State Library of Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 73 Autumn 2004


Thomas Chuck, photographer. [Redmond Barry as Chancellor of the University of Melbourne]. [ca. 1870] Albumen silver photograph. H96.160/140. La Trobe Picture Collection


R.J.W. Selleck
Chancellor Barry


Redmond Barry could be witty, in a ponderous way. ‘You will and you won’t - half no and half yes!', he wrote to a woman in his younger days.
Too long have you played with my feelings, dear Bess. Too long in all conscience you‘ve shuffled and shammed; Say ’yes‘ and be kissed, or say ’no‘ and be—–.’1
At other times he was just ponderous. In 1854 he informed the Victorian Institute for the Advancement of Science that the present era would not recognize barriers
within which the uninitiated are not permitted to encroach; men are no longer content that the search for knowledge should be delegated to the exclusive charge of any particular body, involved in the frivolous niceties of alchemical empiricism; clouding in allegory or shrouding in mystic symbols the steps by which they, as they supposed, approached the secret of the philosopher's stone, the elixir of life, or the universal solvent; - no longer amused with the acuminated subtleties of metaphysical disquisitions, dogmatic theology, or philological dissertations.2
If on such occasions Barry caused his friends to nod, he rarely lost his own alertness. Which was fortunate, as the causes he took up often required intellectual toughness and persistence.
The University of Melbourne was one such cause. In the early 1850s many of his fellow European colonists had temporarily abandoned the task of creating political, social or educational institutions in the new colony of Victoria; instead they sought instant wealth through gold. In any case many of them had not been in a hurry to recreate institutions which offered the classical education dispensed by the universities they took as models, those at Oxford, Cambridge or Dublin. ‘Conjugate a Latin verb, decline a noun, demonstrate a geometrical proportion that you are unable to reduce to practice, and which any ordinary carpenter could do, and you are turned out finished’, the Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer declared. The paper had decided that ‘the stamp of the scholar, like the stamp of a patent medicine, only increases the price, not the virtue of the article stamped’. Moreover, it argued, the home market was already glutted with scholars, and the new colony had little demand for them.3
Some Victorians, however, were interested in establishing a university. Among the colony's civil administrators, its doctors and lawyers, its squatters, schoolmasters, businessmen and politicians were colonists who wished their sons (but not as yet their daughters) to have the social distinction that university education conveyed. They also valued the access the university could provide to the learned and usually financially rewarding professions. A few of them even thought that university education had a value not reducible merely to money or prestige. Sending their sons ‘home’ for a university education was one way of securing these advantages, though from the earliest days some colonists realised that such an option, available only to the rich, was attended with disadvantages as well as privileges.
The inauguration ceremony of the University of Sydney took place in October 1852 and prompted increased efforts among Melburnians to set up a university in Melbourne. A meeting of ‘a numerous and respectable body’ of citizens in late 1852 asked the Lieutenant-Governor, Charles La Trobe, to establish a university. He acted swiftly and on 3 November the Auditor-General, Hugh Childers, set aside £10,000 for that purpose. A Bill to establish a university,

Melbourne University [ca. 1860] Albumen silver photograph. H92.354/12. La Trobe Picture Collection.

Charles Nettleton, photographer. [Melbourne] University [ca. 1870-ca. 1880] Albumen silver photograph. H92.375/6. La Trobe Picture Collection.

