Colin and Beryl Baker

Article by Piers Meyler: A knighted grandfather who rose from humble beginnings to having a series of central roles in some of Britain's biggest companies has died at the age of 88.

Sir Colin Barker, who was knighted for services to industry, died peacefully at Anisha Grange Care Home in Billericay on June 10.

The former RAF pilot lived in Brentwood for most his life with wife of 60 years, Beryl.

Sir Colin grew up in Hull and met Beryl when he moved to work in the labour department at the Co-operative Union in Manchester. His working life has also included top roles at Ford in Gants Hill, Ilford and Warley.

Sir Colin went on to become chairman of British Technology Group, before retiring in 1993.

He was knighted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace after being named in the New Year's Honours List in 1990.

[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Beryl"]The fact that pleased the children very much was that someone came up from Rutland for the day for the funeral, who worked with him about 30 years ago. He was that sort of person. He got on well with everyone. He was a person's person. I obviously thought the world of him and I have been absolutely astonished that so many people thought as much of him as I did. It is a humbling experience but he was a good man and he helped a lot of people and he was very liked in his business career.[/quote]

Sir Colin was born on October 20, 1926 in Hull to parents Ethel and Len Barker, a gentleman's outfitter employed at the Hull Co-operative Store.

He was their only child. Despite his humble background, he earned a place at Hull Grammar School. During the war he accompanied his father, who was an air raid warden in the city, which was the most bombed place in the UK outside London.

He joined the fledging Air Training Corps as a cadet and started training as a pilot.

After enlisting in the Royal Navy by lying about his age, Sir Colin trained with the Fleet Air Arm, initially on Tiger Moths, with ambitions to fly the Fairey Swordfish, a torpedo bomber biplane that was used as an anti-submarine and training craft.

He was in the final stages of his training when the war ended.

On leaving the Royal Navy, Sir Colin joined the Cooperative Union in Manchester and his successful business career took off. In his early 20's, he was one of the youngest senior management members at the Co-Operative and it was there that he met Beryl.

She says he took one of her gloves in passing to grab her attention.

Sir Colin was soon interrupted during an important business meeting by his future wife, demanding the garment back. Just three years later the pair were tying the knot, on September 15, 1951.

His chain of high profile and successful roles with Ford Motor Company, Associated Portland Cement, British Steel, the National Coal Board and the British Technology Group were rewarded with a Knighthood from the Queen.

He did not formally retire until well into his 70's but then retained a number of business and charitable interests.

[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by his daughter Heather"]He was a modern man. He made sandwiches for tea every Saturday afternoon for years and we'd share them while we sat and watched Dr Who on the TV. At weekends he organised the washing up duties. He wasn't at home in time during the week. We had the same regimented duties and chores such as gardening – weeding, pruning the roses, grass cutting and car cleaning. Our work was always inspected to ensure a thorough job had been done. We were always encouraged from a very young age to do a job properly, persist and take a pride in it.[/quote]

Sir Colin had been fit and very active all his life until 12 years ago when a major heart operation meant he had to slow down dramatically.

He was later diagnosed at different stages with Parkinson's, prostate cancer and later still, dementia.

Sir Colin remained at home in the dedicated care of his wife and family but two and a half years ago, it was decided he needed more specialist care and he moved to Anisha Grange.

He leaves Beryl, his children Heather, Keith, Roger and Paul together with grandchildren Ruth, Joe, Alistair, Rory, Kyle, Coralie, Sarah and Michael.

Article by Piers Meyler, Brentwood Gazette

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