Redmond Barry,younger brother of James Barry

Printed text: ‘Coroner's Inquest’, The Times, 17 June 1825, p. 4

Printed text: Examiner,631(30 January 1820), 77

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Redmond Barry (1754-1825)

Redmond Barry, younger brother of James Barry, was born in Co. Cork, son of John and Juliana Barry.1 There were two other sons, Patrick and John, and a daughter Mary Anne, who described her brothers Redmond and Patrick as 'wild'(Bulkley to Barry, 14 January 1805). [go] What details we have of Redmond’s life are in stark contrast to the career of his celebrated brother. The difference highlights a number of points: first, the gap between James Barry’s life and the fortunes of his siblings; second, the unusual determination and tireless energy James Barry gave to his career as an artist; third, the story of Redmond gives a wry irony to Barry’s painting with a nautical theme –‘Commerce, or the triumph of the Thames’, which includes a number of mariners riding upon sea-horses. [img] When Barry later added the naval pillar, he meant to honour Britain’s naval victories in the Napoleonic wars. The images take on a romantic extravagance if the ‘mariner’ Redmond Barry’s experiences are taken into account.

Although Redmond started out as a bricklayer, he soon joined the Royal Navy, probably about 1775 when he first went to London. The writing and spelling in his letters to James Barry indicate that he was barely literate. He started his career in the navy on HMS Ocean, a three-decker ship of the line with 90 guns, launched in 1761, then served on several warships: he writes to his brother James from HMS Hound(30/6/ 1777); [go] later he is registered as serving on HMS Cumberland from 28 August 1780 to 18 June 1781, but is woefully unhappy. Based at Sheerness during his early service he has an address for his now famous brother and writes, if not visits from time to time. Thinking James might be able to help him, he writes that he finds his fellow crew members, ‘the greatest Villains I suppose that Could be Found any where,’ and asks, ‘Dear Brother God bless You and me into Consideration as soon as Possible and Free me from my Present Misery’(9 March 1781). [go] In spite of this unhappiness, he perseveres. A letter to James Barry in 1802 indicates he is still a ‘mariner’ as he liked to sign himself, and in London (23/7/1802). [go] The Examiner says he had been ‘paid off with the rest of the crew from the ‘Resolution’,' a ship that had been in the West Indies captained by Hon. Capt. A.A.Gardner. In the following year he again writes to Barry, now from HMS Mars, a 74 gun man-of-war, that was to take part in the battle of Trafalgar in 1805; in 1803 he is back in London after a visit to his sister and her husband in Ireland (ante 2/5/ 1803). [go]

Redmond saw his brother James for the last time in 1805 when he visited him at his house in Castle Street. In the following year he wrote to him while at sea, only to receive an answer from Mr Turner, an attorney, informing him that James Barry had died. He returned to London to discuss with his sister Mary Anne the settlement of James’s effects. Among the Barry papers is a receipt dated 12 August 1806, and signed, supposedly, by Mary Ann Bulkley and Redmond Barry for the 'papers Monies & other Effects found upon Mr. Barry's person'.2 These amounted to £41.14.9d in cash and two cheques, one for £100, the other for £63.

How Barry's estate was distributed between the sister and brother remains somewhat confused.3 In July 1806 the Prerogative Court in Canterbury, in considering 'the Goods of James Barry', approved, inter alia, of a letter of attorney for Redmond Barry: the judge had found out 'that Redmond Barry was a Brother of the deceased and belonging to a Prison Ship at Portsmouth and desired me to make out a new power of attorney for him to execute authorizing the above Gentleman to take the Administration for his use and benefit'. This was done.What money went to Redmond was deposited in a bank account and he was able to draw on it through Reardon.

We know that by this stage Redmond had married. Some of the receipts for money received from the family Lawyer, Mr Daniel Reardon, are signed by Redmond with the mark also of Mary Barry.4 It is difficult to say who his wife was, but she may have been Mary Donegan, who married Redmond Barry in the diocese of Cork and Ross in 1793.

On 1 December 1806 Mary Ann applied to the lawyer Mr Reardon to raise £300 from the estate to enable her to buy out Redmond Barry's interest in the estate. A reeipt dated 23 January 1807 from the lawyer Reardon to James Comerford acknowledges the power of attorney on behalf of both Mary Ann and Redmond. Within days of this, it seems, Redmond was paid out, since a receipt signed by Redmond on 4 February states, 'Received of Mr Danl Reardon the sum of Two hundred Pounds out of the Sum of Three hundrend & eighty Pounds lodged by me in his Hands as my Banker'. On the following day he withdrew two amounts, £50 and £10, and on 9 March £20. At auctions of Barry's goods in April 1807, conducted by Christie's, the sale of Barry's drawings, sketches, and paintings raised £893.1.0, the prints and books £702.3.0; after Christie's commission and bills had been paid, £724.15.0 remained. A sum of £300 was then taken out of this, perhaps the money Reardon had raised for Mary Ann to buy out her brother.

