David Barclay

11th February 1929 - 20th June 2013

On Wednesday 20th November, 2013 at 11:30am a service of thanksgiving for the life of David Nicol Barclay was held at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street.
Download Order of Service (pdf)


The Venerable David Meara delivered the bidding:

We are here today in St Bride’s to celebrate the life and to honour the memory of David Nicol Barclay, architect, musician and opera-lover, Guildsman of St Bride, Wandsman of St Paul’s Cathedral, Liveryman of the company of chartered architects, a true gentleman, beloved husband of Joan, and a wonderful friend.

We remember a man of a strong Christian faith and sense of duty towards others, but also full of fun, with a quiet but mischievous wit, and a warm smile that lift up his face: a man of wide interests and great warmth of heart.

As we celebrate David’s life today and all he meant to us, we commend him to Almighty God, and give thanks for the privilege of having known him.



The Venerable David Meara, Rector of St Bride's

“In my Father’s house are many mansions.” I like the way the King James translation translates the Greek – mansions. More modern translations use the much more prosaic “rooms.” Mansions sounds much more appealing as a promise of our ultimate divine destination.

I like to think of David inhabiting a mansion- nothing less, surely, will do for someone trained as an architect and who eventually became Director of Practice at the RIBA. What would David’s mansion be like?

As an honorary member of the Ecclesiastical Architects and Surveyors Association it might look a bit ecclesiastical, with classical elements reminiscent of Wren’s St. Paul’s Cathedral and maybe a spire somewhere vaguely echoing St. Bride’s. But inside, the rooms, would surely echo to the sound of music, and what music, encompassing the church repertoire, classical music, Bach especially, and above all opera which was David’s great passion. Some of that music is reflected in our service today.

There would have to be a garden too surrounding this mansion, because David loved gardening and the outdoors, and there would probably be a special games or puzzle room where he could enjoy endless Su Doku- and probably a library too full of books on architecture and music, and many other subjects. And at the centre and heart of this mansion will be David himself, smiling his lovely smile, welcoming us all, with his quiet wit and his mischievous wink. Yes, that I think would be David’s kind of mansion.

David’s journey to this mansion began in 1929 in the manse of St Columba’s Presbyterian Church in Cambridge. There he grew up, and there as a 7 year old boy he sat in church just behind a 5 year old girl called Joan, the daughter of a Fellow of Christ’s College Cambridge. And years later they were to meet again when David himself went to Cambridge; they fell in love, and in due course they married. David pursued his career in architectural administration, rising through the ranks of the RIBA to become their Head of Practice. He travelled around the country and abroad to conferences in Paris, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo, Uppsala and Dublin, and further afield to Australia, New Zealand and the USA. These were exciting and fulfilling times for them both.

David pursued his musical interests through singing as a lay clerk in Birmingham Cathedral, through his membership of the London Bach Society, and nourished by becoming part of this church with our professional choir. He joined the Guild of St. Bride in 1979 and through this connection joined the Wandsmen at St. Paul’s Cathedral, both of which roles gave him great joy and satisfaction. Latterly he served as a Working Friend and on the Council of Friends at the Cathedral- Liveryman of the Company of Chartered Architects and their Senior Steward. Some twenty years ago he had suffered from major illness, more recently he had nursed Joan through illness and surgery, and then in 2005 the cancer returned. He coped with great fortitude and courage and fortified by his deep faith which sustained him to the end.

Many people in writing to Joan have spoken of David’s integrity, his warmth, modesty, and charm, his quiet capability- that’s certainly how I shall remember him- “One of life’s true gentlemen”. As he put his trust in Christ in life, David in death has received Christ’s welcome and his assurance- “In my Father’s house are many mansions.”

Translators and commentators tell us that the Greek word for mansion actually means a resting place on the journey, and that Jesus is telling us that he has trodden the way of faith before us and is ready at the end of our journey to welcome us home.

I still like the King James “mansions”- the permanent abode of the saints in heaven – and I like to think of David Barclay, Architect, Guildsman, Wandsman, Gentleman, Husband and friend, somehow through the divine grace able to inhabit that place, and dwell in that house, as John Donne so beautifully puts it, where there shall be no ends nor beginnings but one equal eternity, in the habitations of the glory and dominion, world without end. Amen.


Patrick Wilkins read Philippians 4: 4-9

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.

Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

David Martin 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 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 is what I’d like
When you live in the hearts of those you love
Remember then
You never die.

