Remembering Bill Barrington MBE
Our long serving and much loved Verger, Bill, died peacefully last month in Peterborough. He had lived there with his daughter, Jane and her family, for the last eighteen months.
Bill was one of the longest serving Vergers in the country. His first appointment was to St Peter's, Newton, in 1951. After serving in London for a number of years, he was appointed Verger of All Saints' by Canon Geoffrey Thomas in 1983. He worked faithfully in the parish until Christmas 2016, when he went to live with his family.
As he saw his calling as a lifelong commitment he remained Verger Emeritus of All Saints' to the end of his life. His was a remarkable ministry spanning sixty seven years.
Bill was Mumbles through and through. Born and raised in Newton, he had an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of the community here. He served as a scout master in the village for a number of decades, and many of his former scouts, our own Judge Stuart Batcup among them, remember him with genuine affection and respect.
He was also a highly decorated veteran of the Second World War. As a reservist in 1939, he served from its outbreak to the allied victory in 1945. He saw action in North Africa, Italy, Normandy and in Germany itself. Like so many veterans he rarely spoke about his experiences.
Through the years he was a great supporter of the Royal British Legion, selling poppies in the weeks leading up to November 11th. He was appointed President of the Mumbles and South Gower Branch several years ago, which he saw as a great honour. Many of us remember him reciting the words of the exhortation at the Remembrance Sunday service, 'They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old....' They were made all the more poignant when read by such a distinguished old soldier.
Bill was also a great supporter of good causes. He collected outside the shops in all weathers, usually for Christian Aid and especially for the Mumbles RNLI. During 2014 he set himself a target of raising £1,000 a month for the new lifeboat and boat house on the pier. By the end of the year he had actually raised in excess of £32,000. His hard work and dedication was recognised several times by the RNLI, locally and nationally.
He has been the recipient of 'The Honour of Mumbles', granted by the Community Council. He was awarded the MBE in the 2002 New Year's Honours List for service to the community and, just a few weeks before he died, received the French 'Legion of Honour' in recognition of the part he and others played in the liberation of France.
Though he achieved much in his 97 years he was, at heart, a deeply committed Christian and ministered faithfully in his vocation as a Verger. He opened All Saints' every weekday at 9.30am, always ensuring that the doors were never locked to those who came seeking peace, prayer or a welcome. He set up the altar for the daily Eucharist and did various jobs around the building during the eight to ten hours he would spend there every day. He never turned anyone away and had a particular empathy for the homeless who came to him for help. He was blessed with a fine tenor voice and enjoyed singing in the Church Choir. His special delight was to show schoolchildren around our historic Church.
Bill was also a loving family man. He was a devoted husband to Veronica [who served as Verger of our Mission Church]. They were very well known in the community and were leading lights in the hugely successful appeal to rebuild the Church and Village Hall at Norton. When Veronica's health began to deteriorate he was a most attentive and caring husband to her, ensuring that she remained in her beloved Woodbine Cottage to the end.
Bill was also a loving father to his three children, Jennifer, John and Jane, and a doting grandfather.
He was sometimes asked why he never sought to be ordained. It was something he never felt drawn to. But his work as a long serving Verger was very much his great calling in life.
We have already missed his familiar figure, these last eighteen months, dressed in his cassock with his huge bunch of keys dangling at his side. We have missed seeing him w
ith his high vis' jacket and charity collection bucket outside the shops. We have missed too, his encouragement, great faith and knowledge.
His funeral service will be held at Peterborough and
will be family only. It will be followed by a service of thanksgiving at All Saints' later in the year when, as a community, we will have the opportunity to give thanks for his remarkably long and full life and the wonderful contribution he has made to the Church and to Mumbles.
Well done, good and faithful servant, enter now into the joy of the Lord.
[the above photograph shows Bill on the day he left Mumbles for the last time. It was taken by his great
friend, Grafton Maggs]