A History of Algarve Expats – Part 7

The book Livro de registo de bilhetes de residência de estrangeiros, held by the  Arquivo Municipal de Lagos (Municipal Archive), takes us once again on a trip  through time.

WORDS Marta Nogueira and Sophie Sadler

On this occasion, and for the first time during our explorations through the archive, we were fortunate enough to meet up with one of the surviving expats contained within the register. This gave one particular record a voice of its own, thus bringing the book alive.  

Barry Sadler, now aged 87 years, lives on the Funchal Ridge in Lagos. On 2   June, I met Barry as he enjoyed a glass of red wine at home with his black Labrador, Cracker, and rescue dog, Willow, at his feet. He talked about his distant memory of being registered as an expat in  Lagos. According to the records from the archives, we know that this registration took place on 8 February 1972 (p.2). At that time, Barry Sadler was 35 years old.  He was born in Coventry (England) and was married. Barry’s occupation was listed as “agente comercial” (commercial agent) and his address was Quinta dos Celeiros (p.2). Barry appears again on 25 January 1973 and, this time, his wife is also listed. 

Record on the Livro de registo de bilhetes de residência de estrangeiros

Michelle Betty Sadler was 31 years old, a “doméstica” from  Derbyshire, UK, and was also located at Quinta dos Celeiros (p.5). Sadly, Michelle  Sadler died on 13 June 2021, shortly before they were due to move to their new bungalow. 

Barry Sadler attended Warwick School until he was 16 when he became a commis waiter at The Welcome Hotel in Stratford Upon Avon. In 1952, he enrolled as a student in hotel management at Birmingham College of Technology t, where he met his lifelong best friend, John  Brownsdon. John went on to become a master of wine and the friends spent many happy days together tasting wines from across the globe.  

We could surmise that Barry gained his taste for travel after his compulsory  National Service took him to Bermuda. The year was 1955, Barry was 19 and he  was called up for National Service. After three months of training at Aldershot Army Catering Corps, he boarded a flight, not knowing where he was going. Fortunately for him, his plane stopped at Bermuda, where he spent two pretty good years cooking in the officers’ mess! Here, he picked his first banana, and relayed this fact to his parents, who then sent him sugar, flour and butter in a tin so he could make a cake. A lovely idea, but the tin went by sea, so it took over six weeks to arrive – we can only imagine what the contents looked like! 

This was the beginning of Barry’s travel bug, which resulted in him working for  B.O.A.C as a first-class flight attendant for three years, travelling to Australia via places such as Baghdad, India and Singapore. His 21st birthday was spent enjoying the highlights of New York, a gift from his parents. He felt very lucky! 

Wanting to further his education in wine, he obtained a Vintners’ Bursary to study in France for six months. His parents bought him a red mini and off he set to tour the vineyards of France, going to Cognac, Bordeaux, The Rhône Valley,  Beaujolais and Champagne.  

Before he came to live in Lagos, Barry Sadler had already travelled to Portugal for his work for Rutherford, Osborne and Perkin, who were agents for Noval Port in the wine and spirit trade. He recalls those times fondly. It was a gentler period within a family business who were then less concerned with the commercial side. The first time Barry went to Porto he was  26 years old. “Rutherfords was a London wine shipper that, like many others, had representation in Portugal.” During that time, he often travelled to Portugal  (Porto) and met many Portuguese viniers who used to blend wine with port and brandy.  

Doro Valley

Barry remembers taking clients to Quinta do Noval in the Douro and selling them LBV (late bottle vintage). This was a relatively new concept for the English at that time, so the companies Barry worked for started marketing LBV to the UK market. During the sixties and seventies, Barry’s boss sold the business to Martini and Barry took the opportunity to leave. “I didn’t want to work for a big company like Martini,” he explained. Instead, he started to work in the wine division of Bass Worthington in Burton-on-Trent.  

During his time working for Bass, he met his future wife Michelle in a pub in Hull where his chat up line was simply “Beer or Babycham”.  She ordered a beer and Barry knew she was the woman of his dreams!

