by John Gavin Nolan
With only oral history to draw upon, one learned in Wexford in the summer of 1976 that the Adamstown curate was remembered by people who had known him as youngsters as a person with a theatrical flair, who gave lectures to parishioners on American and English authors and entertained selected friends expensively and often.57 To Monsignor John Codd, 90, a priest of the Wexford diocese ordained in 1910 he was the type of man in whose company people wanted to be seen; and rumor had it, when he left Adamstown, that he had left behind many unpaid bills.58 He was, all the same, very well liked by all in the parish and a good priest at his duties. He left the parish secretly overnight, during Holy Week,59 presumably for England.
Six years later, at the outbreak of World War I, Father Barry-Doyle appeared again, as rector of a parish in Yorkshire, the section where Charlotte Bronte lived and of which she wrote.60 He gave the following as his reason for leaving this benefice for the battlefield:
I had a very beautiful rose garden. The cultivation of roses was one of my greater joys. Then the thunderbolt of the war fell out of a clear sky on that August afternoon; I was inspired with a desire to follow the colors. I resolved to take part in the affair that I might help the soldiers who were facing death. From that day the old-fashioned rectory, the rose garden, the people of the diocese, became a part of my past.61
According to official military records, Father Barry-Doyle applied to join the Army as a chaplain on 24 August 1916, which would be a full two years and two full rose-growing seasons after the thunderbolt of the war fell out of a clear sky on that August afternoon. Following war service and his recovery from wounds, he was selected for duty with the Black Sea force. Father Barry-Doyle himself said that he had turned down a parish benefice in London to stay with his Dublin Fusiliers, who — again according to newspaper accounts during his American lecture tour — knew him as the Fighting Padre and the Soldiers Idol, and who had been assigned to Constantinople to aid the war victims.
He was in Smyrna, he said, when that city was burned to the ground, and he anguished with the pitiful victims of the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), when more than one million Greeks were deported back to Greece from Asia Minor. Later, for his American audiences, he would describe what he had seen: