THE DRAWINGS OF ALBERT H. BARNETT

The drawings of Albert H. Barnett are currently on display at Compton Verney next to the Folk Art Collection. We recently received a message from David Mason about these drawings and wanted to share it with the public.

My father Stan Mason worked in the Transport Department of the Gasboard in the 1970s. He was based at the Lord Street Depot in Birmingham. Albert Barnett worked there as a Yardman, keeping the yards tidy.Albert produced numerous biro drawings of old Birmingham, many relating to transport . He also drew a series of obituaries of well known people who had just died.These drawings were made on the backs of company order slips, envelopes and whatever he could lay his hands on. Albert would give these drawings to staff members , often noting on them ,how long they took to complete. Most of these drawings were  thrown away. Dad thought Albert’s drawings were of great interest and kept them untill he died in 1987.In all there were about 200 drawings that he kept, they are now with Compton Verney Art Gallery.

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After the British Gas Pensioners News Magazine  published an article on Albert I was able to contact a few of the retired members of staff who knew Albert. They told me that Albert was employed as “Registered Disabled” due to learning difficuties. He would disappear from time to time and the police were often asked to trace him.Once he was found in a Salvation Army hostel in London. When asked who was his next of kin , he would give the name of his warehouse manager. this made the staff think he had no family.

His behaviour at the works was erratic. He would take to making drawings anywhere that took his fancy. One incident was when he covered some ‘on loan’ skips with paint in his usual style. the skip company complained and Albert was made to pay two shillings a week as compensation.

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There seems to be many occasions when Albert was disciplined because of his behavior. On arriving in the manager’s offfice , he would stand to attention ,stamp his feet (army style) and say “hats off in Gaffer’s Office”. Eventually a sympathetic management gave him his own wall to draw on, on condtion he left the others alone.

He would often sneak into one of the delivery drivers vans for a little sleep. The drivers knowing this would drive off with him still inside , letting him out after a mile or so.

Albert never took a holiday but occasionally would take a day trip on a coach. When he went on one he would send all the ladies in the office a post card.

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After a while Albert was not allowed in the offices but he would see Dad making tea in the locker room and go and talk to him there. Dad always had time for him and would share his lunchtime sandwiches with him.

Unfortunately, there was often conflict between Albert and some of the drivers and this led to an incident when Albert threw some metal object at the men. It appears that he was dismissed after this incident.

No one could give me any information as to what became of Albert after the Gasboard. The people I spoke to seem to think that Albert was bought up in some sort of institution , that he had no relatives and was a very lonely man. He was proud of his drawings and ,I would like to think , he knew that they would be appreciated one day.

David Mason

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