1st February 1954 to 13th February 2016
If I had to ask God just one question what would it be? “Why take Barry so young” or perhaps rather, “Why Barry?” Such were the questions that swirled in my mind when I heard that Barry had passed away from a stroke. The final question – a rhetorical one I suppose – posed to humanity in general is why we do not celebrate somebody’s achievements and their life before that person passes away. Why reserve it for the eulogies after their death? Shouldn’t we verbalise the positive that we feel about our friends and family.
So it was with Barry.
Main picture: Barry Cornish with son, Craig
In order to celebrate the life of Barry, I have elected to publish the eulogy that his elder brother Peter Cornish gave at Barry’s memorial service. This is the least that I can do in order to keep the memory of such a vibrant enthusiastic person such as Barry Cornish alive, albeit on the internet.
Finally I am reminded of this quote from Charles Dickens’ classic A Tale of Two Cities: ‘’It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,… it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…” It is the jumbled emotions – happy memories revived as if they were yesterday mixed with great sadness that one may never again be able to share another special moment with that person ever again!
Such is the grieving and healing process.
Eulogy by Peter at the Kloof Methodist Church on Saturday 20th February 2016
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Barry’s older brother by 2½ years. I am not happy. I’m not happy because I am standing here and I don’t want to be here. This is not how it is supposed to be.
Most of you have probably known Barry for the past 30 years so I will tell you about the earlier years.
Life started in Roodepoort where we lived in a semi-detached house with Mom and Dad. Next door was my mom’s sister, aunty Julie and uncle Jacko and Alan and Linda.
Not long after this, the Jacksons moved to Luancha in Northern Rhodesia on the Copper Belt. The word soon came back that this was the place to be and the Cornish’s followed suit to the Copper Belt. We didn’t go to Luancha but went to a new mine at Bancroft. It was all new and houses were being built as the bush was cleared. I started school at 5 years old so it was in 1956 and Barry would have been 3 years old. There was not much here except Sunday drives to the Belgian Congo border. Unfortunately the climate did not agree with Barry as he suffered from a lot of asthma. The doctors finally told my parents that Barry could not live here. So after two years, we packed up and moved back to Stilfontein where my mom’s parents were living.
Stilfontein was not the happiest place for us. It was freezing cold in winter and my mom used to move our bedroom around for summer and winter to maximise the warmest place for us.
It was here that Barry had to have an operation on his chest at the age of 5. He had a concave chest as his chest bone was attached to something else and it had to be separated. The abiding memory that I have is seeing Barry with a wire cage over his chest. A wire attached to the cage was attached to his chest in order to pull the breast bone up. It looked ghastly.
There are two other significant things that occurred during our time at Stilfontein. The first was one evening when we were sitting in the lounge. Barry walked in and announced that his name was no longer Barry and that from now on he was to be called Nick. We said OK fine. From then on he was known as Nick to us.
The second event was that my brother started studying for his Engineer’s Ticket. This took several years on a part time basis. Finally he got his Ticket and he very soon got a job as an Engineer with Huletts Sugar. Of course there was a catch – there always is a catch – and that was that we had to relocate to Triangle in Rhodesia.
Anyhow after two years my dad got a transfer to Natal. It was 1965 and the Cornish’s were off to Darnall; back to civilisation. We had arrived. Darnall had tarred roads, a Club House that showed movies on a Friday night, a swimming pool, tennis courts and a soccer field amongst others. Zinkwazi Beach was down the road and there were ten thousand acres of sugar cane to roam in. We had free reign and roam we did – far and wide.
Darnall can only be described as the wonder years for us. It was here that we met our lifelong friends, the Bodills. Vesta and Dennis had four children: David, Peter, Susan and Renae. Mrs Bodill is here today. Mrs B, you are a blooming legend.
The four boys very quickly became friends and sorted ourselves into teams for sporting events. Two Peters versus David and Barry. Whatever the game was, it was played until dark. Cricket – no time limit – soccer, tennis, bike races et cetera, Le Mans in mom’s garden.
We build forts in the cane and never wore shoes. We ate the sugar cane and even the dogs ate the sugar cane. Somebody should check the production records for Darnall in the sixties because they will be down by a few thousand tons.
One major event comes to mind involving Barry and myself. It was the summer of 1968 and the school had closed for the Christmas Holidays. As usual, all the village kids were at the pool having a great time. With myself at the shallow end & Barry at the deep end, as mad as a cut snake I shoulder charged Barry. I look down. The big toe is at right angles to the other toes and I am in excruciating pain. Incensed at my actions and not aware that my toe was broken, Barry kicked me breaking the other toe. NO he did not! In spite of having grazes as he fell, he assisted me as I hobbled off home. I was then taken to Kearsney Hospital and the foot was placed in a plaster cast.
Of course with all these mill houses came garages and workshops. To some this may sound somewhat exciting. Heck at Sezela, they even had three car garages together with a pit.
I never saw the attraction. My dad was always involved in some project or another in which Barry and I would be roped in to assist him. Fixing a car or building a boat or a boat trailer.
Barry thrived on this sort of thing and very soon became Dad’s appie. If there were bearings to be changed or anything else to be done on the cars, Barry would be up to his armpits in grease and loving it. I could only be described as a casual observer passing the number 12 ring spanner or a Phillips screw driver. On one occasion we were in the garage changing the rings when I picked up the exhaust manifold of the car and told my dad, “Look a four way microphone” and proceeded to give my best Mick Jagger impersonation. My Dad just smiled and probably thought quietly to himself, “One of two aint bad.”
In 1970 I was summoned to Valhalla Beach in Pretoria to the Air Force barracks. Whilst I was there, my Mom and Dad came and paid me a visit with Barry. They stayed with dad’s sister, Aunty Dot, in Florida. In the back yard was a 1955 Morris Minor with a split windscreen – that is important – and a 850cc engine and Marie Biscuit wheels. My Dad told us that we could ship this back to Darnall and do it up for Pete. So he and Barry set about doing this car for me. By the time that I came out of the Army, the engine had been overhauled and the car resprayed. As the 850cc was not powerful enough, Dad procured a 1000cc engine which they installed.
In this 1000cc Morris Minor, we did a road trip to Welkom and then Barry installed a 1200cc Datsun engine.
When I left for Australia, it only seemed right to hand the car over to Barry as all that I had done was to drive it and put R2’s worth of petrol in at a time.
So in this past week when everyone was so shocked and in a state of utter disbelief, I have asked myself the question whether it is possible that any good could come from such an event. If there is anything, it can only be the tremendous support that Eloise, Mark and Craig have received from all of you. The phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from interstate and overseas, customers and suppliers. If you did not know any better, one would think that it was the Clinton’s campaign office. So Barry has touched many people.
The flowers – gee they grow such beautiful flowers in South Africa – the messages and the posts have been amazing with wonderful comments such as a good friend, mentor, a true friend and of course, many alluded to Barry’s sense of humour; always telling a story and putting on a French accent.
So thank you for your kind words, but please remember that Eloise and Mark are going to need a lot of support in the weeks and months ahead when this is all over.
Nick, I know that you are watching from above. Say hello to Mom and Dad, and Pop and Gran.
You have done well, little brother.