For some years Mary Ann, as Mrs Bulkley, was constantly in touch with Reardon over later initiatives to capitalise on Barry's estate, for instance the sale of prints of his work and the publication of his writings by Dr Fryer in 1809. Her main concern was to provide for her daughter who, with the help of Dr Fryer and Lord Buchan, had embarked on medical studies in Edinburgh. She adopted, ironically, the name 'James Barry', posed as a male student, and thus in 1810 began her remarkable career as a male surgeon in the navy.5

Redmond used up what money he had inherited from James fairly quickly. In 1810 he wrote to Reardon from the ship 'Captivity' that he had sent five letters to him but had received no answer: 'Now that Misfortune has placed me in this deploreable Scandalous Unhappy Situation...I can Assure you, I am so Indigent that I was under Necessatty Necessity to sell my Allowance of Bread for one day to get one penney penny to buy paper to write this to you'. Reminding Reardon that he is his ' Onley only friend', he asks for news of his sister and her daughter, and begs a reply.

In 1811 Redmond was in the West Indies, and on his way back was struck by lightning and blinded. He was landed at Bristol from where he proceeded to London, hoping to make contact with his sister. However, he failed to locate her. As the Examiner put it in 1820, ‘the only support he has derived for his wife and himself has been from the casual charity of the passing stranger’. Redmond was destitute for the remaining years of his life.

The Society of Arts, hearing of his condition, issued a printed appeal for the relief of Redmond Barry, in honour of his late brother James. According to the Times, his indigence had come to the notice of the Society who issued a call for subscriptions, ‘to shield the remnant of his life from the pressing necessity he has so long endured’. The signatories from the Society considered that his long naval service meant he had a claim to the benevolence of the public ‘on his own account’, and doubly so since he was the brother of ‘a man whose works do so much honour to the country’. The appeal raised £40.6 This helped pay off his debts, but Redmond was soon ‘as much embarrassed as ever’.

The Times account paints a woeful picture of the poverty he lived in during his final years. He and his wife lived in ‘a hovel of the most miserable and filthy description in Maynard Street,’ and was ‘actually starving’. As he was unable to look for work, he was dependent on his wife, ‘who earned a shilling a day at army clothing,’ of which 6d went on each night’s rent. In his last days he sat begging outside the chapel in Crown Street, Soho Square.

Some years before the question arose as to whether this Redmond Barry, living in such penury, was in fact James Barry’s brother. The Examiner wrote, ‘With regard to proof, those who have examined this object of charity doubt not that he is the brother of Barry for the following reasons: first, from the many stories of the early lives of Barry and himself: - secondly, from his constant adherence to one relation without prevarication: - and lastly, from the strong family resemblance'. There is a hint of disbelief that the famous painter’s brother could have ended his days in such penury. As if to put the identity beyond doubt the Examiner includes this testament to the Society’s committee from a woman in Howland Street: ‘Mrs. Murphy’s compliments to Mr.-----, and informs him, that for upwards of thirty years she remembers Redmond Barry calling occasionally on Mr. Murphy, who told her, on her saying, the first time she saw him, what a shabby man he was, that he was the brother of one of the most able painters in England, and that he had by his own folly brought himself to that situation by leaving his father’s house at a very early age, that he was a poor honest fellow, and that he went to school with him. If it is necessary for the satisfaction of those whose charity prompts them to the relief of this suffering man, Mr. Murphy should be written to. If Mr. M. was in England, Mrs. M. knows he would identify R. Barry immediately’.

A begging letter from Redmond to Reardon in 1824, a year before he died, speaks of his poor state of health that prevents him from travelling any more. He asks, as his 'last shift', the loan of a pound 'to get a stand to let frute fruit to let frute fruit then I could not be Prevented by any one'. He writes from Mrs Fitgerald's, 11 Church Lane, St. Giles's.7

Redmond died in St. Giles's in 1825. An inquest was held at ‘Hare and Hounds’, Buckridge Street, St Giles’s, before Thomas Stirling, coroner. The report in the Times concludes, ‘The body of the deceased is now lying at St. Giles’s workhouse for interment in the parish vault’.

Whatever the relationship between James Barry and his brother Redmond,as well as his other siblings, their separate lives indicate how much more fortunate James had been from the start. His gift for painting, his early friendship with Dr Sleigh, who taught him so much about literature, and then the support and friendship of Edmund Burke all contributed to a career that he pursued with singular determination and passion. The alternative, as demonstrated by Redmond, did not bear thinking about.