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Statue of Sir Redmond Barry
outside the State Library of Victoria

Statue of Sir Redmond Barry

Sir Redmond Barry
Judge, benefactor
7 June 1813 - 23 November 1880

 

Possibly no person better represents the contrasts and contradictions of early Melbourne than Judge Redmond Barry.

He was a pillar of the community making pronouncements on moral matters. Yet he never married the woman who bore him four children.

He was often merciless in his application of the law. He would not allow the convicts who murdered John Price to have a defence counsel, and tried to invoke the charge of treason for those involved in the Eureka Stockade. If Ned Kelly is to be believed, Barry's treatment of Ned's mother was harsh and unjust. Yet the same man had chosen to represent aborigines in his early days as a lawyer. He also campaigned for a free library, and allowed members of the public to use his own private library until Melbourne Public Library (now called the State Library of Victoria) was opened. (I don't think anyone attempted to steal a book from 'the hanging judge'.) He was also a promoter of the Royal Society, the Melbourne Hospital and the Philharmonic Society.

At the age of 26 he sailed for Australia, and was soon confined to his cabin because of his open affair with a married woman. Yet he was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court by the age of 38.

When he arrived in the Colony of Port Phillip in 1839 as a young Irish lawyer, Melbourne was a 'wild west' village at the end of the earth. By the time he died in 1880, Melbourne was a significant world city with great buildings and boulevards, and he was its chief judge and Chancellor of its university.

His statue, erected 7 years after he died, now stands outside the State Library.

Because Redmond Barry embodies so much of the development of early Melbourne, we choose to end the Tour of Melbourne Cemetery at his grave and in sight of the modern Redmond Barry Building at Melbourne University.

 

Sir Redmond Barry - graveHis tombstone reads:

SIR REDMOND BARRY

First Puisne Judge of the Colony of Victoria
Chancellor of the University of Melbourne
For 28 Years
And Founder of the
Melbourne Public Library

Third Son of
Major General Barry
of Ballyclough, County Cork, Ireland

Died 23rd November 1880
Aged 67 Years

Deeply and Universally Regretted

It does not mention that buried with him is Louisa Barrow - his beloved mistress and mother of the four children who bore his name

This grave can be visited on White Hat Tours' highly entertaining and informative Tour of Melbourne Cemetery. Just be sure to tell your guide at the start of the tour that this is one of the graves you wish to see.

 

Colourful and unflattering pronouncements on Redmond Barry can be found in the works of historian Manning Clark and in the book Radical Melbourne. You can also find descriptions of him in Garryowen's Melbourne

 

Redmond Barry:
An Anglo-Irish Australian

Ann Galbally
If you are interested in a more rounded evaluation of Redmond Barry, then we would recommend this book as the most comprehensive biography of this man who represented much of what was both good and bad in early Victorian society. Click here to buy this book online from Seek Books (Australia).

Portraits