By complete coincidence, Michelle’s stepfather, Desmond, was a chairman at Bass and he didn’t approve of the match, considering his daughter to be far too good for the likes of Barry! 

His plan was to send Barry away to many different areas of the country to keep them as far apart as possible, hoping that their love would not endure. Thankfully, he failed, and love prevailed. Barry married  Michelle on 2 May 1964 at St. Mary’s Church in Rolleston. Needless to say, Desmond soon became very fond of Barry and the two of them became the best of friends for many years! 

While working for a family friend called John Horton’s business in Shropshire, Barry saw an advert in The Telegraph: by Symington & Garveigh, who were looking for an investor and partner in Praia da Luz. This was an opportunity to work with an expanding holiday leisure complex and Barry didn’t hesitate to make the decision. In fact, during our chat, we soon came to understand that “never hesitate” sums up  Barry’s personality and we were speaking not only with a businessman but also with an adventurous spirit who had no regrets about taking risks. “I was always ambitious and lived life to the full. And in life, you must take a risk. I took a lot of risks in Portugal and always had interesting work and challenges,” says Barry. 

In 1969, he set off to Portugal  on board the  Southampton to Lisbon ferry with just his Labrador dog, Benjy. His wife Michelle and daughter Claire followed shortly and they moved into Villa 6 Luz Bay Club. Their son Nicholas was born the following year.  

Having sold the family home in Shropshire, Barry bought 47% of Luz Bay Club with the proceeds of this sale (what a risk!), but it paid off and he became a third partner alongside David Symington and John Garveigh. However, life was not easy, even with the sun shining. There were times when Barry felt the world upon his shoulders, sitting on the shore of Luz beach with tears cascading down his face and the faithful Benjy licking them away.  

In 1971, an opportunity arose for Barry to work as the general manager for Vale do Lobo working for Costain Construction Lda. The family moved to Vale do Lobo, where Michelle became the first and only lady member of the Ocean Course and granted the right by the directors to walk her dogs on the course when she played golf! Claire and Nick recall riding their bicycles along the greens and kicking the odd football around. That certainly would not happen now! 

Family Holiday Vila Nova de Milfontes
Luz Beach 1974

However, with the revolution in 1974, Costains put Vale do Lobo into liquidation and, along with all the expats, Barry was sacked by the liquidator, having been  given £3000 full and final settlement! All foreigners were advised to return to their home countries, which many did; however, not the Sadler family! Stubborn and resilient, Barry returned to Praia da Luz during these unsettled times and continued to manage the staff of Luz Bay Club, most of whom had formed a workers union. 

We were curious to learn from Barry how expats coped with the revolution of 25April 1974: “We were told that there was a revolution, but we didn’t know exactly what it was. But my feeling was that, for a period of time, it looked like the people made their own law. We kept our heads down. Anyway, it didn’t last long and I always felt safe with never any risk of violence. I also remember there were more controls in  the main Avenue in Lagos (Avenida dos Descobrimentos)where people were being stopped in their cars to have their documents checked.” 

Barry eventually bought out his  partners and ran Luz Bay Club successfully for the next twenty-five years. During the 70s and 80s, his children Claire and Nick recall his parents hosting dinner parties for owners at their family home on Funchal, black tie events at the O Jardim restaurant at Luz Bay Club and countless drinks parties that lasted well into the wee hours!  

Barry and Michelle, Praia da Luz

Initially, in 1969, there were just 6 Luz Bay Club villas plus the clubhouse and pool. Building continued to 38, then 46, then 120, then another 78 plus 60 more houses at Luz Parque. Barry had 120 staff at any given time, so life was challenging! Luz Bay Club became a hub for the village, residents and tourists alike. Barry became a well-liked figure, often lighting fires in the villas for late-night arrivals and putting a bottle of wine in the fridge and a bowl of Algarvian oranges on the side. A small welcome to the Algarve. 

