Barrister, actor, singer and broadcaster

 

The many roles of Cecil John Rhodes Barror, who died on October 15th, demonstrated a man of great talent and energy. He was barrister, actor, singer, broadcaster, sportsman and raconteur. He was born in Clontarf on August 12th, 1911, the youngest of four children of John and Sarah Barror (nee Mannion), both from Dun Laoghaire. As a child, he won a scholarship to Belvedere College, where he succeeded academically, and developed what were to be lifelong interests in rugby and the stage.

He joined the Abbey School of Acting in the days of Lennox Robinson and Ria Mooney and took part in many productions in the old Abbey Theatre between 1935 and 1938. His subsequent theatrical career took him to all the theatres of Dublin, and saw him play in the world premieres of God's Gentry (1952), Stephen D (1963), and Philadelphia, Here I Come!, and its subsequent Dublin revival.

During the 1930s he studied singing with Margaret Dempsey; he was a gold medal winner in both the Feis Maitiu and the Feis Ceoil, and he went on to sing with the Dublin Grand Opera Society. This laid the foundation for his success in the world of musical theatre.

During his long and distinguished association with the Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society (R&R), he excelled in all the character roles of the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire (except Shadbolt in The Yeomen of the Guard, for which he knew himself to be physically - but only physically - too small). But he did not confine himself to Gilbert and Sullivan. He was an honorary life-member of The Bohemians, and frequently entertained at their Tuesday night musical gatherings in Jury's Hotel (old and new). His last stage appearance was with the R&R in 1993 in Anything Goes.

His working life was spent in the law offices of the ESB, which he joined in the early 1930s after studying for a law degree at TCD. He was called to the Bar in 1954.

He also had a distinguished career as a broadcaster. He joined Radio Eireann in 1938, and for the next 10 years took part in many of its most prominent programmes. In 1947 he took over The Bird's Programme from the actor Liam Gaffney, and for the next 22 years presented the programme, at first three times, and later twice a week.

In those early days of broadcasting, presenters wrote their own scripts, chose the music, and presented the programme live. This required split-second timing in more ways than one: he had to get from his office in Fitzwilliam St to the Metropole for a quick lunch, then go around the corner to the studios in Henry St, do the programme live, and get back to the office for 2.15 p.m. sharp. In 1969 the programme was taken over by a promising young broadcaster named Gay Byrne.

He was actively involved in Old Belvedere Rugby and Cricket Clubs, serving for many years on the committees of both. He was President of the Cricket Club in 1965-1966 and was one of only seven honorary life members of Old Belvedere Rugby Club. He also served as a selector for the junior section of the Leinster Branch, and with his colleagues, Harry Gale and Jack McVitie, was keenly involved with the promotion of Greystones and Skerries to senior club status.

He maintained his interest in theatre, music and sport, and the people involved in them, in spite of failing health and diminished eyesight. He was a man of firmlyheld faith, of great integrity, of wisdom and of wit.

He is survived by his wife Ethna (nee Graham); two daughters, Ann and Pauline, and two sons, Denis and Raymond. Another son, Tony, died in 1976.

Cecil John Rhodes Barror: born 1911; died October, 1999