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James Baring, 6th Baron Revelstoke, dies at 73

James Baring, 6th Lord Revelstoke of Membland, cuts the ribbon at the official grand opening of the Grizzly Plaza extension project on July 25, 2009. He is joined by Revelstoke mayor David Raven (left). - Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Times Review
James Baring, 6th Lord Revelstoke of Membland, cuts the ribbon at the official grand opening of the Grizzly Plaza extension project on July 25, 2009. He is joined by Revelstoke mayor David Raven (left).
— image credit: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Times Review

James Cecil Baring, 6th Baron Revelstoke passed away on Feb. 7, 2012 at the age of 73. An obituary in the UK newspaper The Telegraph notes the aviator co-piloted a flight over the Irish Sea just one day before he passed away.

James Baring was the great-grandson of financier Edward Charles Baring, 1st Baron Revelstoke of Membland. The City of Revelstoke was named in his honour after he bailed out the troubled CPR railway project in the late 1880s. The financial support allowed the completion of the faltering project to unite the nation by rail.

James Baring visited Revelstoke, B.C. in the summer of 2009 to attend Revelstoke Homecoming celebrations as the guest of honour. It was his first trip to Canada. While here, he attended many events and celebrations and joined Mayor of Revelstoke David Raven for the ribbon cutting at the official grand opening of the Grizzly Plaza extension project.

Mayor Raven said he thoroughly enjoyed hosting Baring during his visit. "I'm truly saddened by that," Raven said upon hearing the news. "I found him to be very much a true gentlemen when he was here and I enjoyed the time I was able to spend with him during that time. My heart goes out to his family."

Raven noted two memorable experiences during the visit. "The fondest memory? We went up to the top of the [Revelstoke Mountain Resort] gondola and we had our picture taken drinking Mt. Begbie beer with Mt. Begbie in the background with Lord Revelstoke," he said. "And I also hiked up Mt. Revelstoke – I took him to the top of Mt. Revelstoke – it's not often that you get to take someone [into] a park on a mountain that were named after him."

Revelstoke Museum & Archives curator Cathy English said she was grateful for Baring's attendance at Homecoming 2009, noting he was keen to learn about his namesake community.

English was saddened to hear the news. "We really enjoyed hosting him here," English said. "He was very interested in the community of Revelstoke and the ties with his family.

"I really appreciated about how keen he was to join in all of the events that he had planned," English said. "We planned an awful lot for him and he was just very gracious and keen to go along with whatever we had planned. He just thoroughly enjoyed everything."

PHOTO: James Baring and Revelstoke Museum & Archives curator Cathy English at the museum during the 2009 Revelstoke homecoming. Aaron Orlando photo.

According to UK peerage succession rules, James Baring's eldest son takes over the hereditary title. Alexander Rupert Baring was born on April 9, 1970. He is 41-years-old. His title is 7th Baron Revelstoke.

In an obituary guestbook for James Baring, his son Alex spoke fondly of his father. He relayed this anecdote:

As young man fresh out of Eton, Dad was sent to live with a Parisian family to learn French. One day he decided to visit the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, under the Arc de Triomphe. He was lost in thought for a few minutes as he stared into the flames, and when he looked up the crowds had gone and he seemed to be alone. Standing a few feet away, wearing a dark suit, was a man who looked vaguely familiar. ‘Bonjour, Monsieur’ said Dad; ‘Bonjour’ said the man. Dad had just about worked out it was the French Prime Minister (possibly Pinay or Pineau?) when he became aware of an enormous military parade, tanks leading, approaching them up the Champs Elysee. Before Dad could move the troops drew level and gave ‘eyes right’ and the Prime Minister returned the salute. Not sure what else to do, Dad did the same, until ‘the entire bloody French Army had driven past’. Dad then ran all the way back to the family apartment, arriving out of breath to stammer ‘you’ll never guess what’s just happened!’ to a weary reply of ‘we know… we just saw you on the television'.

Alex then alludes to another episode in a life that was connected to many key historical events: "The story ties in nicely with his epic account of being arrested by French police on suspicion of the being ‘the Jackal’ a few years later."

The family has announced that James Baring's prolific blog will remain online for posterity.

A family-only ceremony will be held in London in the spring to commemorate James Baring.

***

In the months before the Revelstoke Homecoming 2009, I had the good fortune of speaking with James Baring several times on the phone. I wrote a three-part story about his life, which was published as a introduction to his visit to Revelstoke. Here is that story in its complete form:

James Cecil Baring, 6th Baron Revelstoke of Membland: music producer, viticulturist, Internet pioneer

James Baring is the great-grandson of Edward Charles Baring, 1st Baron Revelstoke of Membland.

