Mehaul Magner, noted local historian did some fantastic research into Thomas Barry, whose brilliantly restored monument at Annakissa church was unveiled on the 12th of June 2022. Part of the speech, prepared for the ceremony in Annakissa, are kindly reproduced here.
Thomas Barry was born at Ballyduff, Killavullen, on March27th 1850. He was the last of nine children – one boy and eight girls - born to Bartholomew Barry and Johanna Fouhy between 1835 and 1850. Two of the girls died at childbirth – leaving a family of seven. His father was well to-do, he farmed 112 acres at Ballyduff. The holding is at present farmed by Thomas’ great grand nephew. There is a possible connection between the the Barrys and Nagles as it is believed that Edmond Burke spent his childhood years in the house at Ballyduff and from there attended O’Halloran’s hedge school.
Tom Barry grew up during a period of rapid agricultural development during the years after the Great Famine. In 1860 Bartholomew, his father, was prosperous enough to lease from Henry Smyth and his sister Penelope 128 acres at Castlewidenham, Castletownroche, for an annual rent of £190. This was probably a marriage settlement between one of Barry’s daughters and Michael Hanlon. He also held 174 acres at Ballygarrane, Killavullen, in 1875. It was at Ballygarrane that Thomas farmed until his death in 1904, where he lived with two unmarried sisters.
Thomas became active in local politics and in the land struggle from the early days of the Land League. When the Irish National League, inaugurated by Parnell in 1882, replaced the Land League, he, along with his local Colleagues organised a branch in Killavullen. A disturbance occurred on 9 September 1887 when police fired on rent strikers in Mitchelstown , killing three, in what became known as the “Mitchelstown Massacre.” The authorities went above and beyond the usual whitewash of police brutality by awarding a £1,000 judgment to a constable who was wounded in the course of the massacre, which would be raised by an additional tax on the Irish — one that would come to be called the “The Leahy Blood Tax”.
It was while a member of this organisation that he spent six months in Cork Gaol for his opposition to the Leahy Blood Tax. It has been stated that the fight made by Barry and others against the infamous tax for the protection of landlords and landgrabbers was so successful that it led to the breakdown of the system and the abolition of the police tax throughout the country.
Much of his time between 1888 and 1893 was taken up with obstructing the collection of the infamous “Leahy Blood Tax”
On his release from gaol he was presented with an illuminated address by the local members of the League. John O’Callaghan Secretary of the Boston United Irish League said: ‘At an early stage in the Land League Movement Mr Barry succeeded in wresting from the local landlords the representation in the Poor Law Board in Mallow, and one by one the blows he struck at the Castle institution succeeded in finally demolishing it. The Board which he entered alone as a Nationalist twenty years ago is today unanimously a Nationalist body, and mainly through his effort. On more than one occasion he declined to allow himself to be nominated for a seat in Parliament’. One of the League’s functions was to organise conventions at which candidates were chosen for general elections; as a member Barry was approached to stand for Parliament.
Following the extensive reforms in Local Government in 1898, Tom Barry became a member of Cork County Council for the Mallow Division from 1899 to 1902, and, from 1902 until his death he was an ex officio member of the council . He was chairman of the Rural District Council from its inception. In the 1899 County Council election the Nationalists were united and put forward Barry who beat Newman the Unionist candidate by 980 votes to 510. In 1902 Barry and some of his Mallow friends had a few confrontations with J.J.Fitzgerald, the Chairman of the Urban District Council, and his followers. These confrontations and a growing feeling that Mallow town needed a representative on the Council now that it had been constituted an Urban District Council, resulted in the Nationalists failure to put forward an unanimously selected candidate. Consequently the 1902 County Council election in the Mallow area becoming a bitterly fought contest. The result was a decisive win for Fitzgerald. However as chairman of the Rural District Council Tom Barry retained his seat, becoming an ex officio member of Cork County Council.
At meetings of constituency organisations, candidates for parliamentary elections were chosen and subsequent campaigns organised. Barry would have been involved in all these activities. Barry displayed great ability when it came to controlling meetings. For instance at the convention of the United Irish League held at Fermoy to select a Nationalist candidate for North East Cork in the 1900 general election he proposed Wm. Abraham to contest the constituency and had a colleague ready to second his proposal ahead of anyone else making a proposal. The outcome was that Abraham was unopposed.
Tom Barry was also imprisoned later in his life on charges of failing to pay a fine. A report on the Cork Examiner on July 9th 1890 said that:
There was a large attendance at a meeting of Killavullen National League. Mr. J. O’Callaghan of the Boston Daily Globe, who presided, spoke at length on the circumstances of Mr. Thomas Barry’s so called trial and imprisonment. He condemned the action of certain Fermoy Nationalists, who seemed afraid to show sympathy with Mr Barry on the occasion of his trial. The secretary, Mr J Russell, and others also dealt with this subject, and a resolution was adopted condemning the prosecution of Mr Barry.
As a member of the committee of Cork Lunatic Asylum, Barry was highly regarded for his caring attitude towards the patients. In paying tribute to him, Dr. Woods, senior house officer said “… and perhaps from no other member of the committee have I received more numerous letters showing greater interest in the institution than from Mr. Barry”.
He helped William O’Brien organise the United Irish League in his native district. At the time of his death he represented North East Cork on the National Directory, and was negotiating the purchasing of two estates under the new Purchase Act.
As a Poor Law Guardian and as chairman of the Rural District Council Tom Barry did tremendous work. Many of the cottages built on one acre sites from the 1880’s up to 1904 were due to the sympathy and energy of Tom Barry towards the labourers cause. People in parts of the parish had been living in appalling conditions. In October 1883 Barry visited two house at Clenor which he found in a wretched condition, having only one small room in each. The occupiers had large families, some of them grown men and women all sleeping in the one room. The Board recommended that two houses be built and two plots of ground be added in an adjacent field. He was, more than any other man, responsible for the revolutionary changes in the social and political life of this district.
Tom Barry died on May 9th 1904 at the age of 54. Although reports at the time mentioned that his death was untimely, the cause of his passing as written into the death cert was influenza and cardiac failure. His funeral here at Annakissa was attended by a large number of relatives and a large body of public representatives. The illustrious author, Canon Sheehan, then Parish Priest of Doneraile, was one of the many clergy who officiated at the ceremony. Also in attendance was Malllow’s William O’Brien M.P. who said of Barry, “ I can remember Tom Barry almost as long as I can anything in life. He and I were bound together by comradeship in many a stormy hour of battle for Ireland, and by a political and personal friendship that was never for a moment broken, up to the hour of his death”
Thomas Barry was also the very first Chairman of Killavullen GAA Club, when it was formed on the 15th of February 1888.