“Barry epitomizes the life-long learning ethos we seek to encourage.” (Jose Simsa, March 2012)
Barry McIntosh became a member of U3APP 15 years ago. He has served on the Committee of Management, facilitating various projects, including providing photographs for the U3APP publication; “Movers and Shapers – People Who Inspire Us.” Lindsay Doig was President at this time.
Barry has become well known over the years, for his photographic skills. He can be seen at U3APP functions, unobtrusively moving through the room, capturing portraits of members.
Where did you live as a child? “I was born in Romsey, Hampshire in England. I was brought up by my paternal grandmother. My mother died when I was 3 months old. I spent my first few months in hospital due to a skin problem (Atopic Eczema) which persists today, although it is now managed much better than was possible in those days.”
His mother died from septicemia. Barry responded pensively, “she would have lived today, (with current advanced medications) my life would have been radically different had she lived.” Barry’s mother had managed the village Post office / newsagency.
How was that experience for you, growing up with your grandmother? “Without her, I wouldn’t have had a home.” Barry reflected further, “she was a dominant presence, she became blind, losing her retina midlife, but she still managed the day to day running of the pub. “I grew up in the pub, it was a very nurturing atmosphere, I am forever grateful that she was there.
“My grandmother took on the license of a century’s old pub, in the market town of Fareham in Hampshire. France was roughly 25 miles across the water.”
In respect to his mother, Barry recalls, ”I wanted to know what sort of person she was. Did she have a sense of humour, a belief system, I was curious to know all those things. One of the problems was that people would sanitize their answers. The end result is that I didn’t really discover much at all.”
Barry was 14 years old when he left his private school, the expense became too much for his grandmother. He was told “you gotta go to work, which I did.” This turned out well. The father of one of his good friends, noting that he lacked parental guidance, took Barry and his son to an interview for trial apprentices. The company took on only 12 apprentices each year.
“I was fortunate to be one of them, without that my life would have been very different. I think that began my lifelong learning journey. I realised how backward I was as I was mixing with some very impressive people; it goaded me to knuckle down and to work hard.”
It also shows that you had potential. “Well, I am not sure, but I did win the Vickers Armstrong metallurgy prize when I was 19 years old.”
This achievement gave Barry a much needed boost to his confidence. He later spent time studying vibration measurement and control in jet engines. “But bear in mind I was just a junior technician,” he adds modestly, whilst acknowledging that “taking an interest,” was perhaps the key to his advancement over future years.
How do you measure vibrations? With some amusement Barry described, “well, something can be vibrating right here (pointing to the table in the room) and it vibrates in sympathy with the other end of the table, and you need to work out how it gets there … sympathetic vibrations are very complicated.”
Barry was aged 21 when he made the decision to migrate to Australia, having completed his apprenticeship. “I had this fantasy; I wanted to travel to Canada or Australia. I didn’t intend to stay for long, but I was offered a job as a vibration control sales engineer. With typical modesty, Barry reflects, “they took a huge risk, I was green as grass. They would send me to Dandenong, and I’d go to Footscray, I didn’t know Melbourne at all.”
Barry obtained employment with Mackay Rubber, which made vibration control components. “So that was the interest I had and the reason why they were interested in me, to sell their equipment.” But “I had no commercial experience at all, so I grabbed the opportunity they offered me.”
Barry recalls humorously that at his interview he was told, ‘we’ll give you a go’. “I was too shy to ask what that meant. Several days later I got the letter confirming the appointment, then I knew what it meant!” Two years later Barry was promoted to become a senior sales engineer, there followed “a very happy 4 years, by then I was committed.”
What about your social life, given you had no family in Australia? “Well, I grew up in a pub and I learned not to drink.“ He recalled his grandmother saying to him, “you are 18, you can drink anything you want. So, I tried everything in the bar, and then went back to lime juice! That’s still very much the case today, I rarely drink alcohol now.”
Barry formed local friendships, also with various workmates. He was often teased, given his ‘Pommie’ accent. “Have you had a bath this week Mac? It was relentless,” but he took it all with good humour.
Barry went on to study Rubber Science Technology at RMIT. He was approached by one of the tutors who was also a chief plastics chemist. Barry described how he “pulled me to one side and said, look there’s a job coming up, to represent Nylex plastics with a new Swiss product. We have a product we need to promote, I think you should apply. What I didn’t know was that the job was mine, it had already been decided.” Barry subsequently worked with this company for a further 6 years and became their general products sales manager, with a staff of 35.
