Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Barry (1875–1938)

by Patrick O'Farrell

This article was published:

John Barry (1875-1938), Catholic bishop, was born on 18 June 1875 near Freemount, County Cork, Ireland, eldest son of 10 children of Simon Barry, farmer, and his wife Mary. His parents were intensely religious: a brother became president of an American seminary and two sisters were nuns. Educated at the parish school and at St Colman's College, Fermoy, he studied for the priesthood at St Patrick's College, Maynooth, where he was ordained on 18 June 1899.

Barry left for Australia that year, arriving in Melbourne on 8 November. After serving as curate at Dandenong and St Kilda East, he was parish priest at Mansfield in 1907-12; he travelled overseas in 1910. In 1912 he took over the new parish of Balaclava and in March 1917 was appointed by Archbishop Carr administrator of St Patrick's Cathedral and chancellor of the archdiocese of Melbourne. On Carr's death two months later, he was confirmed in his offices by Archbishop Mannix, and was prominent in administering the building funds of Newman College, University of Melbourne, and of Corpus Christi College, Werribee. In 1920, during Mannix's absence overseas, Barry was in charge of the archdiocese. He won repute as a hard-working and efficient organizer, a man of active holiness and a genial and considerate host. From the same Irish diocese as Mannix, he had his trust and friendship.

On 5 March 1924 Barry was appointed bishop of Goulburn and was consecrated there on 29 June by the apostolic delegate, Dr B. Cattaneo. In his diocese, which included Canberra, he became known as a 'building bishop' despite the onset of the Depression. He renovated Saints Peter and Paul's Cathedral, Goulburn, made large extensions to the Hospital of St John of God, extended the orphanages and founded a technical school and a diocesan library. He also began to develop Catholic institutions in Canberra with moves in 1927 towards the erection of a church, school and convent and plans for a cathedral worthy of the nation's capital. A strong advocate of systematic visitations, he travelled incessantly within his diocese. He became known throughout Australia for his vigorous sponsorship of the Holy Name Society, which he saw as the main area of activity for Catholic Action.

Possessing restless energy, 'a flair for diplomacy and a never-failing sense of humour', Barry was popular both with his own flock and other denominations. He became ill in February 1938 while attending the Regional Missionary and Eucharistic Congress at Newcastle, and died of coronary occlusion in Lewisham Hospital, Sydney, on 22 March. After a well-attended funeral at which Mannix read the oration, he was buried in the Catholic cemetery at Kenmore, Goulburn. His estate was valued for probate at £1912.

Select Bibliography

  • W. F. Whyte, Monsignor P. M. Haydon (Syd, 1952)
  • R. T. Wyatt, The History of Goulburn (Syd, 1972)
  • A. J. McGilvray, The Hallowed High Adventure (Syd, 1973)
  • Our Cathedral Times, 10 Apr 1938
  • Footprints (Melbourne), July 1971
  • Catholic Press (Sydney), 6 Mar 1924, 24, 31 Mar 1938
  • Goulburn Evening Penny Post, 23, 25 May 1938
  • Sydney Archdiocesan Archives (St Mary's Cathedral).

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Patrick O'Farrell, 'Barry, John (1875–1938)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 13 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


18 June, 1875
Freemount, Cork, Ireland


22 March, 1938 (aged 62)
Lewisham, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

heart disease

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

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