Following a private family funeral in August, there was a memorial service in St Andrew’s Parish Church in Rugby on the 2nd of September 2012. The memorial was attended by over 500, together with family and friends were David’s fellow BBC antiques experts and production crews and of course many of the local residents of Rugby.
Included in the service, with David’s love of his country, was his favourite hymn, Jerusalem and a reading by Philip Serrell of This England from William Shakespeare’s Richard II. This was followed by a tribute from Philip. With kind permission, below is Philip’s wonderful tribute.
David John Barby.
A Tribute by Philip Serrell.
I first met David in about 1990 at an RICS conference in London. I clearly knew of David as he ran what I considered to be one of the provinces leading salerooms in Leamington. He was holding court to a fairly sizeable audience discussing the finer points of Newhall and in the process made John Gielgud sound like Del Trotter. I knew instantly that I wouldn’t like him. He was knowledgeable, we had nothing in common and, not only that, but he lived in Warwickshire. For those of you that don’t know the relationship between my county, Worcestershire, and Warwickshire - well it makes the War of the Roses seem like a minor skirmish.
I didn’t see Barbs again until about 1999. I had been doing Bargain Hunt for about a year when we were due to film the auction part of the programme at his Saleroom. My heart sank - I knew he could be scathing in his descriptions of the items us so called experts had bought. At the antique fair where we bought things for the auction- in a state of panic with not the easiest of contestants - I had purchased a rather lovely 1930’s sewing table –one leg had been broken and whipped together with baler twine and the whole thing was decorated with decoupage of cut out Sutton Seed packets which had been covered in so much varnish it was nearly instantly combustible. I waited anxiously for the auctioneer’s opinion - I wasn’t disappointed “Nauseating in its simplicity.” I could have killed him. Then he gave me a wink and that Barby smile. Perhaps he wasn’t that bad after all.
It was about this time that the world changed – estate agents and auctioneers businesses were bought by financial wizards and dinosaurs like Barby and I were what London accountants saw as some sort of rag and bone men – we were quickly dispensed with. Well they say as one door closes another opens and for David this was certainly true…. I think this was a great time for him as he, probably more than any of the rest of us, embraced this new media world and in short became a complete telly tart. He loved it and it loved him. The whole antiques world was soon to discover about David’s love for Newhall and Algernon the cat. You hear us all say on Television “It really doesn’t matter who wins” and “I’m just happy to be here” – well let me tell you with Barbs it really did matter who won. He introduced a certain terror to the antique world- dealers would wait in trepidation on the sight of the Vivienne Westwood tie, the lowering of the glasses to the end of the nose and then – as a hush fell – the immortal lines were delivered –“Is that your very very best?” And that wasn’t the end of it. Bargain Hunt were filming at my saleroom in July with David and the time came for me to sell his bonus buy. By his own admission it was not one of his finer purchases - costing £30 - yet after I had worked my socks off to try and get him close and eventually selling it for £25 Barby just looked at the camera and gave that Oscar winning wounded look that he did so well – I was left me the villain of the piece and he as ever gathered all the sympathy votes. I don’t normally watch myself on the box but for old times’ sake this might be one occasion when I tune in.
The thing about our television is that all of us, in front of and behind camera are friends; I gather that may be a rare commodity in the business. There is a great deal of camaraderie and we genuinely look forward to seeing one another and looking out for one another. It goes without saying that David was knowledgeable and was respected by all of us making the programmes as well as those who watched. I think more importantly David taught us all a few of the more salient things in life. He and I would go off filming somewhere – we might be in a pub - I would sit in the corner growling at everyone while he had a word and a smile for anyone that would come and talk to him – not only that but he encouraged his audience. For me that is David’s greatest legacy – he had time for everyone. He also had an enthusiasm and a passion for life and his subject – this was hugely infectious. And all this time Janet was there, not enjoying great health herself, but massively supportive. Anyone one who worked with David and was privy to those morning phone calls to Rugby that David made to check that all was well cannot fail to have been touched by the care and affection that existed.
As I said we all have our own memories of David perhaps I could be self-indulgent and just share a few of mine with you.
Who can forget Barby serving burgers as the Dame in the Bargain Hunt Christmas panto. Incidentally he revelled in this as he saw himself in some sort of nobility role while I took the part of a lowly woodchopper dressed like a tramp. This grandeur continued. Barbs and I were filming a medieval theme for Flog It at Berkley Castle. There are no prizes for guessing who ended up as the lowly serf in some quite terrible, sack like clothes and who ended up as the squire in silk finery. And then he had the cheek to turn around and tell me all of this was all about type casting.
I remember being in Nottingham filming with David, James Braxton and others. It was my daughters 21st birthday and we all ended up in a nightclub. I was not a little put out that all of my daughter's friends were really impressed that she knew David Barby and wanted photos with him whilst James, I and the others barely warranted a mention.
David was a kind and generous man. He and I were filming at Newark and I had left my cufflinks at home. I appeared in front of camera with my cuffs held together with paper clips. Barby was disgusted, told us all to wait 5 minutes and eventually reappeared with a pair of cufflinks he bought for me as a present. These are them.
So we all have our special recollections of David, ones that will make us all smile, and for that the world has been a richer place. I am sorry that David isn’t here today – he would have just loved all the attention – but also slightly relieved – I have no doubt I would have been interrupted and corrected every 5 minutes. Our memories will live on for a very long time and importantly will continue to bring a smile to our faces. The world has been a richer place for that and the presence of David Barby.