Tribute to Hugh Barker - Tim's father

Mina2 in the Caribbean - Where's The Ice Gone?
Tim Barker
Tue 2 Feb 2010 08:14


I left Mina2 to return to the UK on 22 December. I had received a call to say that my father, who had been diagnosed with cancer whilst I was mid-Atlantic, was now seriously ill. He came out of hospital on 24 December and we spent a marvellous Christmas together gathered round his bed. He enjoyed it enormously. As we had been told to expect, he deteriorated quickly thereafter and on the afternoon of New Year’s Day he drifted peacefully away. Surrounded by my mother, Noel, and all three of his children, at the age of 91 and after a long and fulfilled life, it was a good way to go.


Since then I, together with my two sisters, have been busy dealing with his estate and supporting my mother, Noel – his wife of 61 years. Below is the tribute that I read at my father’s funeral.





Hugh Barker

1919 - 2010



“Hugh passed away at 7.45 on the evening of the 1st of January. He died as he had lived – with bravery and dignity. And he died at home with Noel and all three of his children around him. It was very peaceful. A perfect ending to a long and fulfilled life.


Born in India in the aftermath of the First World War, Hugh was sent back to the UK at the age of three and was brought up by his grandmother on the Isle of Wight. During the Second World War he was a dashing RAF officer and after the war completed his degree at Cambridge in engineering. Hugh was a successful businessman and in retirement, with Noel always at his side, he became an adventurous and accomplished sailor. He was also a highly accomplished albeit completely untrained musician.


Those are the headlines. But who was the man behind the headlines? Everybody loved Hugh. He was a supremely lovable person. Interested as well as interesting, his life was full of achievement and incidents which he didn’t talk about much.  He was born with dodgy hips, and pain was a constant companion for much of his life. But he never complained. Reading the many letters of condolence sent to Noel, it comes as no surprise that a recurring word used to describe Hugh is “Gentleman”. Some people have divided the word, to describe Hugh as a “Gentle Man” – and that he was.


Hugh had an extraordinary brain and an almost photographic memory - particularly a memory for verses and rhymes. We were used to being entertained by renditions of “Albert and the Lion” but it was at my stag party more than 30 years ago that Hugh sat himself on the bar at Ranelagh Sailing Club and amazed and delighted all my friends and me by reciting from memory, and without a pause, all 61 verses of “Eskimo Nell”! He later confessed that the last time he had recited it was more than 20 years before.


Even when he was in hospital last month, Georgie and Noel were boasting about their mental agility. “The ultimate test” said Georgie “is to see how long it takes to recite the alphabet backwards”. Noel and Georgie struggled and failed. Hugh opened his half-drugged eyes and without error zipped from Z to A in about 2.5 seconds. Point made.


He also had an inexhaustible repertoire of jokes. And no one appreciated his jokes more than Hugh himself. He had barely delivered the punchline, before his face had creased up and his shoulders were heaving with silent laughter at his own joke.


As a family man he was a wonderful father to Linda, Georgie and me, and a loving grandfather to our six children. But his greatest role was as the unswervingly loyal and devoted husband of Noel.  Marks & Spencer, Morecambe & Wise – eat your hearts out. The greatest double act was Hugh & Noel. It was a fairytale of love at first sight. Hugh proposed to Noel after only two days, and Noel enthusiastically accepted. Complete opposites in every respect, Hugh and Noel were the perfect complement for each other and they lived by the promises they made to each other more than 61 years ago: to love and to cherish for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. They shared everything. It was the perfect partnership.


Hugh was unique. Hugh is irreplaceable. Hugh’s death will leave a hole in all of our lives, but none more so than for Noel. She will need, and she will get, enormous support over the coming months, not only from her family but also from the enormous number of friends she shared with Hugh.


In celebrating Hugh’s life today, we cherish the memories of a wonderful, brave, warm, witty, kind, clever and generous man. Hugh – we will all miss you enormously.”