Barry, Sir Redmond (1813–80), barrister and judge, was the fifth of thirteen children of Major-general Henry Green Barry (1770–1838) and Phoebe Barry (née Drought) of Ballyclough, Co. Cork. His early education was at Curtain's Academy, Cork. At the age of twelve he entered Bexley Hall in Kent, a school that prepared young men for careers in the military. In 1829 he returned to Ireland but could not obtain a commission in the army. He entered Trinity College Dublin (TCD) on 5 November 1832, aged nineteen, and read law, graduating Bachelor of Arts in 1837; he was called to the Irish bar in November 1838. Lack of vacancies and the death of his father led him to consider working abroad, and in April 1838 he set sail for Australia. He was called to the bar in Sydney on 19 October 1839 and moved to Melbourne, the capital of the Port Phillip district, in November 1839.
He worked hard in building up a private practice in what was then a small town of 5,000 people. Touring the courts of the settlement, he specialised in libel, divorce, and breach of promise cases. In April 1841 he was made resident judge of the supreme court of Melbourne and was later appointed as the standing counsel for aborigines (December 1841). In January 1843 he was appointed commissioner of the court of requests. When the Port Phillip district separated from New South Wales to become the colony of Victoria (1851), he became the first solicitor general. In January 1852 he was made a judge of the supreme court of Victoria and the first puisne judge in July 1852; he was partly responsible for the supreme court adopting the conventions of the Irish bar. During the course of his judicial career he tried a number of high profile cases. In 1855 he acquitted the leaders of the Eureka stockade rebellion, among whom there were several Irish emigrants including Peter Lalor (qv). In January 1875 he acted both as chief justice and administrator of the government of Victoria for a short period. His most famous trial was that of Ned Kelly in 1880, whom he sentenced to death.
From the time of his arrival in Melbourne, he committed himself to the development of the district. Renowned as a raconteur and socialite, he was a member of both the Melbourne Club and the Port Phillip Turf Club. He was a founder of the University of Melbourne (and became its first chancellor in 1853) and was also a trustee of the Melbourne Public Library and the Melbourne Art Gallery. He maintained these connections until his death. He represented the colony of Victoria at the London exhibition in 1862 and visited Rome in the same year. In 1876 he represented the colony at the Philadelphia centennial exhibition, visiting Ireland in 1877. He was knighted in 1860 and made knight commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in 1877, the first citizen of Victoria to be so honoured. He was an avid book collector and amateur farmer, managing a small farm outside Melbourne that he named ‘Sabine Farm’ and later ‘St John's Wood’.
In August 1846 he met Mrs Louisa Bridget Barrow (d. 1889), wife of a local drayman, and the couple began a long-term affair. Despite the fact that Mr Barrow died during their liaison, they never married but remained together until Barry's death. He built her a house near his own farm and they had four children together: Nicholas (1847), Eliza (1850), George (1856) and Fred (1859). They all took Barry's name and the whole family would appear together on public occasions, Mrs Barrow often being referred to as ‘Mrs Barry’. After a sudden illness, Barry died on 23 November 1880 at his home in Clarendon Street, Melbourne. It was just twelve days after the execution of Ned Kelly. He was buried in Melbourne general cemetery. Mrs Barrow was buried alongside him some years later but this fact was not recorded on the headstone.
There are marble busts of Barry in the Supreme Court of Victoria Library, the State Library of Victoria, the University of Melbourne, Melbourne Public Library and Trinity College, Melbourne. There are two portraits in the State Library of Victoria by G. F. Folingsby and J. Botterill. A bronze statue by J. Gilbert and P. Ball was erected outside the State Library of Victoria. The main collections of his papers are in the State Library of Victoria, the Public Record Office of Victoria, and the Supreme Court of Victoria Library.
Some of the controversial cases that Barry presided over during his long career as a judge in the colony of Victoria are discussed in this the 2019 book, A new history of the Irish in Australia by Elizabeth Malcolm and Dianne Hall.