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BARNARD, Michael John (1928-2020) – A Life in Pictures

Michael BarnardMichael Barnard, who died earlier this year, aged 91, was well-known throughout the Vale of Evesham as an artist and regular contributor to The Evesham Journal and The Vale Magazine.  His prolific sketches, with a trademark aeroplane in almost every one, were a familiar feature in many newspapers, magazines and on the walls of public buildings.

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Michael John Barnard was born on 10th July 1928 at Sands Lane, Badsey, the eldest of three children of John Barnard, a market gardener, and his wife, Gladys Maud (née Byrd).  Michael came from an old Badsey family.  It was his 3xgreat-grandfather, William Barnard, who was parish clerk for many years, who had first come to Badsey in about 1842.

Michael was born at Craigie on Sands Lane but, in the 1930s, the family moved to a new house, Packs House, Bretforton Road, built on land which belonged to Gladys’ father.  Meanwhile, Craigie was let out to tenants. 

Craigie, Sands Lane
Craigie, 22 Sands Lane, where Michael was born, and where he spent most of his married life (photo:  Badsey Society photographic survey, 2008).
Mike, Sue & Pat Barnard
Mike Barnard with sister Sue and cousin Pat at Packs House, c1938 (from Pat Goldstraw's photo album). 
Packs House, Bretforton Road
Packs House, 21 Bretforton Road, where the Barnards moved to in the 1930s (photo:  Badsey Society photographic survey, 2008).

Michael was a pupil at Badsey Council School from January 1933 to August 1939, then moved to Prince Henry’s Grammar School just after the Second World War had started.  On leaving school, he became a market gardener like his father.

Michael Barnard wedding
Wedding of Michael Barnard and Pam Wheatley at Badsey, 1953.
Michael & Pam Barnard
Michael and Pam Barnard at Badsey Flower Show after 60 years of marriage, 2013 (photo by Valerie Magan).

Michael married Olga Pamela Wheatley on 8th April 1953 in St James' Church, Badsey; a report of their wedding appeared in The Evesham Standard.  The newly-married couple set up home at Craigie and, in 1967, they adopted a baby boy.

Michael’s two great passions in life were painting and planes. Whatever the subject, somehow an aeroplane always seemed to sneak into the picture somewhere (at least for exterior shots, not so easy for interior views)! 

Michael Barnard picture 1
Michael came from several generations of market gardeners, so the market gardening industry featured strongly in his pictures.  He entitled this one:  "Happy days in the sprout fields."
Michael Barnard picture 2
Michael drew this sketch in 2017 in celebration of “Asum gras” being granted protected food status; it shows a youthful Michael some 70 years earlier helping to package asparagus with the use of willow twigs.
Michael Barnard picture 4
Michael's memory of Dunkirk soldiers arriving in Badsey in June 1940.  They had assembled outside The Stone House in the High Street.
Michael Barnard picture 5
Michael’s memory of American airmen parachuting down at Wickhamford in 1945.  His sketch includes the the elm tree near the Manor known as “The Lady in the Crinoline Dress”.

mike barnardmike barnardFrom January 1981 to December 1996, Michael Barnard’s 1980 sketch map of Badsey, Aldington and Wickhamford graced the front cover of the monthly Badsey, Aldington and Wickhamford Parish Review (left). In 2000, he did the design for the Millennium Tea Towel (right).  It shows images of many well-known landmarks in Badsey and Aldington, and a rhyme by Cecil Crane, 1912, about Badsey Rangers.

Michael contributed several sketches for Badsey Society publications.  One illustration for Heads and Tales:  A History of Badsey Schools needed delicate handling, however.  Michael was very keen to emphasise the fact that Badsey School pupils were known for their beautiful handwriting.  He did a sketch of a blackboard with immaculate script and drew the Head Teacher, Mr Frank Amos, entering the classroom.  However, on showing the sketch to the late Miss Jean-Margaret Amos, the Head’s only daughter, she did not like the way her father had been depicted.  What to do – how to keep both sides happy?  The solution, as you can see below, was to cut the sketch in half!

In the same year that Heads and Tales was published, Michael also produced a painting for Badsey First School, celebrating 150 years since the founding of the National School in 1854. He is pictured with the Head Teacher, Mrs Elizabeth Spencer (née Wheatley), who was also his niece by marriage.

Badsey School was well-known for the beautiful handwriting of its pupils.
Michael Barnard and Elizabeth Spencer
Michael Barnard with Elizabeth Spencer in the staffroom of Badsey First School, 2004, showing the picture he painted for the 150th anniversary.

Secret of the SkiesIn 2002, Michael published a book called Secret of the Skies which recalled his time as a Cadet in the Air Training Corps.  First-hand accounts from Michael and ATC acquaintances told the story of everyday life at the local airfields of Honeybourne, Pershore and Defford, during WWII. The book contains nearly a hundred of Michael's unique drawings, many sketched back in the 1940s.  As he explained to a news reporter:  "Most of the drawings were pencilled on war time standard paper and are really lucky to have survived 55 years or so, but keeping them away from the light had helped to keep them sharp, enabling them to stand up to modern photography."

Michael and Pam remained at Craigie until the last few months of their lives, when failing health forced them to move to Austin Court Care Home, Evesham.  Michael died there on 13th March 2020.  Pam died four and a half months later on 31st July 2020.  They had been married for 66 years.

Maureen Spinks, August 2020