With Praia da Luz booming, he then began the sales side of the property business and thus Sadler’s Property was born. When Nick returned to the Algarve after attending university in America and then working for Douglas and Gordon in London, he started a new Sadler’s Property, which continues in Luz today.


Apart from work, Barry’s big passion has always been the ocean and boats. “I  remember my first fishing boat in Lagos  – Isabel – and motoring along the  Algarve coast in her,” says Barry. He then upgraded to a 23-feet fishing boat which he acquired in Tavira called Gizela. She had a sheepskin wig on the bowsprit, which was said to ward off evil spirits. Barry called it ‘Granny’s Wig’ much to the amusement of the kids –  though not to that of his very ladylike mother-in-law Pamela! Luckily, the family has a wonderful sense of humour and Pamela got her own back by sewing up one leg of his boxer shorts so Barry fell flat onto his face! How she giggled at this! In 1979, with the help of the Pereira family, who began and still own Sopromar boatyard in Lagos, Barry built a 28 ft wooden Wharram catamaran, Waimaru, which enabled him to sail to Gibraltar and further afield.  

The Marina didn’t exist in those days, so Barry kept his boat in the Lagos River.  In order to get to the boat, the family relied on an elderly gentleman aptly named  Obblegobble, as he had no teeth! “The sailing conditions were always perfect,” Barry says. “Most summer weekends were spent out on the water.” Barry also bought a speedboat called Slik, and after work, he would take his children off to the Alvor lagoon to learn how to waterski. Happy days! 

Fishing Boat in Alvor Lagoon 1976

In 1984, while visiting the London Boat Show at Earls Court, he upgraded to a 32-foot Southerly named after his first dog, Benjy Boy. Many more glorious days were spent on the water and, whilst on a trip to Gibraltar in 1988, he got talking to a fellow yachtsman and they exchanged yachts, some cash and a bottle of rum! Barry returned to Portugal in a 37-foot Oyster Heritage called Lady Clarinha (Lady C), which he then sailed to the Caribbean. There she cruised through the turquoise waters of the many unspoilt Caribbean islands before sailing up the Intracoastal Waterway to Charleston. 

Barry Sailing  Lady C
Barry and Michelle with Nick in 1978

Many idyllic Christmas holidays were spent in the Caribbean and unforgettable memories were made. 

We asked him why he chose to stay in Portugal. “I liked the climate and especially the wine,” he says. He talks about the “easy way of living in  Portugal”, although,  like many expats, he held onto some of his English ways of life. We can see it in simple things like food. Preparing English food could be challenging in those days while finding ingredients was often difficult. He recalls his wife Michelle trying to buy fresh cream from the nearby farms and the luxury of buying fresh milk in a plastic bag after a two-hour drive to Faro! The first major supermarket to arrive in Lagos was Intermarché in 1999; before that, Michelle would visit the old Baptista in Praia da Luz and a corner shop at the bottom of Funchal known by the locals as Quatro Estradas. 

Communications in the 70s and 80s were primitive. The Sadlers built their first home on Funchal in 1971/2 and called Portugal Telecom to install a phone. Their landline was finally installed 14 years later, in 1984! The family used to communicate via Telex from the Luz Bay Club office. Television, too, was limited to just RTP1 and RTP2, so family members in the UK would regularly record UK TV and send over VHF videos, which they circulated among fellow expats. Nick recalls the only TV show he was allowed to watch was The Muppet Show on Thursday evenings, whilst Claire was allowed to watch the futuristic Space 1999/ However, the TV highlight of the year was definitely the Eurovision Song Contest when it was always Sweden 12 points and Portugal 0 points.

Barry wanted his children to have an English education and was determined to ensure this happened. Michelle and a few other  English parents – John and Patricia Hay-Edie, Sally Vincent from Casa Grande and The Oxford Bar owners Margo and John, along with two teachers, Jackie Fialho and Sheena Donaldson – started up The English School (now called the Barlavento International Primary School). The initial seven children were taught in many locations, one of them being a bar – until the roof caved in! The Barlavento school – now in Espiche – has provided a steadfast primary education for many children in the Algarve, including three of Barry’s grandchildren: Sam, Max and Harry. 

