Today we said goodbye to Eileen ....
Eileen went to rest in a beautiful wicker casket, of which I think she would have approved. It was decorated with greenery around the sides and a glorious treble Clef made of red roses was the main flower arrangement...
As I said in my introduction, we were there to remember and celebrate the life of Eileen, and to remember her at her greatest. Music was the theme of her life, and would be the theme of the service.
Eileen Mary Barker – 31st July 1925 to 23rd February 2015
I would firstly like to thank everyone who has come here this afternoon to support Sue and the family, to help celebrate the life of Eileen. For it is a time of celebration all be it tinged with sadness, rather than one of mourning as for the most part Eileen was a happy and sunny lady, and we wish to give thanks for life spanning nearly 90 years.
Eileen’s lifetime love was for music, something she inherited from her father. She started singing and performing when she was very young and won many awards and competitions in Dorset and Hampshire where she grew up. She was also a very good pianist and continued to play until her arthritis made it impossible for her to sit at the keyboard. During the war years she joined ENSA when she was just 15 (and she assured us that it did not mean “Every night something awful”) and sung at the theatre at Hurst Castle to entertain the troops. It was there that she met the founder of ENSA, Leslie Henson, who she was to meet again in the future. To get to Hurst castle they had to take the little ferry from Keyhaven across the harbour and Eileen was not a very good sailor but she said she never missed a performance.
After the war she went to train at the London Guildhall school of Music and Drama, on the Gwen Catley Scholarship, which she held for 3 years. She also went to live with Gwen Catley and travelled with the family to many places. After graduating she went on to perform in the West End and met up with Leslie Henson again when they were both in the Vivian Ellis’s musical play about Pepys’ Diaries , “and so to Bed”. She also performed regularly on the radio in shows such as Band Call. It was also while in this production that she was to be painted in her costume by the famous artist Sir Russell Flint, and we recently found out that this picture was for years kept in the home of Vivian Ellis.
Eileen also loved to dance and it was at a dance that Eileen met Sue’s father Vic, she always said he was an excellent dancer, and they were married in 1951. She continued to perform until Sue was born in 1953, and although she did sing a few more times on the radio this was the end of her time in shows.
But in 1955 she became an assistant to the Magician Robert Harbin and went on to appear in many of his stage shows and TV appearances. Sue has many happy memories of sitting watching them practice the magic tricks in Harbin’s house, but still won’t tell me how they were done.
Eileen was married to Sue’s father for 20yrs but sadly it did not last and they were divorced in 1972.
She remarried in 1974 to Arnold Barker, who she also met at a dance, and had a very long and happy second marriage which only came to an end last January when Arnold sadly passed away. They enjoyed travelling and visited many of the places that Arnold had been during the war. Eileen’s other great hobby was gardening and while living with Arnold in Rochdale they had a wonderful garden filled with vegetables and over 90 rose bushes. They were always Eileen’s favourite flower. As they gradually downsized their properties flowers were always a part of their lives until she was growing them in containers, but they were always there.
When Arnold retired they moved to the Llanelli area to be close to the family and I know that it was Eileen’s great delight to be close to her daughter and Grand daughters as they were growing up, and latterly to be visited by her great grand children. As her health worsened she got out less and less but she did get to Caerphilly Castle to see Nancy’s wedding and was thrilled at the spectacle of a full medieval show. I think it appealed to her sense of the theatrical. This was one of her last big excursions, and in her last few weeks at Ty Mair she loved to look at the photos of the wedding that were on the wall of her room.
Nancy is here with us today, but her other Grand daughter Bethan couldn’t be here as she lives in Crete and has a young family to look after, but we know that she wishes she could be here and the regret of us all is that Eileen never got the chance to meet her last great grand child, but she had many pictures of her.
The family would like to thank all the people who have helped care for Eileen in the last years of her life, the staff at Plas y mor where we know she spent 10 happy years and the staff at Ty Mair where she has been for the last year.
Eileen was a very strong personality, bubbly and as Arnold would have said “a real dizzy Blond”, and as we say goodbye, we will miss you, and as you take your final curtain call we will listen to you sing your favourite song and one that will always remind us of you.
This is Eileen Lush, singing "Summertime". 1952. BBC Radio "Band Call" With the Orchestra conducted by Mantovani...