Ryan Barrett knows his history
Old Perlican student’s war knowledge earns Beaumont Hamel ticket
Baccalieu Collegiate student Ryan Barrett is clewing up his exams this week with history, which just happens to be his favourite subject. Coincidentally, it was Barrett’s love of history that earned him an upcoming trip to Beaumont Hamel as a part of the Royal Canadian Legion’s annual pilgrimage to the site on July 1.
It takes Old Perlican’s Ryan Barrett all of five seconds to name Britain’s commander-in-chief for the First World War.
Entwining his fingers and exhaling softly, the 16-year-old Baccalieu Collegiate student answers Sir Douglas Haig correctly.
It is just one of a number of questions The Compass posed to him while seated inside the library at his school. Sitting across from Ryan, one notices how easy answering the questions is to him. There is no tension and the only outward signs of stress occurs when his hands move from one position to another.
One-by-one the answers spill from his lips until reaching one that appears to stump him.
The challenge is to name the first Newfoundlander to sign up for the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.
After a couple anxious seconds and with the name on the tip of his tongue, Ryan concedes and looks for the answer.
“We didn’t know that one at the military challenge either,” he said smirking.
If he got that wrong in the competition sponsored by the Royal Canadian Legion, then that was probably the only one he got wrong. By all accounts, Ryan was a force at the competition as he answered question after question from the moderator.
While his team captured the gold and the bragging rights, his personal performance was enough to earn him the top student title at the competition. As a result, Ryan will accompany the Legion on their annual pilgrimage to Beaumont Hamel in July.
“My team and I certainly did a good job,” he said. “At first, I was very humbled and I was proud of our team and our efforts.
“Going over to Europe and getting the chance to go to Beaumont Hamel has been a big dream of mine for ages. The whole time over there, I’ll be reflecting.”
However, it is not just military history he excels in. Ryan says his love of the subject extends far beyond the Great Wars.
“I have a big interest in the world’s history. From the Romans to modern day, it is pretty well everything,” said Ryan, son of Wayne and Lori Barrett.
Following the Caribou Trail
Last week, Ryan received his itinerary for the Legion trip. It includes stops in the United Kingdom, Monchy-le-Preux, Gueudecourt and, of course, Beaumont Hamel on July 1.
He said it’ll be great to see the countryside that was shaped by conflict beyond what he’s viewed online and in textbooks.
“I see those places as embodiments of Newfoundland and Labrador’s strength,” said Ryan. “Their bravery was astonishing.”
A couple of favourites
Being such a student of world history — it is his favourite subject — Barrett has a couple of people and eras that he prefers above all others.
His era of choice is the 19th century. That’s when the industrial revolution took hold in England and eventually other parts of the globe. It is a time when the world started shifting and moving towards the modern day.
“It was a time of change in the world,” said Ryan.
Coincidentally, his favourite historical figure also rose to prominence in the 19th century. French military and political leader Napoleon Bonaparte is Ryan’s choice.
“(Napoleon) is my hero, I guess you could say,” he said. “Although, he’s fought against the British, so I don’t know how that would be taken. Rising from rural and his means of advancing were by his own efforts.”
A teacher’s view
In his 30 years teaching history, Garland Button has not seen many who can consume information like Ryan.
“He is a voracious reader and has a ton of knowledge,” said the Baccalieu assistant principal. “He has a passion for history in general and has so much general knowl- edge. “Ryan is exceptional.” While he is in Europe, Ryan plans to chronicle his trip with diary entries and plenty of pictures.
“Knowledge is power,” he said. “I use it to prove myself and to help others. I strive to better myself by learning something.”
Before the trip can begin, he must first get through his final exams. The next couple of weeks will be about suppressing his excitement for the trip while diving into his studies. His last exam is history. Mere days after answering the last question, he’ll board a plane for Europe.
“I get to leave school with history and start my summer with history.”
Baccalieu Collegiate student Ryan Barrett has been praised for his knowledge of history.