Sunday, 1 April 2012

Barbara Macfarlane (16th March 1931 – 23rd March 2012)

Barbara was born into a theatrical family in Watford in 1931. She was the first child of Laura Goodall (nee Pycroft), a singer/dancer, and Len Edward Goodall, a comic. Two years later her brother, Edward (Ted), was born. Life in a theatrical family was not a settled one and within a few years Len had left the family. Barbara and Ted were never to hear from him again. The children ended up in the Actors’ Church Union Hostel in Ealing and during the war were evacuated from London. They were placed in the care of someone who treated them cruelly, and after she had received a particularly savage beating Barbara and Ted were removed from there. Barbara was very protective of Ted, who went on to become a Sergeant Major in the Grenadier Guards. She would defend Ted, whenever he was being threatened or bullied. Ted thought of her as his ‘guardian angel’. Barbara’s unhappy childhood continued and she was sent to stay with an Aunt in Leeds from whom she ran away to Barnsley, booking herself into a hotel. The police were called when she handed over a child’s ration book. Her mother and step-father were called and Barbara recalled that the journey home was not a happy one.

By the age of 16 Barbara had a sister, Nip, and had started to find her way in life, getting her first theatrical contract, a part in a pantomime in 1947. Here she was helped by her Aunt Nita, a musical comedy star of the pre-war years and her Uncle Frank, who worked for the theatrical impresario, Prince Littler. For well over a decade, Barbara worked in the theatre, first as a dancer and later as a singer. In 1950 she married her first husband David, and gave birth to Ian. By 1955 she had become a leading lady, playing Sergeant Sarah Brown in the musical, ‘Guys and Dolls’. In 1957 she was the lead singer in a show called ‘Heatwave’, which toured American army bases in Germany. She was always proud of having turned down the chance to tour with Elvis Presley, preferring to return home. It was on her return whilst living near Baker Street that she met her second husband, William, whom she called Mac when he was in her good books and Willie when he was not. She shared a flat with her friend, Val, upstairs, whilst Mac, rented an office behind his friend Ken’s newsagents downstairs. He was attracted initially by her beauty. She at first was less impressed with him. However, Mac’s humour and good nature eventually won her over. They decided to get married and settle down, moving to Chichele Road, Cricklewood, in 1959, where Ian, who like his mother and uncle before him had been living in the Actors’ Church Union Hostel, joined them. The following year Andrew, her second son, was born. Although no longer touring, Barbara was able to play small parts in films and Nip remembers being at the pictures in Derby and suddenly seeing her sister on screen in a Cliff Richard film, shouting out to the rest of the audience, ‘That’s my sister’.

After the birth of Andrew, the focus of her life changed dramatically. She put her family before her career and, although she continued to play small roles in films, she set about creating with Mac a loving family home for their sons. She was always affected by the hardships she had experienced as a child, but fought not to be overwhelmed by them and to ensure that there was a stable home for her family.

In 1964, the family moved to Neville’s Court in Dollis Hill Lane. This was to be her home for the rest of her life, a home she was very fond and proud of. It was a place of much happiness and occasional sadness, especially when her mother, Laura, died in 1981. She and Mac made many friends at Neville’s Court over the years. They were both gregarious, hospitable and generous, as so many people can testify. Her passing marks the end of an era at Neville’s Court.

After the death of Mac in 2002, Barbara herself became ill and the next ten years can seem from the perspective of the present to have been ten years of constant struggle with illness. It became harder for her to leave the flat as her balance was impaired and she became gradually more frail. The last six weeks of Barbara’s life, spent in hospital, were difficult ones. But Barbara was never one to give in and she fought her last battle with cancer with characteristic courage and determination.

Barbara was a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother and mother-in-law, an aunt, a grandmother and a great-grandmother. Her family remembers with love and affection her kindness and generosity. She will be greatly missed.

Her sons in particular would like to express their gratitude to their mother and their father for the safe, happy and comfortable home they provided and for supporting them in whatever they chose to do. In Andrew’s words: ‘I have had my own struggles, but with Mum's (and Dad's) help have got through them and have succeed beyond my wildest dreams - I would never have thought that I would be an academic with published papers and students who like my teaching. My success is due in no small part to Mum.’