Hundred of mourners flocked to the hamlet of Seaborough in Dorset yesterday for the funeral of Richard Barber.
They included leading figures from the world of Jump racing, including champion trainer Paul Nicholls, Martin and David Pipe and Philip Hobbs, and countless members of the hunting, point-to-pointing and farming communities. Peter Wright, chief executive, represented the Point-to-Point Authority.
One of point-to-pointing's most successful trainers, Barber died recently at the age of 77. His many achievements included training a joint-record four winners of Cheltenham's Foxhunter Chase, a winner of Aintree's Foxhunters' Chase, and seven winners on one point-to-point card. He would have been champion point-to-point trainer many times had an award been given for that championship during his heyday, although he won the inaugural title when it was instigated in 2012/13.
He also guided, advised and influenced countless people who have known success or who now make a living in licensed racing and point-to-pointing. They include five national champion point-to-point riders, including current Fuller's men's champion Will Biddick, and two national novice title holders.
St John's Church, Seaborough, adjacent to Barber's Manor Farm, was full of family and close friends, and hundreds more packed into a nearby marquee where pictures of the service, taken by the Reverend David Baldwin, were relayed on closed-circuit television.
Tim Frost, a long-time friend of Barber's, gave a tribute in which he apologised to people who could not join the service in the church, but said it was Richard's wish that it was held at Saint John's. "He was never one to travel too far from home," said Frost, adding that apart from buying trips in Ireland, Barber only undertook one overseas holiday. His passion for Dorset and his farm became one reason he remained in pointing when it was often said he could have been a successful licensed trainer. Travelling to distant, midweek Jump meetings never appealed to a man described by Reverend Baldwin as "a farmer who trained racehorses".
Taking the congregation through a rural life well lived, Frost said Barber had been a school boxing champion, who in 1958, aged just 17 was handed the responsibility, by his father, of running Manor Farm – his year-younger brother, Paul, remained at the family home of Manor Farm, Ditcheat, where he is landlord of the racing yard run by Nicholls.
Within five years Richard had turned a herd of 60 Friesian cattle into one of 300, was helping with the running of a neighbouring farm, and being asked for advice on grass management. Horses came much later, after Barber had married, at the age of 20, his first wife, Margaret, and raised four children – Jeremy, Charlotte, Jason and Vicky.
Barber later married Viv, who became "the glue" in his point-to-point operation, looking after and feeding and washing for staff, often youngsters making their first steps in the workplace. The yard's first winner, Gerry Doyle, came in 1986, and the last in 2014. Barber also instigated the point-to-point course that became known as Littlewindsor, and his famous, uphill all-weather gallop, a ground-breaking training facility in pointing, has been used by countless other trainers. It is now used daily by licensed trainers Harry Fry and Anthony Honeyball, and also by his grandsons Jack, who holds a licence, and Christopher, who trains pointers.
Frost recalled many mornings with Richard on his gallops, "where he would always be dressed in his traditional green Puffa jacket, and imparting a slice of advice that was always worth listening to. His counsel and advice was invaluable, and he had a real connection with young people. He was never jealous of anyone else's success."
He added: "I read a tribute from Paul Nicholls in the Racing Post recently, in which he said, 'Richard trained some great horses, but also some great people'."
Frost concluded by saying: "I hear the words 'A legend' too often, but they befit Richard the man and his legacy. He was a caring man, with time for everyone, and with advice that was always worth listening to."
He finished his reading by imparting some advice that could have come from Barber's lips: "Make the most of it Spuddlers."
Readings were given by Jack and Sally Barber, and also by trainer Harry Fry. At the service's conclusion Barber's coffin was taken to the top of his gallops for a private family committal. There could be no finer resting place.
A black Land Rover waits to take the Barber's coffin to the top of his gallops