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Barry/Berry/Barrymore – Anglo-Norman invaders

Barry is a popular surname in Ireland and while it has origins in the country it also has separate origins in Scotland and France.

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There are a number of variations including Berry, Barrie, Barrymore and Barryroes. It has also become a popular first name for boys and can be a shortened form of the names Barrington and Bartholomew.

History of the Irish name Barry. Image copyright Ireland CallingThe Barrys in Ireland are derived from a family known as Ó’Beargha. The ‘O’ prefix means ‘grandson of’ or ‘descendent of’ while Beargha was an Irish word for robber. So this line of Barrys were descended from a robber.

Another Irish family that came to be known as Barry are derived from the O’Baire. This meant descendent of Fionnbharr. Fionnbharr meant ‘fair head’. It isn’t known who the fair haired person was but it is likely to have been a warrior who was the leader of the clan.

Anglo-Norman invaders

The name Barry may have had origins in Ireland but a significant number of Irish Barrys today would have descended from a different source – Anglo Norman invaders. In France the de Barrys could have taken their name from the word ‘bari’ which is French for ‘rampart’ or ‘castle’.

Following the Norman conquest of England, Odo de Barry was granted estates in in the southern Welsh counties Pembrokeshire and Glamorgan, which included Barry Island, as a reward for his military success. Odo built Manorbier Castle in Pembrokeshire in the 12th century. The castle still stands today and is open to the public.

De Barry became a popular surname in Wales and Robert de Barry was one of the Norman knights who invaded Bannow, Co Wexford in 1169. Over the next couple of decades several more Barrys left Wales and headed for Ireland, mostly to Co Cork.

The surname split and developed

Eventually there were so many Barrys in Co Cork that the name began to develop and separate as a way of telling different families apart. Names such as Barry Mor (the senior), Barry Roe (the red), Barry Og (the young) and Barry Maol (the bald) emerged.

The town of Buttevant in Co Cork is named after the Barry battle cry ‘boutez en avant’ which is French for ‘strike forward’.

In Scotland the name originated from people who lived in the village of Barry. The word Barry meant a rough, grassy hill. The village was in the County of Angus that is now known as Forfarshire.

Notable Barrys

John Barry was born in Tacumshane, Co Wexford in 1745. After his family was driven out of their ancestral home by the British he emigrated to America. He became an Officer in the Continental Navy during the American Revolutionary War. He would later become an Officer in the US Navy and is regarded as the ‘Father of the American Navy’.

Charles Barry was an English architect who lived in the 19th century. He was known for bringing Italianate architecture to Britain, a return to grand 16th century Italian renaissance architecture. However, he is best known for designing one of the world’s most iconic buildings – the British Houses of Parliament, which are also known as the Palace of Westminster.

Vincent Barry was an Irish scientist who helped to develop a cure for leprosy. As many as 15 million lives have been saved as a result of his remarkable work. More on Vincent Barry.

Kevin Barry was an Irish Republican who was executed by the British for his refusal to inform on his fellow Irish Volunteers following the Easter Rising. His death caused outrage in Ireland as Barry was just 18 years old. His execution inspired the Irish rebel song ‘Kevin Barry’ which has been recorded by artists such as the Clancy Brothers, the Wolfe Tones and the Dubliners. More on Kevin Barry.

Famous Barrys, Barries, Berrys and Barrymores

Drew Barrymore is an American actress. She first hit stardom as a child and starred in the Steven Spielberg classic, ET. As an adult her success continued and she has appeared in several well-loved movies such as Charlie’s Angels, The Wedding Singer, Bad Girls, Donnie Darko and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.

Drew Barrymore. Photo copyright Courtney CC2
Drew Barrymore

Drew comes from a long line of actors. Her father John Drew Barrymore was a Hollywood actor as was her grandfather John Barrymore, great-uncle Lionel Barrymore and great-aunt Ethel Barrymore. Lionel won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in A Free Soul in 1931.

Halle Berry is an American actress. She won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Monster’s Ball in 2002. She has starred in several other popular moves including Die Another Day, Cloud Atlas, the Flintstones and the X-Men series

Chuck Berry is an American music legend who is remembered as a pioneer in rock ‘n’ roll music. His career spanned from the 1950s to the 2010s and released dozens of albums. John Lennon once said: “If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’.”

Bill Berry is an American musician who was the drummer for rock legends REM.

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Gareth Barry is a soccer player from Hastings, England. He represented his country during the 2010 World Cup and helped Manchester City win their first English league title for 44 years in 2012.

Chris Barrie is an English actor. He is well known for playing Arnold Rimmer in the cult British comedy series Red Dwarf.


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