Barry Lovegrove

Angela Saxe

Barry, aka Mr. SCOOP. (Photo by Richard Saxe)
[This article appears in the February/March issue of The SCOOP.]

Barry was many things to many people: a musician, photographer, visual artist, poet, and songwriter, but to us – he was Mr. SCOOP!  Together with publisher Richard Saxe, they created a rural “People” magazine that celebrated the people in our community through in-depth interviews, interesting and amusing stories, and first-class photography.

Richard and Barry were among a group of community volunteers who attended a meeting in 2005 with the purpose of promoting our rural communities, specifically Tamworth and Erinsville. Barry had put together and distributed a community newsletter while Richard was publishing Complete Health magazine among others.  The group brainstormed and came up with many ideas but the question remained: how were they going to communicate their plans to the public? They needed a vehicle.  It was at this point that Richard stood up and said:  “I’ll do it. I’ll publish a magazine but only if Barry agrees to work with me.  Barry has to be the public face of the magazine!”

The first copy of The SCOOP featured the Burns Beef Farm and on the front cover was an 11x17” photograph of Terry Burns standing in front of a herd of cows.  The opening lines reflected Barry’s folksy, signature style:

It was a beautiful, early spring morning as I drove up the Balahack Road just north of Tamworth, to visit Terry Burns of Burns Beef. The drive was slow; the snow was melting leaving huge puddles and soft deep ruts in the road making the steering tricky. The day was cloudless with a temperature hovering around the plus two mark; the sun’s heat felt so good.

The cover of the first issue of The SCOOP, shot by Barry.
Richard and Barry worked together until Richard sold The SCOOP to its present publisher, Karen Nordrum. “We had a lot of fun together,” said Richard. “We talked daily; choosing people to interview and local events to promote. We shared the same vision: Celebrate Rural Life and the people who live in small communities in our area. Everything had to be positive. Never critical or political, always respectful - even though at times, we were irreverent and poked fun at things. And Barry was always game for an adventure. For our story on Hunting, Barry spent a couple of nights at a hunting camp and his photograph of a deer kill was our most controversial cover - but it was an honest photograph.  This is what our rural neighbours have been doing every autumn for generations.

“Barry loved to make people smile. His photographs often showed them smiling, waving or laughing. ‘Jump in the air,’ he’d tell the kids of a soccer team.” But Richard was always impressed by his portraits. “Barry’s close up portraits revealed his skill as a good portrait photographer. Each photograph was warm, personal, and intimate. You can only get a photograph like that if it reflects the way the photographer interacts with his subject. Barry had that magic quality, and it showed in his photographs.”

The SCOOP was Richard and Barry’s project, but I agreed to serve as editor. Barry quickly told me he was dyslexic and that he found writing very difficult, but he was willing to give it a try. Barry’s wife June was his first editor, translating his words into a rough draft and then I would smooth it out ready for print. But I always made sure that we heard Barry’s voice: the voice of a curious man who was genuinely interested in people, in their history, in their professions, and in their passions. It didn’t matter whether they were old or young, male or female, his gift as a writer and photographer was that he was considerate and respectful; people felt safe with Barry and so they opened up and told him their story.

Soon everyone knew Mr. SCOOP. He appeared and recorded many community events: Hay Day, Santa Claus Parades, celebrations of the 175th Anniversary of Erinsville, fundraising events – the list is long. His interviews included farmers, hunters, small business owners, municipal workers, sports teams – ordinary people, young and old, who contributed in their own unique way to their communities. As community organizer Mark Oliver remembers: “Barry was a fixture in the community; always there, always reliable, and always ready to give more of himself to help.”

But Barry wasn’t just interested in people – animals, especially birds, were also his subjects as well as photographs of landscapes that captured the beauty of our rural environment: old barns, sunsets, and storm clouds in the horizon. He loved nature and was willing to sit patiently waiting for the good shot.

Many people knew Barry through his music. He joined the after-hours jam sessions at Marie’s Music Store in Napanee making friends and playing with a whole variety of people. When he heard that a ukulele group had formed he joined that too, but after getting frustrated playing in a 30+ size group, he approached a couple of players and together they formed the group SMILE. Gloria Gonin, Ruth Allen, Peter Tylus, and Barry practiced their routine and went on the road: playing at the Senior Outreach Service centres in Napanee and Amherstview. “We had a lot of fun,” Peter told me, “We would start playing old tunes and then we’d get the residents to join in: they would sing along and before long, they were up dancing.”

Barry’s passion for making music goes back to his roots in England where he was a member of the band, the Jet Blacks during the 1960s. The band toured and opened for headliners that included Little Richard, Sam Cooke, Del Shannon, and as Barry loved to tell everyone, “We once shared the stage at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool with a band called The Beatles. The rest is history.”

Barry was a “Renaissance man” - someone who is very good at many different things. Barry’s creativity was not only in his music and in his photography but also in the visual arts. He was a watercolourist. He took commissions, taught watercolour painting courses both in Montreal, where he settled after immigrating to Canada, and later in Napanee. He hosted his own television show, “Painting for the Fun of It” and he had many exhibitions of his paintings and his photographs.  I know that many families in the Stone Mills area have a Barry Lovegrove family portrait or a scene from the countryside hanging in their living room.

No one will miss him more than his wife June, his daughters Karen and Kimberly, and his grandchildren; they were his number one priority, his greatest source of pride and joy, but, he was a big man, with a big heart and his impact on his neighbours, friends, and community was no small thing. He leaves behind a legacy of creative work, but most important the memory of a wonderful human being.

So long mate, we’ll miss you!

Barry at work in his office.