Friday 27 April 2018

Family pay tribute as Irish stage school legend Billie Barry dies

Billie Barry with the cast of Aladdin at the Gaiety Theatre in 1995/96. Picture:Arthur Carron
Billie Barry with the cast of Aladdin at the Gaiety Theatre in 1995/96. Picture:Arthur Carron
Freya Drohan

Freya Drohan

Billie Barry, the beloved family woman and founder of the successful stage school, has passed away, her family said today.

Ms Barry passed away peacefully this morning at Beechlawn Nursing Home, Drumcondra, Dublin.

Kevin Wall (left), Chief Barker Variety Club of Ireland, Billie Barry and Hilda Faye, Fair City pictured at a celebration concert at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, where the Variety Club of Ireland presented her with a Living Legend Award.
Picture:Arthur Carron/Collins
Kevin Wall (left), Chief Barker Variety Club of Ireland, Billie Barry and Hilda Faye, Fair City pictured at a celebration concert at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, where the Variety Club of Ireland presented her with a Living Legend Award. Picture:Arthur Carron/Collins
Billie Barry and Hilda Faye, Fair City pictured at a celebration concert at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, where the Variety Club of Ireland presented her with a Living Legend Award
Billie Barry and her daughter Lorraine
Billie Barry
Billie Barry with her daughter Lorraine and Daryn Crosbie
Billie Barry and her daughter Lorraine
Billie Barry and some of the kids from the Billie Barry School
Jean, Billie and Lorraine Barry of the Billie Barry Stage School in 1989
Billie Barry with daughter Lorraine and grandchildren Ryan and Robyn in 1998

In a statement today, her family said she will be 'sadly missed'.

"It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and dearest friend Billie Barry," the statement read.

Billie Barry and Hilda Faye, Fair City pictured at a celebration concert at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, where the Variety Club of Ireland presented her with a Living Legend Award.
Picture: Arthur Carron/ Collins
Billie Barry and Hilda Faye, Fair City pictured at a celebration concert at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, where the Variety Club of Ireland presented her with a Living Legend Award. Picture: Arthur Carron/ Collins

"She will be sadly missed by her loving children, David, Pat, Joan and Lorraine, grandchildren Debbie, Susan, Christopher, Vicky, Natalie, Robyn and Ryan, her loving companion Jim, 5 great-grandchildren, relatives and friends.

"Billie Barry was loved by the thousands of students who passed through her school," it continued.

"And we know that they are all thinking of her during this difficult time."

After 35 years, Billie retired from her post as Director of the school in 1999, leaving her daughter Lorraine at the helm.

In 2010 Billie was honoured with the Variety Club of Ireland "Living Legend" Award at a celebratory concert staged in the National Concert Hall.

Former President Mary Mc Aleese also invited her to a dinner to recognise her life achievements to the Irish entertainment industry. 

Billie Barry
Billie Barry

Billie was born into a theatrical family - her father and mother were both musicians and she began performing herself at age five.

She toured Ireland and the UK as part of the harmonic group The Barry Sisters before settling into married life and starting a family with her husband Paddy.

Billie never intended to form a stage school, but after Paddy was tragically diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she “had to do something to bring money in.”

"At that time, women didn't work outside the home but I had no other option, not when I had such young children. Performing was the only thing I knew," she told the Irish Independent in 2010.

"The word was put out and I turned up that first day worried that nobody would have come. But there were 32 students there, each paying 1s 6d, and I thought that I could really make a go of this."

Paddy died a year after the school was established.

"I threw myself into the work -- when you're grieving, it can be a distraction."

Famous former past pupils of the school include Samantha Mumba, Angeline Ball, Brian McFadden, Mikey Graham and Harry Potter actor Devon Murray.

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