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Farewell, Laurie Barber

Patron to Port Writers Inc, 2015 – 2021

A sign of having lived a rich and valued life is the impact you make on people: Laurie Barber made an impact. A quiet and unassuming man, he led a large life of service and significant achievement across different fields.

Laurie Barber tribute

Passing away recently, Laurie’s funeral was at 11.30 am Wednesday 23 February 2022. By 11.12 am, the entire seating in the chapel was filled by 100 family, friends and farewellers. By the time of his service, around 50 more people were seated or standing outside. A majority of those attending were Rotarians, an organisation Laurie had a long, enduring, and successful involvement with for over forty years.

After inauspicious beginnings, Laurie took himself to Inverell and began his career in journalism – a lifelong love affair with language and the English form. That beginning coincided with a lifelong love – he met Glenda who’d just moved to Inverell to begin nursing and they were inseparable for over fifty years, producing four children, eleven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

It was his love of language and words that inspired Laurie to pen a regular column entitled My Word which saw him discuss and describe the use of a weekly word of choice. Etymological research blended with a conversational tone won him many fans and syndication across regional newspapers. Imagine writing 500-600 words every week, based on research of origins and usage, for over 25 years. That is a lot of writing, dedication, consistency, and commitment: qualities of successful writers of any persuasion. Do the math and that equals some 6-9 books. Just goes to show, if one writes a page or two regularly, one can birth a number of books.

In fact, Laurie produced four volumes of his selected My Word column entries as books. Laurie was an early adopter of the ‘create once and recycle that work into new forms’ mode of production. As a writer, this is an ideal way to make your words work harder for you.

Laurie Becomes Patron on the new Port Writers

Port Writers Inc came into existence in 2015. Laurie Barber was approached to become a joint Patron, along with the prodigious poet and educator, Bessie Jennings. Both Laurie and Bessie agreed and their influence and contributions to the development of Port Writers as a mainstay for writers in the region cannot be overestimated.

In 2016, Port Writers gained a grant to produce a significant anthology, Beyond the Three Brothers, and Laurie was instrumental in ensuring both its success and its launch.

It was only late in 2021 that Laurie decided to step down as Patron of Port Writers for health reasons. In recognition of his contribution, Port Writers wanted to honour Laurie. We conduct an annual writing competition and it was agreed that a fitting tribute would be to rename this year’s Hastings Prize as the 2022 Laurie Barber Prize for Local Writers.

Laurie’s farewell was a way to again acknowledge the influence and contribution Laurie has made to individuals, communities, and the betterment of the human fabric of our lives. It says a lot about the man that so many wanted to be there. Port Writers is humbled to be a small part of his farewell service today and his life.

For additional background on Laurie, refer to this Port News article: https://www.portnews.com.au/story/7630296/tribute-community-remembers-laurie-barbers-contributions/?cs=12