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Obituary – Barry Lane

From Martin (Milche) Mills



Older members will be saddened to learn of Barry’s passing on 23rd June 2011 in Pembrokeshire.  He was a SMCC member from 1965 – 1969, and also a BEC member (No. 475) from 1961-70.  It would appear he may have been ill for some time as Roger and Jackie Dors exchanged Christmas cards with him and none was received in 2009.

My recollections of him are an impish grin and golden hair.  He once gave me a lift back from The Hunters’ to the hut.  We “roared” down the road in his ancient car and he had just made it into third gear when we were passed by a chasing dog before we slowed down for the hut track.

As this was my only initial recollection of him I am grateful to others who have provided other anecdotes.  He was in the 1st Whitchurch Boy Scouts band, and later a GPO/BT Telecoms Manager.

Bill Tolfree recalls a Yorkshire trip (pre-motorway days) when Barry travelled the whole journey with  his feet out of the car window as they smelt, and for which he gained the nickname “Footnic”.  On an Irish caving trip, Barry was in O’Connors Bar in Doolin and noticed a young girl dancing while her father drank.  He later married that girl, Teresa O’Driscoll, and they had a daughter.  As one person remarked he was always on Mendip, and then he was gone and we never saw him again.

The hut log for 1964 – 67 reveals mention of him on over 30 trips, predominately on Mendip, but also Yorkshire, Devon and South Wales.  He was a very competent caver and many were hard pushing trips: Blue Pencil Aven and First Mud Sump in Swildon’s, and to the top of High Chamber in St Cuthbert’s.  Even his tourist trips were challenging: an early Damp Link and Swildon’s figure of Eight trips.  Many appear to have been in the company of Steve Wynne-Roberts.  This possibly influenced him to take up cave diving, including in South Wales, Wookey Hole and Swildon’s.  He and Steve W-R dived to the bottom (105 ft depth) of The Lake in Pridhamsleigh Cavern on 3 June 1967 but omitted to notice the opening to Prid II due to the amount of silt stirred up.  He is probably best remembered for, with Phil Kingston and Colin Priddle (both BEC) and others, laying siege (at least a dozen recorded trips) by digging underwater the then terminal sump (now Sump 1) in St Cuthbert’s in 1966 – 67, making an estimated 21 feet of progress.

One day Barry went climbing with Steve W-R in the Avon Gorge.  Steve was sat belaying on a ledge facing outwards.  Barry set off up the next pitch which unfortunately led out to one side, crossed over Steve’s head and continued on the other side.  As Steve was changing the rope round to feed out to his other side, Barry fell off.  Steve grabbed the rope with both hands in front of him and held Barry’s fall but cutting great grooves in his hands and fingers.  When he went to work on Monday, he was an Engineer at Westinghouse, he found he couldn’t hold a pencil.  The first aid person took one look and despatched him to hospital.

Barry broke his left arm and spent many weeks convalescing at The Hunters’ playing shove halfpenny and became so proficient nobody could beat him!

That Barry Lane was a hard caver is evidenced by his being accorded his own song (few achieve this status) of a legendary race around Swildon’s, written by Snab with obvious Scottish overtones, to the traditional tune of “Johnny Cope”, and it seems very appropriate to end with this…………………

O send a letter tae Priddy Green
Saying Barry meet us if yer keen,
We’re the fastest cavers Mendip’s seen,
And we’ll race you in the morning.

CHORUS (after each verse)
Hey Barry Lane are ye walking yet
And is the record broken yet?
If ye were walking I would wait
Tae do the Round Trip in the morning.
When Barry looked the letter upon
He took his boots the cupboard from,
Saying “Come with me my Shepton men,
And we’ll do the Round Trip in the morning”.
When Snab and Goon read the meets list
They said “Oh on this we canne miss”.
And charged their lamps in readiness
For the Round Trip in the morning.
Next morning at the barn of Maine
Were Snab and Goon and Barry Lane.
“Aha” they said, “We meet again
To do the Round Trip in the morning”.
O Barry set off at a run
To beat the fastest time he’d done.
He went so fast he did a ton
In Swildon’s in the morning.
But Snab and Goon did not delay
They swore that they’d be first that day.
And they’d go round the other way
To beat Barry Lane in the morning.
The Double Troubles found all three
Ploughing through a muddy sea,
“Did you bale” said Barry. “No” said we,
As we passed each other in the morning.
The streamway was a flat out race
And everyone stepped up the pace.
No one wanted to lose face
And be last out in the morning.
At the Wet Way Barry Lane he led
So the Scotsmen round the Dry Way fled
And they beat him out by a very short head
And it only took an hour in the morning.
This story has a moral to tell,
It matters not if you can move like hell,
So long as you get out fit and well
For opening time in the morning.
Hey Barry Lane are ye walking yet
And is the record broken yet?
If ye were walking I would wait
Tae do the Round Trip in the morning.