probably drawn up by Childers and William Stawell, the Attorney-General, was swiftly passed in the Legislative Council, the partially elected body that advised La Trobe; it received royal assent before the end of January 1853. Barry had been made a judge the previous year and had chosen not to seek membership of the Legislative Council. He had therefore played no formal part in the construction of the University Act, but La Trobe was in no doubt about his commitment to the university; nor was the Council which was set up by La Trobe to administer the university and which immediately elected Barry as it first chancellor.4
Barry was thirty-nine when he became chancellor. His appointment was a striking example of the way in which the colonies could provide experience, prestige, and the chance for personal growth which, had Barry remained in Ireland, would have been unavailable to him until much later in his life, if at all. William Stawell is supposed to have decided to emigrate to Australia when he saw forty barristers at work on the Munster circuit ‘and not enough work for twenty’, and Barry's own career in Ireland had gained little momentum at the time he took a similar decision. He made a shaky start when on the voyage out his whole-hearted and it seems sexually successful pursuit of a married woman darkened his reputation and forced him to leave Sydney, where his ship docked, for Melbourne's more distant pastures.5
Once there Barry had pursued a successful career at the Bar then traded it for the prestige of the judiciary. Financially comfortable, Barry seemed more attracted by social acclaim than great wealth. Certainly he sought appointments such as the chancellorship eagerly - his multifarious activities included three terms as president of the Melbourne Club and more than two decades as president of the Board of the Public Library. However, unlike some of his successors, Barry did not content himself with the social esteem that the chancellorship brought; instead he worked hard for the university and for other responsibilities he accepted. A dominant figure in the early life of the Library (according to Galbally he undertook virtually single-handed the planning of the Library's building and its contents), he was equally significant at the university.6
As Chancellor he chaired its governing body, the Council. Because the University Act, in accordance with the expectations of the time, did not provide for the appointment of a full-time administrator to implement the Council's decisions and to conduct the university's day-to-day affairs Barry filled that role, unofficially but with enthusiasm and dedication. Some of the councillors including important figures such as Stawell were notoriously slack attenders at meetings. But Barry was almost always present, thoroughly prepared and exerting his authority as chancellor - the more easily because between meetings he had sometimes made arrangements of which only he and a few trusted colleagues were fully aware.
He was a zealous guardian of the university's secularity. Unlike some of the conservative colleagues who were his natural allies, he understood the dangers of the religious disputation which was already disrupting the provision of elementary education. The Act had allowed for four clergymen, each from a different Christian religion, in the twenty-member council.7 Two councillors in particular, Charles Perry, the Anglican Bishop of Melbourne and his Catholic counterpart, James Goold, though accepting the secular provision, were willing to test the Act's limits. Barry was watchful, and intervened to preserve the secular status quo when intervention seemed to be required. Under a more pliable chancellor religious disputation might well have disrupted the Council and the university.
He worked sternly, for example, to ensure when a Catholic member resigned very early in the Council's life that its ‘religious equipoise’ was maintained by the appointment of another
Catholic. Apparently after consulting Bishop Goold, Barry successfully recommended the appointment of Anthony Brownless, who was not well known to him at that time, though they became closely acquainted after Brownless was appointed vice-chancellor in 1858; he served loyally until Barry's death twenty-two years later. Ironically the Council, or at least some of its more powerful members who were troubled by Brownless's Catholicism, fought hard to prevent him becoming chancellor in succession to Barry. The result was years of undignified squabbling before Brownless secured the position.8 Having suffered that defeat the Council was left to nurture its prejudices against Catholicism (three-quarters of a century elapsed before a Catholic was appointed to a professorial position), women and the working classes - destructive prejudices but ones shared by many in the community and not as divisive as religious disputes directly concerned with matters of university policy might have been.
From the first days Barry played a leading part in every important aspect of the university's life. He led the complex negotiations which secured the land on which the university was built; and he was closely involved in the design, location and construction of the first building, the Quadrangle (whose main frontage, the southern side, was to remain unfinished for over one hundred years), the landscaping of the grounds, the university's finances, its motto and seal, and its relationship to the denominational colleges built on government-granted land to its north. These and similar issues required negotiations with successive governments and Barry pursued them with vigour and authority. Civil servants and politicians resented his high-handedness and pomposity, but they soon learned that he could not easily be fobbed off or persuaded to settle for less than what he judged to be the university's rights.
As the university developed Barry's position became increasingly powerful. Always well prepared and up-to-date with business matters (a task made easier because he had conducted most of the business, especially negotiations with government), he attended almost every Council meeting when he was in Melbourne and kept in close touch when he was on circuit in country districts. He even brought the Council to his professional doorstep by finding room for it to meet at the Law Courts or occasionally at his own home while the university's first buildings were being completed. To assume that any one person can be judged the founder of an institution such as the University of Melbourne, which could not be brought into existence without substantial political and economic support, is to misunderstand how such institutions are established. But from the university's first days until his death over a quarter of a century later Barry was its public voice, its administrative head and its chief policy-maker. On two crucial matters where decisive power lay with the Council - the choice of the university's teaching staff and the courses it would offer - Barry's influence was profound, though not always beneficial.
To select its first teaching staff the Council set up a small committee based in London and chaired by the eminent astronomer, Sir John Herschel, who was also Master of the Mint and a translator of Schiller and the Iliad. Until World War II this Barry-instigated procedure of a London-based committee made up of British experts was the usual means of selecting professorial staff, who during this period were far more powerful in the life of a university than they now are. In a letter that had not received the formal approval of Council when he sent it, Barry informed Herschel that the Council had decided on four appointments: professors of Latin, Greek and ancient history (classics); mathematics and natural philosophy (physics); natural science; and modern literature and history, political economy and logic. As the professors were offered free accommodation in the university grounds and a salary of £1,000 per annum (about
three times greater than the salaries they could expect to earn in England, Ireland or Scotland), the conditions were attractive. In case of misunderstanding Barry emphasised that the professors were not to be in ‘holy orders’ - at this time many Oxford and Cambridge professors were ordained clergymen - and he informed Herschel that ‘a total abstraction from political or sectarian interference must be rigidly enjoined’.9
Barry's support for the secularity of the new university was stern. He was not, however, indulging a personal preference but reflecting the view of most who sought the establishment of a university in Melbourne. Many such advocates of a university and many members of its first Council were graduates of Oxford, Cambridge and Trinity College, Dublin, but they did not seek to perpetuate the religious assumptions on which these universities were based. Oxford and Cambridge, though in the process of being reformed, still insisted that their students, to obtain a degree, had to be or to say they were members of the Church of England, while college fellows had to be in Holy Orders and unmarried. Reflecting a society in which there was no established church and no aristocratic structure, Melbourne's Act of Incorporation specified a secular university. All instruction was centred in the university (not in the colleges as was the case in Oxford or Cambridge) and delivered by its paid staff of professors. Religious colleges, modelled as far as was possible in a more unsympathetic society on the ancient English and Irish universities, could be established at Melbourne and land to the north of the university was set aside for them. But they were never given any link which accorded them an official say in the administration of the university, its curriculum or the appointment of the teachers who put that curriculum into practice and examined the students' progress. The first colleges did not appear until the 1870s and Barry gained a reputation for being hostile to them. In fact, he had simply enforced the neutrality the Act enjoined on the university, and ensured that they operated without financial assistance from or legal power over the university.
In shaping what the university would teach, Barry and similar-minded members of Council, who were proud heirs to the Renaissance, took classical education to be the study of the greatest languages, literature, philosophy, science and art that mankind had produced. Their view was practically unassailable as knowledge of the language, literature or history of ancient civilisations other than the classical was not a feature of British university life. In any case the Greek and especially the Roman were imperial civilisations and particularly suitable, it seemed, for an imperial power to study. As women students were not accepted at any of the ancient universities, a classical education was available only to the sons of the aristocracy and, to an increasing degree as the century progressed, to the sons of the industrial and mercantile classes that were becoming powerful in Britain. Classical knowledge therefore helped to distinguish the gentleman from lesser mortals, so that classical allusions might not be gratuitous pedantry but an indication of a social and political superiority that was buttressed by an education available only to a very small minority of the population.
