The full obituary: Ex-EADT managing director Barry Rackham
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Rotarian, golfer and freemason had same disease as actor and comic Dudley Moore. Died aged 83
Barry Rackham has been described - in complimentary terms - as an ordinary man. It meant he was down to earth and knew what was important. Such as family life. He was also, though, an extraordinary manager - leading by example (literally rolling up his sleeves, often) and earning the devotion of staff by treating them as "people", even when there was difficult news to impart.
Barry was proof that the right person, with the right head for business and the interpersonal skills to match, could rise through the ranks to the boardroom. His death has brought numerous messages of affection.
Yorkshire, by birth
Barry Rackham was born in Leeds on May 19, 1936 - the oldest son of Phyllis and Claude. He'd be joined by brother Brian, sister Beryl and brother Bev.
It's not clear why the family moved to Ipswich, but home became a council house in Clapgate Lane.
Claude is believed to have been an expert on marine diesel engines, travelling far and wide.
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Barry's son Richard says his father "started from quite humble beginnings, really. The children never went short, but it wasn't an extravagant household".
Young Barry went to the primary school in Morland Road, was a church choirboy, and attended the secondary school in Landseer Road.
Academically solid without being outstanding, he was a very good cricketer and also enjoyed football. After leaving school, Barry became an apprentice electrician with an uncle.
National Service brought two years in the navy. Barry worked with radar technology and helped put on entertainment shows.
"He almost joined up, but I think it was 'choose the girl or choose the navy'," says Richard. "I don't think Mum fancied being married to a sailor who was away for months on end. So he chose Mum."
Barry and Mary had met at a church social club when she was 15 and he 17. They married on June 3, 1961, at Holy Trinity Church, Back Hamlet, Ipswich.
It was the start of "a really good marriage". Richard believes Mary realised she was marrying someone bound to have itchy feet as far as his career was concerned.
"She saw an ambitious young man who was not going to be satisfied until he'd achieved everything he thought he could. It wasn't just Dad's drive (that saw him succeed); it was the support from a wife happy to move into a very traditional role as a housewife, homemaker, mother.
"It's true to say he wouldn't have achieved what he did without Mum's support, and a lot of tolerance and understanding."
The marital home was initially in Felixstowe Road. Barry then had a house built in Nacton Road. Later, they'd move to Sidegate Lane, opposite the primary school where Mary would become a long-serving governor.
Barry became a qualified electrician. It's thought he joined the EADT company a few years before it left its long-time home in Carr Street, Ipswich, for purpose-built premises in Lower Brook Street.
That was in 1966. Barry, in the works department, was involved in this major project.
Later - in the mid-1970s, probably - he became works manager. Newspaper production was still very much an industrial process - inky, noisy - and the practically-minded rising star enjoyed getting his hands dirty.
"He was always very insistent he didn't want to be referred to as an engineer, though, as he didn't have engineering qualifications," says Richard.
He did, though, take himself off to night school at the local college to study for formal management qualifications after becoming works manager.
The transition from "one of the boys" to "management" can be tricky. "To have a foot in both camps, people say, is impossible. But I think Dad most of the time managed that."
Daughter Jane remembers being told about some kind of flood at Lower Brook Street and Barry going to help sort it out.
"Someone said to me 'I turned around and there was your dad, stripped down to his pants and diving in!'" - to open a valve, perhaps, or turn a tap.
The top rung
Barry was in his 40s when he became managing director of the East Anglian Daily Times company in about 1980. He'd also join the board of Eastern Counties Newspapers.
He led the company through prosperous years; the EADT becoming a tabloid in 1983; and dramatic times as computerisation changed newspaper production.
Unions such as the National Graphical Association (which represented vast numbers of production workers) were losing their influence as "direct input" by journalists wiped out the need for many traditional typesetting roles.
"People were fighting tooth and nail for jobs. Pay and conditions were big issues," says Richard, who feels his father nevertheless earned the respect of union officials and workers. "He was quite tough in negotiations, but once he had agreed something he would stand by it."
The demands of Lower Brook Street often meant Barry was home late. Nevertheless, family life was very important - and nurtured.
His children remember weekends being sacrosanct, though there would invariably be a trip to the works so Dad could pick up his post. It was fun.
Richard remembers spinning round in a big chair in an oak-panelled office. "He made it part of our life, and we liked that. Everyone was pleased to see 'Barry's kids', and that was a reflection of Barry."