The City of Revelstoke was named in Lord Revelstoke’s honour in 1886 after his bank, the Baring Brothers merchant bank, bailed out the financially troubled CPR project. In 1885, George Stephen, President of the CPR Company headed to Europe to find financial backers for the financially-distressed enterprise. Baring Brothers Bank took on the project and issued shares between 1885 and 1889, raising a total of about 13 million pounds for the project. Edward Charles Baring was a director of the Bank of England between 1879 and 1891, and was also Lieutenant of the City of London. He was made 1st Baron Revelstoke of Membland in 1885 when he was raised to the Peerage.

James Baring was born in London in 1938 and lived in Easton Neston, Northamptonshire, Munstead Wood, Passenham Manor and other locations through his youth.

He attended Eton College, Eton, Berkshire.

Baring went on to perform National Service in the RAF from 1957-59 and then moved to London, where he resided until 1970, taking his summers on Lambay Island, located in the Irish Sea.

Aviator

“I was the last National Serviceman to fly,” says Baring.

Up until the end of the 1960s, everyone was required to perform two years of National service in the army, navy or air force.

Baring had done some pre-selection tests when he was only 15, intending to join the Royal Air Force. “I kept some rather crumpled piece of paper because I’d passed these pre-selection tests, putting round pegs into square holes, that sort of [thing]. [It promised] me flying training, [and] a commission in the Royal Air Force during my national service. So, when I turned up for my National Service and was told that all of this had stopped and National Service itself was stopping the next year, and certainly nobody was going to be taught to fly, I produced my crumpled piece of paper, and they looked at it and said, ‘Yeah, yeah, but that’s all scrubbed now.’”

With dreams dashed, as a parting shot before leaving the room, the then 17-year-old Baring looked at the air force panel and asked, “I take it during my national Service I can safely ignore any piece of paper signed by an Air Chief Marshall?”

Baring says the room went very quiet, and all the faces looked extremely grey.

They sat him in another room for about two hours while they rang up lawyers and conferenced on their predicament. Baring feels his little joke was an “insoluble problem” to them, and they eventually realized Baring had them over a barrel.

Baring had time to think about it while waiting, and worried he’d got himself into “some serious trouble. My two years’ National Service was going to be a pretty unpleasant experience.”

Eventually he was summoned back into the room. “Well, you understand you’re not going to Cranwell?” they asked. “Right, you can join the five-year short service commission. You’ll be sent to [RAF] Kirton in Lindsey, now bugger off.”

He was taught to fly, and believes he was the last person to fly while performing National Service. He remained an avid aviator throughout his life.

He held a commercial license, performed display flying and other activities between 1959 and 1974. Baring was also a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale and International Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association representative at the International Civil Aviation Organization in the 1970s and 1980s.

Baring was a founding member and first secretary of The Air Squadron, a group of aviation enthusiasts who often embark on group expeditions and conduct charity work.

Regent Sound Studios: The Rolling Stones, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Following his service in the RAF, Baring eventually set himself up in London, where he bought the Regent Sound Studios located in London’s Tin Pan Alley. He served as manager for the studio. The list of artists that recorded at the studio is a who’s who of UK artists from the 1960s. The Rolling Stones recorded their first album there, and the Beatles recorded some tracks, including one for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Who, Tom Jones, Roger Whittaker and many, many more passed through the studios’ doors. “They were all very, very nice … very charming, very polite,” says Baring of the artists he met over the years.

“Some of them when they were in their beginning days were also very broke. Roger Whittaker, who became a huge star in Europe … he was absolutely broke when he arrived in England, so we never actually charged him.”

Baring said Whittaker paid him back the money owed several years later once he became a commercial success.

Baring says that the studio was also used extensively by those working on songs for musical productions in London’s West End theatre district. Baring says that Galt MacDermot, who composed the music for Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical, spent a lot of time at the studio arranging the music for the production, known popularly as just Hair.

“Everybody who doing anything would have come in from time to time to do one thing or the other,” says Baring.

In addition to rock artists and theatre composers, numerous classical musicians also utilized his studio.

A musician himself, Baring was heavily influenced by music he heard on the radio during the wartime years.

A move to France, a back to the land permaculturist

Following eight years managing the Regent Sound Recording Studio in London, Baring was looking for a change, and in 1974 he relocated to Saint-Rémy, Provence in France. He says there were several reasons behind the move. One of his children suffered from a skin condition that was eased by the dry, sunny weather of southern France.

