Our dear friend and colleague Peter Mallard

7th October, 2020
by Katie | 15 Min Read
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Peter Mallard, former Barn Retreat Centre manager

It is with grief and gratitude for a life well-lived that we let you know that Peter Mallard passed away on Tuesday 22 September at dawn. He had been living with cancer for the past five years.

Peter was the Manager at the Barn from 2010 to 2016 and is well loved by The Barn and the Sharpham Trust community. 

Peter’s good friend - and Sharpham mindfulness retreat leader - Patti Summerville pays tribute to him:

There is an empty cushion in my sangha circle, though I still feel your warm presence in the room.

Peter was the Barn Manager when I was a coordinator with Brenda, Dino, Linda and Paul. Peter so skilfully didn't 'manage' us. He let us graze alongside each other, watching over us like a wise herdsman with his motley flock, keeping us safe, yet encouraging us to bring to The Barn our unique spirits.

Peter brought a kinetic, radiantly warm and curiously intelligent energy to our days at The Barn. Retreatants relaxed and flourished in his presence and loved his down-to-earth, humorously self-effacing Friday morning Q & A library sessions.

What fun I've had with Peter over the years debating the dharma, the pros and cons of building an outdoor meditation/yoga platform, and how frequently (or infrequently) a bathmat requires laundering.

Peter's morning bike ride arrival at the Barn brought bear hugs and a foot-wide smile that could instantly erase the irritable memory of a night punctuated by a false fire alarm and concerns that the Riverford organic full cream milk supply had gone off, due to the vacuum cleaner and fridge plugs getting mixed up yet again.

Peter would fold his long, gangly frame into the small Barn office space the three of us would often share and good humouredly tolerate successive co-ordinators' new organisational systems. He would time just right his mid-morning departures to chop wood or clean out roof gutters, thus skilfully maintaining his and our sanity.

I have been in awe of Peter's energy, optimism and how he brought his intelligence and dharma practice to the last few years and hope in some way a bit of that has seeped into my bones for the challenges of life ahead.

Ah Peter my dear one, no longer in my life, though the memories bring warmth to my heart and a smile to my face to soothe my sadness. Rest well.

Patti Summerville




Memories from past retreatants and coordinators:


It was a great privilege to be one of the coordinators when Peter came on retreat at the Barn for the last time. His willingness to share how he was approaching his final days was deeply moving. Peter's joy at being in the Barn, his being himself and his immense pleasure at log-splitting was an inspiration to all of us on the retreat. On a more personal note, when he probably needed to rest, Peter took time to give me a master class on our wood burning boiler!

      - Charlie


In the Spring, during lockdown, Peter and Ann dropped off a card and some truffles for us at The Barn. Such was their generosity and thoughtfulness. I want to send my love to Anne and all of Pete’s family at this challenging time. I have been immeasurable enriched by The Barn over the last 10 years and it is no coincidence that Peter’s gentle presence has been the common thread throughout.

I recall especially his humour and lightness in reflecting the dharma. He helped me deepen my metta practice with tales of his time as a school teacher. He inspired me to bringing mindfulness into daily life in so many ways, including using the first step of the stairs as a trigger to come back into presence.

In his card, Peter shared some notes on ‘Right Effort’. Under ‘Rest’ he said ‘Don’t do 24/7! Allow relaxation into distraction. Eat chocolate’.

Thank you Peter for your guidance to me personally and for your great service to so many people

   - Barry


The Earth realm lost a beautiful soul with the passing of Peter. 

May his energies & stunningly ethereal piercing blue eyes allow us all to clearly see through the veil of life as his wise teachings resonate through us.

I hold a quiet space & silence in his honour on hearing of his passing. 

I fondly remember my first retreat along with Barry (Thurgood) & Lucy (Chan) as fellow retreatants a few years before they became staff members, with Peter's wonderful talks. Many giggles were had that week!  I will always remember his kind words saying it would be an honour for me to come & work here with my energies & presence when my children are older

His words have definitely inspired me to work in a similar line of work.

   - With Love Jenna Barnes


John and I first visited the Barn shortly after Peter took on its management and we so enjoyed our visit that we came back many times in the next 10 years. Peter’s energy and enthusiasm for remodelling the Barn was contagious. He took it from being a quirky run-down retreat to a vibrant, modern yet still very peaceful space with fully functioning mod-cons, a state-of-the-art boiler and a new front lawn for walking meditation practice. There was always a project brewing and he had the knack of drawing the group into his latest enthusiasm.

Of course his real skill was people. A warm, playful presence and a way of being intimately connected to all. His long Buddhist practice was embodied in The Barn. A very special man.  We last saw him when our paths accidentally crossed at Totnes station a couple of years ago. He instantly recognised us and greeted us warmly by name. Go well Peter, a life well spent.

