I will not attempt to conceal the truth that the past few weeks have brought immense sadness. Our community has suffered loss and grief, which continues to affect families, students and teachers each day. Yet, amidst this prevailing sorrow, which will not pass quickly, there is the joy of life at the School with all its energy and opportunity. This is the week of the annual School Musical performances, and the 2019 triumph continues the marvellous tradition of exhilarating student achievements.
Sascha Brown (OBA 2019)
This week, over 50 students from Year 11 (now referred to as Year 12) and their families joined with staff and attended the funeral service of our beloved Sascha Brown. No funeral is easy to experience, but the funeral of a young person with so much of life still to live is particularly poignant. The service was led by our own Rev Jeff Ware and Sascha’s parents, uncle and brother, Sebastian (OBA 2017), all summoned the immense courage to speak to the congregation at Macquarie Park. It was deeply moving. At the end of the service, in an incredible dignified moment of respect, our students rose to form a guard of honour for Sascha’s casket as it was moved to the hearse. Sascha’s parents as well as many in the community who attended the funeral asked me to convey their thankfulness for this profoundly moving gesture of love and compassion from his peer group. On the day following the funeral service, Sascha’s Year held a special chapel service in his memory at Barker Chapel. The grieving will continue.
In my final remarks at the memorial service, I referred to the powerful poem of John Donne, written in 1624 after he had experienced a short but dangerous illness. In his delirium, John Donne would hear the neighbouring church bells summoning mourners to another funeral. In his recovery, he penned these words.
No man is an island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind,
and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls;
it tolls for thee.
Whether or not we knew Sascha well, our whole community is affected by this sadness and our love continues to reach out in prayer to his family. May he rest in the loving and gracious arms of God.
Gerald Robinson (OBA 1944)
A few days before Sascha’s funeral, I had the honour of speaking at the funeral of Gerald Robinson (OBA 1944). At the end of a life of wonderful accomplishment and pioneering service to the cause of electronic accounting practices in Australia, Gerald Robinson and his family gave an incredibly generous donation to Barker to support the establishment of Darkinjung Barker on the Central Coast. It was a leadership gift of the most generous kind and it enabled the vision to become a reality in a manner that did not (and has not) drawn funds from the Barker College income, which is given by parents of this School. Since he made the gift in 2015, Gerald refused to allow his name to be mentioned. Instead he quoted the frequently repeated utterance of his old Headmaster, Mr Leslie – the school motto inspires: “Honor Non Honores”, goodness, without reward. Now that Gerald has passed away, the Robinson family has lifted the restriction on acknowledging this inspiring kindness.
Vale Gerald Robinson.
Murray Guest, Headmaster of The Armidale School
Community members might have heard of the tragic death of Murray Guest, the HM of The Armidale School, in a car accident earlier this week. Mr Guest’s daughter, Ms Annelise Guest, is an admired and dedicated staff member at Barker. The news came as a dreadful shock at a difficult time for this community. However, our sadness is nothing compared to that being experienced at TAS and within the Guest Family. My own career closely parallel’s Murray Guest’s work at TAS and we have long been colleagues and friends. I offered a message from the Barker community to the Guest Family in the on-line condolence book being formed at present. We extend to TAS and to Ms Guest and her family our deepest prayerful compassion.
Vale Murray Guest.
Bringing joy to our hearts this week has been a truly brilliant season of Legally Blonde, the 2019 Barker Musical. Unrestrained delight was evident in the faces and movements of the large cast as they danced and sang through the hilarious score. I loved seeing the countless little moments in the show, the exuberant faces and the amazingly energetic dancing numbers. The singing was as uplifting as it was skilful. The production quality of the set, the lighting, the sound and the costume was characteristically professional. The orchestra would have been at home in the Opera House or Lyric Theatre! Many a moment I had to remind myself that I was watching students, not professional actors and dancers! And these students face a full and challenging academic program whilst also preparing for a super show. I am amazed also at how brilliantly the two dogs (Luka and Sparrow) performed. They deserve the “fido” version of an Oscar.
To the Director, Simon Thompson, Music Director, Gerard Plummer, Choreographer, Claire Yeomans, Tech Director, Dural Parker, Costume Designer, Vicki Staas, and all of the crew of hard working students and staff, heartiest of congratulations and thanks for an outstanding production. Barker is so proud and grateful for all that has been achieved.
To thine own self be true.