Riocard Bairéad

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Riocard Bairéad (Anglicised as Richard Barrett) (b. 1740 – d. 1819 according to his grave), was a poet and United Irishman. Some sources say that he was born in 1739 or 1740 and died either in 1818 or on December 8th or 18th, 1819.

Bairéad worked as a teacher and small farmer. Known in his lifetime as the Poet of Erris, Bairéad was notable for his verse and songs in the Irish Gaelic as well as the role he played in the Society of United Irishmen that mounted an uprising, known as the Irish Rebellion of 1798 against British rule. Bairéad himself, according to local folklore, played an important role in the rebellion.[citation needed] A French expeditionary force under General Humbert landed in County Mayo to support the United Irishmen. Humbert was to be followed by further French troops but these never materialized[clarification needed]. The rebellion ended in failure, despite some early victories over the English forces, most notably when the redcoats took flight before the pike-wielding men from Belmullet and other Erris villages in a battle that became known as "the Races of Castlebar".

At the time of the centenary celebrations for the 1798 rebellion a ballad, "The Men of The West", was set to Bairéad's air of "Eoghan Coir".

The poem engraved on his tomb stone at Cross Point, to the west of Belmullet, at one point read:

Why spend your leisure bereft of pleasure
Amassing treasure? Why scrape and save?
Why look so canny at every penny?
You’ll take no money into the grave.[citation needed]

His own grave had fallen into a bad state of disrepair a few years ago[when?] and his bones were nearly washed into the Atlantic Ocean after a wild storm. But well-wishers from the town of Belmullet have now shored up the cemetery wall to ensure another few years of existence for the poet's last resting place.[citation needed]

Riocard Bairead was a satirist, influenced by such as Jonathan Swift. He married twice, first to Nancy Tollet then to Maire Ní Mhóráin. With Maire he had two children, Mary and Richard Barrett.

Coláiste Riocard Bairéad is named after him. The Irish summer college belongs to Gael Linn


  • Nicholas Williams, ed., Riocard Bairéad: amhráin (Dublin: An Clóchomhar, 1978)
  • Éigse: a journal of Irish studies 16/3 (1976) Ó Concheanainn (Tomás), (Editor), National University of Ireland, Vol. 16, pp. 171–250.
  • Beiner, Guy (2004) 'Who were "the Men of the West"? Folk historiographies and the reconstruction of democratic histories', Folklore, 115:2, 201-221
  • Dunne, Tom (1998), '"Subaltern Voices?" Poetry in Irish, Popular Insurgency and the 1798 Rebellion', Eighteenth-Century Life - Volume 22, Number 3, November 1998, pp. 31–44, Duke University Press
  • Binghamstown National School research