Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Eulogy for Barrie

Delivered by his cousin Michael at Hutcliff Wood Chapel, Sheffield, June 23rd, 2017.

Good afternoon, and thank you for coming to this short service of remembrance for my cousin Barrie Lockwood. It falls to me as one of his few surviving relatives to say a few words for Barrie, and I hope to be worthy of that honour and to do justice to him.

As I said at my mother’s a few years ago, funerals are for the living, not the dead. They are for us to celebrate the life of the people we liked and loved. This one is for my sister, who was his primary family contact in these last few years and who visited him and gave him news and tried to keep him in the land of the living. It’s for the care home staff, who looked after him very well, and it’s for Aunty Eileen and Hazel and all the rest of us that knew him in happier times.

Barrie Lockwood was born to Harold, a Sheffield steelmaker, and Millicent, a homemaker and the daughter of a master gardener to the Leigh family whose head was at one time the master cutler. 

He was a Sheffield lad and proud of it to the day he died, and loved the industrial history and even the rough, coal-blackened and Victorian splendor of this industrial town. He loved trams and trains and British cars, he liked gritstone architecture, brown ale and brown trousers, and traditional Sheffield food. He lived a life based on Sheffield values of family and hard work and a little fun now and then.

Barry was a bright boy, won a scholarship to King Edwards when it was a grammar school, passed the civil service exam, and began a long career in government, which culminated in his job as Clerk of Sheffield Crown Court, a position that put him mentally and physically at the center of the city and the region and at the center of regional events, specially criminal ones. It was a fine career. Barrie was committed to British government and making it work, especially to old-fashioned British government based on values of reason and decency and plain common sense. Sometimes I think we could use a few more like him today, and a few less of what we have. He took civil service posts here after his father died to look after his mother, and retired early to do more of that, and so lived with Millie, looking after each other at High Storrs Close, until first she died and then he grew ill. Essentially, he lived seventy years of an eighty-year life or more in the same house.

I loved Barrie as my mother’s cousin and as one of the extended Watson clan, now dwindling, that once were much more common in the Mayfield valley. I also liked him. He was fun to be around, both when I was a small boy, and later when I would come home to visit him and Millie at High Storrs. He was also a shoulder to rely on, especially at two particular times, the first during the 1980s when he paid for my initial emigration to America and so gave me the push that would eventually lead to university and an academic career, to my wife Aimee and my daughter Edana whom some of you are meeting for the first time today, assuming she will sit still. The second time Barrie helped me greatly was when my parents had both begun to show signs of dementia, and I was racked with pain and upset at losing them, or at least losing them as I knew them, and Barrie helped me put it in perspective. I still can’t quite put into words what a relief it was to sit and talk to an elderly relative that still, almost to the end, had most of his marbles, when my Mum and Dad were so clearly off their rocker and going beyond my reach. I know Carol feels much the same way. Barrie was a kind and decent and helpful man.

Some particular memories of Barrie include he and my dad Gordon teaching me to play three-card Brag at family parties. I would get a little pocket money from dad, or earn money working for him in the chocolate shop, and Barrie and dad would then relieve me of that money in fairly short order, while I learned the intricacies of the game. It’s going to be hard to explain to the younger generation just how much good clean family fun can be had with just a pack of cards and a small stack of change and two close male relatives intent on relieving you of your cash and teaching you not to be a fool.

I’m not sure they succeeded, but we had fun trying.

Barrie and I were both in the RAF, as was Eileen’s husband Ron. Ron was a Mosquito navigator in World War Two, Barrie was national service in the fifties, and I was a regular in the late seventies and early eighties, so we had that in common. I served at some of the same Vale of York airfields that Barrie had seen twenty years earlier, and played three card brag in some of the same crew rooms.

Barrie liked to talk of his RAF days. He always liked British technology and those were the heydays of British jet flight. Barrie was a clerk in the HQ of a Javelin squadron. Javelins were some of the first truly modern jet fighters and well ahead of their time, and the squadron was led by seasoned veterans of the war. The Soviets were the bad guys by then, and the squadron was needed, and it must have been exciting to be a eighteen-year old lad around all that. Later in life he developed a taste for fast cars, probably related to this experience, and always had some souped-up British car parked outside his house, which was exciting for me as a young lad.

He could talk. Boy, could that man talk, he said. Lapsing into Americanisms. Conversations with Barrie were two, three, four hour affairs. He never seemed to tire of it. But it was always entertaining, and always witty, and always he’d kept up with the news and he knew what was going on and had an interesting opinion and point of view on it all.

I could go on, but this is the new Britain and this chapel and crematorium are run on what my American relatives call a tight schedule, which Barrie never was, and so we had better move on, or we’ll keep the staff from their Friday night relaxation. Barrie would most certainly NOT have wanted to do that.

Barrie Lockwood is gone from us physically, but I will always remember him as the bright and able and witty Sheffield lad he was, fun to be around and good to talk to. I hope you will too.

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