Barnes Tilney

by on February 27, 2006

I heard today that somebody I knew at Oyster Partners died a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t really know him, but I’d like to write something about him. I don’t know if this is the done thing or not – I hope his family and friends will excuse me. His name was Barnes Tilney.

I spoke to Barns a number of times, and was present when he spoke to others. He struck me as an amusing, sharp and thoughtful person. I don’t know how long he had had lukemia, but you wouldn’t have noticed that anything was wrong before he went on extended leave early last year to do battle with the disease that defeated him.

After he left, I inherited his documentation for the first iteration of the project I am now working. It may sound somewhat odd, but when you read detailed documentation on something in order fully to understand it, you also come to understand something about the writer’s mind. It’s not as rich as a novel, or a poem, but it has elements of those. You come to know what they think is important, and how they choose to express things. I was impressed by Barnes’s expressive ability, and his courage in taking approaches that I would have shrunk from.

I don’t want this to read like an obituary, because it can’t be one. I hope that somebody who knew him will write that. But death reminds me that I have yet to accept death for myself, and that, selfishly, is why I want to remember him because I hope others might remember me in a similar way.

Barnes did a good job. I hope I will too.


I worked with Barnes when I moved to London in 2004-05. He was one of the first people I worked in my first agency job on the healthcare project which I still work on now. He was welcoming and warm and I always enjoyed his company. I’d often see him sitting in the open meeting space we have here with a cup of tea drawing and working on wireframes. He was clearly very talented, held in very high regard by his peers.

I’m not going to pretend I knew him well and as Jonathan says people who really knew him will write in more detail but I very am sad to see him go and will miss him.


I actually worked with Barnes during the early days of R 2.0 way back in 2004. And I couldn’t agree with you more about his expressive abilities. We used to have long meetings about Editing Tool and he used to be quite meticulous.

Don’t know whether he was suffering from leukemia then but sure he did not show any signs of it.

Anyways, as far as remembering you goes Jonathan, keep it up and you can count me in!

Dear Barnes
Hi Guys, This is Mike, Barnes partner from Ireland, just came across your blog and thanks so much for the wonderful things you all said about him.
Its nice to see that he touched people, even in a passing way so deeply, it was one fo things I loved about him, his fairness, objectivity, understanding that people are people and not machines.
It made him a great guy to work with.
Thanks to you all, I know his time with Oyster was very enjoyable and I wish you well with whatever you do.
Keep his memory alive by being more like him.

Your message was forward to my email. I am Barney’s mother and want you to know how much I appreciate all your comments. I know he and Mike were looking forward to moving to London and from what Barney told me he was excited about the job at Oyster. So, as Mike said, remember him by keeping up his work! It still does not seem real that he is gone.

So sad to learn this
I stumbled upon this website by accident and was very surprised and very sadden to find the news. We knew Barnes when he lived in Brooklyn, NY. We were his neighbors (Chris and Greg). (Mike, you might remember us as the group that took him out for a goodbye brunch in the Village). We fell out of touch with him a couple of year ago when he moved to Ireland. Barnes was a great guy. Funny and smart. We shall miss him. Our deepest sympathies to Mike and his and Barne’s families.
Greg Farnham

I miss Barnesy too.
Of course Mike always called him Barney – but being from Tottenham I called him Barnesy.

I knew him, and was friendly with him, and was terribly saddened when I found out that he was gone. I liked him cos he was a humanist, smart and compassionate. And I would like to thank him for keeping his word.

I post this message soley because 5 mins ago, I felt the urge to google search his name. Im sure Im not the only person that doest this from time to time. And this blog was one of the links I came across.

Oh well.

Best get back to work.


I am a friend of Barnes as well, and embarrassingly did not know he was ill. We met in 1987 in a study abroad program in Italy, where we became fast friends. I adored Barnes, and always loved hearing stories about his family, friends, and dreams. He touched my heart so deeply, and for that I am grateful.

Mike, friends, Mrs. Tilney: I would like to publish a tribute webpage — devoted to Barnes’ art and life. If you would like to share any images or text, please forward to me at radyo AT earthlink DOT net. I will respond individually with the url once I have it published.

Barnes meant the world to me, and I am not surprised that he had a similiar effect on so many others.

~Karina Robinson

I knew Barnes very well. He was an incredibly talented, incredibly funny person. Always good to everyone, without ever being a door mat. Never apologized for who he was, without disrespecting anyone.

Five years gone this week. Still miss him.

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