Though the classics were, Barry told Herschel, to be ‘created, fostered, and assiduously cultivated’, and though the new university was to ‘reclaim the intellect and create the taste, form the manners and confirm the loyalty of its youth’, it had also to be ‘useful’, to respond to the needs of colonial society. Hence the decision to recruit professors who taught ‘modern’ subjects such as natural science, modern literature, modern history and political economy. Hence also a challenge issued early in 1855, shortly after the four foundation professors had begun the university's first year of teaching. In a well-publicised pamphlet two of these professors, William Wilson (natural
philosophy and mathematics) and William Hearn (modern literature and history, political economy and logic), publicly opposed Barry's insistence that the classics should be compulsory at the matriculation examination and in the first years of the Bachelor of Arts degree, the only degree that the university offered at that time. Barry won the battle on Council, which had no professorial members, and ensured that at least one year of classical study was compulsory in the B.A. Matriculation could be completed without the study of Latin or Greek, but their compulsory appearance in the Arts degree forced students wishing to study at the university to obtain a grounding in the classics at school or to have special coaching when they entered the university.10 Most chose the former procedure.
Both Hearn and Wilson respected classical studies - Hearn had been the Professor of Classics at the University of Galway before his appointment to Melbourne and volunteered to teach them at Melbourne when the sudden death of the first professor of classics left the university in an embarrassing position. However, both men opposed compulsory classical teaching, arguing that parents wanted an education that took greater account of the realities of colonial life; for example, its lack of a leisured aristocracy for whom work was not an economic necessity. They pointed out that the poor quality of classical teaching in most schools (in England and Ireland as well as Victoria) resulted in most students confining their reading of classical authors to those they met in their textbooks. Hearn and Wilson summarily rejected the view that a knowledge of Latin was necessary for the mastery of English (without being able completely to discredit this myth which plagued later generations of Melbourne students). They insisted that most young men in the Australian colonies faced an overwhelming pressure to earn money by working as soon as possible and could not afford to spend the long years in classical studies that were demanded by the English system. With the compulsory teaching of the classics firmly in mind, Hearn and Wilson insisted that the more closely colonial universities resembled those in the Mother Country ‘the greater is the possibility of their failure’.11
Barry's unwillingness to accept this view was due in part to his belief in the educational potency of the classics, but it may also have been caused by his need to think that, despite its secularity, the colonial university which he was building retained a close link with the ways of Trinity College, Dublin. Breaking the resemblance of his university in Melbourne to those of the Old World, especially if it involved downgrading the classics, might undermine the standing of the colonial university - and the prestige accruing to him as its chancellor. He knew his family in Ireland valued that prestige, which helped to convince his family (and perhaps Barry himself) of the wisdom of his decision to emigrate.
Though his patrician outlook and a desire for recognition in Ireland may have blinded Barry to the philosophical and pedagogic problems facing the compulsory reaching of the classics, he was aware of the need for a colonial university to break with the example of the mother country in other ways. Enrolments in the university's courses remained embarrassingly low; often in its first decade the number of new students enrolled each year did not reach double figures. The result was a very favourable staff-student ratio and much mockery from those unconvinced of the need for a university or annoyed by its pretensions to importance. In 1856, the university's second year of teaching, Barry acted swiftly: he persuaded the Council that the university should offer courses which gave admission to the two most prestigious professions, law and medicine. Oxford, Cambridge and Dublin offered degrees in law and medicine but these degrees, as Barry knew from his own education at Trinity College, did not qualify their holders to practise as
lawyers or medical practitioners. With the co-operation of the vice-chancellor, Anthony Brownless, a medical practitioner who was anxious to see medicine taught at the university, Barry swiftly persuaded Council that it should offer degrees in law and medicine which were constructed in a way which enabled those who held them to proceed immediately to the practice of their profession.
Most Victorian practitioners of law and medicine who held formal qualifications (many did not) had British awards bestowed by the Inns of Court for lawyers and, for medical practitioners, by various non-university institutions such as a Royal College or private schools of medicine of varying quality. From the vantage point of the formally qualified doctor, for example, the university's entry into professional training appeared as a weapon which might be used against the less qualified or unqualified medical practitioners. Not only were such practitioners plentiful in Australia, they were often regarded by the public as equally effective as and cheaper than the formally qualified doctor. Complex negotiations with the practitioners of each profession as well with the government and Parliament were required before Barry's and Brownless's proposals were acted upon.
When they were approved the university's new degrees in law and medicine, unlike the Arts degree that was not legally required for entry to any employment, offered a means of access to well rewarded professions. Barry and Brownless, with the support of the leading members of their respective professions, had tied the university into the professional life of the state, a link of crucial importance for the university's future development. And in the short term the link provided the desperately needed increase in enrolments. The Law School enrolled its first students in 1857 and offered the LL.B for the first time in 1861; the Medical School began teaching its degree in 1863. In 1865 the university had 56 students, a decade later it had 189 of whom 112 were studying law or medicine.12 Barry and Brownless, though unwilling to break from the expectations of the old world about the importance of classical teaching, had led the way to a revolution in professional training which placed the university at the heart of the education of doctors and lawyers. Engineering, with Barry's support though not at his initiative, soon followed and pulled the university further into Melbourne's professional world.
The Medical School's development was greatly assisted when it secured land and money for a building on the university's north-eastern corner, at the junction of what are now Tin Alley and Swanston Street. Strictly speaking, the land Barry secured - part of a narrow strip running along Swanston Street from Tin Alley to Grattan Street - was not reserved for the university, but he led the negotiations which obtained the section of it on which the Medical Building was placed. He thus began the university's struggle to obtain the complete strip, a struggle which was not brought to a successful conclusion until 1989 when the Melbourne College of Advanced Education was amalgamated with the University of Melbourne. The Medical Building, first occupied in 1864, was of a Palladian design that distinguished it from the Quadrangle's Tudor Gothic. Its position in a corner of the university's grounds, and separated from the Quadrangle by a recently established lake, set the Medical School physically apart from the rest of the university; medical staff and students converted this separation into a symbol of their distinctness and superiority.
While Barry was leading the negotiations that secured the land and government money needed for the Medical Building he also guided the university through complex discussions that culminated in the building of a Gothic Revival museum on the university's land at government expense. The National Museum, as it modestly called itself, was placed to the north of the
Quadrangle (that is, behind it, if approached from the city) and on the opposite side of the lake from the Medical School. The museum became the personal plaything of the Professor of Natural Science, Frederick McCoy, one of the four founding professors; he brought with him a considerable reputation as a controversial palaeontologist.
Barry also played a crucial role, in which he was not assisted by the incompetence of some of the professors and his Council colleagues, in the prolonged negotiation which secured government funds for the completion in 1875 of an addition to the Quadrangle, the North Extension, as it came to be called. This building, returned to its original state in 2003 by the removal of the unsightly addition which most recently housed the University's Bookroom, contained the university's library on its first floor and a student hall on the ground floor.
The student hall was far from the grand structure that Barry hoped might match Sydney's Great Hall that had deeply impressed him when he visited it in 1861. The university needed, he informed the government and any of the public who cared to read the university's 1873 report, ‘a Hall of suitable dignity’ to reflect the university's recognised position as the colony's educational leader. Samuel Wilson, an extremely wealthy pastoralist, who had decided to repay the debt of gratitude he said that he owed his new country, and in the process secure a knighthood, gave Barry his cherished wish. Barry is said to have persuaded Wilson of the university's worthiness at the Melbourne Club, but whatever the status of that belief, Wilson made £30,000 available to the university in 1874. For various reasons the building of what was named Wilson Hall, awkwardly located east of and very close to the Quadrangle, was delayed and a memorial stone (it could not be called a foundation stone as building had already begun) was laid amid much ceremony in 1879. The occasion provided Barry with an opportunity for some pompous but well-earned self-congratulation. The Tudor Perpendicular Hall, judged by Goad and Tibbits to be ‘the architectural jewel of the nineteenth-century university’, was first used in 1882.13


