R.I.P Denis Barker

Denis finally passed away just short of his 88th birthday. The last few years were not good. Glen and Alli came to visit from Mudgee, which is to Australia what Kestell is to the Free State. We went out to supper after they had visited Denis; They were not sure if he had recognised them; The next day Alli phoned to say he had gone.

Despite his wake being held at very short notice and in the middle of a long weekend (the next day was Tuesday Workers Day May 1st) it was really well attended.

It was held in the Umzinto church he and Faye had got married in – which they had bought when the congregation fizzled and the building had been demystified. They moved it lock, stock, pulpit and baptismal fountain to Selborne. Then they got married in it all over again. Then Faye was buried from it four years ago. And now Denis.

Just like Faye’s the wake was first-class, and we all made sure the bar tab the family picked up was a hefty one. ‘I’ll have another one of those, please, and let me tell you THIS about Glen . . ‘

Denis and Faye had farmed in the Dumisa district – which made Kestell look urban – on Tanhurst and then moved to Selborne on the coast. I had once visited Glen at Tanhurst as a student, and then visited them often at Selborne, golfing at Umdoni, exploring Linton Hall and Botha House, checking out ‘Vernon the Villain’ Crookes’ beautiful manor house at Selborne – now Glen’s home; Denis and Faye were always so very kind to us and interested in our affairs. I saw Glen turn 21 there and get married there. Free beer!

Selborne Park
Barker Selborne

Denis soon began changing Selborne from sugar cane fields, a dairy and an anthirium nursery to his dream golf course. He had traveled to golf courses all over the world* and THIS was how he wanted his golf course to look. With more than a bit of an Augusta National Golf Club look evident!

Selborne golf course.jpg

*in the ‘States somewhere – I must ask Glen where – Denis once got a hole-in-one on a par four! What kind of bird is that!? An apteryx?

Denis and Glen were mad keen cricketers. Sometimes their club was really desperate and Glen would ask me – a FreeStater! – to fill in for them. I would happily oblige. About three or four times I traveled down to Umzinto, got a duck, dropped a few catches and did very well at lunch. Later when Denis wrote a book ‘Umzinto Cricket – The First 100 years’ I bought one, he signed it, and I eagerly read it from cover to cover. Then I checked all the stats. I was sorely disappointed. Complete waste of money. Obviously an incomplete history: I didn’t feature at all.

Umzinto Cricket 100yrs

I believe he wrote another book about a forefather who had survived Isandlwana. I didn’t read that one. I only hope he gave that brave warrior a bit more credit.

PS: If you really want to know accurate Barker history for goodness’ sake don’t read what I write! Ask Glen – he’ll give you lock stock and barrel!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Dave Hill responded: Nice one Pete.

Denis and my dad, George were at Kearsney together…..so when I arrived there, a freshfaced Zambian boy in 1968, the only person I “knew” was Glen.

He took me under his wing and I spent many weekends at the farm. Denis taught me, sort of, to water ski on Ifafa Lagoon! Hard to imagine nowadays that there was water right up to where the highway passes by.

Later on I was called upon by Denis to drill for water at Selborne. We spent many hours talking during the 3 weeks we were there and I really got to know him rather well.

Those boreholes are still working today and I always bore [sorry!] my mates when playing a round there with war stories about drilling in 1983/4.

He gave me a copy of his Isandlwana book and we kept in contact via email until he sadly was unable to do so.

He hung in tough though and he can now finally rest in peace with his beloved Faye and Jane.

