It was whilst undertaking an assignment with RSSB that I was first introduced to John Barber – JB – and invited to support the RISAS scheme and as Graham Nicholas puts in his tribute, to become a member of the team.
Form that point on, I had the pleasure of working with and being in the company of one of the most professional people it has been my privilege to know. JB was unwavering and passionate in his determination to do the right thing, whatever challenges came his way. I’ve no doubt that my respect for JB and all that he stood for and contributed will endure and be shared by others, both in the UK and internationally.
Aside from his significant professional legacy, over the years of working together we developed a friendship and in that respect his role as co-founder of ROGS should be recognised. No, not the one some readers may be familiar with, but ‘The Railway Old Gits Society’, a group of 6 of us with a few hundred years of railway service between us. In true JB fashion, this group set the standards in food and beverages, undertook assurance and conformity assessments of a number of establishments claiming to deserve our ‘certification’, finally awarding that to those based in Duffield, Derbyshire. Now perhaps even JB was somewhat biased in presenting said award with one of the group owning a micro-brewery there, but JB as its self appointed ‘Ops Director’ took great pleasure in herding us all together for a night out. He would delight in regaling us with his latest adventure, be that professionally or for pleasure, often sharing many photographs to bring his stories to life, with that infectious sense of humour always present.
Living in Duffield, JB would stay over at our place on such occasions, but being a lover of ‘nice fast cars’ and motorbikes, he would occasionally just take an impromptu ride over from his new house in Thorne near Doncaster just to see Karen and I and we’d have lunch together and a catch up. It was on one such occasion when he came over to show me his newly acquired Alfa Romeo SUV and took me out for a spin as he put it. Heading along the A6 road from Belper JB said ‘watch this’ and having pressed a red button on the steering wheel we went into ‘warp drive’ and how we got around a bend at Whatstandwell will forever remain a mystery to me.
On another occasion JB turned up unannounced on a shiny new Ducati motorbike. It turned out the dealership up in Doncaster had invited him to take it for a short test ride to see if he liked it and 44 miles later he’s sitting with Karen and I in our kitchen having another impromptu lunch discussing the finer points of the machine, with the dealership no doubt thinking they ain’t seeing that again! As always, thorough in every detail in whatever the situation required.
Another 44 miles later back in Doncaster, he was to become the proud owner of the motorbike, but sadly never got to ride it as his illness took hold. That said, I visited JB several times as he bravely battled it and those qualities of his that we admired and respected him for were still strongly in evidence. He had set himself the goals of getting back out into the sunshine, strolling around the nearby lake which he loved to do and organising another ROGS meeting, whilst simultaneously discussing with me and others the organisation and details of his passing to come, so ensuring as only he would, that it would be right in every detail of it and that it had been properly and thoroughly addressed. It takes a very special person to do that.
As I’ve always said in my working life, you should learn from those whose paths you cross, be that good, or bad. In that sense and for me JB was also special and an inspiration so thank you my old mate!
It was a privilege to both have known you and an honour that you came to regard me as a trusted friend. Karen and I shall miss you and your impromptu visits to see us. We send our heartfelt condolences to Wendy, Mark and the rest of your loving family.