Barry's leadership during the first quarter-century of the university's life was decisive, dedicated and determined. But it had limitations that were made more potent by his very dominance. His relationship with the professors bred discontent, suffused as it was with his conviction that the university's Council and especially its chancellor possessed both the final power and the right opinions. After his death a succession of inferior chancellors and, especially from the late 1880s, the appointment of some outstanding professors worsened the relationship between the camps. The royal commission set up in 1901 to investigate the administration and financial affairs of the university criticised the Council's performance. But its recommendations on university governance were not implemented, leaving professors angry that they continued to be treated as lowly employees of a Council which had been found wanting.
Barry also helped to establish within the Council an unfortunate reluctance to encourage self-criticism or to allow professors to indulge in public debate. Determined that religious and political neutrality had to be observed and able to carry Council with him, Barry vigorously policed the actions and utterances of his often resentful professors. Nevertheless William Hearn shocked the Council by standing for Parliament in 1859, having apparently decided that Barry's remark to Herschel about abstraction from political or sectarian interference was a mere counsel of perfection that he had no intention of heeding. An angry Barry secured Council's assent to a

An architect's drawing of the interior of Wilson Hall, then under construction at Melbourne University. Print: wood engraving. 2 August 1879. Illustrated Australian News IAN02/08/79/121.