   - Trisha and John Morgan


I met him several times times over the years at retreats at Sharpham House and at The Barn. He was a lovely and genuine man, and contributed enormously to the community. My deepest sympathies to Peter's family, friends and colleagues


So sad to hear about Peter. I attended The Barn on a few occasions, at some difficult times in my life. I remember Peter talking about his previous work as a Headteacher and how people thought it strange that he used to go and stare at a tree at lunchtimes and walk upstairs slowly! He told us they were ways he practised mindfulness. He taught me we can all have our struggles. I am thankful, although brief, that our paths crossed in life. Rest well dear Peter. 


I was lucky enough to do a retreat at The Barn with Peter as as a participant just after he started as Manager in 2010. He was one of us, participating openly, honestly and warmly. I later did a few more more retreats while he was still Manager. I felt empowered by his warmth and encouragement and loved his humour. An exceptional man who gave so much. He will be missed.

   - Jenny Biltcliffe


When Peter was taken ill I was asked to step briefly into the role of Manager at The Barn Retreat.

It wasn`t until then that I fully realized and appreciated what a challenging role this was and how Peter managed to fulfill it with such grace, fairness, integrity and commitment for so long. There are many wonderful things I could say about Peter, however the following incident has stayed with me as it fully illustrates the nature of the man.

I recall when I first visited him very soon after he came out of hospital following his operation and sat opposite him in his living room. It was then that he told me that he had Stage 4 cancer and would be undergoing Chemotherapy. As he said this I couldn`t hold back the tears at which this giant of a man rose from his seat and came over to give me a warm bear hug consoling me as if I was the sick man! He was always the shepherd! “You know“  he said “We are all going to die and we all have to die of something”. This was a man who tried earnestly to embody the Dharma in the process of living and dying.

I left his home somehow already feeling a sense of loss and at the same time realising how much I admired and loved this man. I often visited him after that for his moral support and advice which he was always so willing and eager to give.

I shall sorely miss him.

Last exhalation

As the sun softly rises

All things come to pass


I first met Pete around 2007 when he was a retreatant at The Barn and my wife Sandi and I were live-in managers. Little did we know what he would later achieve as the first live-out Barn manager with two co-ordinators. In a few years he brought about many astounding improvements, nurturing the role of Sharpham House in enlarging and reorganising The Barn. Later I had the privilege of being a relief co-ordinator at Sharpham House and The Barn and so enjoyed the support of his insightful guidance. Thank you Pete for your friendship. We miss you.

   - Roy and Sandi McEwen      


I am deeply saddened to learn of Peter’s passing. Peter was the manager of The Barn during my very first retreat in the spring of 2013. It was my first meditation retreat and so I was understandably apprehensive about the experience but he, Dino and Patti made me feel at home instantly. Being new to Buddhist concepts at the time, I peppered Peter in the Q&A with questions about Buddhism which now seem so elementary to me but he always answered them with great patience, warmth and clarity.

On that particular retreat I had the privilege of helping him clear the roof gutters. I still have fond memories of sharing a cup of tea with him atop the scaffolding required to reach the roof line. It was at quiet moments like that, chatting quietly alone together, that I came to see Peter as being the embodiment of gentleness and kindness as well as possessing a keen intellect and down-to-earth pragmatism. He lives on in my heart with great fondness. I extend my deepest condolences to his family and to The Barn community he so dearly loved.

   - Lawrence Millar


I am so sad to hear of Peter’s dying. I was a retreatant a few times in The Barn and later in the Kuti and I loved Peter’s presence and guidance. He made me feel safe as few leaders in my life have. The safety gave me an opportunity to drop into my deepest self.

There are moments at The Barn that remain the greatest learnings of my life. Peter helped me understand the role of death by encouraging me to spend time up at the burial ground. Whilst I was staying in the Kuti I read the retreat notebooks which tell many stories of the two cats who had been frequent visitors to those staying there. When I found their sweet, colourful graves on the bank by the backdoor I was filled with raw sadness.

Peter helped me to accept this feeling and in doing so vanquish the quaking fear of loss that I had carried for many years.  In an email to me he spoke of how much he was enjoying life living with cancer with the love and support of Anne and others. On my last retreat at The Barn we had a fellow traveller who was himself terminally ill. Peter helped him be open and to face his future with laughter, peace and friendship, letting us all share in the privilege of courage towards the end. 

Peter spoke so often of living in the moment, of being mindful on the bus for however long the distance might be between stops, of making spirituality a easy option. He had a practical way about him. When I was angsting about whether to live in the city or the country he asked me if there was somewhere in-between. That in-between is exactly where my husband and I have ended up - and are very happy living in it - plenty of nature and greenery but not too far to the shops!

Peter spoke of his unhappiness in his previous profession where the stresses and strains of the education system took their toll. Thank goodness that he found a new workplace.  I know he was integral to the success of the Barn retreats, leading by example, being great fun, intellectually nimble, fearless in his ability to sit in the problem and mostly by letting his kind blue eyes rest on you no matter what question you brought to him.

