It was standing room only at Mortlake Crematorium for William Barney’s Humanist celebration on 27 February after his death on 6 February at 64 years old. Those of us who knew him were not surprised by the turn-out. William had a natural ’nice-ness’, as one friend described it and was an exemplar of warmth and generosity.
William did everything with enthusiasm, energy and grace and was a much-loved role model and key figure to many people, especially his the Re-engage tea party guests and the other volunteers who got to know him.
William was fascinated by sport – a fierce competitive streak having emerged while he was at Charterhouse School. After studying Economics at Bristol in the 1970s, he started work at Price Waterhouse and then went on to Gulf and Western. After gaining his MBA from London Business School in 1984, he joined Forte Hotels, moving on to KPMG, where he was involved in the tourism and hospitality sectors before working independently as a management consultant. He retired in 2015.
Throughout his life, William’s energy and love of adrenaline-fuelled sports knew few bounds – especially mountaineering and skiing. He and his sister owned an apartment in Courchevel in France, which both families visited throughout the year. He was a successful sportsman with everything he got involved with – tennis, cycling, golf, windsurfing, ice hockey, climbing... As someone said, William really was a force of nature!
His natural joie de vivre, led to inevitable scrapes which became known as ‘Doing a Barney’.
He was a volunteer during the 2012 Olympics and drove for the Wimbledon Tennis Championships for a number of years. His wife Margaret’s more artistic nature touched him in other ways and helped him to develop a more reflective life which included regular birdwatching and a love of nature.
William was an utterly committed and thoughtful volunteer for Re-Engage for 40 years, initially as a volunteer driver and tea party host and more recently as a fundraiser and Trustee. He and I would often talk about the welfare of the guests in our group in between our regular teas.
After I moved away from London and could no longer co-ordinate the West Kensington group as well as the new one in Norfolk, we only met formally at board meetings. We did however continue to meet up with one of our longest standing guests, now aged 95, for a pub lunch close to her home.
Cancer was a terrible affront to William's sense of self but he bore it with great dignity, fortitude and a complete lack of self-pity, always more concerned for the welfare of others than himself.
He will, of course, be much missed by his family, his friends, by his work and sporting partners and by us - his volunteer and trustee colleagues but, as importantly, his regular tea group friends will miss William’s lovely company every single month.