Mr. J. H. Barlow
A correspondent writes:— “Balance without compromise” was the outstanding characteristic of John Henry Barlow, perhaps the most influential member of the Society of Friends, who died on Friday evening at his home, Sunnybrae, Selly Oak, Birmingham, after a long illness, at the age of 68.
John Barlow — whatever exceptions Friends make in calling others “Mr.,” it was always “John Barlow” among them — was born in Edinburgh. After starting his business life at Carlisle, he came to Birmingham in 1901 to serve as secretary of the Bournville Village Trust, This position he held till a year ago, when he retired, intending to devote himself to work for the Society of Friends. He had already served them well, for he was Clerk of London Yearly Meeting — that is, the body of Quakerism in Great Britain, the Continent, South Africa, and Australia — from 1913 to 1920. It has been said that but for his leadership the Society of Friends would have split during the war. But his power of bringing together on common ground those who widely differed eased the situation whenever it became difficult, and kept the society united. Yet he himself was a man of strong, deep-rooted conviction, and no one would compromise less than he. His gift was to find where the roots of spiritual unity lay.
In 1920 he acted as chairman of the great All Friends Conference in London, and two years later he played an important part in bringng together divergent elements in the “Five Years Meeting” of the American Quakers at Richmond, Indiana, where a secession was feared. The historic interest of the Society of Friends in Ireland led to the sending during the disturbances of 1921 of a committee of inquiry with John Barlow at its head, to find out the truth of the allegations against the “Black and Tans”. A typically direct and unbiassed statement from his pen appeared in The Times as a result, and his whole report was carefully considered in authoritative quarters. John Barlow was not a man of words, but when he spoke at any length he was often an orator of the school of John Bright. A speaker in Friends’ meetings and a writer on the ministry, he frequently preached in Birmingham Free Churches, being, for a time chairman of the local Free Church Council. A J.P. and a keen advocate of temperance, he was also one of the solid forces, not coming here or elsewhere into the limelight, who gave of his best to building up schemes of adult education. He was from the first associated with the late George Cadbury in the foundation of Woodbrooke Settlement and in the building up of the other Selly Oak colleges, in which practically all the Churches except the Roman Catholics are now associated. He married Miss Mabel Cash, of Holloway, a member of an old Quaker family. His wife, two sons, and a daughter survive him.