From his youth, Baring spent summers on the family farm on Lambay Island in the Irish Sea, where the family practised traditional agricultural mass-market methods, growing grains and raising livestock. Baring says his time in France – about a dozen years – was an extension of this experience farming as a boy and young man.

Baring was interested in new modes of agriculture, and new ways of living, and said it was somewhat akin to the back-to-the-land movement that brought so many to the Kootenay region in B.C. during the same period.

PHOTO: James Baring (in the cowboy hat) was the guest of honour in the 2009 Revelstoke Homecoming parade. Aaron Orlando photo

He was particularly interested in the economics of agriculture, and eventually started a vineyard because of its high value-added nature. The vineyard covered about two hectares, and he also grew almonds and olives.

“Economy of scale was the whole basis of the way agriculture was moving, and I wanted to look at an alternative method to that because of the consequences of having industrial agriculture, which I could see was going to lead to all of problems we have today.”

He said it has taken 50 years for society to realize that, “anything taken to extremes will generate the seeds of its own destruction – I was trying to be ahead of the game.”

“I suppose my entire life has been really trying to avoid the situation that we have come to today,” he says. “Today is what I saw when I was a very young man, and I’ve just been trying to prepare myself to understand what’s happening now.”

Baring says that his lifelong journey to find new ways of organizing society, and to presage the difficulties that society was getting itself into was largely a result of his experience witnessing the destruction of the Second World War when he was a boy.

“If you are born into the Second World War, you are instantly surrounded by the knowledge that people can screw up in the most extraordinary way. I found it absolutely incredible the amount of destruction that was wreaked during World War II, and to me as a small boy, it was extremely stupid, the amount of destruction,” he says. “I was very intent on discovering why that happened and try to see how things would go wrong in the future and what might be done either to prevent them, or if one couldn’t prevent them, what to do next. That’s basically been my life in a nutshell.”

Baring continues his involvement with agriculture, and nutrition, which is the focus of discussion and thoughts on his Internet home page at http://revelstoke.org.uk.

More recently he has been involved with national health initiatives in the UK, and has been a contributor to Westminster Diet and Health Forum since 2000.

Internet pioneering

Baring says he wasn’t initially interested in computers, but once he learned of the possibilities of interconnecting computers through networks, “that changed everything.”

He taught himself the technology starting in the early 1980s, realizing that the technology was self-enabling and had the potential to take society to the next stage, “which is what happened.”

He got involved to help the people with talent and inventiveness spread across the globe to make sure they could all get connected.

Baring was involved in the formative years of determining Internet protocols during a time when competing companies and countries around the world were each developing different, often incompatible systems.

Working with companies such as GeoNet, Poptel and more, he performed duties such as upgrading systems and establishing networks.

He recalls a meeting in Geneva in the 1980s with several of the major computer companies present, such as IBM. “Unbelievably, these companies could not email each other because they all had their own internal systems.” Not wanting to tip their hands and let others know the technology they had developed, they couldn’t event connect by email. Baring helped with a process that allowed the companies to connect with each other.

In 1986 he addressed the Council of Europe on the subject of Global Distance Education using data networks on behalf of the Open University. He has also addressed the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting speaking on the subject.

Baring also worked on an initiative to extend data networks into Moscow when it was still in the USSR in the late 1980s.

He says many of the challenges they faced in those early days have been overcome. “I thought that problems would arise, and we got over those problems, well we got over the bandwidth problem with fibre optics, which at the beginning, I didn’t know how long it would take for fibre optics to be developed,” he says. “There were lots of unknowns. You can tell broadly-speaking how these problems can be solved, but there is lots of stuff that I couldn’t tell.” He gives the examples of the problem of joining up fibre optic cables, which was originally a big challenge.

Baring refers several times to the Internet’s ability to transform society. “I didn’t think that governments would allow the Internet to grow in the chaotic way that it has with the anonymity that it has, but the answer is that they were unable to stop it,” he says. “Governments have become much less powerful than they were in the ‘60s and ‘70s mainly because they have had to always … run with the financial possibilities as the Internet opened up the traffic of information. It also put every government in the world under a competitive strain which they hadn’t had before because they could isolate themselves to a much greater extent,” he says.

“The Internet itself has opened up the world to such an extent. I remember [U.S. President] Ronald Reagan saying that in fact it was the Internet that brought the Iron Curtain down, not him,” adding that he concurred with this concept.

