John Purslove Barker 1936 - 2024

We have received the sad news that access industry pioneer and the first president of IPAF, John Barker has died.
John Barker

He passed away peacefully on Sunday - July 7th – following a battle with late stage prostate cancer he was 88 in May.

John Barker started out in the Royal Air Force and continued flying twin engined aircraft through much of his business life. He came to prominence in the powered access market after he was appointed managing director of Simon Dudley and Simon Access in or around 1974.
John Barker in 1992

In the late 1970s he led a massive global acquisition programme, acquiring Milwaukee based self-propelled boom lift manufacturer Krause in 1978, which became Simon Krause.

The US expansion continued throughout the 1980s, with Skywitch scissor lifts, fire ladder company Ladder Towers Inc of Pennsylvania, Nolan truck mounted lift in Ohio, Telelect digger derricks in South Dakota, and boom truck manufacturer RO Holdings in the Mid-West all added over the next few years.

Back in Europe UK acquisitions included Norfolk, based self-propelled lift manufacturer Simon Gala and fire platform company Gloster Saro, while in Ireland Cork based trailer lift manufacturer Eurolift was added, followed by Abbey Equipment in Australia, and finally in 1992 the Italian truck mounted lift company Cella.
By then Simon Access had grown from a single UK plant to 22 companies around the world with combined revenues of £152 million and 15 percent of the global powered access market.

The problem with all these additions was the struggle to rationalise and bring together a very disparate group of companies, spread across the globe. The a market downturn arrived following the first Gulf War, along with growing number of better focused competitors caused the company to struggle, attempt 'rationalisation' and eventually close.
A Simon Gala advert from the early 1990s

In addition to his global group building role John Barker was appointed as the first president of IPAF, when it was formed in mid-1983 from the merger of the International Work Platform Association (IWPA) mostly made up of rental companies and dealers, and the international Federation of Hydraulic Platform Manufacturers (IFHPM) an association of manufacturers.

Barker’s full time access career ended in 1994, when he left Simon, but he went on to work with Janes Defence publications and moved into the aircraft access and de-icing market and more recently in 2020 he represented Swedish low level lift company Safelift in the UK.
Pat and John Barker in or around 2010

John Barker could at times come across as a little on the pompous side - ‘bombastic’ as pone of his friends said, but he had a good heart, a great sense of humour, was good natured and very comfortable in his own skin and did not mind it if someone made fun of something he said, in fact he would usually find it as funny as everyone else. He was intelligent, witty and good company. He will be missed my many.

Sadly, he lost his wife Pat a few years ago but leaves behind his son Richard and daughter Sally.

The funeral is planned for next Tuesday, July 16th at 11.00 at All Saints’ Church, Shorthampton OX7 3HW, followed by burial at Woodstock Cemetery. No flowers please – donations instead to the Sobell House hospice, https://sobellhouse.org/support-us