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1933 - 2014
On Tuesday, 24th March, 2015, at 11:30am a service of thanksgiving for the life of Barrie Devney was held at St Bride's Church, Fleet Street.
The Revd Canon Dr Alison Joyce delivered the bidding:-
We are here to honour the memory and to celebrate the life of Barrie Devney: a man of great passion and conviction; a man of integrity, and charity, and kindness; a man who was much loved and who will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
As we remember him with thanksgiving today, we give thanks for all that he has meant to us, and for all that he was.
Almighty God, you love everything that you have made, and judge us with infinite mercy and compassion. As we celebrate Barrie's life here today, we give thanks that, by your grace, you turn the darkness of death into the dawn of new life and the sorrow of parting into the joy of heaven; through our Saviour Jesus Christ, who died, who rose again, and who lives for ever more.
Thanks Chris and Sue for allowing me to say a few words about my old mate Barrie, scourge of the forces of leftiousness, as he called them.
I got to know Barrie in the late 1960's, when Fleet Street was in its golden decline. He was part of an industrial team on the Daily Express that included John Grant, later a Labour [and SDP] MP and Sir Trevor Evans, an eminence so lofty it was said he only came into the office once a week. To do his expenses.
Barrie told me had been “small wars” correspondent for the Express – Cyprus and the like. But now he was covering the big war back home. The class war.
Coming from Mansfield, capital of the Nottinghamshire coalfield, he knew more than most about the National Union of Mineworkers, whose epic struggles were to be front page material for the next two decades.
He was admirably suited to the job, being able to drink and smoke more than Joe Gormley, the moderate president of the NUM with whom Barrie was on let's not say intimate but certainly very close terms.
He coined the affectionate nickname, Battered Cherub, for Joe, though there was nothing cherubic about this hard wee Lancashire man and it was him who did the battering.
In his autobiography, Joe says he looked on Barrie as a personal friend, adding “I'm sure that the number of stories he's had and not used would get him sacked from the paper if they knew!” They'll never know now.
In the long watches of the night covering NUM pay talks, and the union's annual conference [known among the tribe as the Drinkathlon], Barrie was a constant source of good humour.
Those who live by the sword, he would say, shall continue to live by the sword.
His hair never was never grey – only pale black.
He would never admit to having missed a story. He'd always written it, but the subs had cut it out. So we gave him a coat of arms: blank bills rampant with crossed biros and the Latin tag: Scripsi, sed non publicatum est. I wrote it, but it didn't get in.
Barrie was a legend in his own lunchtime. Once, he was having a meal with Joe Gormleyand his wife Nellie in a Chinese restaurant, and made the usual call to his night newsdesk with the number of the nosherie in case of emergency. Minutes later an excited desk man rang him to say Joe had been spotted in a posh restaurant eating with an unknown fat man with glasses – “obviously a Communist.”
“Daft sod,” he riposted. “It's me.”
His instincts for a story were pretty sound. But they could occasionally let him down. In 1981, when a rolling, unofficial strike over pit closures was under way, and the NUM asked for hundreds of millions of pounds to avert the closures, it was assumed that the Iron Lady would not give way.
But Thatcher decided that the time wasn't ripe. Coal stocks were low. Changes in the trade union laws were still not operational. The police were unprepared. Anyway, Scargill was the real target, not Joe G.
So she backed down, and Energy Secretary Peter Walked made the shock announcement of state aid to astonished hacks at a press conference right on first edition time.
We had all filed “No surrender” stories. There was only one telephone in the room. Showing an athletic agility hitherto unsuspected, Barrie sprinted to the back of the room, dialled his back bench and shouted for all to hear “For No, Read Yes!!” And put the phone back down.
A class act from a class guy.
Theother unforgettable story about Barrie concerns his role in the IRA bombing of the Grand Hotel, Brighton, in the autumn of 1984 when the miners' strike was at its height.
He'd been staying at the Grand for the TUC only weeks before, so he was caught up in the Special Branch sweep of suspects. Devney? Irish name?
