You have probably seen below the emails and photographs of old Broxted that I have received from Gillian Reilly, née Barker.
Gill was born at 7 School Villas in Broxted. Her mother's parents, Bill and Maud Payne ran the Prince of Wales, and her mother Barbara married Ben Barker, who was born in Broxted, one of 14 children.
On 2 April 2004 I received this news from Gill's husband Jim:
"This is a message of sadness and celebration. Gill's dad Ben Barker died this morning at 2.00 am. He went into the Royal Brisbane Hospital with pneumonia on Monday and had recovered from that. He was on his way down to the ground floor of the hospital at 10.30 am for me to take him home, when he got sick and died 16 hours later from a bleeding ulcer.
"Ben was married at 25 and would have been 93 in May 8th this year. His wife Barbara is in Treetops nursing home (formerly Nimbin, aboriginal word for safety/security).
"Ben started out his working life as a farm hand in Essex. He wasn't keen on the low wages and long hours and made a career decision to move upmarket and become a gardener. Not today's gardener who cuts lawns and whipper snips edges but a real gardener who plans and lays out eye beating, soul sentient landscapes. There were no power tools, no drotts, no off the shelf fertilisers or bug killers, just practised knowledge, handed down, experienced and combined with spade and shovel hard yacker.
"Ben worked for some very famous people. Most of them are almost gone from our knowledge rings. Rab Butler who was Deputy Prime Minister of England, Mr Peat of Peat Warwick Mitchell who were the world's largest public accountants, now amalgamated and gone, amongst many others not so well known but who needed wealth to maintain large estates and harness Ben's skills. Gardening in his day required flexibility, we think our times are flexible, he looked after zoos, tropical plants and animals. gas and electric generation plants, swimming pools and all done when science was a baby.
"In a small interlude during 1939 -45 he joined the British army as a transport driver and saw active service in Africa, Iraq, Egypt and Italy. He was captured in Italy by German soldiers and became a prisoner of war. He remained as a prisoner for 18 months and during that time went on the long march from Breslau, now in Poland, to Hanover. This took over three months, no food, sleeping rough each night in doorways, stables, tennis courts, scavenging turnips, eggs anything the land could provide as the Germans provided nothing. On release he returned to England as a skeleton. His own daughter, (six years old) recoiled in horror and refused to go near him.
"Ben had a singular force in his life which was, survival under any circumstance. In today's parlance perhaps "don't let the b****rs get you down". He was able to keep his mates alive in the camps through this philosophy and was able to impart hope in the dark times. He was still fighting on April 2nd 2004 and never gave in.
"He was never a rich man in money terms, but he could always buy with cash what he wanted. He was generous and constantly conscious of giving in return, or in our terms he more than paid his way. He had this fantastic knack of never giving advice. He would question, probe and let you come to your own conclusions. He never took charge. He allowed every one to pass through, without criticism or disdain, but if you decided to trespass too closely you were very aware that a large gardening fist could knock you right off your arse. He had the biggest fist in the world, held in a kid glove.
"He was weak in all the nicest manly ways. He was a Liberal through and through. He could never tell you why. Labour always wrecked the country and Liberals always brought it back in balance. After he saw September 11, there was no doubt in his mind, go get 'em. Saddam deserved what he got. Life was simple and we were making it complicated, for no known result.
"He was well loved and well liked. God speed Ben."