William Martin read Extracts from Memoirs of a Fellwanderer and Book 7 of A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells by Alfred Wainwright

Mountain climbing satisfies an instinct all men should feel: the urge to get to the top. It is natural for a man to look up, to strive to attain something higher and out of his immediate reach, to overcome the difficulties and disappointments of his upward progress, to exult at his ultimate success. Mountain climbing is an epitome of life, and good practice for it. You start at the bottom, the irresolute drop out on the way up, the determined reach the top. Life is like that.

The fleeting hour of life of those who love the hills is quickly spent, but the hills are eternal. Always there will be the lonely ridge, the dancing beck, the silent forest; always there will be the exhilaration of the summits. These are for the seeking, and those who seek and find while there is yet time will be blessed both in mind and body.

There will be fair winds and foul, days of sun and days of rain. But enjoy them all.

Dr Donald McFadyen read John 14: 1-6

14 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.


The choir & organist of St Bride’s performed the following anthems and songs:

In Paradisum – Fauré

Pslam 23 – Brother James’ Air

I Was Glad – Parry

Nunc Dimittis – Stanford in G

Soave sia il vento from Cosi Fan Tutte – Mozart

Finale from Symphony No 1 – Vierne


Love Divine, all loves excelling

Now thank we all our God

Tell out, my soul


The passing away of David Barclay leaves the world a poorer place, but a better place for the influences he shared with those who knew him. None who had even the briefest acquaintance would fail to be aware of the true spirit of the man – and thereby benefited from it. Many have written that he was a true Christian and epitomised all that was best of the ‘English Gentleman’.

Born in Cambridge, the son of the Rev Dr. George Barclay, Minister of St Columba’s Presbyterian Church, and of Jessie Hutchison Barclay, neé Nicol, his parental upbringing and influence as a Christian and with a love of music, truth and a deep sense of duty towards others was the foundation for his developing life.

In 1937, the family moved from the ‘rarified’ atmosphere of Cambridge to North Shields. His education was to benefit from the Royal Grammar School, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne: and possibly more so when at the out break of war he was evacuated to Penrith in Cumberland. There he completed his secondary education, obtaining ‘School Certificate’ and ‘Higher Certificate’. His wide interests allowed him to be Head of one of the school’s Houses; win an Engineering Prize, and also be a Sergeant in the Junior Training Corps.

In 1947 with Schooling over, unlike some students who might seek to defer commencing the two year period of National Service to continue their further education, David became a Sapper in the Corps of Royal Engineers. He was later Commissioned as an officer in the Royal Regiment of Artillery 80th Light Anti-aircraft Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, in the Suez Canal Zone.

At twenty and with a wealth of experiences behind him, David was ready to take full advantage of life as a student in Cambridge. Having decided that architecture was for him, he attended Christ’s College and the University School of Architecture. In addition to his studies he became a member of the University Presbyterian Association, becoming its chairman in his second year. Appropriately he joined the College Chapel Choir; and also found time in his final year to be a committee member of the College’s May Ball. Nothing daunted, he achieved a Bachelor of Arts 2nd Class in Architectural Studies, which prepared him for continuing architecture studies at Birmingham School of Architecture, and being awarded the Diploma in Architecture in 1954.

Living in Birmingham David joined the Practice of John P Osborne and Son as an eager young professional. The office was involved in a wide cross section of projects, including private housing, industrial, schools, commercial, and conservation. In 1955 he completed his Professional final exam, becoming a Registered Associate of the RIBA. During the next ten years of architectural practice and following previous inclinations, he joined the Birmingham Bach Society, of which he was later to become Secretary and then Chairman. In 1963 David had taken on the role of Honorary Secretary of the Birmingham and Five Counties Architectural Association, (B&FCC), and in 1967 became its ‘Senior’. As a result the first RIBA West Midlands Region came into being with David as the RIBA Regional Secretary. In that role his attention to detail and management skills were considered pivotal for the future success of this RIBA Region. It was following this that David attended RIBA conferences at York University (’69) and Stirling University(’73); and led the RIBA study visit to see the Olympic Games buildings in Munich (’72):there was also a BAA Conference in Florence and Venice (’73). He became Regional Secretary RIBA East Midlands Region in 1972.

These were busy times for David. In 1968 he married – Joan Maxwell Steen, daughter of Stourton W.P. Steen, Mathematician, Fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge and of Marjorie Gordon, neé Maxwell, of Cambridge. The young couple established their home in Edgbaston, Birmingham. David’s connections with Birmingham Cathedral were strong; having become a Lay Clerk in 1961, and then a member of the Parochial Church Council: and later a member of the City Deanery, until 1974.

