Mick Barry considered by many as the greatest road bowling player of all time talks about his love of the sport, meeting his wife and work as the head gardener at UCC.
Born in Waterfall County Cork in 1919, bowl playing was the hobby and chief interest of the young Mick Barry. He spent all his spare time engaged in it as he was growing up.
The one and only sport that I was ever interested in was bowl playing.
The only obstacle he faced at that time was his mother, who disapproved of his participation in road bowling because of the drinking culture associated with it. Her fears proved groundless as Mick Barry's only focus was on the sport itself. He was regularly rewarded for minding his younger siblings with a brand new bowl purchased on by his mother on a weekly shopping trip.
Mick Barry met his wife Betty at a dance in Togher, and from that night on he knew that she was the one for him,
She was so sincere and so honorable and so honest…one in a million, I always thought.
A teetotaller and non-smoker, Mick Barry did not fit the usual profile of a road bowler. With Betty's support he continued to compete, winning tournaments all round. Debarred from the sport for ten years because he was considered to be too good, he was permitted to officially compete again in 1954 when Ból-Chumann na hÉireann (All-Ireland Road Bowling Association) came into being and established governing rules for the sport.
Mick Barry's bowling career went from strength to strength, winning eleven Munster senior finals and eight All-Ireland titles.
In 1969 he went to the Netherlands for the first time as part of an Irish team competing in international championships against teams from Germany and Holland. He thoroughly enjoyed seeing road bowling being played in mainland Europe,
It was a grand experience going out there…to see the way they behaved, because they were underarms, we've a full complete swing.
At the age of fourteen years old he began working as a groundskeeper in University College Cork. Having worked his way up to the position of head gardener, Barry remained there until his retirement in 1985. It was a job which was a source of personal and professional satisfaction, as the campus grounds were admired by many visitors to the university,
That was further encouragement for to try and do better next time.
This episode of 'More Plain Tales' was broadcast on 24 September 1986. It was produced by Nuala O’Faoláin.