York’s five-time Oscar winning Hollywood superstar is honoured with a blue plaque

John Barry's widow Laurie and their son Jonpatrick with the new plaque in Fulford. Photographs: Nigel Kirby / York Civic Trust
20 Jun 2017 @ 9.12 pm
| News

His music conquered Hollywood, moved millions and won him countless awards.

And now his home town has a permanent memorial to his genius.

Composer John Barry grew up in Fulford House, what is now the Pavilion Hotel. And on Tuesday (June 20) his widow and son flew in from their home in Long Island, New York, to see a plaque unveiled in Barry’s honour on the wall of the hotel on Main Street, Fulford.

Laurie Barry and son Jonpatrick were joined by members of the Prendergast family who still in York. All were delighted to see the plaque which reads:

John Barry
born York 1933, died New York 2011
lived here as a boy
Composer and Musician
Academy Award Winner
for his film music

Conquered the globe

Members of the Prendergast family joined the unveiling party

The plaque was presented by the York Civic Trust. It recognises how young John Barry Prendergast went from watching movies in his father Jack Prendergast’s Rialto Cinema, to creating some of the greatest film music in history.

David Fraser, chief executive of the trust, said: “John Barry lived in what became the Pavilion Hotel from his teens into his twenties.

“It is said that many showbusiness stars visited here, including Adam Faith, the singer who Barry collaborated with in the Sixties.

A close-up of the plaque

“John learned music from his mother Doris, who was a concert pianist, and from Francis Jackson, the organist at York Minster.

“He went on to compose film music that made him world famous, and was globally important – and that all originated here in York.”

Dr Fraser added that the Pavilion Hotel was delighted to have the plaque installed, which is easily visible to passers-by.

John Barry’s life

A genius: John Barry

Born on November 1933 in Holgate Nursing Home, York, he was the youngest of three children of John (Jack Xavier) Prendergast, cinema proprietor, and his wife, Doris, nee Wilkinson

The family lived at 167 Hull Road, York, before moving to Fulford House

His mother was a concert pianist and his father ran eight independent cinemas in the north of England

A great film-lover, John worked as a projectionist at the York Rialto cinema from the age of fourteen

John was educated first at the Bar Convent Roman Catholic Primary School and then from the age of eleven at St Peter’s School

He had music lessons with Francis Jackson, organist emeritus at York Minster, who taught him piano, basic harmony and counterpoint

As a teenager he discovered jazz, playing the trumpet and taking a correspondence course for jazz arrangers

He played in York jazz band the Modernaires from 1951

In 1957 he formed the John Barry Seven

In 1960 he wrote the theme of BBC TV’s Juke Box Jury, dominated by twangy guitar and Barry’s pizzicato strings, used memorably on Adam Faith’s hit, What Do You Want

A career turning point came when he was hired to work on the soundtrack for the first James Bond film, Dr No (1962)

This launched his career as a film composer, which would see him win five Academy Awards and four Grammy Awards, with scores for, among others, Born Free (1966), The Lion in Winter (1968), Midnight Cowboy (1969)

In 2005, the American Film Institute ranked John’s score for Out of Africa No. 15 on their list of the greatest film scores

In 2001, the University of York conferred an honorary degree on Barry, and in 2002 he was named an Honorary Freeman of the City of York

John Barry died in 2011, leaving a widow and four children