Home » Profiles » Duncan Barry

Duncan Barry

Riverton Celebrates A Century

Duncan Barry (photo: hamishNIVENPhotography)

Duncan Barry (photo: hamishNIVENPhotography)

On 11 February 2018, Duncan Barry and his family celebrated a very special milestone – 100 years at Riverton. As a century is pretty special in anyone’s book, we caught up with Robertson’s gentleman farmer.

Duncan always greets you warmly, usually accompanied by quip or two and never fails to find the positive – even when things are looking less than rosy. Being asked after his wife at a sale one day, Duncan shot back, “She’s not here.” Then, alluding to the fact he’d sustained a few bruises in the auction ring, “She doesn’t like seeing me suffer,” before flashing a smile to show there were no hard feelings.

But the smile never dims and he never loses his enthusiasm and year on year, Riverton produces honest soldiers that serve their owners well. Everything off the farm is 100% handcrafted, with Barry growing the feed the horses are raised on and taking such a hands on approach to watching them grow and develop, that even years after they have left the farm, Riverton horses still respond to his whistle. That sort of care and attention to detail is rare these days, but Riverton is a place where grace is said before meals, where one starts early in the morning and works until the job is done and where business is still conducted with a handshake. Longhand, thorough, proper.


SS Kadie (photo: Riverton)

SS Kadie (photo: Riverton)

The family are descendants of the Honourable Joseph Barry and his nephews who traded by ship and established stores, churches, schools and counting houses (the forerunner to banks in South Africa), across the Overberg in the 1800s. By the late 1830s Barry & Nephews had significantly opened up trade opportunities for Overberg farmers as the overland route was a hazardous, long and expensive journey that discouraged trade with Cape Town. By the late 1850s Barry & Nephews were loading a million pounds of wool direct for London at Port Beaufort and their custom built SS Kadie steamship was navigating 35km from Port Beaufort up the Breede River to Malgas.

Duncan van Reenen Barry and his beloved Hubertha (photo: Riverton)

Duncan van Reenen Barry and his beloved Hubertha (photo: Riverton)

The land that the farm stands on was purchased by Duncan’s grandfather, Duncan van Reenen Barry, while he was away fighting World War 1 in 1918. “The Algerian oak trees that stand watch over the old homestead (now a gracious guest house) came with him from France as acorns in his tog bag and they’re still going today,” says Duncan proudly.

George Barry (photo: Charles Faull)

George Barry (photo: Charles Faull)

Duncan van Reenen Barry, known for his great sense of humour and love of life and his fellow man, married Hubertha Deneys van Velden and the pair had a long and devoted marriage, so much so that it is said that Hubertha died from a broken heart two and a half months after her husband passed away in 1962. The pair had two sons, George Joseph Barry and Alfred Hamilton Barry as well as three daughters, Noelle, Helen and Jean.

Much like his father, George Barry was known for his sense of humour and great kindness. Like his father, he also went to war, and was injured in the battle of El Alamein when his tank was blown up by a mine. When he returned to South Africa, he worked briefly as an accountant, but returned to the farm full time when his father became ill. George married kindergarten teacher, Philippa Jeffery and like the generation before them, they had a long and happy marriage and were blessed with three children, Janet, Patricia and Duncan who now runs Riverton with his wife Natasha and their three children.


Hoisting the flag (photo: Riverton)

Hoisting the flag (photo: Riverton)

Four generations of Barrys have lived on the farm to date, and Duncan says, “It’s a privilege, more than anything else, to have grown up here. It was supposed to be special in that it was organised for 11 February because one of my aunts would have turned 90 that day, so we thought we would make it on the 11th and get everyone to celebrate her birthday at the same time, but unfortunately she passed away at the end of last year. But we were very blessed to have my dad’s last remaining sister with us. She is 93 now and still very together and helped raise the new flag we’ve had made.”

The guesthouse has a flagpole which flies the SA flag on special occasions and Duncan says there’s a Western Australian flag for his sister, which gets raised for occasions such as her birthday, and now they have a new one to add to the collection, featuring the Barry coat of arms and the legend ‘Boutez En Avant’, meaning to Push Forward.

Barry family celebration (photo: Riverton)

A lot of Barrys! (photo: Riverton)

As befits a celebration of this magnitude, friends and family flew in from far and wide and congregated on Robertson for a full weekend’s celebration. “My sister from Australia was here, cousins from Australia and New Zealand and even from the UK. It was just great to get everyone together. We had my dad’s side of the family as well as my mom’s side. Obviously not everyone was able to make it but we had over 100 people and some close neighbours also involved. It was great and well organised as usual by my wife.”


Duncan with Blue Tiger (photo: hamishNIVENPhotography)

Duncan with Blue Tiger (photo: hamishNIVENPhotography)

The farm had historically focussed on wine and fruit, but in 1967, George started breeding Thoroughbreds with Dr Tommy Foulkes. The imported French sire Jamaico first put Riverton on the map and as per the old horseman’s motto that it’s good luck to keep a grey horse in your barn, fortune has favoured Riverton in the form of grey stallions ever since, including Russian Fox and the current inmate, Blue Tiger. “They were very successful,” says Duncan. “They topped the sales average one year and we’ve got lucky and had some nice horses and some Gr1 winners and hopefully many more to come.”

