Ilford Hospital Chapel tribute to Barbara Hills, who ‘fought the good fight’

Barbara Hills with former chapel chaplain Canon John Barnes and hospital chapel friends, Ian Patienc

Barbara Hills with former chapel chaplain Canon John Barnes and hospital chapel friends, Ian Patience, John Jupp and Martin Fairhurst. - Credit: Archant

The dedicated community work of Barbara Hills and her sheer will to get things done were celebrated as friends gathered for a memorial to her life at Ilford Hospital Chapel, last night.

The message to those attending the memorial at the town’s oldest building in Ilford Hill, was to dress in “bling” as a tribute, and people duly obliged, donning brightly coloured outfits and sparkly jewellery. Barbara, who died last month aged 84, was famous for her glitzy outfits, over-the-top jewellery and huge sparkly eyelashes.

Fr Martin Howse told those gathered: “She was a tireless worker both for this place and for the KMT [Kenneth More Theatre], so it’s no surprise we will sing Fight the Good Fight!”

Besides hymns there were musical and dramatic performances, including a scene from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of being Earnest, in which Barbara famously played Lady Bracknell on the KMT stage. Lorraine Porter played the role at the memorial, ably assisted by fellow KMT regular Reg Wheeler.

Fr Howse invited friends to pay their own tributes to Barbara and among those was an emotional speech by Cllr Joyce Ryan.

“Barbara was a very unique person, it was a pleasure to know her and work with her,” she said. She added she was among the many who had been “Barbared”, a term which alluded to her skill at getting people to do things her way.

Another friend sang the chorus of The Girl I Love is Up in The Gallery, by way of a tribute, adding “and she is looking down at all of us”.

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The final tribute came from Neil Northcliffe, whose tales included a clash with Barbara’s parrot Polly, during which he suffered a leg wound. He also revealed Barbara’s propensity for creating pandemonium and how she loved to hold parties.

After the service the friends raised a toast to Barbara, many taking a glass of her favourite red wine.

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