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Dáibhí de Barra (1757-1851) of Woodstock

Tenant Farmer - His early life

Dáibhí de Barra, a tenant farmer, poet, and author was born in 1757 in Woodstock, Carrigtwohill, where he farmed for the best part of a century before departing this life in 1851 having survived the Great Famine.

While he was proficient in English, learned at a local hedge school, he was a native Irish speaker which was quite common at that time but he was also able to read and write in Irish which was far less common in that era. He appears to have gained local repute at quite an early age and his first long prose work Corr-ghliocas na mBan Léirmhínithe (‘The Peculiar Cleverness of Women Revealed’) was written in the early 1790s and was frequently copied in succeeding decades.

Poet & Author

He composed a wide range of poetry on topics ranging from local religious and political matters to humorous verses on the theft of his knife and his problems upon the death of his cat. Two later of his later works, Párliment na bhFíodóirí (‘The Parliament of Weavers’) and Cath na Deachún ar Thrágh Rosa Móra (‘The Tithe Battle on Rossmore Shore’), are now considered among the most important surviving pieces of prose in Irish from the period 1800-1850.

During his lifetime his reputation drew other poets and antiquarians to his dwelling in Woodstock. But since then his repute has spread due, in the first place, to his sons Dáibhí Óg de Barra and Seán de Barra and then his grandson David Barry. Recent decades have seen his prose works put into print. This remarkable Irish language scholar has been formally recognised nationally by inclusion in Dictionary of Irish Biography and is discussed in the Cambridge History of Irish Literature, undoubtedly the only Carrigtwohill farmer to be so honoured.

Contributed by one of our members: Tony Ó Floinn, March 2019