David’s Birmingham connection with the RIBA organisation was the beginning of greater opportunities. From 1974 to 1975 he was Under Secretary, Practice RIBA London; and then moved to London in 1975. He and Joan took up residence in Highgate, North London. From 1975 to 1979 David was Head of Practice in the RIBA’s Department of Education and Practice; and from 1979 to 1994, he was Director of Practice, responsible for support of architects in practice, and providing guidance. Duties included relations with Government Departments and organisations within the construction industry.

However, aware of other joys in life in 1978 David became a Guildsman, at the Church of St Bride, Fleet Street. In the same year he joined the London Bach Society, later becoming Vice-Chairman, followed by Chairman, and ultimately Honorary Life Member. During this period David had taken part in Concert tours to Bulgaria (’83) and East Germany (’88). During his time with St Bride’s he was a valued member of the PCC and served on the Court of the Guild of St Bride.

Maintaining his strong concerns for architectural practice, in 1983 he became an Honorary member of the Ecclesiastical Architects and Surveyors Association. In 1985 he was founder member of W87, a Commission of CBI (the International Council of Building Research) studying post-contract liability and insurance. This entailed attending international Conferences – one every two years up to June 2000.

The period between 1994 and 2000 was challenging. In 1994 David had reached the time for him to retire from the RIBA as a staff member. This was to give him more time to be involved in other pursuits and to enjoy more leisurely interests, such as opera going, classical music, gardening, Fell walking and Su Doku! But there were more serious requirements including visiting his mother-in-law in Cambridge who became increasingly frail: Joan and David spending progressively more time visiting and looking after her until her death six years later.

Unfortunately in 1994, David had a major health setback being diagnosed with Cancer of the Colon. This necessitated an operation, chemotherapy and radiotherapy which he bore with great courage, while maintaining his commitments and responsibilities. Much relief during the next few years came from David and Joan’s love of the countryside, where they spent many happy weeks in their ‘Timeshares’ – a lodge in Ballater, Scotland (in May), a lodge on the Langdale Estate, in the Lake District (in September) and a villa in Playa Blanca, Lanzarote (in November).

In 1994 David became a Wandsman at St Paul’s Cathedral, after a short probationary period. His experience as a ‘Guildsman’ at St Bride’s had demonstrated his undoubted strengths, management skills and led to his becoming ‘Deputy Secretary’ for a period. The role of a Wandsman is entirely voluntary. Duties range over St Paul’s several services on a Sunday, to full scale major and national events. On these occasions many Wandsmen may be required and the serving day can be demanding of physical strength as well as charm and diplomacy, and standing for several hours at a time.

David met and fulfilled all these requirements for several years, gaining the respect and appreciation of fellow Wandsmen as well as the congregations. There came a time when physical demands as a Wandsman became too demanding and so his role changed. In 2001 he became a Working Friend, assisting generally within St Paul’s. Between 2002 and 2006 he was a member of the Council of the Friends of St Paul’s, where his background knowledge and experience were greatly appreciated. He resigned this post owing to increasing health problems.

In 2000, David was proposed to become a member of the Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects; he became a Freeman of the City of London and thereby accepted as a Liveryman of the Company. Very much welcomed into the Company he was made a Senior Steward in 2006, and also held the post as independent scrutineer of the Charitable Trust Fund’s Annual Accounts.

While continuing with the activities at St Bride’s, St Paul’s and the Company, a cloud developed when Joan was diagnosed with an oral cancer. Over the next four years a number of operations were required. Always alive to his duties and responsibilities as well as the needs of others, David’s devotion was needed at home: together they came through this setback by 2006.

It was only a little time after this, that David became ill in 2005; and following a series of investigations was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which sadly even after operations and chemotherapy sessions was to finally overwhelm him. Throughout the illness he was greatly supported by the loving care of Joan, the family and friends; and also by so many from St Bride’s and St Paul’s. It was never in his nature to ‘give up’ and he remained constantly optimistic and brave. It was a battle to be fought courageously to the end; which when it came was calm and peaceful. Joan was strengthened by the many letters of condolence, all recognising David’s humanity, his talents, charm and helpfulness; and singing of his true nature which enriched all with whom he had contact.

It was in David’s nature to be appreciative of others while demanding of himself and using his talents to the full in their service. Brought up in the Christian faith and strengthened by his parents and by the mutual support of Joan, the different strands of his life and activities were well matched. A love of music and of singing, an innate sense of organisation or management, which was to lead him into the administrative area of architecture. So it was also when attending church, be it in Birmingham Cathedral or in London, at St Bride’s and St Paul’s. Truly David will be greatly missed; but we were consoled by the recognition and appreciation of having experienced and so enjoyed our meeting with this true Christian. TMB 3.9.13

congregation sitting for service


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