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Ward, Barnaby Charles (1969–2002)

by Steve Jones

from dbMagazine

Anyone who had ever encountered Baterz perform would undoubtedly agree that he was more than just another local singer/songwriter. Born July 3 1969 in Canberra, Barnaby Charles Ward began his life diagnosed with haemophilia, a disorder that affects the blood's clotting mechanism in event of external cuts or internal bruising. From an early age, Baterz showed that having this life-threatening disease, together with the constant need for use of a wheelchair or walking stick, was never going to stop him from doing what he did best: make everyone around him smile and laugh, a gift that he was later to apply to the art and music that drew in so many fans and friends. Baterz arrived in Adelaide in the early '90s as part of legendary cult band The Bedridden, who soon established a place like no other in the local music scene. Known for their infrequent ramshackle performances and their obtuse brilliance, The Bedridden released two albums ('It's All Fun And Games Until Someone Loses An Eye' and 'Big Scary Cow'). A third release, 'I Told You It Wouldn't Work', allowed Baterz to launch his own record label, Army Of Nerds, a moniker that affirmed its creator's love for his fellow geeks and misfits. Fuelled by his love of people, Dungeons And Dragons, Sci-Fi, Lego and his personal trademark fish, Baterz was the coolest of the most un-cool people you were ever likely to meet.

Baterz found no boundaries when it came to offbeat subject matter: whether hemophilia, diabetes, car accident victims, amputees, drowned television personalities or even arachnid mothers, along with many other diseases and mishaps of human condition, probable or otherwise, Baterz was said to have even make pessimism funny — a particularly impressive feat considering that in 1984 he was diagnosed with HIV passed on during a routine blood transfusion a year earlier. Despite this debilitating virus now eating away at his time, Baterz remained tireless both as a constant touring solo artist (releasing three singles and two albums: 'Baterz Out Of Hell' and 'Live And Well') and occasionally reuniting with The Bedridden. March 2002 saw the release of a new Bedridden single, Inland Sea, which was to herald a fourth album. Yet as fate would have it, around the same time lesions were discovered in his brain, hospitalising him for a couple of months and eventually stripping him of all coordination. Diagnosed as suffering from Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML), his condition failed rapidly and during the early hours of Monday July 22, 2002 Baterz died in the presence of his parents, his partner Jess and a Royal District Nursing Service nurse. Today, after a service at his home attended by family, former bandmates and innumerable friends and fans, I was left greatly saddened but well comforted, having learned from Baterz's life and work that whichever way life leads you, there's always an askew joke to be found. This was well evidenced in the celebratory tales of his humour and life-long determination told by his parents and friends throughout the afternoon. And while the body of Baterz, dressed in his trademark 18th century French cavalier-style costume laid in an open, message-covered coffin in the front room, past and present members of The Bedridden joyously played on in the backyard. His ashes will be taken back to his parents' property in New South Wales, where he's to be buried alongside his grandparents in a Lego castle (courtesy of long-time supporters three-d radio).

Soon after Baterz' death a 200 kg giant squid was found washed up on the shores of Tasmania, and those familiar with Baterz's work couldn't help but suspect it was one last goodbye. Although sadly missed, Baterz will be fondly remembered by all he's touched.

Original publication

  • dbMagazine, 2002

Other Obituaries for Barnaby Charles Ward

Additional Resources

Citation details

Steve Jones, 'Ward, Barnaby Charles (1969–2002)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/ward-barnaby-charles-13976/text24894, accessed 15 November 2018.

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