Looking back on this experience, as Nylex plastics’ chief technical salesman, Barry reflects, ”I have always taken a fairly positive view. Sometimes you score, sometimes you don’t, but either way the challenge was interesting.”
Barry had always wanted to start up his own business, “but I didn’t know how to do that.” An opportunity arose when Scope Laboratories, a company that made electric tools, located in Airport West, needed a sales engineer. He was recommended for the job and subsequently over a 3 year period, “I bought into the business and became a part owner. Together with my partner, we ran that business for 25 years. We were able to sell our tools to various customers e.g. London underground, Marconi Aerospace, Phillips in France as well as local and NZ companies.”
Barry and his partner initiated a scheme whereby the profit was shared with the other 12 staff members. When the business was eventually up for sale, “we determined that if the staff were properly looked after, we would accept the offer. Some of the staff retired, others remained with the new business.”
What did you do after that? “I was 60 years old, I didn’t want to retire.” It eventuated that a Swiss colleague suggested that Barry give him a hand with his aluminum business. “I said, I don’t know anything about aluminum, you’ve got the wrong guy.” Barry was persuaded to give it a try. This turned into a 7 year period, requiring travel to Europe several times a year. The connection with my Swiss colleague proved a happy and productive one.
It was at this time that Barry became involved with a local nursing home.
This notable project is referenced in the book, “By the Community, For the Community’ – the story of Napier Street Aged Care Services” by Adair Bunnett.
“Barry McIntosh, the son-in-law of another resident, worked tirelessly to secure funding from various philanthropic trusts. Thanks to his hard work and the generosity of the trusts, Barry secured enough to cover the target of the 179 Dementia Appeal and most of the hostel’s budgeted contribution.”
How did that come about? “Well, they needed money for the dementia unit. Despite having no experience in raising money for big projects, Barry would source out the key people in a particular business and say to them, ”look I am new, can you give me some advice?” This genuine approach seemed to work. Over a 2 year period Barry raised enough to cover the cost of the dementia facility, basically by “not taking ‘no’, for an answer…although you do get a lot of knockbacks.”
When did you take up photography? Barry’s first photo was of his grandmother. “I also processed the print, in those days it was all chemicals. I developed the photo in a cupboard in the pub and printed it. That was a happy association, my first photo of my grandmother, it took me into lots of new areas, christenings, weddings.”
What camera did you start off with? “The cheapest one you can imagine, I didn’t graduate to anything sexy for a long time, they were very expensive… photography has always interested me, and that’s what launched me, at U3APP.”
How did that come about? “Well, I take most of the photographs here. I would just do what I could do and didn’t think too much of it. But then they awarded me a Lifetime Member, along with a citation.”
Barry took many of the photos in the U3APP publication, ‘Movers and Shapers, People Who Inspire Us.”(2012). He is referenced as: “The beautiful photo portraits of our guests are the work of, and were donated by, Barry McIntosh. Barry was also the researcher for the historical photos and archival material …he took on another role, becoming the indispensable liaison person between the featured guests and the production team. He made countless trips at short notice to borrow old photos and to have work-in-progress reviewed and approved. Both a teacher (IT) and a student(Italian) at U3A, Barry epitomizes the life-long learning ethos we seek to encourage.”
Barry likes to keep physically active. “There is a philosophy of trying to keep you moving, to keep your muscles toned, so I walk whenever I can.” He attends a program run by Better Health Network, in South Melbourne where their aim is to keep you active and in good shape.
Barry recalls that he and Gwen (Barry’s wife), together with a walking group, trekked over the Milford Track in New Zealand, “through the most stunning country you have ever seen.”
Currently Barry attends an Apple Friendship class run by Dennis Mouy and iPhones/iPads – basics tutored by Jude Hatton, “both classes are welcoming and helpful.”
“U3APP describes a significant chapter in my life. That chapter exudes talent and enthusiasm in abundance. The people that walk the corridors at Mary Kehoe are an attractive group and I’m pleased to be part of it.”
Barry tells an interesting life story, as he shaped his life from difficult beginnings, into a fulfilling career, and ongoing generosity to others. With his down to earth insight, and humour, Barry continues to develop new perspectives which enrich his life. His camera is ever rolling, snapping photo portraits at all our U3APP events.
Felicity May interviewed Barry McIntosh.
Wal Moser took the photo of Barry McIntosh.