Frederick R. Higgins


Moy at Foxford (assessed 2014)
Railway Station Foxford
Foxford Woolen Mills
Dublin Ireland.
Trim Castle.


This poet contributed to various literary also economic Irish reviews.  His most famous poem is  Father and Son.

Frederick Robert Higgins was born in Foxford, Co. Mayo on 6th April 1896.  He was eldest son of Joseph, a rail engineer also a R.I.C. member stationed at Foxford & Swinford,  His mother was  Annie (nee Higgins) of Higginsbrook, Co. Meath.  Later he was reared with relatives in Co. Meath.  Frederick Higgins moved to Dublin aged fourteen years old. [i]


He loved all Ireland but Meath was nearest & dearest to his heart.  One of his most vigorous and most poignant poems was Auction with its appropriate refrain: Going, going, gone  in which he describes the ’beef-belted, pea-eyed men of Meath’  & the sale of that old house which he loved so well:

A house of ghosts and that among

Gardens where even the Spring is old;

So gather round, the sale is on,

And nods and winks spell out in gold,

Going, going, gone.  (Obit The Irish Times 9th January 1941) [ii]


Frederick Higgins was employed as a clerk in a Brooke Thomas’s Providers office. [iii]


During 1913 he founded the Irish Clerical Workers Union.  He became an official in the Irish Labour Movement. [iv]


Frederick Higgins married Beatrice May Moore a Harpist of Note  (daughter of James Moore & Elizabeth Mc Dowell of Clontarf Dublin) during 1921.  They lived at Lake View, Brackwansha, Knockmore.  The family later moved to a house beside the Dodder River in Rathfarnham, Dublin during 1929. (The Irish Times) [v]


Frederick Robert Higgins was professor of literature in the Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts.[vi]

Abbey Theatre

F. R. Higgins was a founding member also secretary of the Irish Academy of Letters. He was the most active member on the Board of Directors. He was appointed business manager. Frederick R. Higgins was appointed in 1935 managing director of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. (The Irish Times) [vii]


F. R. Higgins was an elected adjudicator of poetry in ‘Aontach Taitleann.’  [viii]

New York

From 2nd to 6th October 1937 as tour manager of the Abbey Theatre  F. R. Higgins brought a production of Teresa Deevy’s ‘Katie Roche’  to the Ambassador Theatre New York with five performances. [ix]

Other Interests

F. R. Higgins was employed at London B.B.C.  He acted in its production of Anthony Cronin’s ‘Life of Riley’  during 1964.  He was called ‘Falstaffian’  by Frank O’Connor. [x]

Literary Circle / Editor

F. R. Higgins was an accepted member of the Irish literary circle in & around Dublin.  F. R. Higgins was editor of a Trade Journal  titled Welfare. [xi]


While living in Dublin F. R. Higgins began his career as a poet with W. B. Yeats as mentor.  F. R. Higgins contributed numerous poems to various publications; a Foreword to Maeve Cavanagh’s Soul and Clay  in 1917, Yeats and Poetic Drama in Ireland  to The Irish Statesman from 1927,  An Irish Poet  to The Arrow during the summer of 1935.  He had his compositions published in The Dial, Spectator,  Atlantic Monthly  also in the Dublin Magazine.   As a friend of Austin Clarke  he affirmed an interest in Gaelic tradition.  He penned an elegy Padraic O Conaire, Gaelic Storyteller  for him.  F.R. Higgins published four volumes of Poetry Ireland Blood  (1925), The Dark Breed  (1927),  Arable Holdings (1933) with his best-known volume The Cap of Brightness during 1940.  He was the author of several plays that included a Deuce of Jacks’ a one-act Comedy produced for the Abbey. [xii]


In 1924 F.R. Higgins won the Aontach Taitleann himself with Salt Air.   He was presented with the Casement Award for Arable Holdings.  [xiii]


Two years prior to his death he was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy also with a severe a heart condition.  [xiv]


