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Saturday, 21 September 2013

Robert Barnard 1936 - 2013


Robert Barnard died in his sleep yesterday at the Grove Court Nursing Home in Leeds, after weakening frighteningly quickly. Well known in the Brontë Society (he was Chairman twice), he was a professor, a scholar, an opera lover and an award-winning crime writer who was also a good personal friend of long standing, for me and many others. It is shocking news, even though it is not completely unexpected. Fuller tributes and obituaries will follow in the coming weeks. (RW)

Funeral: Wednesday  2 October   11am  Armley Hill Top Cemetery  Leeds LS12 3PZ

Enquiries: Robson & Ellis 0113 257 0532

Memories of Bob (Sally McDonald)


Guardian Obituary


Yorkshire Post Obituary


Telegraph Obituary

New York Times Obituary

Independent Obituary

Black Mask Obituary

Crime writer Martin Edwards remembers

Richard Wilcocks writes:

Bob Barnard, who died in September after weakening frighteningly quickly, was encyclopaedic - a reference point, a source of knowledge, a repository of facts – but more importantly he was generous, friendly and open with just about everyone with whom he came into contact.  I first came to know him, and to take a place in his network of friends, back in the nineties in our home town of Leeds. Although he was the reason I joined the Society, I remember that when we met, usually at his house, Brontë matters were not always prominent, because his interests and enthusiasms were wide-ranging.

We were often at the same meetings of Brontë Society Council. He was Chairman twice, and for most of the time he was meticulous in his attention to detail (he kept a rule book to hand), an obvious believer in the principles of democracy at all levels, amiable and reasonable in the face of turbulence, and efficient. In difficult periods, he was a reliable helmsman in spite of the fact that the crew was occasionally peevish. His gravitas, that of a man everyone knew was the principal scholar in the room, was always there, but he never talked down, presenting himself with modesty and a kind of mischievous charm, a fact which would be confirmed by any member who chatted with him during a June weekend. He was a strong influence on the Society’s development.

The significance of his Brontë –related publications, especially his learned, attractive and accessible Emily Brontë in the British Library’s Writers’ Lives series, seems to be growing amongst academics and non-academics, and they have been well documented elsewhere, for example in Brontë Studies, as has his position in the world of crime fiction by other writers who revered him, so in this brief valediction I shall stay on the personal level.

Bob loved Dickens - he defended his 1974 thesis on him at Bergen University, where he was a popular lecturer, in “a large hall which was completely packed” according to his wife Louise – and the dogs he rescued were given the names of characters in the novels, like Pickwick, and Jingle. A cat still thrives, called Durdles, from The Mystery of Edwin Drood. He admired Ibsen, whose plays he had read and seen performed in both Norwegian and English, especially The Master Builder, and he was “easily disgusted”, he once said, by ‘true crime’ writing.

He had a passion for opera, choosing to live in Leeds after his return from Norway because Opera North is based there, and we often saw the same performances, discussing them later at length. Donizetti was one of his favourite composers, but the music which most moved him, he told me, was from Britten’s Peter Grimes – the Sea Interludes. Two of these, Dawn and Moonlight, were played at the funeral in October.


Our sympathies are with Louise, who wishes me to give her personal thanks to the many people who have sent her cards and kind letters.

Joan Bellamy writes:
Robert Barnard was a creative force in the endeavours of the Brontë Society, based in Haworth. A member of its council and chairman for many years, he encouraged and contributed to academic research into the works and lives of the Brontës while ensuring that the interests and enthusiasms of the less professionally engaged were catered for. After steering it through some quite stormy times, in the end he guided it safely into port. He will be much missed; the success of the society's activities today is largely due to him. (from The Guardian 30 September 2013)

Guardian Obituary


2 comments:

  1. It was with a feeling of profound sadness that I read about the death of Robert Barnard and I extend to you- his close friend- my deepest sympathy. I first got to know him more than twenty years or so ago, I suppose, when I joined the Bronte Society and he was always a man I had great respect for.The Society were lucky to have him as Chairman twice and also as a council member and his knowledge of the Bronte family and their writings was unsurpassed- this knowledge he was willing to share with anyone.To me, as an ordinary member of the Society, he showed great kindness and I always looked forward to meeting him and having a chat. I can remember him asking me to join him and a few friends in the White Lion after some function- the evening was full of laughter and Robert, showing his mischievous side, fired our imagination with his stories and knowledge and it was a super evening.
    He will be greatly missed by so many people and
    those who were lucky enough to call him 'friend' are poorer for his passing but so much richer for his knowing.

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  2. RIP Bob - a true gentleman, a fine Bronte scholar, a wise and reliable Trustee. You will be greatly missed.

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