On this day, March 26, 1793, John Hugh Smith Barry was baptised in Fulham Parish. He was the son of James Hugh Smith Barry and Ann Tanner, whose long-term relationship was never solemnised although they had five children together. As a result of his illegitimacy, while John inherited Marbury and Fota House, he did not inherit the title of Earl of Barrymore, though petitioned – unsuccessfully – Sir Robert Peel for permission to retain it.
In 1814, the year he attained his majority and inherited Marbury and Fota House, he married Eliza Courtney of Ballyedmond House, Midleton. They had five children, but Eliza died at the young age of 33. John subsequently married Mary Felicia Heron in 1835.
Unlike other Smith Barrys, John made Fota his home, only going to Marbury for a few weeks each Autumn (usually to attend the Doncaster races which he loved).
In his short, hand-written memoir, Lord Barrymore says of his grandfather “John really made Fota, building the wings to the little square house which was only the length of the present hall: constructing the sea walls, demesne walls…creating parks and plantations and pleasure grounds.”
Lady Charlotte, Lord Barrymore’s sister, also describes John Smith Barry – “John was a good looking man, rather above middle height, with blue eyes and curly hair. He was wild, gay, hospitable, and very amusing and is said to have been known in Cork as “John the Magnificent”. Tales survive of the open handed hospitality and rather riotous carouses at Foaty.” She tells us of the “great quantity of wine that was consumed there, the big decanter which holds nine bottles…being re-filled many times, the door having been previously locked and the key thrown out of the window”.
He died at Salt Hill, Berkshire, on February 24th, 1837, on his way to Bath where he had been sent by his doctors for the benefit of his health. He was 44.
John Smith Barry loved yachting and was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron and Vice Admiral of the Royal Cork Yacht Club (this year celebrating 300 years in existence). This image of a jaunty looking “John the Magnificent” (with telescope under his arm) was created by a famous French silhouette artist called Augustin Edouart, who lived and worked in Cork in the 1830s, and who describes being “kindly received at Foaty”. This painting of him was recently purchased jointly by Fota House and the Royal Cork Yacht Club.