HE competed in the 1952 Olympics, sailed around the world in his 60s and played a key part in Wirral’s development.
These, and many others, are just some of the tales that make up the life and times of Wirral’s former Director of Leisure Services and Tourism, Brian Barnes.
The West Kirby resident, who celebrated his 80th birthday earlier this month, has just published his autobiography, ‘The Real Life of Brian Barnes’.
Brian, who headed up the Baths and Indoor Recreation Department for Birkenhead Borough Council before taking on the directorship for Wirral Council’s Leisure and Tourism department in 1973, has lived his life to the full.
Although the father-of-three has spent some 47 years in Wirral, the book also tells the story of his early years in Preston, and of his time in Staffordshire, Leicester, Yorkshire and Middlesex.
“I start off when I was born in 1934 go right through to now – the cut off point was my 80th birthday,” said Brian.
Tales of how Brian and wife Gill were responsible for introducing Wirral’s flowerbeds, how Brian helped to get West Kirby’s Marine Lake doubled in size and how he saw the unexpected flooding of Irby Cemetery first hand – when a freshly dug grave filled up with water as the hearse carrying the coffin pulled up outside – will undoubtedly surprise you, make you laugh and in some instances, make you cry.
It also tells the story of his participation in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and his carrying of the Paralympic flame in 2012 – an honour given in recognition for his work with disabled children and adults and his help in aiding the founder of the Paralympic Games, Sir Ludwig Guttman.
“There is quite a bit of personal stuff in because I wrote it for that reason, for my family, rather than to sell,” explained Brian.
“It’s a record of my life and that’s why I did it. I wrote it for my family but the people that have read it say it’s a good read.”
“When my mother died in 1991, my father had already died, and I realised that I had no one to ask questions anymore about my life.
“So I started to put everything down for my three daughters and they encouraged me to do it.”
After sailing around the world from 1998 to 2000, Brian began recording talks for the Talking Newspaper for the Blind, something he said helped massively when it came to putting everything together in the 396-page book.
“It wasn’t so easy going back and remembering it and writing it down,” he said.
“We lost our daughter to cancer seven years ago and she made me promise I would finish it - it took the rest of the time to get around to doing it.
“The one thing I can do is talk, I give talks and people ask questions and a lot of them are surprised at what I tell them and said they didn’t know that.
“It’s not a case of letting the cat out of that bag - there is nothing in the book that isn’t true.”
Asked if former Wirral politicians should be worried about the book, Brian said: “I can stand by everything that’s in there.
“I’ve not got a good rapport with councillors and I say that in the book – I got told off by the chief executive a few times.
“I’ve slightly disguised politicians but councillors will know who they are.”
The book has been printed by Birkenhead-based Countyvise and Brian says that once he gets the back the printing costs, any money will go to Claire House – who also receive the proceeds from his talks.