Duncan is the reason there are still horses at Riverton today. After their initial success, the horses started to become less profitable and by the mid-80’s, George was considering giving up breeding. He rang Duncan, working and travelling in Ireland at the time, to discuss his thoughts and received the reply, “It’s your call Dad, but don’t expect me back if there are no horses on the farm!

The horses are Duncan’s passion as well as his pride and joy. Although the numbers are relatively small, and over the years he has been rewarded by some high profile runners, including the likes of Cardinal Fury (the first Gr1 winner produced under Duncan’s care), Domino Man, Potent Power and new sire Captain Of All, but prides himself on their high winners to runners ratio.

BSA Cape Yearling Sale

They offer four colts on BSA’s forthcoming Cape Yearling Sale at Mistico and Duncan talked us through his draft.

Lot 3 is called Marco Polo and is by Pathfork out of Remarkable. “This is a lovely big, scopey colt. I actually don’t know why it’s taken me so long to go back to a Mr Prospector horse. Awesome Power was the last one and he wasn’t too bad!” he quips. “Since then haven’t been back to a Mr Prospector horse, but eventually I’ve done it. He’s from an old Odessa family and this is a very, very nice horse.”

Lot 24 is named Asterix and is by Vercingetorix (who was famously pinhooked and produced by Riverton’s Groom’s Consortium) out of the Grooms’ Consortium mare, Victory Dance. “This is a very nice colt with a lot of scope and is probably one of the nicer yearlings she’s had. It’s a strong female line that one would expect to produce a decent sort and I think this is the best chance so far.”

Lot 62 is a thoroughly Riverton product, being from the family of Domino Man by Blue Tiger out of a mare named Kadie. “Dad imported the third dam, Seavah, from the UK and bred all those good horses out of her. Kadie was the little Barry ship that sailed from Cape Town to the Breede River mouth and up to Malgas. The mare has perhaps been a little disappointing, but her 2005 colt, Captain James (named after Captain James Fowler who captained the Kadie) looked like a decent horse, but was killed in a float accident with What A Winter’s brother, What A Question.” Knowing how much time, effort and planning goes into Duncan’s matings, why Blue Tiger for Kadie this time round? “Honestly? She’s an old mare that didn’t want to travel. Blue Tiger hasn’t done it yet, but he hasn’t had the chances. This one’s called Unleashed Power and he’s a nice colt,” he says firmly.

Rounding off the draft is Lot 84, by talking horse Master Of My Fate from the same family as Kadie. And his dam has produced two 4-time winners to date. “This is a colt with a lot of scope. He’s going to be a big horse,” says Duncan. He has been named Master Mount. “I must have named that!” he quips.


Highlight – Captain Of All (photo: Gold Circle)

Asked to name the highlights of his breeding career, Duncan doesn’t hesitate long. “It was probably having three Gold Medallion winners in 4 years. Two were bred for Riverton (Potent Power and Captain Of All) and Link Man was bred for the Tawny Syndicate. For a small stud to have dominated a race like that three times out of 4 years was quite special. Hopefully we’ll produce something again this year !”

Captain Of All holds a special place in his heart and Duncan has repaid him with loyal support in his breeding career. “I’ve got a yearling going to Joburg and one to Durban and I’ve got 4 foals on the ground and 4 or 5 in foal to him.” Duncan speaks highly of the physical types he is producing, “They are very nice. They are more leggy than he is. If he passes on any of his speed, which he will, we should have some early speedsters and being horses that have scope, go on to run a mile. Captain Of All’s pedigree is Captain Al out of a Fard mare, which goes back to Forty Winks and Drum Beat, so it’s all speed, but he got mares that got a mile, and I think we’ll have some milers on what I’ve seen. He’s very exciting. He’s got a big syndicate and has been well supported with over 100 mares every year. There are a lot of shareholders and they’ve all used him, so he’s had a wide variety of mares and I think we’re going to have some fun.”

‹ Previous

Stuart Pettigrew (photo: JC Photos)

Stuart Pettigrew

Next ›

Lyle Hewitson (photo: JC Photos)

Lyle Hewitson

Recent Profiles

KZN’s Voice Of The People

The rush and roar remains unforgettable

Dawn Newman – A Household Name

Ticking all the boxes

Sean Veale Rides Under SP Banner

Welcome to the team

Chad Set For Singapore

Fifth one-day visit at Kranji

A Champion Milestone

Has a chance longshot ride in the Woolavington

Passionate Owner Supports Good Cause

It costs so little to do plenty of good

Aidan O’Brien Earns Top Accolade

Hall Of Fame inductee

Getting Back Into The Saddle

Redemption after the return

Fanie’s Pure Winning Pleasure

Former Tukkies rugby star is living the dream

Wright Signs For Ridgemont

Happy and content in the Cape

Kaidan’s On The Up!

Dad Andrew is his Agent - so it's quite a team!

Will We See A R10 Million Ticket At Nationals?

Kuda CEO talks about sales prospects next week

Snaith Machine Kicks Into Top Gear

Snaith Racing - big plans over the next four months

It’s A Real Equestrian Affair!

Whistling on her way to work!

Join The Zac Attack!

Second Hong Kong Derby success

High Five For Rising Star Kelly!

From a quiet start in 2022, to a third place on the log

From ‘Zama-Zama’ to Gr1 Owner

Stinky Pooe's Inspiring Story