Dickie Barr

(1888-1943) - Madron's black sailor

Dickie was born in Perranuthnoe and was of African descent, although his father came from Hobart in Tasmania. He served in the Royal Navy in France and the Dardanelles during the war, where he was badly wounded. He was greatly respected in Madron as a British Legion Standard Bearer and billiard player.

Credit: Madron Old Cornwall Society, near Penzance and the Barr family

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Richard (Dickie) Barr was born on the 10th July 1888 at Perranuthnoe, the son of a miner, another Richard Barr, who was of African descent and married Elizabeth Jane Chinn, from Phillack, on the 30th November 1887. Dickie had a brother Leonard and a sister Violet.

After school Dickie worked as a bellboy at the West Union Hotel and later as a steward on the S.S. Trematon, a ship of the Hain Line of St Ives. In the second quarter of 1912 he married Nellie Mildred Lethby, daughter of James Lethby, a Penzance town councillor and businessman. They had a son, Eugene, in 1913. A second son, Gordon, was born in 1917.

At the beginning of the First World War and, most likely due to his earlier seamanship, Richard joined the Royal Naval Division and trained at Blandford in Dorset. Fighting first in France and then in the Dardenelles (Gallipoli), he was quite badly wounded in the neck and shoulder and spent some months in East Leeds War Hospital before returning to active service. Richard served from 1914 to February 1919.

A third son, William James, was born to the Barrs in 1927 and it is through him that Richard’s story has been passed down. All three of Richard’s sons served in World War II; Eugene was killed in 1942 while in Bomber Command. Gordon served in the Royal Army Medical Corps and later became a prisoner of war - but survived.   William served with the Royal Navy.  

Credit: Madron Old Cornwall Society nr Penzance and the Barr family