Born in Edinburgh, he was a true Scot – though Ron Barry became a faithful Canadian, his memories of Scotland, of Edinburgh and its stone castles, turrets, bagpipes and haggis remained firmly in place throughout his life.
Too young to serve in the Second World War, in 1949 he enlisted in the Royal Air Force, where he developed skills as an airframe carpenter. He was the eldest son in a family of seven siblings born to William Barry and his wife Margaret. Scot though he was, it didn’t take long for him to fall in love with an English girl he met while stationed at Newton, near Nottingham, in England. He and Lorna married in 1951.
Air Force housing was a challenge in the postwar years; Ron brought his wife to Scotland, where their firstborn, Ronald Jr was born. They accepted a posting to a Royal Air Force base on the Penang Peninsula of Malaysia, where their only daughter Lorraine was born, before they returned to England.
After he left the air force, Ron and Lorna decided on a new adventure, and moved to the west coast of Canada. Settling first in Victoria, Ron found employment at the Dockyard as a shipwright.
With a growing family – their two youngsters had been joined by sons Robert, Ed and Andrew – Ron wanted more of a country setting to raise the kids, and the couple moved to Sooke.
At their Coopers Cove home, besides starting a thriving vegetable garden, Ron saw to it that the kids were kept busy with farm chores, tending to the goats, pigs, chickens and even rabbits. At recent family get-togethers, the close-knit siblings would tell many laughing tales of their dad, a man challenged to keep his four strapping sons in line. We heard a lot about unbuckling the belt, and the woodshed, but the amount of laughter in the tales belied the seriousness of it.
With his Scots background, he was very much a trades union man in his working days, and got into a bit of politics as well, particularly concerned with human rights.
He became a shop steward at the Dockyard, with a special focus on worker safety, especially at the time when asbestos became recognized as a shipyard hazard.
On the social side, he became known as the man called upon to address the haggis at a typical Burn’s Night celebration. His gentlemanly demeanour, kindness, and quiet sense of humour became legendary.
His strong tenor voice led him to take a prominent role in the Sooke Community Choir, an activity that gave him much pleasure throughout more than two decades. Of special meaning to him was the trip which the choir took to the Netherlands in 2000, where they performed at several Canadian war cemeteries.
While Ron was the family member with the political leanings, it turned out that in their retirement, it was the female half of the couple who decided to run for office. His wife Lorna became regional director in 1991, and it was Ron who played the supporting role to his busy partner. In those days, the couple also became leaders in the longboat fraternity on the west coast of North America that competed for the King of Spain’s Cup in towns like Port Townsend.
After his wife’s term was completed, the pair had more free time to travel to Scotland and England for family visits, sometimes taking their adult children. They enjoyed the outdoors and camping trips, and even were part of a large group of Sookites that went to the Yukon to celebrate the Goldrush at Skagway and the Chilkoot Pass in 1997.
Their last trip to Scotland where Ron was still able to visit with two of his sisters was in 2009. The next year the Barrys left their little farmsite at Coopers Cove and moved to a compact home on West Coast Road. Ron’s activities were more limited recently through declining health, but he still enjoyed a good yarn and chuckle.
One of the things one noticed about Ron Barry, was an anomaly, as his whole nature and background was as a socialist, but somehow he managed to raise two hard-driving and innovative businessmen among his five children. Perhaps it is an expression of the man, that the respect all the children have held for their father has been enormous.
Predeceased by his daughter Lorraine Meek, Ron Barry leaves his wife of 66 years, Lorna, his sons Ronald Jr (Marlene), Robert (Sheila), Edward (Theresa) and Andrew, 14 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
A reception will be held at the Sooke Region Museum on Saturday, Aug. 19 from 1 to 4 p.m.
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.