Barrett, James Rupert Edward Boyd (c.1904–1976), architect, was born in Loughborough, Leicestershire, eldest of at least four sons of James Charles Boyd Barrett, electrical engineer, and Mary Jacqueline Boyd Barrett (née Robinson), and grandson of J. L. Robinson (qv) and nephew of J. J. Robinson (qv), both architects. He was educated at Clongowes Wood College, Co. Kildare (1915–17), and at the CBS, North Richmond St., Dublin. The records of Belvedere College, Dublin, do not support the frequent assertion that he and his brother Basil (below) were pupils there. Apprenticed to Jones & Kelly, he studied at the Dublin School of Art and University College, London. He won the Architectural Association of Ireland’s institute prize (1925), became a member (1926) of the RIAI, and was elected ARIBA (1927).
In 1928 he established his practice in Cork, and designed many major buildings throughout the country, which included hospitals, schools, Cork corporation housing, and churches – including four churches in Cork and ten churches in the diocese of Kerry. In 1927 Daniel Cohalan (qv), bishop of Cork, commissioned the Chicago architect Barry Byrne (1883–1967) to build a church at Turner's Cross, Cork. Barrett, who was consulted by Cohalan about the probable cost of the projected building, revised Byrne's design and offered to prepare plans for a church built in concrete as an economy measure; his offer was rejected by Cohalan, who awarded the contract to Byrne (1928), but suggested that concrete rather than brick should be used, and recommended Barrett as the local architect. Barrett chose the site and with meticulous care supervised the revolutionary building of the church of Christ the King (1928–31), which represented the first example of modern church architecture in Ireland, predating other radical designs by more than thirty years.
In 1935 he won the competition for the first government building of independent Ireland, the Department of Industry and Commerce office, Kildare St., Dublin (1939–42). Built with a steel frame on a narrow grid, it was designed in a stripped classical style, its facades faced with white granite, unadorned save for the stone carvings by Gabriel Hayes (qv). ‘Simplicity was aimed at . . . and [a] dignified appearance’ (Barrett, 65).
For services to ecclesiastical architecture, he was created a knight of the Order of St Sylvester (1963) by Pope John XXIII and presented with the scroll of honour by Cornelius Lucy (qv), bishop of Cork, earning the title of chevalier. Elected FRIAI (1936), he served as chairman of the RIAI Cork committee for many years. He lived at Laurelmore, Monkstown, Co. Cork. He died 1 November 1976 at the Bon Secours Home, Cork, and was buried in St Finbarr's cemetery, Cork. He married (1928) Mary O'Callaghan; they had no children. A collection of his drawings and papers is deposited in the IAA.
His brother, Basil Raymond Boyd Barrett (1908–69) was born 19 September 1908 in Dublin and educated in Dublin. Apprenticed to Jones & Kelly (1925), he studied as an extern student at the School of Architecture, UCD, and at the School of Art, Dublin, and was elected (1926) a member of AAI. He entered the Office of Public Works, Dublin (1931), and was appointed assistant architect (c.1934). Interested in school design, he became chief schools architect (1947) and deputy principal architect (1968). He designed schools throughout Ireland, solidly built to standard plans of simple design. He exerted strict control over all designs and encouraged the use of local materials – the standard rough-cast external wall finish was replaced by dry or cut limestone, depending on the traditions and skills of local builders, and Killaloe slates were widely used for roofing.
He became a member (1935) (winning a travelling scholarship the same year for ‘A seaside pavilion’) and fellow (1949) of the RIAI. His genial personality made him an excellent public relations officer. He lived at St Fintan's Sutton, Co. Dublin, died 10 October 1969 in Dublin, and was buried at Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin. He married (1937) Mary Josephine McMahon; they had no children.