Father W H "Billy" Barnes
Father W H Barnes, known as ‘Fr Billy’ by most people, was born in Port Elizabeth on the 18th January 1934.
Fr Billy began his academic career at St Dominic’s Priory in 1939 where he was taught by the Irish Dominican Sisters. The Priory was a girls-only school then, but about that time they took in about six boys. Billy was quite popular with the girls because he rode to school on his Shetland pony, Prince, and used to give the girls rides during ‘break’!
When he ‘matured’ at the age of eight he was sent to St Aidan’s College, where he spent 10 great years playing cricket, rugby and hockey and not doing much in the academic line.
It was there that the Jesuit Fathers instilled in him a great love of Jesus Christ. Their spiritual influence sowed the seed of a priestly vocation in the young man, with the result that immediately after the completion of his matric he entered St John Vianney Seminary, where he spent seven long years studying and preparing for the priesthood.
The joyful day of ordination eventually arrived on 7th December 1958, when he was ordained a priest by Bishop Green in St Augustine’s Cathedral, where he had been baptised 24 years previously.
His priestly ministry began at Immaculate Conception Church in East London, under the watchful eye of Monsignor John O’Keeffe. He had three stints in the parish, embracing 16 years of his life. Other assignments in his 52 years of priesthood include four years in the United States of America collecting funds for our diocesan missions, 10 years at Sacred Heart Parish in Port Elizabeth, nine years at Grahamstown, eight years at Cambridge, East London and two short stints at King William’s Town and Port Alfred. He is currently retired and lving in East London, where he conducts Bible Study classes.
He started writing out of boredom when recovering from a knee replacement operation, and his other books include “Just Remembering”, honouring the priests and brothers who have served in the Eastern Cape since 1830, and the “Gospel of St John”.