Barry, Arthur Hugh Smith (1843–1925), 1st and last Baron Barrymore , landlord and politician, was born 17 January 1843 at Leamington, Warwickshire, elder son (among two sons and two daughters) of James Hugh Smith Barry (1816–56), JP, DL, of Fota, Co. Cork, and Marbury, Cheshire, and his wife Elizabeth (d. 1915), daughter of Shallcross Jacson of Newton Bank, Cheshire. Anglo-Irish in the material sense, the family lands encompassed 22,000 acres in Co. Cork and Co. Tipperary, and over 5,000 in Cheshire and Huntingdonshire.
Arthur Hugh succeeded to the family estates in 1856 while still a minor. He was educated at Eton and Christ Church, Oxford (1863–5; he did not proceed to a degree). As the head of one of the great families of Co. Cork, it was expected that he would follow a political career; and in 1867 he was duly elected as one of the youngest MPs at a by-election for the county. Reelected in 1868 as one of two liberals, he did not stand in 1874. As a liberal, he favoured extension of the franchise, denominational education, and disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, voting for the latter in 1869; but it is as a doughty defender of Irish landlordism that he is principally remembered. Described as an ‘aggressive busybody’ by Archbishop Thomas Croke (qv), he stood up to boycotting, firstly in the Property Defence Association and then with the foundation of the Cork Defence Union in October 1885. Providing flying columns of labourers and machinery for boycotted persons and organising sales outlets for boycotted produce, its success lay in avoiding involvement in rent disputes, evictions, and forced sales. A well-oiled machine, it established a London office and a financial structure designed to outwit nationalist lawyers. It took on, and forced a draw with, the nationalist-led South of Ireland Cattle-Dealers Association in the winter of 1885–6.
The most significant dispute involving a landlord in the 1880s concerned the estate of C. W. T. Ponsonby (qv) at Youghal, Co. Cork, during the ‘Plan of Campaign’. Smith Barry was reputed to have bankrolled Ponsonby during the latter's resistance to the Plan and then worked closely with the chief secretary for Ireland, Arthur Balfour (qv), to ensure that a settlement which Ponsonby wanted to accept (and which would have precipitated a serious depreciation in land values in southern Ireland) was not proceeded with. He was a member of the syndicate that purchased the estate in February 1889. In 1891 he was victorious in crushing a rent-strike on his Tipperary estates, where William O'Brien (qv), following the Ponsonby debacle, had encouraged tenants to set up a town – ‘New Tipperary’ – to try and outflank the landlord economically. It failed, at a cost of £40,000.
Smith Barry was elected as conservative and unionist MP for South Huntingdonshire in 1886, and represented the constituency till 1900. He was one of three Anglo-Irish MPs from Cork who sat for English constituencies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Smith Barry, with R. Penrose-Fitzgerald (Cambridge city, 1885–1906) and J. Pretyman-Newman (Enfield, 1910–18), in effect provided parliamentary representation for those protestants and unionists in Cork who had lost it after the extension of the franchise in 1884 and abolition of the small boroughs. Connected on his grandmother's side to the extinct earldom of Barrymore, he took the title of Baron Barrymore, of Barrymore in the county of Cork, on his elevation to the peerage, 18 July 1902. Active in southern unionist politics, he was sometime vice-president, and chairman, of the Irish Unionist Alliance 1911–13. He was vice-chairman of the National Union of Conservative Associations, vice-president of the Irish Landowners' Convention and a board member of the Great Western Railway Co. in Britain. A keen yachtsman and cricketer, he was admiral of the Royal Cork Yacht Club 1890–1925, and a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron and of the MCC. He further developed the arboretum at Fota House, his seat near Queenstown (Cobh), Co. Cork, started by his father.
He married first (17 August 1868) Lady Mary Frances Wyndham-Quin (1844–84), third daughter of the 3rd earl of Dunraven and Mountearl (qv), KP, by whom he had a son, James Hugh (1870–71) and a daughter, Geraldine (m. Henry Overend (1893); Capt. James Thomson (1917)). He married secondly (28 February 1889) Elizabeth Post (d. 9 May 1930); widow of Arthur Post, and daughter of Gen. James Wadsworth, military governor of Washington during the American civil war), by whom he had a daughter, Dorothy Elizabeth (m. Capt. William Bertram Bell (1917)).
Smith Barry was JP and DL for Co. Cork, and high sheriff in 1886. He was JP for Huntingdonshire and Cheshire, high sheriff for Cheshire in 1883, and appointed a privy counsellor for Ireland in 1896. He died 22 February 1925 in London, and was cremated at Golders Green cemetery, London. The altar cross in Christ Church, Rushbrooke, Co. Cork, stands in his memory. A cartoon by ‘Spy’, p. 1902, was published in Vanity Fair (no. 1244 of ‘Man of the Day’). A portrait and a photograph of Smith Barry as a young man are in Fota House. The Irish estates passed to his nephew, Robert Raymond Smith Barry, and on his death (1949) to the Hon. Dorothy Bell. After her death (1975) the lands were sold. Fota was subsequently owned by a trust (from 1987), with the arboretum and gardens in the state's possession.