The spooks came to the black glass Lubyanka that was the Daily Express office one morning to take his fingerprints. While they awaited his arrival, they fingerprinted his faithful warrior, Paul Wilenius [who suffered a family bereavement only days before the death of Barrie] and asked Barrie to follow suit.
[Story, gripped fingers, screwed up paper, waste paper basket, I'll go for a heart starter with Bob Bedlow in the Cheshire Cheese, OK? Yes sir. Spooks left saying, I don't think we need bother, he didn't plant the bomb]
The fact that we can all recall such stories is a sure sign that Barrie will be remembered while ever there are journalists, especially old industrial correspondents around to recall the days when journalism was a skill, an art, a pleasure and above all a damn good drink.
If either Sue or I had suggested to Dad that we hold a memorial for him I have absolutely no doubt that he would have told us not to be so daft and not to waste everyone’s time.
I rather think that he’ll be looking down on us now, very proudly, with a glass of amber nectar in hand, and a great big grin on that distinguished silver topped head.
Cheers Dad… this one’s for you!
Firstly, thank you to you all for coming today. We really do appreciate you being here and recognise the great distances that some of you have had to travel. We’d also like to thank both Clare and Terry for agreeing to deliver the addresses here today. We’d also like to thank Paul Routledge for standing up for Barrie and reminding us of his genuine larger than life character, and not just in physical terms but also as a man.
But what was he like as a father?
To Sue and I he was… Dad. No airs. No graces. He hated DIY. He wasn’t very good with a paint brush or a lawn mower and wouldn’t have known how to lift the bonnet on the car. But, to us he was simply… just Dad.
The first time that I realised that Dad was actually just a little bit more than just Dad was at my Passing Out parade in the Army.
For those of you who don’t have a military background please allow me explain….
Having joined the Army you are then subjected to a period of training, whereby the Army turn you into a member of their ‘team’. Having been subjected to some training for a period of months the Army allow you to take part in a parade, where you get to iron your uniform and polish you boots to a very high standard.
The ‘team’ then March around a parade square to music for a while and get inspected by a very important person. On my Passing Out parade the Inspecting Officer was a three star General. In effect, a man who, at that time, was in-charge of about 20,000 people. So, I think you’ll agree, on paper at least, quite an important person.
Having marched around the square for what feels like an eternity you then go off to the cookhouse (canteen) to have tea and biscuits with the General and his entourage.
Dad was late for the start of the parade as he had been tied up on a story. I cannot recall what the story was but I feel confident enough to say that the story would’ve had an impact upon many, many people, and would’ve been infinitely more important than watching me and few friends walking around some tarmac! Consequently, he joined the proceedings half way through the event.
Having finished marching around the parade square I joined Dad in the Cookhouse.
It was obvious that Dad had come to the parade straight from the office as he was dressed in his uniform too. He was dressed in a Cream Burberry overcoat with pockets full of notepad and pens. The edges of the pockets had biro marks by the opening where Dad had obviously forgotten to put the lid back on the pen before he’d shoved it back into the pocket.
Underneath his overcoat was a dark suit. Both the suit and overcoat had the remnants of cigarette ash on them, where Dad had brushed away the ash that he’d not managed to drop into an ashtray. To top the look off; he was wearing his favourite brown suede Hushpuppy slip on shoes. In effect, Dad looked like a taller, more distinguished version of Columbo!
When I found Dad it was clear that he’d just put out a cigarette and was obviously keen to light up another when the General and his entourage approached us.
Amongst the entourage was a Major who said to the General: “Sir, this is Private Devney and, having turned to look at Dad then said, “this is obviously Mr Devney”.
The General, quite disparagingly, asked Dad, “And what do we do for a living then?”
Ever keen to keep his cards close to his chest, and play the situation down Dad said, “ Actually, I’m a journalist.”
To which the General then said” Oh yes; and which weekly town paper do we work for then?”
Dad, with nostrils now flared, looked him straight in the eye and said “Barrie Devney, Daily Express.”
