Barry Albin-Dyer helped and supported so many people – and we were lucky to be two of those. Simply put, without him, the Southwark News would not exist.
When the founder of the paper, Dave Clark, died suddenly in 1998, we thought the writing was on the wall. Dave had set up the business in 1987 and was the News personified – with his wealth of experience and his strong personality. So when he died suddenly, it felt like the end.
But what we didn’t know, was that, whilst he had always been a terrific journalist, increasingly Dave had turned to his friend Barry Albin for help in running the business. And as finances got tighter and tighter, so Barry had, somewhat reluctantly, agreed to buy more and more of the company, as Dave looked for cash injections to keep it open.
So in 1998, Barry suddenly found himself as the owner of the local newspaper, whilst simultaneously setting up a fund for Dave’s son to help him with his future – which he did with all the attention to detail and care that was characteristic of the man.
For the three or four of us who were working at the News back then, all in our early twenties and with scant journalistic experience, let alone experience in how to edit a paper – we simply had no idea what it took to run a business. Barry was the man who kept the lights on at the paper – he paid the bills, restructured all the debts and taxes, threw his own people and resources into keeping the paper alive. We had a printer we’d found in a skip – until Barry one day splashed out on a new one! It took pride of place in the office.
And he never, ever interfered with the editorial line, even when people he had known all his life complained about a story, or a front page. And he did it all, purely because he loved Bermondsey and Rotherhithe, and felt it would be a loss to the area, and indeed to the whole of Southwark, if the paper should close.
He also rejected potentially lucrative offers from rival newspaper businesses to buy the Southwark News, instead entrusting it to the care of a bunch of twenty-somethings, whom he felt shared his passion for the area and for the paper. His confidence in us gave us all huge belief, and also a sense of responsibility. And through the years, you could see how he instilled that in people who worked for him – if Barry trusted your judgement, you just had to be up to it.
By 2002, the paper was on a more stable footing, both financially and editorially – we had all settled into our roles at the paper while he held our hands. And then the call came from Barry for the two of us to pop in for a chat, as we regularly did. And when we got there, Barry simply told us that he wanted us to buy the paper off him. He said something along the lines of – ‘I’m a funeral director, and I love that and I’m good at it. I’m not a newspaper man, but you two are.’ Even if we had harboured thoughts of moving on elsewhere, there was simply no way that we would not take up the mantle at his request.
So Barry helped us to do that – allowing us to pay him in monthly instalments for the business, until we finally paid him off after three years. And in a sign of what a generous, fantastic man he was – when we launched our company back in 2002, he presented us with a cheque for £1,000 to go towards the set up of the business. We could never cash it – it meant too much to us – and sits proudly, untouched, in our offices. (The only cheque we’ve ever not cashed, as we used to joke with him.)
In the thirteen years that have followed, Barry has been a true mentor to the two of us – always available for advice or just to bounce ideas off over dinner or a cup of tea. Never asking for anything for himself – we had to pursue him to get even a line about his OBE! – but keen to have stories in the paper about his team, about their achievements, about local people. He only ever mentioned his wide range of charity work when he wanted to pitch a story about one of the charities to us. And you learnt more about all the kind, selfless things he did from others – never from him.
He was ever-present supporting us if there was a crisis with our shared bank manager back in the difficult early days – of which there were a fair few. And with his sure hand and his calm sense of purpose, his strength under fire and the leadership he gave, we learnt about the qualities needed to succeed in business, and how to achieve that without compromising your beliefs – something we will always aspire to. He was and will remain an inspiration to us both.
Twice we held pensioners’ parties with Barry, his great friend Johnny Donovan and all of their families and teams. We felt privileged as a business to be given the opportunity to work alongside these fantastic Bermondsey institutions, and as we all agreed when we planned them – to give something back to local people. You could see firsthand why Barry had been so successful – his passion, his sense of place in the community, his humility and his compassion and his attention to the minutest of details.
We saw it then, and we saw it each time we came to join the team breakfasts at Albin’s – and of course we saw it in how he oversaw the paper back in the early days. Everyone who worked with him or for him so obviously respected him, both as a businessman and as a person. And the great and good, including politicians, sought his approval and support – knowing that he spoke for so many in the area, always with Bermondsey’s best interests at heart.
It’s tempting to say that we won’t see the likes of him again, that he was a one off. And in many ways that is true. Except of course that you can see all Barry’s qualities in his sons, Simon and Jon. Barry, ever the total professional, would never have died before he was sure that F.A Albin & Sons was in safe hands! Over the past year in particular, we have observed his total faith and immense pride in his two sons, who learnt from the very best.
Bermondsey has been truly blessed to have had a remarkable man like Barry in its midst. And we, like many people, will miss him so very much.
To read Barry’s obituary in full click here
To read moving tributes paid to Barry click here
To read your tributes to Barry click here
To read about the funeral details click here