Remembering controversial letter writer and consumer journalist Barry Cashin
- Credit: Archant
For many years, the controversial contributions of Barry Cashin regularly appeared on the letters pages of the Herts Ad. His missives became less frequent when he relocated to France, but he still managed the odd comment. After a long battle with prostate cancer, Barry died last week in France aged 58 comforted by his family, and here we pay tribute to an unforgettable correspondent.
Readers will remember Barry’s often notorious letters contributions to the Herts Ad over the years. Sometimes cutting and despite the odd protestation, many people secretly agreed with his strident views on a range of St Albans issues; whether it was nosey neighbours, pot holes or high hedges. He was, for many of our readers, their weekly guilty pleasure.
Barry’s writing career began in 1996 when a story about his exploits as a professional complainer earned him a weekly column in Bella magazine, fighting the consumer battles of its readers. Over the 11 year tenure of his column, he won back over £11.5 million in financial compensation.
What people perhaps didn’t know was that Barry was a serious and respected journalist. In addition to consumer law, he was a professional property specialist contributing to a number of high end property, home improvement and DIY titles as well as national newspapers. He also did a little TV presenting but much preferred the anonymity of the PC screen.
A devoted family man, Barry was much loved by his family and friends and was an accomplished cook creating the most amazing barbecues and dinner parties. He was also a singer/songwriter in the early 1980s and his band used to play at St Albans Civic Centre as well as most of the pubs in the St Michael’s area. Sadly, no Number 1s though!
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A passionate sportsman from an early age, Barry was an accomplished athlete, javelin thrower, sprinter and cricketer - and above all, a fine opening batsman for Shenley Village Cricket Club. In 2010, however, his cancer diagnosis put paid to any future sporting aspirations - so he focused on gardening, another great passion, growing organic fruit and vegetables.
As he wrote recently on a prostate cancer forum: “Who knows what the future will bring for any of us. At 45 on an innocuous trip to the garden centre to buy compost, I never expected the phone call my wife would take from the GP surgery in the car informing me my PSA test had come back at 8.98 would have such a profound impact on my life; my longevity.
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“I expected to live an average lifespan. I expected to see and hold grandchildren and see my children marry. I just wanted an ordinary life as most people do. Do we humans expect too much from life? Do we take tomorrow for granted - I think we do - for all we ever own is now!
“Instead, I have found myself having to write Father of the Bride speeches for both my daughters. There will be no grandchild joy, no wedding, no celebration of life denied by this most invidious of illnesses.
“But I am not unique. Millions die from all manner of diseases each year, their dreams, hopes and plans shattered. Some are at the threshold of their lives, others about to retire after a life’s hard work. A premature death is a travesty in all cases no matter the cause. Nothing in life is guaranteed, nothing certain.
“One only has to look at how our lives have so dramatically changed since the start of this pandemic. Although it would be lovely to be healthy, I don’t think there’s a better time to be bowing out. The way of life and freedoms I took for granted have all seemingly gone. I don’t like the new normal, Tik Tok, social distancing or Zoom.
“So, to conclude how I used to in all my letters for this most magnificent paper, I thank you. I thank you all: the detractors, the disagreeables, the regular readers, the traffic wardens, overpaid councillors and all. Thank you. It’s been a wonderful ride.”
Father to Alexis and Tazjana, Barry will be cremated locally and any donations should be sent to the charity Prostate Cancer UK.