statute that specifically forbade professors to stand for Parliament or to join any political association. Despite efforts to persuade the Governor to refuse his consent to the statute, Barry prevailed. However, Hearn outmanoeuvred him in 1874 when, during another unsuccessful attempt to enter Parliament, he produced the dubious but successful argument that his recent appointment as Dean of the Faculty of Law meant that he was no longer a professor, though he had taken care to retain his professorial salary, tenure, and rooms in the Quadrangle. Hearn subsequently won a seat in the Legislative Council but no other professors or staff members challenged the Council's ban. Though he had lost a battle along the way, Barry won the war.14
He won another war not long afterwards when an attempt was made to drive him from the chancellorship, to which he had been elected annually and virtually automatically from the university's first days. Martin Irving, professor of classics from 1855 to 1871, had resigned from the university to take up the headmastership of Wesley College. He was now eligible for election to Council and secured a position in 1875, becoming a leading figure in the resistance to Barry's authoritarian ways and his conservative views on the teaching of the classics and other educational issues. In 1876 Irving, taking advantage of Barry's absence overseas, made a public move to have the chancellorship contested, having secured agreement from Stawell that he would let his name go forward as a candidate. Barry's supporters, led by Brownless, successfully resisted: they ‘presented on the day of battle a phalanx’ was Brownless's way of describing the event to Barry. When Stawell realised that victory was unlikely he withdrew his name.15
Barry's dominance helped to consolidate the policy that university staff (and even students) were not only to avoid active participation in politics but also were to eschew public statements on controversial issues. What was ‘controversial’ had of course to be defined. When a student, William Hackett, criticised the behaviour of medical students at a commencement ceremony in 1876 he was publicly denounced by other students and at least one professor for disloyalty to the university and forced to walk though the lake. He was then publicly disciplined by the Professorial Board, while those who had participated in the public controversy by writing to the papers attacking him or had forced him to walk through the lake were either ignored or let off with light penalties. Speaking out, therefore, seemed to be controversial when it involved criticism of the university, while public defence of the university was not seen as partaking in controversy. Thus McCoy, the Professor of Natural Science, and George Halford, the Professor of Medicine and first Dean of the Medical Faculty, took part in the debate over evolution (at the time a topic involving more controversial religious and moral issues could hardly have been imagined) when they attacked Darwinian concepts of the evolution of species and defended conservative religious and moral views. Barry even chaired a meeting at which McCoy spoke on evolution.16
Moreover, though Halford had established his orthodoxy from a conservative view beyond doubt, the Council refused him permission to lecture on protoplasm, because at that time it seemed to raise the possibility of challenges to the orthodox view of creation.17 The line established during Barry's chancellorship - that moral or political positions were uncontroversial if they were those supported by conservatives - continued for at least a century; some might consider that it still haunts the university. Not long after Barry's death this view enabled the Council to pillory and eventually dismiss the Professor of Music, George Marshall-Hall, who attacked Christian religious beliefs and published poetry judged to be immoral. During the Great War professors and other staff were allowed to take a pro-conscription stand in debates without their being condemned for involving the university in public controversy.