He said governments can no longer set whatever income tax they want because people can now live in one country and work in another.

“Of course a result of that has been the current financial crash, which is also a result of all this. That was always a risk,” says Baring, noting that is a whole other story.

Blogger

Lord Revelstoke has been a blogger, since 2003, maintaining a site at (http://revelstoke.org.uk)

He uses the site to post his opinions on a variety of subjects, as well as to re-post news stories and other items of interest.

Topics of discussion vary widely and include Parliamentary Allowances, Iran, Climate Change, Airline Safety, The UK Budget, UK Immigration, American Leadership, Wimbledon, UK Smoking Ban, The Trials of Michael Jackson, Organic vs. Non-Organic, The Big Bang at CERN, CCTV and Crime, and literally dozens more subjects.

Lord Revelstoke and the British Peerage

Baring could stand for election to the House of Lords, but he says his chance of success would be slim since he doesn’t know any Lords and has not concerned himself much with the British Peerage over the years. “I’ve never been part of the conventional political scene,” he says. “I’ve never been part of any social scene, so I haven’t met them in that context. I’m not a social animal in that sense. I just did my own life doing my own stuff.”

Family

Baring has four children. They are daughters Aksinia and Miranda and sons Alex and Tom.

Baring says that his children are the most important thing in his life. His daughter Aksinia works at Hamish Dewar in London where she works restoring art works. Miranda is at the London School of Contemporary Music where she studies the keyboard and vocals. Tom “creates weird pictures [and] does martial arts.” His son Alex has spent most of his life abroad with the army but has been in the UK now for a while. Baring hopes he’ll miss the next surge in Afghanistan. He’s already done 12 operational tours. Baring hopes that if France rejoins NATO that Tom will be involved in Anglo-French military liaison.

Lambay Island

In our discussions, Lambay Island is mentioned several times. It is located off the cost of north County Dublin, Ireland in the Irish Sea. It is known as Reachra in Irish, which translates into "place of many shipwrecks" and most famously claimed the HMS Tayleur, sometimes known as 'the first Titanic' because the iron clipper sank on its maiden voyage after striking the island on January 21, 1854, claiming 380 lives.

The largest island off the east coast of Ireland, it is about 2.5 square kilometres in size and is an important bird sanctuary.

The island, sometimes called Barings Island, was purchased by the Baring family in 1904. Lord Cecil Baring hired famed British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens to renovate the island's residence and grounds. Referred to as "the greatest British Architect," Lutyens is most famed for designing and building the portion of Delhi known as New Delhi.

***

Near the end of our conversation, Baring says the focus of much of his life has been about preparing for the society we live in now, but, to some extent, time has caught up with him a bit. “I’m afraid my life doesn’t really make much sense,” he says. “It’s really all been about getting to where we are now, you see what I mean? But, unfortunately it’s taken so long to get here, I’m not sure how effective I’m actually going to be in today’s world. In theory the idea was many, many years ago that I would be fit and well, and well-placed to tell everybody what to do,” he says.

In an 'about the author' post on his blog, Baring describes himself in a poem he penned in 2003. Here is that poem:

“He seems to want to do what he can”

[End of term report from a bemused tutor at Eton College, ca. 1953]

When James was a boy, his mentors were vexed

by uncertainty as to just what he'd do next.

One tutor announced: "He does not fit our plan,

but he seems to want to do what he can".

 

The passage of time shows our hero exploring

the skies, foreign climes, some adventurous touring,

while in '60s London he helped to give birth

to a wave of pop-music that circled the earth.

The reply to: "Just what is the aim of this man?"

Was: "He seems to want to do what he can."

 

Knitwear and properties entered his life,

but he took off for France with his sons and his wife

for research into secrets of energy, soil

and the ways to reduce our dependence on oil,

the wonder of wine, the transcendence of trees,

the nurture of nature, the business of bees.

Friends said: "He's succeeded in getting a tan

and he does seem to want to do what he can!"

 

Aged 45 he first took up his pen

to wind down the Cold War, which up until then

he had sought to defuse by improving relations

through sport aviation between all the nations.

He'd sat on committees with Russians and Poles

to prove we could banish the fear from our souls,

could cease the ridiculous arms-race and find

a more sensible way to achieve peace of mind.

All agreed he worked well. There was many a fan

said: "He sure seems to want to do what he can!"

