People (Re-unions, trace old friends and relatives.)
Below is a message from my brother Godfrey Talbot about his recollections of Barry Mason
RECOLLECTIONS OF BARRY MASON
I was saddened to hear today of the passing of Wigan’s premier songwriter. A delightful and wonderfully talented lyricist Barry penned a remarkable number of hits in the Sixties, Seventies and indeed throughout his life.
I doubt that there is a country in the entire world that doesn’t recognise his massive hit “Delilah”, certainly one of the most played and performed songs ever with Tom Jones was responsible for the most dynamic version.
A string of hits followed for Barry. They included “Love is all”, “Love grows where Rosemary goes” and “Les Byciclettes de Belsize” (the theme for an evocative Sixties film and a huge hit for Englebert Humperdink!).
My first connection with Barry’s family came when after his initial success he set up his two sisters, Lynne and Diane in a tiny shop in Rowbottom Square, a narrow alley off Wallgate, leading to the offices of the Wigan Observer.
Their venture was Wigan’s first boutique, appropriately named “Square One”. I remember that it was opened by “Baby Bob” Stewart, a DJ on Radio Caroline North.
I recall taking photographs of Barry’s sisters atop an old Ford Popular decorated in “Flower Power” style. The fashion that day was for berets and black capes.
To mark the opening of ‘Square One’ Barry Mason wrote a special song titled appropriately ‘Rowbottom Square’ (a jaunty tune with a fairground theme) which was played regularly on Radio 2.
‘Rowbottom Square’ is also the answer to the pub quiz question, ‘Which Street in Wigan was immortalized in a record in the Sixties?’
Jimmy Young (then a famous broadcaster) later visited Wigan and did his morning show live from a house in Acton Terrace and I think he played Barry’s ‘Rowbottom Square’ on that day too!
In later years I had the good fortune to work with Barry’s mother, a wonderfully generous and talented actress, Phyliss was often to be seen in the “Soaps” and as ‘Ma Genie’ in our panto for Wigan Metro alongside Colin Bean (Private Sponge of Dad’s Army). It was hard for me to believe that Phyliss had attended Wigan High School at the same time as my own mother Florence (Effie) Fort.
In his youth Barry joined the American Marines, possibly encouraged by his father who I believe was from the USA.
I recall Barry telling a story about his massive success ‘Delilah’. Apparently, flushed with pride, Barry was driving down the motorway when he stopped for a ‘comfort break’. In the toilet block Barry was delighted to hear ‘Delilah’ being played on the Tannoy. “I couldn’t resist” (he recalled on radio), “I turned to the chap standing in the next stall and spluttered out “I wrote that …. all the lyrics to Delilah”! The chap turned, smirked, and replied “Aye, but I wasn’t listening to the so and so words”. Barry recalled being brought down to earth with a real thump!
With almost all of his hits, Barry worked with Leo Reed, a fine conductor and arranger.
The last time I saw Barry was one Sunday morning years ago in the waiting room cum café of Wigan NW station. He was asking for a glass of water to take his tablets but the lady running the place made him buy a bottle of water. He didn’t make a fuss, nobody knowing (apart from me) that Wigan’s and one of the World’s greatest songwriters was sitting waiting for the London train.
Do please look up the list of his many hits, his remarkable mother Phyliss and his brother Mark who for many years did education programmes on TV and lots of voice overs for TV adverts. And look up too “Rowbottom Square”, although it wasn’t an international hit, I believe that it is still the only song on the radio about a tiny boutique up an alley off Wallgate.
Rest Easy Barry.
Perthshire May 2021.
Replied: 7th Jun 2021 at 10:20