Barrie MacVicar, by whom I’m greatly honored to have been called “friend” passed from this earthly life on Friday 9 Mar 2019. Barrie was born in unusual circumstances – on a ferry to the mainland – and from his early years endured hardship that many can’t even imagine, and yet came through, stood tall and not only cheered himself to good spirits but brought many along for the ride with him.
Some time ago Barrie trusted me enough to ask me to help him tell his story. He asked me to tell it for him, I remember saying how he would do a better job. He went on to share it in blogs and podcasts in ways that many people round the world found comforting, encouraging and inspiring.
Below I share an outline of Barrie’s story, of his experience, mostly in my words but as he relayed it tto me.
Like many, Barrie endured violence in his childhood home, and was regarded by others as a problem from early years – in school he was marked-out and singled-out and made to sit by himself out in the corridor.
As soon as he could, Barrie went to sea as a fisherman, going on to Cap’n the vessel and then a lead small flotilla of vessels in some of the roughest seas in the world, hauling fish to feed thousands and keeping alive his fellow crewmen.
When health problems meant he could no longer go to sea he found himself landlocked in a flat in the port lands of Leith to east of Edinburgh, the same landscape and same times portrayed in the movie we shared a love for: Trainspotting.
Barrie found himself entangled with police and the legal system when a beloved relative visiting with him died. Barrie was held under suspicion of murder until the interminably lengthy autopsy cleared him: his uncle had died of a rare condition. The extended stress of these circumstances led to many people he knew separating from him and as a result he went, in his words, “a bit nuts’ too – as might you or I in similar or even lesser circumstances.
By then it was too late – Barrie was forced violently into hospitalization and remained in the grip of psychiatric services for many years, and it was in hospital that he started hearing the voice he called “the devil”. After some years he was assigned a new worker, Shirley, who introduced him to the Hearing Voices movement, which he liked the sound of and together they visited World Hearing Voices Congress in Cardiff. It was there that Barrie had a small, walk-on part in a movie: Healing Voices, he is uncredited but can be seen in the background as “cigarette smoking, walking man” in the back of interviews filmed outside Congress.
If you ever met Barrie then you likely will not forget him. I never got to meet him in person, but I didn’t need to. I met Barrie in the facebook forum for the hearing voices movement- a community of people round the world offering each other acceptance and understanding and sharing.
Barrie always gave credit to having found this community and to many of the individuals he found there – including me. What he found harder was to accept that he gave us at least as much and more.
Barrie started an online support group “Positive Mental Health” that single-handedly he enabled to grow to over 5,000 members in under two years, sharing information, stories and joking around. Barrie’s work drew attention from round the web and was featured in blogs and broadcasts.
Then Barrie was suckered. And suckered by an individual who he’d come to regard highly and who had been lionised and given power and privilege by the very community he had come to regard as safe for him.
Persuaded by a great and empty promise from a person whom he – and many others – had come to admire and revere, a false promise of opportunity to “work on his recovery” and a fake promise of employment – of lucrative talking, training and consulting engagements- of a better life. Barrie and his partner were persuaded by this false promise of hope that it was worth going along with the stipulation that they give up everything: an idyllic home with new family on small farm next to a lake, to shut down his groups and break contact with the many thousands he’s come to know, and go to work for someone who’d been an inspiration and, promoted as hero by the community that he was now part of.
This did not end well.
Barrie was declared “Victim of Human Trafficking / Modern Slavery” by legal authories in UK, his family broke up and he found himself rendered homeless and living in a hostel.
For much of the last few years Barrie was bound by lawyers working with him to keep secret this information. Then, after about a year of this imprisonment, he pleaded with lawyers to allow him to tell someone. I am honored to have been one of a very small few people he told, whom he felt he could tell and could trust.
Barrie was released from psychiatry many years ago and again just last month was given a completely clean slate from a different psychiatrist as part of legal proceedings.
Not for the first time Barrie found his life enmeshed in overwhelming legal proceedings, non of it of his own making. and surrounded by doctors giving him fancy technical sounding names for conditions they said he had but had no idea how to alleviate let alone help him heal from. He was living with a great deal of pain, his body was failing him in many, basic ways.
Through all this Barrie remained a tremendous spirit. Sometimes it was clear he was working hard to remain so, but he managed, somehow.
Barrie wanted so much for an opportunity to tell his story, to tell of and warn others of the circumstances into which he’d found himself. He wanted so much to protect the community in which he’d found his community. Beyond that he wanted to be free from waiting on Doctors, Lawyers and others to fulfill the promises they were making to him and not keeping on constant, weekly and sometimes daily basis. He wanted to be free from pain and he wanted opportunity to remain connected with and to be able to provide for his son.
Barrie talked with me many times about how he felt let down by the small coordinating body at centre of that community – INTERVOICE. Barrie appreciated the individual efforts of board chair Rai and later Lisa to talk with him – he felt frustrated and let down by the organisation and did not understand how they could not take more visible steps. To this day, though it has taken action in private, INTERVOICE has yet to make any statement, either to its membership or in its public forum or in public.
Barrie did not choose to become a victim of human slavery but was victimised and made one and held up as a leading light, “inspiration”, “hero” of the HV community, a person who was been hagiographied by som ein the wider hearing voices movement , and is still today by many in that community.
BArrie fought all his life to be allowed to be who he was.
Many, many of us are grateful he did.
Barrie wanted nothing from his efforts but to protect the community in which he found his and to warn other vulnerable people to be careful about in whom they might place their trust.
Barrie MacVicar- Barrie Wylie – Bazinga- was not one to be silenced.
He will not be.
Barrie’s body may no longer be with us, his tremendous spirit is strong and lives on.
Some time ago Barrie talked of how “since my arse went global”.
Well, this weekend Barrie’s arse went fucking cosmic.
My hope is that now that Barrie is free from the pain -the many forms of pain that he held inside.
And I hope he’s found a faster wheelie bin and a fuckin big fridge.
Barrie MacVicar is with me, and with us.
Here’s to you, mate.
To read Barrie’s own words keep going to the bottom where you’ll find some links…
Related – some links…
Positive Mental Health Support Group
Barrie Wylie’s blog @Tumblr
A useful diagnosis
Never mind the [diagnostical] bollocks, here’s Barrie Wylie…
Barrie’s Mental Tempest: Barrie featured as guest in editionn of Here Be Monsters podcast.