I am so glad to have crossed paths with Peter Mallard. His wisdom will remain with me as long as I live, and, who knows, perhaps beyond.

   - Joanna


The first few times I visited The Barn, Peter was there.  Always friendly and kind, he was an inspirational and supportive instructor and advisor.  Both new and experienced meditators benefited from his personal warmth and knowledge of Buddhist practice.  On one walking and meditation week he took us to beautiful locations but over some difficult terrain – a wild, rocky and remote shore of the River Dart presented a real challenge but so worth the struggle.  A walk I loved and could not manage now, so thank you Peter, I will remember you as I feel sure will many others.

   - Pat MacDonald


I had many retreats at the Barn Retreat Centre, when Peter was The Barn manager with Brenda, Patti, Dino, Linda and Paul.

I developed a close friendship and felt very supported by Peter during my visits to The Barn Retreat Centre. I also referred many people to The Barn and they all sung with praise, about Peter's love, sense of humour, attention, wisdom and kindness toward them.

I have such warm and fond memories of Peter, who helped me with my own attached and grasping mind (!) and pointed the way toward truth, understanding, enlightenment, healing and with practical sharing and caring from Peter and within The Barn community.

I remember sitting in the living room, around the warm fire, where Peter shared the teachings of the Buddha's wisdom and instructions, in a simple and clear way. That made the stays at The Barn Retreat Centre an incredibly healing, pleasurable, learning experience of growth and freedom. 

I feel a warm smile of gratitude on my face as I write this and wish Peter and his family wellness, happiness, salutations and peace, in this momentous occasion of passing and leaving the body. May Peter travel well through the Bardo!! Sadhu.

    - Kind regards, Pippa Seeta O'Connor


I met Peter briefly when he came to The Barn as a guest speaker on a men’s retreat. I was immediately struck with how warm, open and honest he was about his diagnosis. I found this attitude to be powerful, inspiring and heartfelt. I felt deeply touched and his attitude feeds into my own practice of impermanence.

I held him in my daily dedication of merit for quite a while. I will do so again and for his loved ones.

Peter clearly touched the lives of many and his benevolent resonance will suffuse The Barn forever. A very special man. May he walk in beauty.

   - Warmest wishes, Michael


I was so sorry to hear about Peter’s illness and now his death.  On my visits to The Barn, I always found him to be full of wisdom and compassion, he’ll be very much missed.  Best wishes to his family and friends

   - Anna


I had known Peter for roughly 10 years. I think Peter was a strong, brave man. I first met Peter in 2010 at The Barn.

Over the years I got to speak and work with him sometimes on different projects in and around The Barn.

On several occasions we'd be off in the van to Totnes hiring power tools or sourcing materials for various jobs being done at The Barn. In them days there wasn't a Work Retreat as there is now so there always seemed there was something to be getting on with. Peter was very hands-on and was always there for advice or help. He was definitely a go-to guy. 

On one of our trips sourcing materials he stopped off at his home. If i remember rightly there was something he wanted to show me about his roof! Anyway I got to meet his wife Anne and I remember thinking that this man really cares about everything. He made me feel so welcome and special in his home, that memory stuck with me.

I remember he was keen to get stiles in place so we all could walk up through the vegetable garden then along the top through the metal gates and over the stile into the Burial Ground. He asked me: "Ray could you make some stiles over a few wire fences?" I said, "Hmm, yeah Pete." So he said, "Ok, good. We'll talk about it later." My point is that he had faith in me and if Peter thought I could do it well, I would certainly try. As it turned out, we all got the stiles built and they are still being used today. The reason I told you that particular story is that Peter told me he called the stiles Ray's Stiles. He made people feel special and that's a great strength he had.

I saw Peter at the last Work Retreat, Sept 2019. I hugged him and said 'See you again Pete!' It makes me sad to think Peter is no longer with us at The Barn but his legacy will live on in our hearts and stiles forever. 

Sending Peter and his friends and family much metta, much heartfelt sympathy

   - Ray Balch 


I’m sorry to hear about the passing of Peter. When I have taught yoga and provided massage at The Barn on and off over the years he was always a welcoming and accommodating presence to work with, and the embodiment of his practice. - Nev


Good memories of him at The Barn ... often trying to keep the noise level down at table.... but in a gracious way!


Such a kind, warm, genuine gentleman. Met Peter on 3 retreats. He'd mix managing retreats, whilst also climbing ladders and fixing the Barn.


Such a kind, unpretentious man.


Peter was a rare breed of manager, he felt more like a friend and older brother. He guided me through my year as coordinator with such kindness, generosity and good humour. Metta to all who miss him - from Tamsin Scott, former Barn coordinator


I have good memories of conversations with Peter. He was inspiring


I'm sad to hear this. I remember him fondly from my retreat. Sending love to everyone who feels the loss of his comforting presence.


Peter Mallard - on the day in 2016 when he retired from The Sharpham Trust