Riocard Bairead (Richard Barrett)
Poet / United Irishman
Known locally as Dici the Poet of Erris’s work consisted of Verse plus Songs in the Irish Language. He was active in the 1798 Rebellion. He also was a small farmer and taught in a small school at his home.
Riocard Baréid was born at Barrack, near Ely Bay in Belmullet during 1735. His actual birth date has been disputed on several websites as between 1735 up to 1740. His families were descendants of the Norman Barretts. [i] He lived most of his life there, apart from a short spell in Carne, a nearby parish in North Mayo during 1790. He was married to Nancy, a daughter of Sean Tollett of Moyrane a prosperous Protestant Landowner. Following her demise he married Maire Ni Mhoran, they had two children, Mary and Riocard. [ii]
Bairéad made a significant contribution to Folk Poetry that was very much sought after by writers in the English language. . The songs in mixed language are basically macaronic (in both Irish and English) and “hedge-schoolmaster” (in Hiberno-English). His compositions were generally satirical; they include “Eoghan Coir”, “Preab san I,” “Tarraing na Móna” [iii] Several poetry pieces have survived despite his second wife’s burning of some material following his demise as she considered his political work worthless.
Bairéad was a member of the Society of United Irishmen. During the Rebellion of 1798 he played a significant role among the many pike–men of North Mayo. He was imprisoned in Castlebar Goal for his policies.
His death occurred on 8th / 18th (?) December 1819. [iv]
Patrick J. Kavanagh notes in “By Words“1996 (pages 136 – 168.) in a Times Literary of Bairead’s burial site being destroyed during a storm, then the bones were re – interred behind a repaired wall by well wishers from Belmullet His Gravestone at Cross Abbey at Cross Point, near Binghamstown in Belmullet has the following Inscription;
“Why spend your leisure bereft of pleasure
Amassing treasures? Why scrape and save?
Why look so canny at every penny?
You’ll take no money into the grave.” [v]
Bairead is mentioned in the following; “Amhrain” by Nicholas Williams 1978 Clóchomar Dublin. [vi] Specimens of Bairéad’s Poetry appear in Hardiman’s edition of Roderic O’ Flaherty’s Chorographical District of West or H – Iar Connacht in 1846. [vii] “Riocard Bairéad the Bard of Mayo” is mentioned by J. Kearney appeared in the Gaelic Journal during 1894. [viii] Patrick Knight wrote of Bairéad’s “wit, amiability, his social graces” in “Erris in the Irish Highlands” 1836 M. Keane Dublin also he described Bairead as “having a sweet, correct, mellifluous aspect in his language verse…his songs were sung and listened to. He seemed to follow the style of Jonathan Swift.[ix]
Edward Vincent Nally Collection at the RHA, catalogued by Martin Fagin 2011, page 75, [x] “Emigrants and Exiles; Irish excursion to North America” by Kerby A. Miller 1988 University of Missouri – Columbia, page 597. [xi] “Celtic Culture; Aberdeen breviary Celticism,” John T. Koch 2006 ABC- Clio, [xii] “The Waters and the Wild” by Michael Mullen 2004 College Publications, [xiii] , “An outline History of Co. Mayo 1600 – 1800” by Bernard O’ Hara and Nollaig O’ Muraile, [xiv] “Fair Liberty was All his Cry” edited by A. Norman Jaffares 1967 [xv] His name appears in “Remembering the Year of the French – Irish Folk History and Social Memory.” by M. Guy Beiner 2007 University of Wisconsin Press also by the same author in “Who were the Men of the West?”- an historiographies and the Reconstruction of Democrally Histories, Folklore” 2004 , Taylor and Francis Ltd pages 201 -221. [xvi] Tomas O’ Concheanainn Editor wrote of the poet in Eigse “A Journal in Local Studies” 1976 National University of Ireland, Vol 16, pages 171 – 250. [xvii] Tom Dunne published “Subaltern Voices?” Poetry in Irish, a Popular Insurgency on the 1798 Rebellion, in Eighteen – Century Life Vol 22, No 3, on November 1998 (pages 31 – 44.) [xviii] A Song by Bairead by T. F. O “Rahailly appears in Galdelica; A Journal of Modern Irish Studies, 1912 Vol 1 No 2 on page 490. [xix]
An English version of “Eoghan Coir” written by Francis A. Fahy was published in Donal O’ Sullivan’s “Song of the Irish” during 1960. [xx] At the Centenary Celebrations of 1798 the Ballad “The Men of the West” was set to Bairéad’s air of “Eoghair Coir”. [xxi] A Summer School at Colaiste Bairéad in Erris was set up by Gael Linn named after Riocard Bairéad, .[xxii]
[ix] Extract from “Aspects of its Heritage” by Bernard O’Hara.