Almost every day in TV I see an advert for ancestry.com, a genealogy web site. They have the tag line ‘you don’t have to know what you are looking for, you just have to start looking’. Genealogy is not a subject that particularly interests me, the Barrett clan that I grew up knowing were never a particularly close family, and rarely did the subject of our background ever enter into conversation.
My son Paul though, has a great interest in History and has started on a quest to uncover the history of the Barrett’s.
For some years I have been vaguely interested in writing a book. Nothing so vain as an autobiography, more a collection of short essays about some of the stranger adventures I have participated in, and some of the more colorful characters I have met along the way.
One of my favorite characters was without doubt my Uncle Eric. To some he was the Black Sheep of the family, I viewed him more as a lovable rogue. There were no shades of gray when dealing with Uncle Eric, you either loved him or hated him. About 15 years ago I penned a couple of Uncle Eric stories, and there they have sat gathering electronic dust.
Paul’s interest in discovering more about the Barrett’s rekindled thoughts about writing a book. I pulled the digital files out of long term storage and revisited them. Sure they were a little rough around the edges, but that could be easily fixed. What I thought would be great to include in the stories were some photographs, but those I did not have. I resorted to the internet. There were two buildings that I wanted to include. Uncle Eric was born in a pub, yes literally, his parents owned it, The Fox Inn in the small village of Denchworth. It was easy to find more modern photos of the iconic white building with the classic thatch roof, in fact it was the epitomy of the English Post Card, flower baskets abounded. It was the stuff of Jigsaw Puzzles! However it was not what I was really looking for, the Fox Inn was slightly different in the 1960′s when I first stayed there, and certainly different again when Uncle Eric lived there.
Just for grins I decided to send an email to the people that now own the fox. Lets face it, email stamps are cheap
I am often amazed at the lengths people will go to for complete strangers. Steve Davidson has been the landlord of the Fox for the past decade and he kindly offered use of any of the photographs on the pubs website.
It transpired that he knew my cousin Brian Barrett and his wife Pam who called the Fox home in the 1960′s. He also shared the sad news that last year he attended Brian Barrett’s funeral. The very next day he wrote again and apparently had mentioned my email to some of the older locals and staff that frequent the pub. One lady who has worked at the Fox for more than 40 years remembers my cousin Brian very well. Even more surprising some locals remember the infamous Uncle Eric!
Steve also suggested that I contact Sue Brandon who is the curator of the Denchworth Historical Society. I did, and I was amazed. In under 24 hours she wrote back with a summary of the owners of the Fox based on census records, and also sent some photographs from early in the 20′th century.
There was a speck of unexpected gold within the census records. Uncle Eric’s second wold war adventures are as yet to be uncovered, I suspect that he was Englands super secret weapon, he could have defeated the Nazi onslaught just with his guile and sheer bloody mindedness! It would appear that after WWII he decided to enter the pub business, and from 1956-1961 was the landlord of the Fox Inn. He then handed the reigns over to his nephew Brian Barrett who spent the next decade as landlord.
I live in Mississippi which makes dropping by The Fox to buy Steve Davidson a pint a bit of a challenge, but I heft my glass in his and Sue Brandon’s direction. They have both been helpful beyond words. So if you are in the Denchworth area, please drop by The Fox and tell Steve that Simon sent you. Better still eat in the restaurant and make the comment, I remember when this was Brian Barrett’s metal shop! He remembers it!