Farewell for the 'Building Bishop'

March 1938

In 1938, the Catholic Church entrusted to WN Bull Funerals the responsibility for arranging the funeral of one of its most distinguished servants. Dr John Barry, highly-esteemed Bishop of Goulburn, died in a Sydney hospital in March 1938 after being taken ill while attending a Eucharistic Congress in Newcastle.

News article after the funeral for Dr Barry of Goulburn

Born in County Cork, Ireland, in 1875, Bishop Barry was the eldest son of ten children in a farming family. He was sent to Melbourne after his 1899 ordination, serving as a parish priest before being appointed to high offices in the archdiocese of Melbourne and earning the friendship of its eminent Archbishop, Daniel Mannix.

According to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, during his years as Bishop of Goulburn from 1924 to 1938 he became known as the ‘building bishop’, responsible for the renovation of Goulburn Cathedral and for founding or extending schools, hospitals, orphanages and homes for the elderly.

The warm regard which his congregation felt for this energetic, devout and genial figure was clearly demonstrated at the substantial funeral arranged by WN Bull in accordance with Catholic ceremony. Contemporary newspapers report the sombre tolling of the bell in Goulburn Cathedral on the day of his death, and again in both the Catholic and Anglican Cathedrals during the funeral service. Bishops, priests and faithful members of the flock came from all parts of New South Wales and from Victoria.

The cortege included ‘a long line of motor cars exceeding 200’ and an honour guard of schoolboys stood to attention in the main street.

Archbishop Mannix delivered the funeral oration, in the presence of Prime Minister Joseph Lyons. “He was a personal friend, and I valued his friendship dearly,” the Prime Minister is reported as saying. “He was respected by all sections of the community, and his kindliness and humanitarian work endeared him to everyone with whom he came in contact.” Bishop Barry was buried in the Goulburn Catholic cemetery, but his remains were later transferred to a resting place beneath the altar in the cathedral.

WN Bull’s staff bring their attention to detail, and observance of the particular needs of members of the Catholic church, to every funeral they organise. Whether the deceased is a celebrated bishop or simply a member of the wider Catholic community, no pains are spared in their commitment to the creation of a fitting and memorable tribute.