Charles Henry Pearson stood for the modern university that Redmond Barry would have abhorred, had he been able to imagine it. In 1878, in the report of a royal commission (he was the sole commissioner) on Victorian education, Pearson recommended the admission of women to the university, though he placed some limitations on what they should study once they got there. Barry fought their admission strongly, but in his absence the Council granted them admission (except to the study of medicine) from 1880. Though he was still opposed, Barry accepted the decision with better grace than some of his colleagues. He fought equally hard against another Pearson proposal, the allowing of professors to become members of Council, stressing that he was ‘wholly opposed to it upon many grounds’. They ‘knew nothing’ about ‘the administrative business of the University’ he told a select (parliamentary) committee chaired by Pearson late in 1880.18
Though it did so cautiously, Pearson's 1878 report had argued for a still more radical change, the cultivation of research as a formal part of the university's role. Moreover, in a move repudiated by traditionalists Pearson recommended that modern languages (French, German, Spanish and Italian) should be taught at the university; he also argued that Greek and Latin composition should be abolished in all secondary schools, except perhaps for scholarship holders who were proceeding to the university. In addition, he envisaged a professionalisation of the university well beyond Barry's imagining. Barry had instigated the introduction of medicine and law, but Pearson recommended the establishment of a faculty of engineering and practical science (engineering was already being taught but no faculty existed), and the teaching of mining, metallurgy, forestry, architecture, navigation, agriculture, veterinary science and music. He even suggested that the recently established schools of mines at Ballarat and Sandhurst might enter into a form of affiliation with the university. Barry chaired the council of the Ballarat School of Mines, though that allegiance did not lead him to support affiliation with the university; like many of Pearson's recommendations that proposal was far beyond anything Barry would contemplate.
The Barry who gave evidence to Pearson's select committee on 1 November 1880 was seriously ill. Only a few days before he met the committee he had presided at Ned Kelly's trial and sentenced him to death. He was himself to die on 23 November, a little over three weeks after his appearance before the select committee.
Though by the end of his life illness and encrusted conservatism had reduced Barry's effectiveness and exposed his lack of imagination, he is better and more generously remembered as the ‘cultural commissar’ who on the one day, twenty-seven years earlier, had presided over the establishment of Melbourne's university and its public library. For more than a quarter of a century he led both institutions, determined that the colony to which he had come would pay adequate homage to things of the mind - or at least to the things of the mind that seemed important to him. That determination never slackened, not even when his energy was drained by sickness and his mind less vigorous than it had been in better days.


