The experiences of a Thurles man who spent twenty-six years working as a school principal in Papua New Guinea are presented in an intriguing and fascinating booklet, “Brother Charles Barry’s Papua New Guinean Reminiscences and Recollections 1968-1994”. Brother Charles Barry, a native of Grallagh, Horse-and-Jockey, reflects on his experiences on the island in the south-western Pacific Ocean, providing insights into a country that is relatively unknown to Westeners.
Br. Charles was born in 1938 and made his first profession as a Patrician in 1955. At 21, he was sent to Australia and five years later, he was made principal of the Patrician Brothers’ High School, Fairfield. In 1968, Br. Charles, along with 21 other Brothers, stepped forward to volunteer in Papua New Guinea, thus beginning a twenty-six year adventure on the Oceanic island.
In the booklet, Br. Charles describes the culture and way of life for the seven million inhabitants of Papua New Guinea. The beliefs, taboos and spirituality of Papua New Guinean culture is quite different to that of the Irish people but Br. Charles presents these stories and experiences with ease. In some recollections, Br. Charles describes the locals’ beliefs in sorcery and evil spirits, all of which makes fascinating reading.
The ghosts of World War Two continued to linger during Br. Charles time on the island. He describes finding the skeletons of Japanese soldiers during outings with students and discovering a 16lb bomb in the soccer field of Aitape Government High School, during his time there as principal.
Indeed, many of the stories presented in the booklet can, at times, seem quite unbelievable: Close encounters with crocodiles and keeping snakes in the ceilings to scare rodents and possums away from the residence would not be the typical experiences of a Thurles man! However, after experiencing twenty-six years in a country with such a diverse and intriguing culture, Br. Charles has many incredible stories to share.
In 1994, Br. Charles returned to Australia and has been ministering at Delany College, Granville, ever since. His ties to Thurles remain strong: His brother, Sean Barry lives in Grallagh, Horse-and-Jockey, with his wife Rita. Friends of Br. Charles and those interested in his experiences can read his memoirs in Thurles library, where this booklet will be made available.