‘He was my best friend’ – Son’s tribute to Hadleigh toolmaker after sudden death
- Credit: RICHARD ROBINSON
A former toolmaker who was “always smiling” and loved his hometown of Hadleigh has sadly died aged 80, leaving behind his “heartbroken” wife of 59 years who he met at just 13 years old.
Barrie Robinson died peacefully at Hadleigh Hall Nursing Home on Saturday, October 3, after suffering a short battle with an aggressive form of cancer following his diagnosis in August.
The father and beloved ‘grandpa’ was very well-known in Hadleigh and other rural parts of Suffolk, having called it home since 1978 with his “soulmate” and “best friend” Jean .
He spent his childhood years in London – moving from Paddington to Hayes in Middlesex and then to Maida Vale, in the west of the city.
At the age of 13 he met Jean Symons, who at the time was best friends with his cousin Wendie and Barrie’s sister Lynda, and later became his wife.
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The pair married in 1961 and spent 59 happy years together, with their only son Richard, 45, describing his parents as “devoted lifetime companions”.
“They were besotted with each other right up until the end,” said Mr Robinson. “They spent so little time apart and they were best friends, so my mum is devastated.
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“We miss him dreadfully.”
Mr Robinson followed in the footsteps of his father Harry, training and qualifying as a toolmaker in London, before briefly owning an engineering business in the city.
His son Richard was born in 1974 and the family later moved to Bletchley in Buckinghamshire, where Mr Robinson spent about five years teaching his craft.
They moved to Hadleigh in 1978 – where his parents Harry and Rose lived – and Mr Robinson transferred to CAV in Ipswich until it closed in the 80s.
He then had a career change and became a rent and revenue officer for Babergh District Council, serving Hadleigh and the surrounding areas.
His son Richard said he was “financially astute and intelligent” and made so many friends during his new role. He explained how his father would sometimes be the only visitor an elderly customer would have all week.
“Whenever we walked down the high street in Hadleigh, everyone knew him,” said Mr Robinson. “He was a true gentleman and people loved spending time with him, as did I.”
Mr Robinson added: “He was my best friend. There will be a missing seat at the dinner table, at the bar and on the sofa, but he will always be with us.
“He was such an important part of our lives.”
After retiring from the council, Mr Robinson went back into toolmaking and spent five years at 2020 Vision, before getting a job at Erben factory in Lady Lane, where his father Harry had previously worked up until the 1980s.
He formally retired a few years later, but within six months decided he was too bored and got a new job as the delivery driver and maintenance man at what was then called Wyevale Garden Centre in Chilton.
Mr Robinson said: “He loved his job. He loved meeting people, his laugh was infectious and he never stopped smiling.
“He was genuinely overwhelmed by how welcomed his London family felt in Hadleigh and he was so well-loved in the town’s circle.”
One of his favourite things to do outside of work was socialising with others, spending time at The Falcon pub, where his wife Jean worked behind the bar, The Marquis of Cornwallis and the ‘Monkey’ in Benton Street (The King’s Arms).
Mr and Mrs Robinson then made it tradition to attend a quiz night every Sunday at The White Hart pub in Boxford, where their son lived, not missing a quiz night for 25 years.
The pair shared a love for swimming – having represented Essex and London in the 50s – with Mr Robinson continuing to go to the gym three times a week at Stoke Golf Club at the age of 72.
“He was ridiculously fit,” laughed Mr Robinson. “He would beat me at swimming and he even won the Great Boxford 5k run in his 70s, even if it was because the steward had directed all the runners on the wrong course and my dad went on the right one.”
His other passion was freemasonry and he helped set up Brett Valley Lodge in the 90s, whilst being a member of Virtue & Silence, which he did a lot of work for.
He was a huge family man and “worshipped his granddaughters” Emilia (Millie), 18 and Daisy, 14, who he would cook breakfast for every morning before they went to school.
Mr Robinson said his father’s death has been devastating for the family.
“It is a big loss for our family, and clearly it is a big loss for the community as well,” he said.
“My mum has lost her soulmate and her beloved husband and she is heartbroken.”
Mr Robinson’s funeral will be invite only due to coronavirus restrictions.
His family would appreciate donations to Hourglass, the safer ageing and elder abuse charity based in Long Melford, which his son Richard is the CEO of.
You can donate online here or to make a £5 donation, text ‘HOURGLASS’ to 70085.