I can recall that there was then a silence that felt like it lasted for minutes but was probably only for a few seconds. All in the room looked to the General to see what Whitehall’s finest had to offer in return. The General, with his hand now out-stretched looked at Dad and said, “May I get you another cup of tea Mr Devney?”
Never before had I heard four words used to such good effect. It woke me up to the reality that whilst Dad was just Dad he was also clearly someone who when he spoke others listened!
But Dad also had the ability to be able to see others in ways that were not obvious to the rest of us. He had a talent to be able to communicate to everyone in a way that was both intelligent and charming. People instantly warmed to him. It proves my point when I look out and see so many of you here today.
Sue and I have so many fantastic memories of Dad and these will remain with us always. And, I am sure that will also be the case for each of you too.
But the over-riding memory that will remain with me was how grounded Dad was. Alan Cochrane wrote a fantastic obituary for Dad in which Alan outlined that Dad’s first job each morning when he arrived in the office was to fill the bin with all of the press releases that had been sent to him and to get out and about to discover what the real story was.
Teapot recently wrote that Dad was never afraid to go out and get his hands dirty, even though he was one of the very few that could actually sit back and dispatch others to do the jobs that many believed were beneath them.
Yes Dad had been there. He’d done it. And, he’d designed the Tee shirt, but he never forgot where he’d come from and he had
the humility to treat others with the decency and respect they deserved.
As many of you will know, Dad had a number of loves; Mansfield Town, steak and kidney puddings and a pint of real ale to name but three. But his first true love was cricket and, in 1988 Dad realised his dream when he was elected to join the MCC.
That year, only two people elected to the membership, Dad and a QC. Both distinguished men who had obviously made it to an exalted position within their chosen careers.
The first match at Lords that Dad went to as a fully fledged, paid up member was a Test Match and the Pavilion was full. As the players made their way through the Long Room to the pitch Dad told me that he could feel his heart racing with excitement.
As the last of the players made their way through the crowd, Dad felt a stick being placed into his back and he was pushed quite forcefully from behind. On looking round, Dad saw that the man who had the audacity to push him with a walking stick was Field Marshall, the Lord Edwin Bramhall, the then President of the MCC.
Lord Bramhall looked at Dad and said, “Boy; go to the Long Room bar and fetch me a large brandy, and have half of lager yourself.” Dad told me that he looked back at Lord Bramhall, smiled and, without saying a word, set off for the bar.
At that moment he realised he had finally made it… he had become a fag!
Dad wasn’t perfect but then again none of us are. He made both Sue and I proud to be able to call him Dad.
He was a decent hard working man who never forgot where he’d come from. He treated others with dignity and respect and he had the courage to challenge what he recognised to be wrong.
A man of integrity, a man with humility, a true friend - Barrie Devney… Dad… A Truly Singular Man.
Clare Dover read Ecclesiastes 3: 1-13
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
9 What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?
10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.
11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.
12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.
13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.
Terry Pattinson read Farewell My Friends by Rabindranath Tagore
It was beautiful as long as it lasted
The journey of my life.
I have no regrets whatsoever
save the pain I'll leave behind.
Those dear hearts who love and care...
And the strings pulling at the heart and soul...
The strong arms that held me up
When my own strength let me down.
At every turning of my life I came across good friends,
Friends who stood by me,
Even when the time raced me by.
Farewell, farewell my friends
I smile and bid you goodbye.
No, shed no tears for I need them not
All I need is your smile.
If you feel sad do think of me
for that's what I'll like when you live in the hearts
of those you love, remember then you never die.
The choir & organist of St Bride's performed the following anthems and songs:-
God Be In My Head - Walford-Davies
Laudate Dominum - Mozart
Going Home - Dvorak arr. Cantabile, The London Quartet
Mr Bojangles - Walker arr. Jones
Age Semper Hilarius - Idle arr. Charles
Praise My Soul, The King Of Heaven
Dear Lord And Father Of Mankind
OBITUARIES & COMMENT