|Posted by Ian P on April 8, 2012 at 7:45 PM|
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.