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OBITUARY., Issue 8016, 19 September 1889
At the ripe period of fourscore years, another of the old celebrities of Otago has closed his earthly career, leaving a blank spot in a field which for a long time he honorably and creditably occupied. Mr John Barr, of Craigielea, was a native of Paisley, having been born there in 1809, and, like most other Scotchmen of the first half of this century, received hia education in the then familiar paTisb school. Receiving a practical knowledge in his trade as an engineer, he started business as engineer and iron ship boilder with his friend Mr M'Nab in that rather out-of-the-way place, his native town, and speedily the firm of Barr and M'Nab attained considerable eminence from the high-class steamers turned out by them at their yards on the banks of the river Cart. Those among us familiar with the Clyde steamers will remember the Lady Brisbane and the Lady Kilburne, built by the firm for the Largs trade, and the tMover, Petrel, and Pioneer for the Greenock Railway Company, which, in the latter half of the forties, were the crack steamers sailing the Firth. Unfortunately, heavy losses in connection with a contract for larger vessels brought the firm to a melancholy termination, and, with a somewhat shattered spirit, Mr Barr determined to sever connection with the location of his early life, and make for himself and family a new home in a new sphere, Having formed his resolution passages were secured by the ship Dominion, from London, and Otago was safely reached on 28th September, 1852. After looking around hj bit Mr Barr made a selection of land at Halfway Bush, naming it Craigielea; but finding this position too circumscribed, he some years later bought a farm at Kaibikn, where he continued until the discovery of the goldfields, when he sold out to Mr Kettle, and brought his family back to Dnnedin, in and around which he has sinee resided. A few years ago a tidy sum fell to his lot in his native town, whicbrequired a personal visit to obtain possession, and which kept his circle in comfortable circumstances. Mr Barr leaves behind his widow, two sons, and two daughters. Although not one of the earliest settlers in Otago, yet his residence of itself has been sufficiently long to entitle his name to be reckoned among the old worthies. On much more prominent grounds, however, his filaim f 0? speoial notice is based, as he was the first inhabitant of the province who .claimed and obtained, in his day, the rank *ad status of a poet. It is true that in these days of hypercr.tical stricture and inflated vanity little credit would be awarded to his poetry, either as regards its composition or highflown sentiment; but in his time it suited the requirements of the jpeople—it spoke from the heart to the
heart, aud in many a home and at many a hearth feelings joyful or the reverse have been awakened by bis simple melodies. In almost every weekly issue of the Dunedin paper for several years appeared a piece of poetry from his fertile imagination, sometimes written in a humorous vein, oftentimes personal and individually offensive, at other times in a serious, reflective mood. Perhaps one of his best stanzas, somewhat on an idea of Burns, may be quoted as a specimen of the latter style—
My fancy' roves 'mang glens and groves, Whilst fa's the briny tear; There lie the buried memories 0' many a bjyaue year.
I Nor wa.i it alone in the newspaper columns that Mr Barv'a gifts as ;' pout bad uppor- ; tunit.T of »'»!!!* displayed.* in th-j <Mt'lier [ d.v-v-, "i the «'t-!ebr,ui;v- ti Bums'--) unnivt"/fli.rv, iuim? oi his )yy:z cibns wori; putforth, and afar the formalities of the occasion were gone through it fell to the lot of Mr Barr by universal a election to refer to his great predecessor in poesy, and on more than one occasion ha gave utterance to grand thoughts, clothed in appropriate language, to which some of the oft-quoted unintelligible rhymesters of this ago, who _ are lauded for verbosity only, would have given their best endeavors to have the authorship placed to their name. A little later on in our provincial history the Caledonian Society sprang into life, and i the members oan tell the thrill of real nationality which permeated their every fibre when " Craigielea," with his whole soul beaming in his countenance, would speak aloud in "guid broad Scotch" those heart words, carrying a weight in each and all of them, telling that the man who expressed them realised the depth of their meaning ; and the great majority of his listeners, in profound sympathy with him, cheered to make " the rafters ding " when John Barr " spak o' Wallaoe and Bruce "—so much so that several foreigners to Scotland expressed the wish that they had been born in that immortal country. In the more private circle of individual life Mr Barr had his "cronies." The photo graph of Kilgour, Finlay, and Barr, as taken by another old worthy, M'Gregor, is almost up to one of Burns's choicest scenes. With many others also ho was a familiar friend, and during his stay in the oountry his periodic visits to Dunedin were anticipated with great delight. Smith's and Marshall's, Healy's, M'Leort's, and Gibson's, all were open to bis welcome visits. In 1850, at a meeting of a few of his friends in Dunedin, it was determined to make a collection of his poetic effusions and have them published in book form, which was accordingly done at Edinburgh, the Dunedin printers at that time being unable to undertake the work. The late Mr John M'Glashan was entrusted with the work of revising and cor;e;ting, but by general testimony, when;the book was printed, these gratuitous labors were severely spoken ot as having thoroughly emasculated the author's productions. J?or a considerable time past Mr Barr has led a very retired life, Beldom visiting Dunedin, confining his walks to the harbor side. To very many, however, the news of his death will bo heard with great regret. J. M'l.
OBITUARY., Issue 8016, 19 September 1889
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