Robert Dwyer Joyce

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Robert Dwyer Joyce (1830-1883) was an Irish poet, writer, and collector of traditional Irish music.


He was born in County Limerick, Ireland, where his parents, Garret Joyce (born 1796) and Elizabeth O'Dwyer, lived in the northern foothills of the Ballyhoura Mountains, west of Ballyorgan. Robert had three brothers: Michael, John and the writer Patrick Weston Joyce. The family claimed descent from one Seán Mór Seoighe (fl. 1680), a stonemason from Connemara, County Galway.

Robert Joyce became a civil servant and succeeded his brother Patrick as principal of the Model School, Clonmel. He was a collector of Irish music and contributed many airs which were included in The Petrie Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland, published in 1855. To finance his studies he contributed poems, stories and articles to a number of periodicals, including the Nation and the Harp.[1] He produced a volume of poems, but remains most famous for contributions to the field of Irish music. "The Wind that Shakes the Barley", "The Blacksmith of Limerick", and "The Boys of Wexford" are some of his better-known works.

He studied medicine in Cork and became a doctor in 1865. In this year he was appointed Professor of English at the Catholic University, Dublin. Disappointed with the results of the Fenian rising in Ireland, in 1866 he emigrated to Boston, where he practised medicine. He became closely associated with the Fenian movement. He had literary success with Ballads of Irish Chivalry (1872) and Deirdre (1876). This latter sold 10,000 copies in its first week of publication. He returned in 1883 to Dublin, where he died the same year.[1]

A plaque inscribed in Irish and English marks the house in Glenosheen where the Joyce brothers lived. It is signposted from the road between Ardpatrick and Kildorrery.

The title of his poem, "The Wind That Shakes the Barley", was borrowed for the Ken Loach film which won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006.


  1. ^ a b Boylan, Henry (1998). A Dictionary of Irish Biography, 3rd Edition. Dublin: Gill and MacMillan. p. 198. ISBN 0-7171-2945-4.