Remarkable doctor's story

Published: 23 October 2021
Reporter: David Upton

The Esteemed Dr Barry

The Liverpool Irish Festival 2021 welcomes The Esteemed Dr Barry (October 28–29) based on the extraordinary life of Dr James Barry.

After her previous play, Kitty (performed at the festival in 2018), Liverpool writer Carol Maginn presents the story of another Irish migrant who confronted and overcame the hurdles of early 19th century society.

The play tracks Dr Barry from poverty in Cork to family in London, study in Edinburgh, and a tumultuous career in the British army. A modern retelling of the life of a powerful historic pioneer.

Dr Barry performed the first caesarean section recorded in the British Empire where both mother and baby lived.

But back in the earlier 1800s, women weren't allowed to practice medicine which is why Dr Barry, or Margaret Ann Bulkley as she was called in her youth, disguised herself as a man to pursue her career as a surgeon.

Amongst the cast is Preston UCLAN graduate Rachel Howard, performing the work in the atmospheric lecture theatre of the Liverpool Medical Institution, which opened in 1837, at the height of Barry’s surgical work.