Christopher Barclay: A Norfolk man’s passion for steam trains and hunting

Steam trains, horses and hunting were among the passions of Christopher Barclay, who died aged 65 – far from his home in his beloved Norfolk.

He had gone to France to make a special steam journey but had left fellow train enthusiasts to stroll through Cahors when he had a sudden heart attack.

A younger son of the late Brigadier Peter and Rosemary Barclay, of Little Dunham, near Dereham, he had a troubled childhood, at home and notably at school.

His life was shadowed from birth by a disability, which today might be more accurately recognised as Asperger's Syndrome.

To many, he seemed acutely shy, often awkward and particularly when mixing with company. But he had a quite extraordinary memory. He never forgot a single detail of anything he had ever done or seen on his train trips and that included cities, cathedrals and beautiful places all over Europe, including Eastern Europe.

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For those who got to know him, he was highly intelligent and had genuine warmth and understanding. And for those he trusted and loved, he demonstrated an unwavering talent for kindness, willingness and courtesy and also had an explosive sense of fun and enjoyment.

On the hunting field, he showed either incredible courage or possibly foolhardiness as typically he attempted 'impossible' hedges and ditches without a second's hesitation.

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Riding in Leicestershire with the Quorn, his dramatic lead over obstacles might have inspired others but it frequently resulted in heavy falls. But he never seemed to show much concern as long as someone caught his horse and brought it back, so that he never got left behind.

At a service of thanksgiving at St Mary's Church, Sporle, more than 200 people heard about the extraordinary 'two halves of his life.' It was a moving, even electrifying, experience for the congregration.

He would have been delighted that donations in his memory might help with the massive cost of repairing the roof and other works at St Margaret's Church, Little Dunham, where he worshipped all his life.

His family asked that donations should be made to Little Dunham Church Account, TSB Bank PLC, Swaffham Branch, Swaffham, Norfolk, PO Box 99 BX1 1LT.

Michael Pollitt

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