John Charles McDonald Barry was
born in Edinburgh in 1917. He was educated at the Fort Augustus
School and then attended Cambridge University in England and
the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg, Baden-Württemberg
in Germany. On returning to the UK at the outbreak of the Second
World War, he entered Oscott College, which is the senior seminary
for the Archdiocese of Birmingham in England.
He was ordained a priest in 1944 and his first appointment
after seminary as newly ordained, 27 year old priest was to
St Patrick's Kilsyth here in Scotland, where he was to serve
as assistant to his Parish Priest, Canon
After experiencing life in parish ministry and as soon as it
was safe to do so after the end of the Second World War, Fr
Barry was to return to further academic study in Rome from 1946
until 1949 where he was a gold medal winner and was awarded
a doctorate in canon law. On his return to Scotland he took
up another post as assistant priest in St Cuthbert's Edinburgh
from 1949 until 1950 and then he was transferred to St Anothony's,
Polmont for 4 years from 1950 to 1953.
After what was now a long period of experience in Parish life,
Fr Barry was asked to return to acedemia - this time as a Professor
at Drygrange Seminary from 1953 to 1960 and then as Rector of
Drygrange Seminary from 1960 to 1977.
In the latter part of his career he returned to parish life
serving as Parish Priest at St Mark's, Oxgangs in Edinburgh
from 1977 to 1989 and then as Parish Priest of Our Lady Star
of the Sea in North Berwick.
He died on 19th July, 2003, in North Berwick's Eddington Hospital,
Good and faithful servant of God. May he rest in peace!
Monsignor John Barry
The article below was first published
in the Scotsman on 24th July 2003 and is reproduced by kind
Obituary - Monsignor John Charles McDonald
Barry, priest. Written by Michael Turnbull
Born: 26 September, 1917, in Edinburgh. Died: 19 July, 2003,
in North Berwick, aged 85.
JOHN Barry, for many years a leading canon lawyer for the Archdiocese
of St Andrews and Edinburgh, was the oldest of five boys, whose
family, originally of Irish stock, owned the rag merchants John
Barry of Leith.
His parents were deeply involved in Catholic affairs, his father,
John, being secretary of the Catholic Truth Society in Edinburgh,
and his mother, Dorothy, founding the influential Union of Catholic
Mothers in 1942.
Their eldest son attended the Abbey School, Fort Augustus,
and went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1935, intending
to enter the diplomatic service. But by 1937 he had resolved
to become a priest.
After graduating the following year with a double first in
French and German, he began his seminary studies at the Albertinum
of Freiburg University, before going on to St Mary’s,
Oscott, in Sutton Coldfield. After his ordination in 1944, he
first served as a curate at Kilsyth (1944-46) and then attended
the Gregorian University, Rome (1946-49), where he was a gold
medal winner and was awarded a doctorate in canon law.
Upon returning to Scotland, he became an assistant priest at
St Cuthbert’s, Edinburgh (1949-50), and then at St Anthony’s,
When, in 1953, the diocesan seminary of St Andrew’s,
Drygrange, opened in the Borders, he was appointed as one of
its professors and later became rector (1960-77), in which capacity
he guided generations of students during the heady, but precarious,
years after the end of the Second Vatican Council - this was
a time when (in the words of the late Cardinal Gordon Gray)
priestly celibacy was being attacked and authority questioned.
In the late 1960s, every diocese in Scotland suffered heavy
losses of men leaving the priesthood.
Fr Barry’s role during the Second Vatican Council is
not widely appreciated. In 1960, as rector of Drygrange, he
had enthusiastically answered the Congregation for Seminaries’
request to start discussions among his students, many of whom
strongly supported the ecumenical movement.
When it came to compiling Archbishop Gordon Gray’s suggestions
for council debate (vota), Fr Barry advised him, for example,
on whether to question nuclear weapons testing and stockpiling
(a subject close to the archbishop’s heart) and also translated
the archbishop’s vota into elegant Latin.
In October 1962, he accompanied the archbishop to Rome as his
canon law expert, but was obliged to return to his duties at
Drygrange shortly thereafter. Throughout the council, however,
he continued in his advisory role to the archbishop.
During his time at Drygrange, Fr Barry also found time to launch
and edit the influential journal Canon Law Abstracts.
When he retired from there in 1977, he went back to parish
work, first at St Mark’s, Oxgangs, in Edinburgh (1977-89)
and then at Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in North Berwick - it
was at the town’s Eddington Hospital that he passed away.
As a canon lawyer, who was often approached by ordinary Catholics
for advice on their marital problems, Fr Barry was deeply aware
of pastoral needs. He had warned Archbishop Gray in September
1963 that the clergy believed a marriage guidance council was
an urgent necessity.
He continued to press the diocesan authorities on the subject
and, by August 1965, staff had been selected for the Catholic
Marriage Advisory Council and were ready to start their work.
For all his erudition, Fr Barry enjoyed telling jokes against
himself. He chuckled as he recalled that he had once been described
as "like Morecambe Bay on a sunny day; bright but shallow".
His boyish sense of humour masked the fact that he was an incisive
thinker and always a challenging speaker, especially from the
pulpit. He was a man of wide-ranging interests who revelled
in debate and discussion. It was fitting, therefore, that he
was chosen to take part in the examination of the cause for
the beatification of the Edinburgh-born trade unionist and Poor
Clare nun Margaret Sinclair.
He was also for some years a consultor to the pontifical commission
for the revision of the Code of Canon Law.
In the 1960s, having been a chaplain on a National Trust for
Scotland cruise to Mull, Skye, St Kilda and Scapa Flow, he became
a distinguished lecturer and cruise-leader himself on more than
a dozen cruises. In his leisure time, Fr Barry endeared himself
to the whole community of North Berwick through his informative
and witty slide-lectures.
He was a frequent contributor to periodicals and in 1957 (along
with Dr AT Macqueen) published his translation of Franois Leuret
and Henri Bon’s Modern Miraculous Cures: A Documented
Account of Miracles and Medicine in the 20th Century. In 1967
the Stair Society issued his translation (from the Latin) of
William Hay’s (c 1470-1542) lectures on marriage.
In October 1994, while walking at Tollcross in Edinburgh, Fr
Barry suddenly collapsed after a cardiac arrest. He was, in
his own words, "clinically dead", but he was resuscitated
by a passing first-aider and made a successful recovery. "God
gave me a second chance and I’m not going to waste it",
was his typical response.
The result was that his series of newspaper articles, I
am a Catholic Protestant, were re- published in book form
in 1997, giving answers to 57 topics which he believed often
puzzled Catholics, such as "Is God in Hell?",
"Devotion to the Devil", "I am a Sacrament"
and "Peter’s Pence and the Vatican Finances".
Another publication, Naval Battles That Never Were (1999),
investigated a number of tragic incidents at sea where ships
were sunk although no enemy vessels were within hundreds of
miles. These included the Battle of May Island involving K-boats
(steam-driven submarines), Tripoli Bay (1893) and Bloody Foreland
(at one of the northernmost points of Donegal).
A man of great humanity and perception, Fr Barry was widely
known and respected. He also understood very well the direction
in which the Catholic Church in Scotland was heading. In 1997,
bearing in mind the growing shortage of priests, Fr Barry had
written with his usual mixture of controversy and prophetic
common sense: "Before long, we shall have priestless
parishes and Massless Sundays. Lay people will conduct the Sunday
liturgy and give Holy Communion. There will be plenty of opportunities
of exercising your priesthood. That’s vocation. That’s
God’s call. God’s blessing will be guaranteed."