– gotta love the company slogan –

~~~oo0oo~~~

R.I.P Faye Barker

Glen’s Mom died. She had been a bit spaced out the last few years, Alzheimers-like, but physically better than Denis. However, as can happen, she has gone before him. He too is not 100% with-it in his mind. He is also frail, in a wheelchair and couldn’t attend the memorial service at Selborne. The family had a gathering for him at La Domaine in Hillcrest where he and Faye have been for the last decade or so.

Glen & family flew out, and his three sisters and brother were there, all married with kids. The service was held in the Umzinto church that Faye was baptised in 82yrs ago, and that they had been married in, about sixty years ago. Denis had it moved brick-by-brick and tile-by tile and stained glass windows and wooden pews, pulpit ‘n all to Selborne about 12yrs ago for their 50th wedding anniversary and they had repeated their vows in it. ‘Mazing! Denis always had such a shrewd and imaginative eye: Selborne needed a chapel for weddings, he’d have had to build one, and this was just so much better than a new building with no history!

My shadow – and that of the motley crew I knew from Umzinto cricket days (when in absolute desperation they would ask me to be the tenth man, unable to find eleven, and I would make a duck, drop a catch and do very well at lunch and in the bar afterwards) – didn’t darken the door. We politely allowed it to fill up and stood outside under the trees. Anticipating this, they had placed speakers outside so we could hear what was going on inside, and a marquee with chairs for old bullets. Heard all the hymns (or both of them) in stereo as the insiders and the outsiders sang at different speeds. And in different keys. All Things Bright & Beautiful and Awesome Wonder.

Glen, Jane, Denise & Sharron spoke, as did a few of the grandkids. They did really well. Hats off to them! A friend of Faye’s told a lovely story of how she would do anything for Denis, but drew the line when he went through a brief spell of supporting the National Party. He asked her for a cake for their meeting and she told him he could bake his own bloody National Party cake! I can imagine Denis himself telling that story with great delight!

Saw a number of old Highflats, Dumisa, Umzinto, Durban, Tegwaan gang and Umdoni/Pennington district faces that I recognised. We all looked the same, but as though someone had stuck a bicycle pump in our rings and pumped us up a bit. I even got a few of the names right. Ali was an exception to the pump rule: She’s still as slim as ever. There were a few others who hadn’t expanded, too. I told them I was worried about them.

I remember Faye as a wonderfully warm and welcoming person with a mischievous smile and a wicked sense of humour. Playing tennis. Organising. Hosting. Driving a Citroën. At speed.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Postscript:

Faye & Denis Barker fostered or adopted a third daughter Sharron Baker, from the Ethelbert Children’s Home yonks ago. I met her when she was studying nursing and I was in the weermag. Met her again here at Faye’s funeral. She has two daughters – also adopted from the ECH! The younger one, I’d guess around 17, was there with her.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Correspondence followed:

Me: Faye & Denis Barker adopted a third daughter, Sharon, from the Ethelbert Children’s Home yonks ago. I’m not sure of the details or the arrangement, as she kept her surname Baker – close enough! Taciturn Barks didn’t speak about her much, but I met her when she was studying nursing and I was in the weermag. Met her again at Faye’s funeral. She has two daughters – also adopted from the ECH! The younger one (I’d guess around 17) was there with her.

Dave Hill: Special people the Barkers. I remember so well being deposited at Kearsney from Kitwe in 1967. 12 years old and I didn’t know anyone. My dad introduced me to Denis, they were in the same class, and Glen. Every long weekend, half term etc I went to Umzinto where we played on the farm and Denis taught me to water ski on Ifafa lagoon, can you believe that? I’m talking about the lagoon! They knew how hard it was for me and looked after me whilst I found my feet. I’ve never forgotten that. Years later I drilled the first boreholes at Selborne for Denis and over the years have returned there to drill others. Denis always made a fuss of me at the Selborne Farmers Classic which I have played for years, sadly now played at Mndoni due to politics that Denis was embroiled in at some point with the Germans. We have kept in touch for years via email which he hasn’t been able to do for years now, and he proudly sent me a signed copy of his book “Zulus at Bay”. All of us cant believe that he has outlived Faye and Glen told me yesterday how frail he is and how he needs 24/7 care. Luckily they can afford it. Funny how the world goes round.

