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!


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.

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