What about the two men who solved Masquerade correctly but just a little too late?

Mike Barker and John Rousseau did, in fact, completely dismantle Kit’s riddle as he’d intended, and were also digging very close to the actual burial spot. They had solved the puzzle at the same time Ken had, but Ken’s letter reached Kit first–and although it was far less elegant or complete, it was still technically correct. Their story–and their “perfect solution,” as it’s come be be known–is relayed in full in Bamber Gascoigne’s Quest for the Golden Hare–another reason that book is a must-read for Masquerade fans.

Frequent contributor James McLaughlin was nice enough to send along this transcription of a relevant Sunday Times article that appeared shortly after the book was solved (probably June 20, 1982):

A Golden Riddle is Solved
by Roy Perrott
THE SUNDAY TIMES can today give the solution to a master-riddle which more than a million people racked their brains to solve. The answer, desperately sought for more than two years by treasure-hunters of all ages, is contained in a 19-word acrostic: “Catherine’s/long finger/over/shadows/earth/buried/yellow amulet/midday/points/the/hour/in/light of equinox/look you”.

While this may be gobbledegook to those who have never heard of the children’s book Masquerade, the answer may bring a mixture of relief and chagrin to the army of readers who tried to find the vital words from picture clues in the best-selling story by Kit Williams.

No one is entitled to be more chagrined than two Lancashire teachers who, it was revealed last week, were alone in managing to put together the 19 words that could have led them to a valuable treasure. This was the gold and jewelled figure of a hare which the author buried two feet in the ground “somewhere in Great Britain,” shortly before the book’s publication in September 1979.

The men are John Rousseau, head of physics at Rossall School, Fleetwood, and Michael Barker, a physics teacher at William Hume’s Grammar School, Manchester. An article in today’s Sunday Times magazine tells how they missed the £5,000 jewel by a fraction.

The essential clue was in the initial letters of the words or phrases in the 19-word sequence above. They spell out “close by Ampthill”.

At the Bedfordshire village of Ampthill, you might have guessed from the 19 words, and other clues in the book, that the sun’s shadow cast by a statue of Catherine of Aragon at the equinox of March 22 would pinpoint the treasure.

As for what John Rousseau and Mike Barker are doing now, I don’t know, but I received a nice note from Daniel Morris saying “Mike Barker was my physics teacher at William Hulme’s Grammar School, Manchester, England during my time there 1982-1987. My class had read Masquerade when I was a young child at primary school and I used to love asking him about the golden hare and how he had dug and obviously just missed it or even turned it over! I don’t know if he still works there but the school has a website at whgs.co.uk.”

Obviously, if either Mike or John finds this page and would like to contribute any of their personal memories to the proceedings, I would be very pleased and grateful to incorporate them. 🙂

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

dan Stavisky February 27, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Mike Barker taught me physics at WHGS, what an amazing teacher and an amazing man. I still look back and am in awe of how he managed to command so much complete respect. Never needed to raise his voice but in his lesson you wouldn’t hear a pin drop. Watching him teach was liken watching an artist at work. Great teacher .What a gent.


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