chief and do their best to help.
The severe winter weather has caused a tremendous amount of illness, and has had a bad effect upon our Congregations.
We shall soon have to start oiling the cricket bats and mowing the pitch, but I am afraid the war and the bad weather have made us forget.
I have an official coming to make final arrangements about camp. I am afraid things are not going to be easy, but I know everyone will pull their weight so we can definitely say, “ We are going!”
Before closing I should like to say last month I referred to Mrs XXXX as a cripple. This may be misleading. I should perhaps have used the word invalid. I meant cripple with rheumatism.
We are hoping to put down a concrete pitch in the Vicarage field. Arrangements are going forward for camp and we shall soon be able to state definitely the dates and address. Start paying to the Vicar as soon as you like.
During the last month the situation in Europe has become quite different. It seems to us almost unbelievable that the Nazi Leaders should have committed such a diabolic crime as their latest adventures in Denmark and Norway, and we cannot help feeling somewhat elated when we hear of Allied victories on Sea, Land and Air. The great tragedy is that nearly every ship that is is sunk or aeroplane shot down means loss of human life and terrible suffering by those at home. Mr. Chamberlain has said we are fighting against evil. We must be careful that we are not fighting evil with evil […].
German measles seems to be flourishing still, but it has been most encouraging to see a large increase in the congregations in spite of it. Camp dates have been provisionally fixed for July 30th until August 9th. Cricket will be starting soon, so we shall be having a general meeting of all Club Members.
Thee German Leaders have committed further atrocities since I last wrote to you and now the whole of civilisation is threatened with destruction. The Prime Minister [Mr. Churchill], speaking on Trinity Sunday, did not try to conceal the truth and he warned us that our island will have to suffer as other countries have been made to suffer – through the ruthless bombing by the Germans. How must we meet this situation? […]
There is always the possibility that our town may be bombed. […] If we did suffer from heavy bombardment and many of you lay wounded and dying it is possible that you might like to make your peace with God and receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion. It is suggested that people might wear a small piece of card, attached to a piece of cord bearing the inscription: Church of England. If badly hurt I want a priest. May God give you all faith and courage to face with calm the difficulties which lie before you.
The question which everyone is asking is “Can we go to Camp?” Every time we listen to the news we become more and more doubtful. Unless England is invaded I think we can safely say there will be a camp. The government are very anxious that there should be camps this summer and they are doing all they can to help. They say that Coombe Martin will be one of the safest places in England and parents need have no anxiety since the government will not allow us to camp if they do not think that it is wise, so unless anything serious happens we shall go.
By the time you read this the Summer programme will have commenced. We shall be playing cricket, tennis, deck tennis and other outdoor games. It will be difficult to arrange matches this year, but we shall make the best of a bad job.
At the time of writing we are all wondering what will happen next. Events have moved so rapidly and with such startling results that we find ourselves in a kind of nightmare. So much depends on France’s decision. […]
All I ask is that if I am called upon to suffer, I may have the courage and faith to face whatever lies before me […]. Let us remain calm, convinced in our ultimate victory and may the present sufferings be a lesson to us and to future generations, never to neglect our duty to God and to one another.
What about Camp? We are asked to continue with the arrangements unless there come a state of extreme emergency. Unless such an emergency arises we shall go to camp.
We are waiting to see what will be Hitler's next move. It is generally believed that he will attempt to invade our country. [...] Whatever happens we must not lose our faith.
I know that many parents feel that I am unwise in taking boys to camp this year, and perhaps in many ways I am. But I do feel that we at home must do our best to help the youth of the nation by giving them a short holiday from their work or school and let them forget that there is a war. By carrying on as usual we can give fresh confidence to those who many be suffering from the nervous tension of wondering what will happen next.
We shall have our corporate Communion for all campers and friends on Sunday, 28th July (only those who have been confirmed make their Communion).
Once more we shall have to darken the windows of the church. What a wonderful camp we held in spite of the war. Before we went there seemed to be innumerable difficulties, but all of you did your best to help and I think everyone was sorry that the camp was not lasting for at least another two months. We shall without doubt, look forward to next year. I should like to take this opportunity for the beautiful gift you gave me. It was just what I wanted but I shall value it particularly because you gave it to me.
We have had an excellent season at cricket, winning every match but one. We shall soon be starting our winter programme, but before that we shall be calling a general meeting of all members.
We are still carrying on well. The nights for the seniors have been changed to Wednesdays . The Juniors' nights are Wednesdays and Fridays. In the case or an air raid, all members will be kept at the Vicarage until the "All Clear." Parents will know where their boys will be.
A Girls' Club has been formed , not in any way in opposition to the G.F.S [Girls Friendly Society] but as a means of arranging for some kind of sport on Saturday afternoons. It is hoped that it will be possible to run a hockey team.
After the general meeting of all members, it was decided that the Juniors should no longer meet separately during the winter, but that they should join with the Seniors on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
The Club now has been divided into four teams, and league matches at Table Tennis, Billiards and Darts are arranged. So far everything is running very smoothly. We only hope that all members will continue to turn up regularly.
We are still carrying on with the Leagues. Each team plays every other team twice. In the first round the 'Blues' are easily leading. Team leaders have been doing a great work in keeping the competitions going. It would be a great help if every boy would turn up sometime on Wednesday evenings so that we are not held up.
Originally it was intended to keep Saturdays free from competitions, but so far this has not been possible. We are very grateful to all the boys who helped with the Sale of Work.
Christmas will not be the same this year with so many homes broken up and the shortage of money, but we must do our best to keep this happy festival in the best way we can.
Your sincere friend and Vicar