Barry’s VW camper van in Boca do Rio

Summer holidays were not always on the water. Barry’s VW campervan took the family off to southern Spain, to France and even to England to visit all these posh boarding schools where pupils arrived in Bentleys and such … not Barry!! In Portugal, camping would often mean wild camping and was always on the west coast. Claire remembers a time when they were camping on Amado Beach and, in the middle of the night, were woken by the sight of smugglers with their lanterns making their way up the beach dragging their contraband with them. It was a scene very reminiscent of one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books and all very exciting for the children. Barry remembers those days well, telling us how the now busy surfing beaches were totally empty. “There were more cows with the biggest of horns on Amado beach, along with a shipwreck at the far end.” 

Many a weekend Barry would cook his favourite Coq au Vin on the beach for family and friends. His daughter still has the frying pan he used for so many years, which would be perched on a makeshift fire next to the inevitable garafão (5-litre jar) of wine! 

Gizela with the notorious frying pan and Coq au vin

Eating out was always a special occasion and the family recall their favourites were O Lanterna in Portimão for sole, O Galeão in Lagos for steak and Chez Michel e  René for skate and pancake surprise (the building, near MacDonalds is  now the police station) Eating out was such a privilege that the children had to dress up and Nick remembers being made to wear a jacket and tie while Claire wore a long dress. 

In 1979, aged 11 and 8, Claire and Nick were sent off to boarding school in  England. Faro airport used to be very different, with just three departure gates and one small café. Flights to the UK were few and far apart and journey time along the N125 from Lagos would often take three or so hours in the summer. On one occasion, due to a missed connection, the children had to take a taxi from Lisbon airport to Lagos. Years before the motorway was built this trip took seven long hours.  

So, it was a tough time for Michelle and Barry, but a continuing line of furry friends ensured the home stayed busy. The children returned home every holiday with a considerable entourage of friends in tow! Chicken and chips, and melon with melon ice cream became the staple diet! 

Luz Bay Club 1978

In 1983, Barry’s company invested in a prime waterfront site in Luz and built a  22-apartment complex in Praia da Luz known as The Luz Beach Apartments, which the family still continues to run as a successful business. At this time, there were almost no apartment buildings in Luz. It was the same with nightlife, so Barry started O Pirata disco, which is now part of the Zazu building, “what many of you may recall as O Poço). “Luz needed some nightlife as a  resort”, says Barry. It was not one of his better ideas, with motorbikes revving up right outside the apartment windows at 4 am!! Needless to say, the disco is no more.

Sadler Family going to Queens Silver Jubilee 1977
Barry Sadler

Although there were also hard times and difficulties along the way, Barry and  Michelle built a wonderful life in Portugal and, in 1990, their second house was built, again in Funchal, which became a happy meeting place for the family,   including their five grandchildren, all who grew up in the Algarve. Barry now enjoys a more sedentary life. I asked him if he took another trip where he would like to go and he answered , “Nowhere, I have done it all.” He has undoubtedly travelled the globe in many modes of transport! 

Barry has been in the Algarve for 53 years. He has seen Praia da Luz grow and  his own life story helps to provide important information on the history of Luz village itself. He is one of the ex-pats who helped change Luz from a fisherman’s village to a successful, pretty tourist village, which became a resort that families and friends return to year after year. 

Courtesy of the Sadler family


Arquivo Municipal de Lagos (AMLGS) – Fundo da Administração do Concelho  – Livro de registo de bilhetes de residência de estrangeiros (AMLGS – E122/P6/301/1). 

Arquivo Municipal de Lagos (AMLGS) – Fundo da Câmara Municipal de Lagos  – Registo de estrangeiros com A.R. [autorização de residência] anual (1972- 1974), (AMLGS – E129/P6/544).


Share this edition