Spiritual Testament

Peter Charles Averill Barry (1923-2016)

Peter Barry was born on 6 May 1923, the fourth of a family of five boys. He had a happy childhood living on the outskirts of Edinburgh. His secondary school years were spent at the Benedictine Abbey School at Fort Augustus near Loch Ness. He became a prefect and excelled at sport; gaining colours at rugby, hockey and cricket and winning the swimming cup. He loved his time there and was a frequent visitor as an Old Boy.

Despite having no real farming connections, he enrolled at Edinburgh University to study Agriculture as the Second World War engulfed Europe. At the end of the family summer holiday in 1940, his father dedicated the safety of his family to the care of St. Matthew. They all went their separate ways and weren't reunited again until the 21 September 1945, the feast of St. Matthew.

Peter spent most of the war years learning his trade on various farms from the Highlands to the Lowlands of Scotland, at a time when agriculture was still labour intensive. Later in life, he produced an entertaining book, The Happy Peasant, filled with stories from his time working with horses, prisoners of war, squads of women, etc.

Shortly after the war, his inspirational father died. He had no job and his prospects were drear. He had put in an offer to rent a farm near Edinburgh but had been outbid. He started a novena to Our Lady, which he finished while on pilgrimage to Lourdes. On that very day, he received a telegram to say that his offer had been accepted after all. In the same year, 1947, he married Nancy, “the girl of his dreams”, and he started farming on his own account.

Reverend Father,

I thought that you might like to read a letter written to me by my father, the late John Barry, in 1939, and which I have treasured ever since. Perhaps some young Catholics on the threshold of choosing their path through life will find the advice as wise as I did.

My dear Peter,

Your Mother tells me you have begun to consider what you mean to be. That’s all to the good. No one can settle that except yourself, but there are some points that may help you to decide.

First of all, you have not been sent here to make money, or to have a good time. You are here in order to serve God. So consider first of all the careers which are 100% the service of God. Only if you are convinced that you can’t manage one of these are you justified in thinking of something lower down the ladder.

The 100% jobs are the priesthood, the monastic life, the foreign missions and other particular vocations. So consider these carefully first of all.

If you are sure none of these are for you, there are the jobs that come next, say 75% service of God teaching, doctor, etc., where a man is devoting his energies to the care of other men. If he decides to be one of these, all right. But if he decides on one of these for the chances of a brilliant career or a good income, all wrong.

Lower still business; banker, civil servant, where a man does a certain small amount of work for other men (giving employment, or administering other people’s affairs, keeping order, etc.) and that also can be done for God, but even then it is so little that it means giving a lot of spare time to direct service of God if you are not to find yourself empty-handed at the finish.

Then, the 100% no-service jobs (stockbroker, bookmaker, etc.) where an awful lot of spare time service must surely be needed, because these are purely selfish jobs, containing no direct service, and not even any indirect service in the shape of work done for other men.

The decision must be yours. We have no wish and no right to influence you, because it is you, and not we, who have to live your life, and whatever career you choose, you will in the normal course be still at it 30 years after your mother and I have gone elsewhere and have no further interest in the matter. So to choose a career to please us would be very foolish.

Choose it to please God and for no other purpose. Which means, choose as high as you can. There’s no loss of humility in that. You can’t even be a decent stockbroker unless God helps you, and the more you try to do to serve Him, the more you will need, and get.

Please consider these few points during Lent. Think often about them and pray to be told your job by Easter. And remember that at present your job is to work hard and pass exams. If you do your utmost to do well the job that lies immediately at hand, that is the best apprenticeship and preparation for a better job.

If you want to ask any questions or further details about any particular job, out with it. We’ll help you all we can.

God bless you,


Readers may be interested to know that I became a farmer, a father of a family, and that I thank God for the providential opportunity I had to play some part in the restoration of the Traditional Mass in Scotland.

Yours sincerely,

Mr Peter Barry

Ratho, Midlothian, Scotland, 2004

In 1958, he bought nearby Ratho Mains, 260 acres of prime arable land. It was an enormous gamble as he had to borrow all the money to do it, and had four children by then. Through this time, he had been a supportive member of his local parish, but the bottom fell out of his world after the Second Vatican Council and the introduction of the new liturgy. He felt powerless as, one by one, his children lost their faith.

In 1975, he first heard that a group in France were reviving the Tridentine Mass and thereafter it became his mission to bring the “Old Mass” back to Scotland. Occasional visits by traditional priests were encouraged, and Masses were advertised and held in various halls and hotels around the country. Endless obstacles were thrown in his way and the local hierarchy did their best to stymie his every effort. Eventually, having gained the support of the Marshalls from Bothwell, the Society of St. Pius X were persuaded to send priests up to Scotland and, over the course of the next 15 years, churches in Glasgow and Edinburgh had been procured and a regular Sunday Mass schedule established. Over this period, the four Society bishops and over fifty priests had been accommodated by Peter and Nancy at Ratho Mains.

He never really got over the loss of his beloved wife in 2001, but despite his declining health, he always attended every Mass in Edinburgh right up to the Feast of the Assumption, two days before his death on 17 August 2016, aged 93.

Requiescat in pace.

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