Barry Lyndon MBE (1930–2014)

Barry Lyndon MBE (1930–2014)

It was with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Barry Lyndon, a long-standing servant of the Royal College of Organists.

Barry joined the College in 1965 as the Centenary Appeal Secretary and served with great dedication as Clerk from 1966 until his retirement in 1990.

Everyone who encountered the College during those years will recall Barry's kindness, efficiency and good humour. At Kensington Gore, he was a mine of helpful advice, was encouraging and interested, and always radiated a quiet professionalism which became his hallmark. Visitors would also have known Barry's wife Hessie, who assisted as a secretary during the 1980s.

After leaving the RCO, Barry went on to serve the Ouseley Trust with equal dedication for a number of years.

Kenneth Barry Lyndon died at the Lister Hospital, Stevenage on 25 May, aged 83 years. Our thoughts are with Hessie and with their two sons, Mark and Joshua.

The following appreciation was written by Dr Simon Lindley in 1990 for the programme of a College recital and reception in aid of the Relocation and Regional Activities Funds. This event also marked (to the day) Barry’s 25 years’ service to College. For the recital, the College commissioned a short organ piece (Fanfare for KBL) from Dr William Mathias to preface a performance of an earlier, RCO-connected work, the Toccata giocosa. The Fanfare and the Toccata were recently played at the 150th anniversary Evensong at Southwark Cathedral on 8 March.

From the Old Guard

Charged with contributing something about Barry to the printed souvenir programme of this very special event, I ventured early one morning into the Clerk’s office in an attempt to collate suitable material for a pen-portrait of one who has prized service above status for over a quarter of a century.

Barry Lyndon is, for many of us, the College. He casts aside such a proposition with the firm assertion that the College is the members – an emphasis we would do well to keep to the forefront as ‘the move’ draws even nearer. It was a very happy chance that brought KBL and the College together on 10 May 1965 – the day he joined the staff as Appeal Secretary. The link, as many will know, was Sir William McKie – as plain Mr McKie newly translated from Melbourne to Magdalen in the later 1930s. A native of the small Surrey town of Sanderstead, Barry was born in 1930. Then, as now, an early starter, he had achieved a distinction at Grade V Piano by the age of eight. Always modestly giving to others the credit for his own achievements, he spoke with the same warmth about Miss Kathleen Barr (his first tutor) as of his later piano teachers – who included Dr, later Sir Thomas, Armstrong, Mr Philip Taylor and McKie himself. There is no doubting the affectionate reverence that Barry still feels for Sir William and he organized a special gathering of old Magdalen Choristers which met here at the College after the McKie memorial service at Westminster Abbey on 29 January 1985.

Connections have combined with commitment through Barry Lyndon’s long service with the College. So committed has he been to the well-being of the institution and its membership that it surprises many of us how little we know about him. Having been refused leave to comment in detail on his work as Clerk (a post that he assumed on 1 June 1966), I set about discovering more of Barry himself and of the circumstances that brought him to us. The rest, as they say, is history!

Possibly something of a border-line case for admission to the Magdalen College Choir, Barry was asked by William McKie ‘do you do anything else?’ after he had heard him sing. He feels that his piano performance of a Bach Gigue might well have won the day. Be that as it may, his period as a Chorister in the College Chapel and his wholehearted enjoyment of life at Magdalen College School, has been of central importance to him. He served under no less than three Magdalen Organists – McKie, Dr H C Stewart (‘On this day earth shall ring’ Stewart, please note – Haldane Campbell of that ilk, not to be confused with Charles Hylton), and lastly Philip Taylor who came to the Chapel post from Cheltenham College in 1943 after Stewart’s accidental death. Stewart had resumed the post in 1941 after William McKie had joined the RAFVR, though he had retired (for the first time) three years earlier.

Friendships are important to Barry, and his emphasis on personal as well as professional loyalty is as well known as it is warmly appreciated by those privileged to enjoy it. His family ties are strong – the marriage to Hessie has been long and happy (a union of the North and South of Ireland, for Barry’s parents were from the Irish Free State – opting for England at the time of partition), and a match of opposites! Something of the strong character of each is found in their two sons Mark and Piers (both Magdalen Choristers in their own time) – the first living in Hamburg teaching English, acting and doing various things besides, and the second – the inheritor of his father’s considerable sporting talents – now involved in social service after qualifying in PE and Theology.

Space does not permit more than the briefest outline of the career of the young Lyndon. He says his academic record at MCS was ‘undistinguished’, but the same adjective could by no means be applied (even with Barry’s inherent modesty) to his achievements on the sports field. Those in the College not unconnected with the King’s School at Worcester may smart somewhat from the knowledge that the Clerk once took 77 off their best bowlers in a schoolboy Derby against that august establishment. He also admitted to having played with the great Peter May in a schools’ hockey international for England – evidently the strength of sport’s lure had overtaken his piano-playing prowess. ‘Trying to correct a tendency to step away from fast balls on the leg stump’ apparently claimed most of his attention in the School’s Sixth Form. A weekend of work experience in a remarkable hotel at Stow-on-the-Wold evidently set the seal on an early working-life in the hotel and catering industry – a life that took him from the Cotswolds to Canada by way of London, Lausanne and Dublin. It was at Montreal’s Ritz-Carlton that he met Hessie, returning to England to make his home at Welwyn Garden City where he joined the team of Homestead Court Hotel before Sir William enlisted him into the service of the College. This service has been rendered with great commitment combining friendship with firmness, discretion with decorum, and an appreciation of the personal and professional environment which he has done so much to foster; he speaks as warmly of the glorious MCS playing-fields and the green spaces of Welwyn Garden City as he does of Diploma Presentation ceremonies. All three have been important elements up to now – we wish Hessie and himself a long, happy – and energetic – retirement.

Material from Simon Lindley’s article may be reproduced freely and without charge, provided that due acknowledgement is made to the Royal College of Organists.

An obituary will appear in The Church Times on 27 June.

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