The Order of St. Richard is awarded to Barry Laker, a Thakeham resident.

The Order of St. Richard is awarded to Barry Laker, a Thakeham resident.
The Order of St. Richard is awarded to Barry Laker, a Thakeham resident.

Richard of Chichester 1197- 1253 was a man of strong character, a scholar but sensible and practical as well, energetic, kind, modest about his own powers, cheerful and courageous.  He loved people and was known as a Friend of the Homeless. He eventually became Bishop of Chichester, and was canonised in 1262. Richard of Chichester is the patron saint of Sussex. Since 2007 his translated saint’s day of 16th June has been celebrated as Sussex Day.

In 2019 the current Bishop, Bishop Martin, initiated an annual award for lay people within the Diocese who have made exceptional contributions to the local parish, community or the Diocese. He named this award, the Order of St. Richard.

There are 365 parishes within the Diocese, and 500 Churches. 40 members across the parishes receive awards.

This year we are delighted to announce that an award will be going to Thakeham local Resident, Barry Laker.

Barry lives in the house in Thakeham, in which he was born in 1947.  It was then a council house, in much need of modernisation.  He and his 2 brothers attended Thakeham Primary School, as did their father before them, and then Barry went to Rydon. He later went on to become Chair of the Governors of the Primary School, and a Governor at Rydon.

At the age of 14, Barry thought he would like to join the Church choir, as both his brothers had. He was “encouraged” by the Choir Master to have a go at bellringing instead.  Barry later realised it was a kind way of telling him that he couldn’t sing! He did have a go at bellringing, enjoyed it, and was an accomplished ringer for several years.

When Barry left school he went to work for A.G. Linfield as a Fitter’s mate, and was the first employee there to do an apprenticeship. On the day he started, so did a young girl called Barbara. Their works numbers were sequential, and they were only aged 15. They took a liking to each other, “courted”, and became engaged to be married aged 18.

After Barry’s mother died, his father remarried in 1965. When his father moved away with his new wife, the Council gave Barry just 6 months of notice to vacate the property.  He asked the council if he could carry on with a rental but was told no, but that if he had been married things would have been different. This immediately prompted Barry and Barbara to organise a somewhat hasty wedding, which friends and relatives thought might be a “shotgun” wedding. They married on April 1st 1967, aged 19.  It took a further 5 years before their son was born. After the “Right to Buy” law was introduced in the 1970’s, Barry & Barbara were able to purchase their house.

A.G Linfield employed just under 1000 employees over several sites, including in France and Holland, and Barry frequently visited the French site which was just 2 fields of vines. Barry oversaw and managed the conversion of the fields to mushroom growing. Barry worked for A.G Linfield for 50 years and besides his actual job, he maintained the building, grounds, and other matters, unasked.

During his life in Thakeham, Barry was a Parish Councillor for many years from the mid 70’s.

He has been Deputy Church warden, and also carried out all maintenance works connected with the Church building and fittings.  He was the expert on maintaining the somewhat archaic central heating boiler.  He also cleaned the gutters, washed the windows, swept up and generally maintained the inside and outside.

He did the same for the Village Hall.  If he spotted a light bulb that needed replacing, or the sink was blocked, or the drains needed attention, he would attend to it without being asked.

He was a founder member of the village group of Morris Dancers in 1994, and is still a dancer.

Barbara was a member of the Linfield Ladies Stoolball team and Barry was their Umpire.

When it became a mixed team, Barry joined the club. The team played on Linfield’s own pitch, which latterly became the village green. Linfields also took care of insurance for the team, and they used their pavilion for changing etc.

Barry became heavily involved with the Church Flower Festival in the 1960’s, and became Chair of the committee in the 70’s. Amongst other practical skills required in setting up the Flower Show, he is well known for his work with water features, and his creation is always in the Church porch at the Flower Festival.

Barry was Chair of the Village Day committee for many years from the mid 70’s. He was involved with every aspect from erecting marquees, putting up signs, tables, building things, to doing a Hog Roast. Linfields had a pig farm and donated the pig. The pig needed to be cooked for a whole night and so on the evening before the event Barry erected the spit, put the pig on with some help, lit the fire, and then slept all night beside it as it cooked, in order to ward off foxes, and any other animals that could smell a good meal.

Over the years he has come to be known throughout the village as the “go to person” if anything needed doing, or if anyone needed assistance with anything.

Barry is a modest man and he is a truly worthy recipient of the Order of St. Richard, and Thakeham is very proud of him. There is to be a celebration and the giving of a medal by the Bishop in Chichester Cathedral in October. Later this year there will be a short follow up to this article with a photo of Barry with his medal.

Well Done Barry!