Billie Barry funeral ‘perfectly-choreographed celebration’

Barry instilled ‘confidence, competence and creativity’ into generations of children

Billie Barry spent her life teaching people how to entertain so it was fitting that her funeral was a perfectly-choreographed celebration of music, song and poetry.

Hundreds packed into the Church of St Vincent de Paul in Marino, Dublin this morning for the funeral of the theatre legend who died on Tuesday. Ms Barry taught thousands of children in her stage school, which she founded almost 50 years ago.

Her coffin was carried up the aisle to the accompaniment of Somewhere Over the Rainbow sung by Jacinta Whyte. The first gift brought to the altar was her pair of golden tap shoes, their ribbons resting on a red cushion.

Celebrant Fr Eugene Curran also accepted the "Living Legend" award she received from the Variety Club of Ireland in 2010, and a photograph of her grandchildren.


Noting the packed church, he said he was sure the congregation was “only a fraction of the lives she touched over the years. I’m sure that, in places of work and in homes here in Ireland and across the world, there are people taking time to join with us and remember Billie with thanksgiving and gratitude.”

He told the congregation she had instilled the “three Cs” into generations of children - confidence, competence and creativity. As a former secondary school teacher, he knew how easy it was “to ruin and wreck the confidence of children... Those who encourage confidence, competence and creativity in others are children of God.”

She let children know that they were “beloved children, capable children, children of a creative and living and loving God”.

Singers at the ceremony included her son-in-law Tony Kenny, who sang Ave Maria and Honor Heffernan who sang Mood Indigo and segued into There's No Business Like Show Business. She was accompanied by pianist Jim Doherty.

Her son Pat Farrell and grandson Ryan Hargadon both performed pieces they had written and composed.

Game of Thrones actor Michael Grennell recited her favourite poem, The Daffodils by William Wordsworth.

Mourners heard how Ms Barry had come from a theatrical family. Her father John Clarke-Barry was a respected musician who played in many orchestras, while her mother was an opera singer.

Later Susan McFadden sang Dream Mother, the first song Ms Barry performed on stage when she was five years old.

In a joint eulogy, her daughters Joan and Lorraine told how their mother set up the stage school when her husband Patrick's health began to deteriorate. "Thousands of children have passed though the school over the years. She inspired many and loved them all..She allowed personalities to grow and blossom," they said. "We, as her children, are unbelievably proud."

Among the congregation were many figures from the entertainment world including Brush Shiels, John McColgan, Frank McNamara and his wife Theresa Lowe and Lisa Lambe. Mourners also included theatre director Michael Scott and former Olympia manager Gerry Sinnott.

She was predeceased by her husband Patrick and is survived by her children David, Pat, Joan and Lorraine and partner Jim Scully, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Alison Healy

Alison Healy

Alison Healy is a contributor to The Irish Times