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Former Bronte Society chief dies aged 76
12:00pm Friday 27th September 2013 in News
A former chairman of the Bronte Society, respected author and compiler of The Bronte Encyclopedia has died.
Dr Robert Barnard was also a prolific crime writer as well as being a “mine of information” on Haworth’s most famous residents.
He died on Friday at the Grove Court Nursing Home in Leeds, aged 76, after a period of deteriorating health.
Along with his wife, Louise, he had compiled and released The Bronte Encyclopedia in 2007, referred to by the society as “a cornerstone for modern Bronte scholarship”. He was twice chairman of the society and had also written a book on the life of Emily Bronte, released in 2000.
Although born in Essex and based in Leeds, Mr Barnard spent a good deal of time at the Bronte Parsonage and around Haworth, and even based one of his novels there.
A Corpse At The Haworth Tandoori follows detective DC Charlie Peace as he investigates a murder after the body of a young man is found behind a takeaway restaurant.
Another of his novels – The Missing Bronte – was inspired by his love of the Bronte sisters. It is a mystery that revolves around a manuscript that may or may not be a lost novel by the sisters.
He started writing crime novels in the 1970s, and penned more than 40 books and short stories during his career. He was awarded the Cartier Diamond Dagger award in 2003 for his services to crime fiction.
Dr Barnard became a regular fixture at local literary festivals in recent years, and his quirky style made his novels popular in the United States.
His last novel – A Charitable Body – was released just last year.
Before becoming a full-time writer, he was an English lecturer in Norway.
The Bronte Society’s Richard Wilcocks said: “Well known in the Bronte Society, he was a professor, a scholar and an award-winning crime writer, who was also a good personal friend of long standing, for me and many others. It is shocking news, even though it is not completely unexpected.”
Ann Sumner, executive director at the Bronte Parsonage, said: “We were all so very sad to hear this news about Bob.
“Many people here at the museum and in the society have such fond memories of him, and his years of dedicated support have been much appreciated. We send our deepest sympathies to his widow, Louise, at this sad time.”
Collections manager Ann Dinsdale said: “Bob Barnard’s vibrant personality and wicked sense of humour made him great company.
“He was a popular figure with staff at the Bronte Parsonage Museum, and some of them have figured as characters in his novels. The Bronte Society was privileged to have enjoyed 20 years of Bob’s involvement, and he will be sadly missed by many people.”