Founding Chairman and Honorary President of Buxton & District u3a
If you are, ever have been or intend to be, a member of B&D u3a, you, probably unknowingly, owe a debt of gratitude to Frank, for without his initiative, ably supported by his wife Judy, there may well not be this amazing organisation serving our town and surrounding districts. In 2016, I was privileged to interview the two of them as part of the 20th Anniversary celebrations and much of which follows is based on that oral history interview.
Frank placed an advert in The Buxton Advertiser in the Autumn of 1995 appealing to anyone interested in continuing education to contact him. An initial meeting of approximately 23 people was held at St. Nicholas Institute, Fairfield in January 1996. At this, Frank offered to be Chairman and move the idea forward, promising there would be a u3a up and running within 3 months – and there was. The first public meeting was held on 15 April 1996 at which 5 groups were on offer, (original group leaders named) These were gardening (Dena Lewis), literature, (John Wood) local history, (Frank) Shakespeare (Judy) and walking (Eric Plumtree). A sixth was formed shortly afterwards, namely French led by Judy, who agreed to start it, but only until someone else came along to take over who would speak French without a Yorkshire accent! It is worthy of note that both Frank and Judy were still involved in running groups until the Covid 19 lockdown prevented meetings in 2020.
It is that tenacity, matched by a willingness to give of time and effort to the local community that underpins the development of the u3a under Frank’s stewardship. These qualities were recognised when Frank was made Honorary President of Buxton & District u3a, an event marked by the presentation of an inscribed silver badge at the end of his tenure as founding Chairman. It is an insignia which he always wore with pride at u3a events. However, the element not acknowledged thus far is the sense of humour which went alongside those attributes. To be in the company of Frank and Judy, was always a lively encounter as the two of them exchanged witty remarks and glances, which were born of their time spent together, having met as students at Birmingham University and marrying in 1957.
One example of Frank’s humour came in 2016 when he approached the then committee to ask whether there would be a 20th Anniversary celebration. There had been a mammoth showcasing of the groups in The Dome, arranged by the committee led at the time by Lyn Noble, to mark 10 years of u3a in Buxton. Frank was told that it was felt marking the Silver Anniversary of foundation, i.e. 25 years would probably be the next celebration. In his own inimitable fashion, he quipped “but the founders may not still be around then”. In response to that, the then committee staged a 20th Anniversary tea party, at which original group leaders were guests of honour and displays, including a time line of developments, many photographs and oral history interviews of members past and present were showcased at the “sharing table” event, which delighted Frank and his fellow co-founders.
In conclusion, there can be no better testimony to Frank Barrett and his service to the organisation than to share with you the comments he made about the u3a and the vision he had, which translated into the ethos which we, hopefully, still enjoy today and I quote,
“It’s the people who make it, there are no egos, it’s relaxed, it’s warm and friendly.”
What a legacy to leave current B&D u3a members as we continue to nurture the development of Frank’s vision and ethos. Condolences to Judy and her family, and to Frank’s many friends
RIP Frank Barrett born York 1933 - died Buxton 2023