The MD got involved in activities outside working hours - the company social club, barn dances, Scottish dancing and more.
"It was a really nice family atmosphere," says Jane. "I always felt there wasn't any difference between Dad and everybody else. You didn't get a sense of hierarchy - just the respect people had for him, and genuine affection."
At work, he always insisted success was a team effort.
Feet on ground
After he died, former colleagues spoke of Barry's honesty and loyalty, manners and dry humour - a man who wore a smile and cared genuinely for the workforce.
Richard: "He was 'an ordinary family man' - and this is meant as a compliment. He never forgot how he was brought up. He liked the nice things in life - he liked nice clothes; he liked good cars - but he and Mum always had their feet on the ground.
"There was never anything daft being racked up on credit cards, or expensive holidays. They were not show-offs at all, and I think that's what helped him gain the respect of many people."
That said, Richard and Jane acknowledge he was not everyone's cup of tea. "He could be difficult and stubborn. But to achieve anything, you can't think you are always going to be liked."
They know he lost some "friends" because he refused requests to keep stories out of the papers.
Sacred family times
Barry would be ready at 7am on a Sunday whenever his son wanted to go fishing and needed to be dropped off. "I can't remember him ever grumbling about it. Or about standing at the side of a football pitch. He was always there."
Both children have fond memories of "proper Sunday lunchtimes", as a family. It was a sacred time. There would be afternoon picnics, too.
Barry was a passionate golfer who introduced both children to the sport "and saw me through many tantrums on the course... and tolerated it up to a point", confesses Richard.
"I do remember being chased with a golf club once! He never caught me. I had broken the head off it, slamming it into the ground. That wasn't etiquette for the golf course..."
Barry initially played at Felixstowe Ferry Golf Club, and then Ipswich Golf Club at Purdis Heath. He enjoyed being part of the company's golf society, too.
Barry was a Rotarian for many years, helped with the sea cadets (he had a spell as treasurer of the Ipswich group), and maintained his Anglican faith.
Freemasonry was also important. The family thinks it was about 1976 when he joined, attending meetings at the Masonic Hall in Soane Street, Ipswich.
"He was enthusiastic and committed to that," says Richard. "He worked his way up and became secretary of the Suffolk province, and then Assistant Provincial Grand Master."
Barry's time with the EADT and Eastern Counties Newspapers came to an end when he was 52. Seeking new challenges, he left in 1989 by mutual agreement.
He did some consulting work, and went to Reed Elsevier. A major project there was the establishment of a big printing centre on Severalls industrial estate, Colchester.
Unfortunately, a chronic back problem - requiring surgery - meant Barry had to retire. He decided to throw himself into masonic work and spend more time with Mary.
They enjoyed holidays, including cruises, and he kept in touch with friends from EADT days.
"He always wanted to be out doing something. He always wanted a challenge," says Richard. Barry loved working with technology: desktop publishing, photography, home movies.
There were grandchildren, too: Ollie (now 23), Izzy (22) and Isaac (12).
Mary was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2007 and died the following year, aged 69. Barry had been her dedicated carer. "He threw himself into that, and did it hands-on and well," says Richard.
Barry found life hard without his teenage sweetheart. "They were from the same mould." In about 2013 he moved to an assisted-living complex near Portman Road.
Barry developed PSP - progressive supra-nuclear palsy. It affects physical capabilities, with mobility, balance, dexterity, speech and sight deteriorating over time. It's the condition from which comic and pianist Dudley Moore suffered.
"We've seen Dad go from the man we've spoken about to someone who couldn't walk, hold a pen, eat, drink... and his sight was going as well," says Richard.
It proved a massive frustration when he could no longer use a computer, iPhone and iPad. "He couldn't do a crossword, read a book. It has been really tough."
For the past three years or so, Barry lived at Cornwallis Court in Bury St Edmunds, run by the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution.
The family says he received brilliant care. In spite of the condition, staff still noted his sense of humour and ready smile.
Richard says his father "bore his condition very well. I can't remember him ever really complaining".
He adds: "He was a wonderful father to me and Jane... He will be greatly missed but fondly remembered."
Barry's thanksgiving/funeral service is on Thursday, February 20, at St John's Church, Cauldwell Hall Road, Ipswich. It starts at 2.15pm.
The family is happy to be contacted by relatives of PSP sufferers, should they ever want to talk. Email firstname.lastname@example.org