Although Barry lived his adult life as a man, it is believed that at birth he was identified or assigned as female and named Margaret Ann Bulkley, and that he chose to live as a man so that he might be accepted as a university student and able to pursue a career as a surgeon.
James Barry retired in 1864 — reputedly against his wishes — and returned to England. He died from dysentery on 25 July 1865. Sophia Bishop, the charwoman who took care of the body, examined his anatomy and revealed this information after the funeral. The situation came to light after an exchange of letters between George Graham of the General Register Office, and Major D. R. McKinnon, Barry's doctor and the person who had issued the death certificate on which Barry was identified as male.
Afterward many people claimed to have "known it all along". The British Army sealed all records for 100 years. Historian Isobel Rae gained access to the army records in the 1950s, and concluded that Barry was the niece of James Barry the painter. He was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery under the name James Barry and his full rank. His manservant John subsequently returned to Jamaica.
Barry was apparently not always a pleasant fellow to be around. He could be tactless, impatient, argumentative and opinionated. He reputedly fought a couple of duels when someone commented on his voice, features, or professionalism. He was punished many times for insubordination and discourteous behaviour but often received lenient sentences. During the Crimean War (1854–1856), he got into an argument with Florence Nightingale.
He appears to have had a good bedside manner and professional skill. He tried to improve sanitary conditions wherever he went and improve the conditions and diet of the common soldier, by introducing the pear. He reacted indignantly to unnecessary suffering. His insistence on better conditions for poor and commoners annoyed his peers. He was a vegetarian and teetotaler and reputedly recommended wine baths for some patients. His manservant (named John) and his dogs were his constant companions.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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