David Barton (1920-2009)

Our longest serving Vice-President – from 1972 – David Barton, has died at nearly 89, having been our Hon. Treasurer from 1952 to 1971. For a number of years he had also been Chairman and a Vice-President of the Old Etonian Fives Club. David was very involved in the EFA's affairs in the start-up after the war, but it was a source of great regret to him that his memory of that period was very limited.

David would be amused to be reminded of how his initial exploits at the game were described, somewhat unkindly, by the then Keeper of Fives at Eton as: "Disappointing. He is steady in a game of average class, but against a first class player he is unsuccessful. Too slow and hits the ball far too high." A report on house Fives recorded "Barton has not improved on last year's form." However, he and McKeurtan were the school second pair by 1939, David having been awarded his colours in 1938, in which year he was in the final for both school and house Fives. However, in 1939, the house captain recorded that "they failed to reach even the semi-finals of the school Fives: their failure was attributed to the fact that there was outside the court something which was far more worth watching than the ball." Nevertheless, in the same year, he and J A Ponsonby excelled themselves by reaching the final of the Public Schools’ Handicap Competition. At school, David was a successful cricketer, having opened the batting both for Eton and later for Cambridge at Lords. In the field game, he was described as "very fast and clever." He also ended as a sergeant in the Corps and as a member of Pop and the VIth form. In 1965, David was a perfect choice to be in the team of seven to represent the EFA in a tour of Nigeria, along with his lifelong Harrovian friend and regular Kinnaird partner, the equally quintessential English gentleman, Monty Moss.

Many will have seen David as the immensely able and successful chartered accountant, at the top of his profession – typically a quiet man of deep discretion, but in the village of Bosham only his concern with the community, his support of the local church and congregation (as one-time hon. treasurer of the Bosham Parochial Church Council) and his lectures in the local debating society opened a window on the strength and compass of his convictions. This was the young man who attempted to leave behind a nascent political career as Assistant Private Secretary to Geoffrey Lloyd, then Secretary of Petroleum in the Ministry of Fuel and Power, to 'do his bit for the war'. Rejected by the Army as unfit, he later joined the RAF, became Air Crew, then during bombing training in South Africa began to see the stark conflict between his beliefs and his impending occupation. "I will not drop bombs on civilians," he wrote in his diary, but at present I am heading for just that." Mercifully, the end of the war meant that his resolve would not be tested. But the moral dilemma was not to leave him. The Dresden firestorm worked a profound and lasting effect on him. Returning to Trinity, Cambridge to read Law, he wrote a notable essay on Federalism which he began to see as the organisation of government most likely to prevent future bloodshed, as well as a model for a closer Atlantic partnership.

America's intervention in the war, the willingness of armies of Americans to lay down their lives in Britain's war demonstrated the common ideals which would make this a viable political community. He lent his weight to consolidating the European anchor of the Alliance and remained active in the field of European and Atlantic unity for the remainder of his life. In 1959, the tenth anniversary of the Atlantic Charter, he played a major role in the organisation of the Atlantic Congress to explore ways in which the resolve that had founded NATO could deepen the civilian aspects of the Alliance. The same year, jointly with Martin Madden MP, he sponsored the Declaration of Atlantic Unity. In 1964, he stood for Parliament in Stoke-on-Trent North, bravely taking on a Labour majority of 12,000. His beliefs and abilities served many of the organisations looking towards a similar future, such as the European Cultural Foundation, the Federal Trust, the Atlantic Council, the Wyndham Place Charlemagne Trust ( to emphasise the spiritual dimension of the European endeavour), as well as the non-political Operation Raleigh and the Cancer Research Campaign.

In 1963, his book The Atlantic Community – Dream and Reality set out his tenets, demonstrating how close that reality could be to the dream. Ever forward-looking, this was followed by his The United Nations Comes of Age – Prospect for a New World Order and a plea for the European Union to work more actively for the benefit of the outside world, in his contribution to the Wyndham Place Trust's Europe's Wider Loyalties. He also collaborated with his wife Sheila on the retrospective volume Federal Union: The Pioneers.

The same dynamism infused his professional life. Denied a place at the United Nations because of the small UK quota, he had joined the family accountancy firm of Barton, Mayhew & Co. A series of mergers propelled him finally to the top of the giant Ernst & Whinney (now Ernst & Young), but typically also to benefit the wider profession on the Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants and as President of the Union Européenne des Experts Comptables.

In 1970, David rose to his feet at a meeting of his fellow partners and announced, "Gentlemen, I have to leave you now as I'm getting married in an hour's time!" He threw himself into family life and the challenge of raising three stepsons. This could have been a contentious situation, but David had an unerring belief that, no matter how many mistakes the boys made, they were acting with the best of intentions and would get there in the end.

The tributes at his thanksgiving service showed that that he never once preached at, belittled, or raised his voice in anger but unfailingly encouraged and believed in his stepsons that they loved him as a father. Throughout 38 years of marriage to Sheila their mutual respect and admiration never waned, but grew to tender love and affection. They kept their romantic bond alive for all to see as they walked around the village hand in hand, a sight which will be much missed. In 1988, he published a book on his wartime memories and reflections, called 'Toddling Safely Home.' He dedicated it thus: "To Sheila, Nigel, Martin and Simon, into whose home and lives I eventually toddled." He was Sheila's rock and fortress, in Nigel's words, "a shining example of how to be a stepfather", and in Martin's, "my one great male role model". To Simon, "he was and always will be, quite simply, my hero".

David was still playing short tennis at 88 and was president of the local club. The manner of his participation in all the games he played also tells you a lot about the man. Our condolences go to all of his family.

Gordon Stringer/Simon Robinson/John Leech/Eton College Archives