hi there - i came across this thread when googling sf barnes, and wanted to join the debate.
im currently reading leslie duckworths SF Barnes - Master Bowler, and i can highly recommend this for anyone looking into Barnes' techniques.
amongst other insights the book features photographs of the different grips Barnes used for particular balls. he is described in the book as bowling at a fast medium speed, although accurate speeds were of course impossible to determine in those days id assume that would mean he bowled at around 75-80 mph? this specifically included his leg cutter / break.
it was also mentioned that he also made the most of his natural abilities by practising for long hours to perfect his technique. one illustration showed the wickets and two poles placed in line with his over the wicket action and the batsmans wicket. the arc of trajectory showed an outswinging ball that would spin back into the wicket. apparently he could bowl the opposite way also, ie swing the ball into the rh bat and spin it away. this sounds similar to me to the "ball of the century" from warne to gatting, although barnes would have delivered it a good deal faster.
recently in nets ive been trying to emulate a few of barnes techniques and while i can deliver a leg break with a decent amount of turn, the swing, or drift, if that is what he used is proving harder to nail down. never mind, im having a lot of fun doing it
barnes had a lot of variety of course and it sounds to me that to label him as a spinner , seamer or anything else would be wrong, as he could bowl pretty much anything as the occasion demanded , apart from the googly of course!
well ive just read throught the entire 12 page thread, and i must say im very impressed, and a little intimidated, by the depth of knowledge on these boards!