Barry McDonald (b. 1955) grew up in Sydney and moved to Armidale in 1976. He studied history at the University of New England and acquired a strong interest in local history, oral history and folklore. He lived next door to Professor Russel Ward, who had pioneered the collecting of folklore and bush ballads in Australia. In the 1980s he was a schoolteacher in Armidale and later in Queanbeyan. He was a keen musician, playing the violin in the Armidale Folk Club and other groups. He got to know the collectors Chris Sullivan and Mark Rummery and this led him in 1983 to undertake a large number of recordings of folk music and oral history in the New England region. In more recent years he has written a number of academic papers on traditional Australian music, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal.
The Library purchased the Barry McDonald Folklore Collection in 1991. A further collection of interviews, recorded in the Armidale and Guyra districts in 1993–94, were acquired in 1994.
The collection of 205 reels, recorded between 1981 and 1989, contain music, recitations and recollections of performances and local history. The interviews were recorded throughout the New England region, including Armidale, Walcha, Tenterfield, Glen Innes, Guyra and Uralla. In most of the recordings, the interviewee would play an instrument (accordion, mouth organ, violin), whistle or sing, as well as discussing the songs, folklore and history of their town or district. The collection also includes some letters, poems and photographs.
Waters, Edgar, Oral history interview with Barry McDonald, 1992, ORAL TRC 2858