 

Then, sensing the moment for action had come

he started to write the definitive tome

to reveal to humanity where it now stood

and how to move on to the great and the good,

to avoid the disaster that threatened to start

the next decade. He called it "The State Of The Art"

or SOTA for short. The sheer size of the task

caused a typewriter crash. Telephoning to ask

what a new one might cost he was shocked to be told:

"They're not made any more!" He felt suddenly old.

"You will need a word-processor sir" said the man.

"Whatever. I just want to write what I can!"

 

Olivetti supplied the machine, and explained

all the functions and how, if the user was trained,

it could link to the telephone line and thus send

all the text through a modem. If he had a friend

with a similar setup they could correspond.

Now of such letter writing he'd never been fond

when it meant pen and paper, licked envelopes, stamps,

he found the mere thought of it gave him the cramps.

But this was a different game and, what's more

it could be the breakthrough he was looking for

in his ambitious theory of how we could move

to a 'super-society'. Now he would prove

that linking our minds is the way to achieve

wiser councils through empathy, thus to relieve

the distrust born of ignorance. Here was a plan!

He thought: "Yes, now at last I will do what I can."

 

Within a short time he had hacked his way through

to conference systems at the OU,

pioneers in New Jersey, in Germany, France,

California, then came a meeting by chance

on a system in Paris with someone who said

they were writing from Moscow! It needs to be said

at this point such a contact was hard to believe

as the Cold War was freezing. He tried to conceive

how to build on this breakthrough, deciding the way

was a fearless exchange from the very first day

to establish identities, knowledge, positions,

agreement on history, current conditions

in Russia, America, Europe, UK

the Far East. In a short time they got quite some way

in removing restrictions that clogged up the wires

between Europe’s’ citizens. Lighting the fires

of political dialogue which up till then

had been the preserve of professional men

whose business was clear: to defend their position,

not ruminate on the poor planet’s condition.

 

They chose  Global Dialog then as the name

of the organisation they built on the frame

of their packet-switched systems, with GeoNet hosts

In Moscow, Marseille, making possible posts

of opinion and news way ahead of the press

and the Broadcasting systems. I must also stress

that a great many others were building the means

which our team were assembling to link their machines.

To be a team player was all that our man

had envisaged “I just want to do what I can”

was his motto as ever. To be there when needed

was ever the principle that he most heeded.

 

For modest financing of hardware, his house

was the long planned collateral, but  his dear spouse

then rebelled and refused to allow him to raise

a three percent loan on the home which in days

of misplaced optimism he’d put in joint names.

It is probably time to admit now that James

had a habit of giving a copious supply

of rope just to see whether others could try

not to hang themselves. After a great many years

he established the rule to observe with his peers

was to give them the time and the help and the hope

yet take care just before they manoeuvred the rope

not to hang their dear selves but make their escape

with his property, name or his superman cape.

 

So being remarried (1983)

and with two lovely daughters he'd hoped there would be

some domestic stability so he could cope

with the workload – but no chance, alas, forlorn hope.

For now he was stymied, the things he most cared for:

his children, the world that he hoped to prepare for

a possible future had cruelly been taken

as hostage by one who was sadly mistaken

on everything. No need to dwell here on what

this miserable woman did next, but she got

what she claimed she had suffered already and so

(just in case, my dear reader, you wanted to know)

a justice of sorts was poetically served

and your man though admittedly somewhat unnerved

was to brighten the lives of a number of men

who had fallen on terrible times.  It was then

that he knew he could handle the future OK

on his own terms regardless of those who’d betray

him. This came as a welcome relief as he knew

all along, from his earliest years, what was due

to be asked, ‘ere his story was done, from a man

who is really expected to do what he can.

 

Throughout the next decade James studied the world

as events he’d foreseen were each duly unfurled;

he explored at the coal-face a number of critical

areas, social, domestic, political,

keeping an eye on the milit’ry mind,

the globalization of every kind

of market and trade now made possible by

Information Technology. Earth, sea and sky

became part of the net and the web that we wove

on the strands that were fashioned with care and with love

by the pioneers: Reeves, Davies, Cerf, Berners-Lee

and the others who built what was destined to be.

 

The problems that face us are biblical now

yet the means to resolve them are here too, so how

to regain some stability should be our quest

if we wish to avoid being put to the test

that Nature reserves for all those who refuse

to learn from the lessons or crack from the clues.

But don’t get downhearted, for here stands a man

Who as ever is ready to do what he can.

***

Aaron Orlando is the editor of the Revelstoke Times Review newspaper. Contact him at editor@revelstoketimesreview.com or via Twitter at @Aaron__Orlando

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