As a result of his illness F. R. Higgins (aged forty-four years) collapsed on 8th January 1941 near Jervis Street Dublin.  F. R. Higgins was unconscious up to his demise at 4.00 am with his mother & wife beside him in Jervis Street Hospital, Dublin. [xv]

F.R. Higgins is buried at Lanacor in Trim Co. Meath. [xvi]


Tendencies in Modern Poetry was a discussion between F. R. Higgins with Louis MacNiece on NI BBC during May 1939: ‘Irish poetry remains a creation happily, fundamentally rooted in rural civilisation, yet aware and in touch with the elementals of the future.’ Present-day Irish poets are believers – heretical believers, maybe – but they have the spiritual buoyancy of a belief in something.  The sort of belief I see in Ireland is a belief emanating from life, from nature, from revealed religion, and from the nation.  A sort of dream that produces a sense of magic; indeed there are few signs the awful sense of respect for words which poetry demands.’ [xvii]


Several articles were written about F. R. Higgins by various writers & poets that included: Gibbons Monk 1958 in Yeats as I knew Him stated ‘Higgins, fidus Achates of Austin Clarke…plenty of shy humour and a fair measure of adaptability… the friendship with Yeats was cemented because Yeats was able to imagine that he was managing Higgins, and Higgins was able to feel that he had retained his independence…etc.’ (page 169)  In Early Memories of F. R. Higgins written to the Dublin Magazine in summer the of 1967 Austin Clarke referenced F. R. Higgins. (pages 68 to 73[xviii]

Mc Carthy Desmond July 1940 (distinguished literary critic) reviewed The Cap of Brightness in The Irish Times.  ‘This slender volume has impressed me more than any other recent verse that I have come across.  The spirit of Mr. Higgins keeps close to experience, yet it is gallant, wistful, extravagant, free, while his pencraft – I must repeat this – is a joy to those who love words that fit the thing.’  Mc Carthy stated ‘he was a young man-only forty-four years of age  also it may be said that he had not yet come to the full flower of his genius.’  [xix]


His papers are held in the National Library of Ireland in Dublin:

A portrait by Sean O’Sullivan hangs in the National Gallery of Ireland:

Further Information

Reprints of the works of F. R. Higgins have been reissued by Clarke R. Dardis  1991 (a son of Austin Clarke) of Bridge House Press, Dublin. [xx]

Belfast Public Library stocks Arable Holdings (1933), Island Blood  (1925) &  Progress in Irish Printing 1936. [xxi]

On 10th September 2013 in conjunction with Poetry Ireland & Arlen House a publication of F. R. Higgins’s Father and Son  by relatives was launched in his birthplace at Foxford, Co. Mayo. [xxii]

Clarke Austin Early Memories of F. R. Higgins 1967 in Dublin Magazine  (pages 68-73) attributed to F. R. Higgins an account of the ‘disestablished church’ also its version of the early Celtic rites with his own interest in Celtic Romanesque. [xxiii]

This site refers to F. R. Higgin’s book launch in Mayo with an oil on canvas paining of the poet by Sean O’Sullivan:

Portraits may be viewed this link: Hilary Pyle,  Estelle Solomons Patriot Portraits  1966.  Images by A. N. Jeffares, W B Yeats A New Biography 1988:

Johnny Mee in his article Auld Stock in The Connaught Telegraph 18th May 2021 (page 26) referred to Fred Higgin’s Mayo’s forgotten poet.  It stated that  he edited a magazine in Foxford, he published an eight-page limited edition of five hundred of his poems by Irish Bookshop Limited during 1923 titled Salt Air.   Several years ago a selection of his poetry was launched in Foxford by RTE newsreader Eileen Dunne.  Johnny Mee suggested that perhaps a Frederick Higgins literary weekend may be held in the town to honour his legacy in the future.





[iv] Ibid


[vi] Ibid

[vii] Ibid

[viii] Ibid

[ix] Ibid


[xi]  Ibid

[xii] Ibid

[xiii] Ibid


[xv] Ibid

[xvi] Ibid


[xviii] Ibid



[xxi] Ibid




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