`

Blindness was no barrier for role model, graduate and preacher Barbara

editorial image
Share this article

A woman, who became a well known figure in her adopted hometown of Padiham, has died at the age of 77.

Barbara Porter, who was blinded as a baby when a bomb exploded close to her home in London's Thornton Heath while she slept in her cot, never let her disability hold her back in life as she went on to become a preacher and also gain a degree in her 40s.

The force of the bomb blast shattered the optic nerves in the back of Barbara's eyes which contributed to the partial sightedness she endured for the rest of her life.

After the blast both Barbara and her mother Hilda were dug out by the London Fire Service and her father, Jack who was a sub station officer.

Showered in glass Barbara also suffered lacerations to her face which meant she had to undergo skin grafts.

A wartime evacuee, Barbara attended a blind school and went on to the Pembridge Training School for blind and partially sighted students in London where she trained as an audio typist.

It was here she met her future husband, Ben and the couple married at 21.

Re-locating from London to Ben's hometown of Padiham was quite a culture shock for Barbara who had to learn how to become a housewife.

It was a steep learning curve for Barbara who was also told that because of her condition she would never have children. So it was a shock when she discovered she was pregnant and six weeks before she gave birth she found out she was having twins.

Barbara was whisked to Kings College Hospital in London where she gave birth to twin sisters, Heather and Sylvia, six weeks early.

It was while she was giving birth that Barbara said she had an "out of body" experience which she said made her strong religious faith even stronger.

A Methodist who went on to become a preacher on the Burnley circuit, which took in Padiham, Hapton and outlying areas including Worsthorne, Harle Syke and Fence, Barbara was a devout church goer involved in many groups which helped bring structure to her life.

Barbara also made sure her daughters were involved in many different activities including swimming and Brownies. Barbara even became the Snowy Owl at Fifth Padiham St Leonard's Brownies.

Both Barbara and Ben were loyal listeners of Radio Four which they saw as their window on the world and the family did not buy a television until the twins were 11.

A great believer in education, Barbara began to re-educate herself at the age of 34 when she studied O' and A 'levels at Nelson and Colne College.

She became a great role model for her children by running her home and attending college.

Barbara then went on to study for six years with the Open University finally achieving her BA Honours degree in Religion and Philosophy at the age of 43.

Sylvia said: "Mum's lasting legacy was that education was the best thing you could give to your children and she provided us with the opportunity, guidance and support to go on and achieve things in life."

That legacy has also passed to Barbara's granddaughters, Heather and Holly. Heather has completed her Masters in Pharmacy at the University of Bath and Holly is studying Geography at Oxford.

An avid reader, Barbara also became a volunteer for CRUSE bereavement counselling charity and Victim Support and the family home in Burns Street was always open for friends to drop in for a cuppa and a listening ear.

Barbara and Ben, who were well known around Padiham as they were constant companions, got the chance to travel to many places once their daughters were grown up and they visited Jordan, Israel, France, Germany and Holland, to name but a few places.

Ben died suddenly in 2012, three months after the couple celebrated their Golden Wedding and soon after Barbara moved to Nottingham to be closer to her daughters.

She moved into the Woodleigh Christian Care Home but was still active, enjoying holidays and day trips with other residents.

Barbara's funeral was held today and donations are being accepted in her memory to Action for Children and the Fire Service Benevolent Fund.