Dave Simpson: Hi David and Pete, Thanks for these amazing stories of two wonderful people, but of course none of it comes as a surprise as we know they have hearts of gold. Pete thanks for explaining the mystery of the third daughter. Thanks also for Glen’s telephone number. I managed to get hold of him yesterday – no need to guess where he was – playing the 18th at Durban Country Club with Robert. He does return home today. David, Selborne in all its forms, the stud and then the golf development, was certainly a labour of love for Denis. Although I did not get to know the full story, the Kraut at Selborne must be an asshole of extreme proportions. He was undoubtedly a source of great anguish for Denis. Hopefully this is all in the past for him.

Tim Elliott told me an interesting tale at the funeral: He went to play squash at Westville and his partner didn’t pitch. Glen was there and his partner was a no-show, too, so they played a game. Upshot was they ended up sharing a ‘digs’ in the top half of a rented double-story house in Windmill road near Musgrave centre. Then Tim got married to Sue and kicked Glen out, taking over the digs for his newly-married home. What you call: Nuptial bed? Later the newly-weds went on a weekend to Tendele in the ‘Berg and Tim invited bachelor Glen along (not to Sue’s great delight). On the way they stopped at Notties for a beer which turned into enough beers so that when they told the barman they were on their way to Tendele in Royal Natal National Park he said “Sorry for you, the gate closes at 6pm”. So they had to overnight at Notties unplanned. Enough beers emboldened Glen to say hello to a spunky-looking chick in the pub he might not have been in, with a mate he might not have met. And she turned out to be Ali the Kiwi!! He’s a mighty lucky man, young Glen – Ali is a star!!

Me again: I water ski’d once with Barks at Ifafa lagoon and remember it as a wide deep lagoon. I hear it has silted up? I tried to go there a couple weeks ago while staying at Happy Wanderers, but a resort now has the whole riverfront, there’s a big gate blocking the road. The weeds were so high I couldn’t get a good look at the river from the road. Denis gave me a signed copy of his other book: Umzinto Cricket the first 100 years.

Another memory: Selborne was Vernon Crookes’ place (Glen always referred to him as “Vernon the Villain” – I spose there was a story behind that!). Glen took me to Linton Hall once, Sir Frank Reynolds, rival sugar baron’s home across the road from Selborne. The daughter Jane was there at the time. She lived half the year in this huge castle-like place, and the other half in Scotland. She showed us around the house, up the tower, into the bedrooms, the huge lounge with elk antlers over the fireplace, the big old empty kitchen with a steel table in the middle (no fitted cupboards). It looked sad and run down and uninhabited. It obviously spoke of great wealth, but she didn’t seem to able to rustle up a drink easily – maybe the butler was off-duty? (not that she wasn’t friendly and accommodating, just it didn’t seem like a home, I guess).
I’m sure the change to boutique hotel changed that – for good and bad.

On 29 January 2014 I wrote to “Glen & Ali Barker” aliglenb@bigpond.net.au I said Glen, Here are some of the stories that have been doing the rounds. Correct us where we have gone wrong!! Cheers P

And Glen responded – SIX YEARS later! On 2020/05/31 Glen Barker wrote: Hi Pete, Just going through old correspondence. Slight correction. Sharron was never adopted but spent a Christmas with us aged about eleven or twelve, then following Christmas, then every school holiday and so became part of the family. Her elder sister we met after she left school. She became an SAA air hostess and married pilot Tim Thane who got a post with Singapore Airlines then Cathay where he’s still an instructor in Hong Kong. Their two boys went to Kearsney and my folk were the “grandparents”. Sharron married Dave Coetzee and they adopted Tarryn who went to the UK and now is in Sydney so we see a lot of her, and Terry who is now married to DA leader John Steenhuisen. They have a four year old daughter. Saw them at both folks’ funerals and Emma’s (Jane’s daughter) wedding in 2016. Sharron and Dave have recently moved to the UK. Chow, Glen.

Me: Ah, OK. Very interesting bunch! Your folks then, “adopted” them, which is what I actually meant. I knew they weren’t Barkers. I have “adopted” many kids over the years – and even adopted two! My current crop are four little girls aged 3 to 8 who worship Jessie!

~~~oo0oo~~~