Thursday 26 April 2018

James Barry to be honoured for his outstanding contribution to industry

James A Barry, founder of the Barry Group, Mallow.
James A Barry, founder of the Barry Group, Mallow.


THE founder of the Mallow based Barry Group, James A Barry, is to be honoured for his outstanding contribution to industry by one of America's leading Irish ex-patriot groups.

Mr Barry, along with Cape Clear man Jim O'Driscoll, will be recognised for their lifelong contribution of Irish society at a gala bash being held by the New York based County Cork Association next month at the Rochestown Park Hotel.

In the award citation the association described the Barry Group as "one of the most respected food distribution groups in Ireland".

"James A still plays an active role in the company today and his experience and counsel continue to be invaluable to the company," it read.

At the tender age of 85, Mr Barry still arrives into work at 8am each morning and has lost none of the drive and enthusiasm that inspired him to form the Barry group back in 1955.

Speaking to The Corkman, Mr Barry said he was "deeply grateful" to the Cork Association for the honour.

"I am and have always been a great admirer of the States. My father and my mother worked there. At a time when emigration was the only option for many people they found a safe and welcome home in America," he said.

After spending three years in the UK from 1948 to 1951, Mr Barry moved back to Cork and got a job selling ice-cream in Kanturk with a man called Denis Fitzgerald. "The one main goal that I always had was that I wanted to work for myself. I have never followed anyone nor have I ever wanted to," said Mr Barry.

His entrepreneurial spirit led Mr Barry to buy a van on hire-purchase and he started off selling sweets and fruit to small shops in local villages around the Mallow area.

As the business developed he began selling items to local pubs and his fledgling business flourished from there.

"It was tough work. I would be on the road on my own for up to 15-hours a day and it took me years to get where I wanted. I started out from nothing and am grateful for what I achieved, and for the fact that I can still drive into work each morning," said Mr Barry.

"I never drank or smoked. If I was ever browned off - I used to go for a walk and sort my head out. That was my therapy," he grinned.

Mr Barry said that in recent years he has reduced his working day to three or four hours, but conceded he still takes as much interest in the business, which is run by his son Jim, as he did six decades ago.

"I may have stepped back a bit but I still like to keep an eye on things. I find the changes in the industry fascinating, particularly in relation to alcohol, which I suppose is ironic since I have never touched a drop of the stuff in my life," he smiled.

One hallmark of the Barry Group is that it has consistently given back to the community that supported it by creating local jobs and supporting local initiatives. That was one of the key reasons why the Cork Association decided to honour Mr Barry.

"I am delighted and deeply grateful to the association for this honour," he said.