Ryan Bar­rett knows his history

Old Per­li­can stu­dent’s war knowl­edge earns Beau­mont Hamel ticket

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

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.”

PHOTO BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER/THE COM­PASS

Bac­calieu Col­le­giate stu­dent Ryan Bar­rett has been praised for his knowl­edge of history.

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