Alexander Sutherland, ‘Sir Redmond Barry’, Melbourne Review, vol. 7, 1882, p. 270.


‘Inaugural address delivered by Mr. Justice Barry, President of the Institute, at the Opening Converzazione, 22nd Sept., 1854’ in Transactions and Proceedings of the Victorian Institute for the Advancement of Science, George Robertson, Melbourne, 1855, p. 2.


Geelong Advertiser and Intelligence, 26 January 1853. Minutes of the Council of the University of Melbourne (CM), 17 May 1853, University of Melbourne Archives.


R.J.W. Selleck, The Shop: The University of Melbourne, 1850–1939, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2003, p. 14.


Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 6, p. 174 (Stawell's comment); for the voyage out, Ann Galbally, Redmond Barry: an Anglo-Irish Australian, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1995, pp. 32–7.


For Barry's career, see Galbally and Peter Ryan, Redmond Barry: a colonial life 1813–1880, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1980.


An Act to incorporate and endow the University of Melbourne, The Acts and Ordinances of Victoria. 16 Victoria 1852–3.


Selleck, pp. 202–8, 236–7.


For Barry's letters, Annual Report of the University of Melbourne, 1853–4, pp. 8–10 in Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Council 1854–55, vol. 1.


W.E. Hearn and W.P. Wilson, On the Proposed Course for the Degree of Bachelor of Arts in the University of Melbourne, Government Printer, Melbourne, 1855. CM, 20 December 1858.


Hearn and Wilson, On the Proposed Course, pp. 1–8.


Selleck, p. 112.


University of Melbourne Annual Report 1872–73 in Melbourne University Calendar 1874–75, p. 222. Selleck, pp. 136–9, 168–9; Philip Goad and George Tibbits, Architecture on Campus: a guide to the University of Melbourne and its colleges, Melbourne University Press, 2003, p. 6.


CM, 20, 31 January 1859 and 30 March 1874. Hearn to Registrar, 21 March 1874, no. 28, 1874/28, Central Registry Correspondence, University of Melbourne Archives.


Brownless to Barry, 13 June 1876, Barry papers, box 600/1 (c), MS 8380, La Trobe Library, State Library of Victoria.


Selleck, pp. 104–7.


Selleck, pp. 106–7.


Charles H. Pearson, Report on the State of Public Education in Victoria, and Suggestions as to the Means of Improving it, Government Printer, Melbourne, 1878; Minutes, pp. 24–5, in Report from the Select Committee on University Constitution Amendment Bill, Victorian Parliamentary Papers, 1880–81, vol. 2.