“woefully unstable and vain”: Darrell Figgis, forgotten and despised man of the Irish Revolution


As I mentioned earlier, Arnold Bax’s “Farewell My Youth” (which was brought out in an edition edited by Lewis Foreman in 1993, though my copy came from my Dad’s library) features many acute pen pictures of pre-WW1 Irish artistic and nationalist circles (especially their overlap). For instance, Bax’s encounter with Patrick Pearse has become quite well known. One figure Bax discusses who I had never heard of before was Darrell Figgis:

One day in midwinter [Padraic] Colum returned from Achill, eager and enthusiastic as ever. “I’ve been staying with Darrell Figgis,” he cried breathlessly, “and had a great time. He’s tremendously keen on your ChChildren of the Hills, Arnold. ‘Who is this Dermot O’Byrne’ says he, and when I told him I knew you well, ‘I must meet that man,’ says Darrell. ‘Tell him to come over here any time he likes and stay a week.'”

“Do you think he meant it?” said I.

“He did surely. Send him a wire-today to say you’re coming.”

This I did, and next evening found myself in Keel above the amethyst caves and the green Atlantic.

Little did I dream then that within a few years both host and hostess would be dead by their own hands.

Darrell was a an attracive -looking fellow (” a mixtures of Synge and a renaissance prince” was Colum’s flattering portrait) but he was woefully unstable and vain. He showed a handsome façade, but there was little behind it and he was never really in favour with, or in the confidence of, his fellow-rebles, who nicknamed him “the man from Golders Green” (he had lived in England for years before he took up with the Irish republican movement). His literary work was negligible, both as a novelist and poet, and he published a short book (a kind of oblation) upon “Æ” and his art which was a source of some embarrassment to its subject.

His tragic wife had a far deeper nature and a more reliable character.


The tone of this passage suggests the the contemporary readers of 1943 would no of the tragic fate of both Figgis and his wife. I had to look up Figgis (wondering if he was anything to Hodges Figgis) The second line of Figgis’ Wikipedia bio is : ” The little that has been written about him has attempted to highlight how thoroughly his memory and works have been excised from Irish popular culture.” While no expert, I have read reasonably widely on the cultural and political nationalist movements of a century ago in Ireland, and the mention in Bax’s memoir was the first I recall of him (although I recall reading a book on the two Gola fishermen on the Asgard and presumably Figgis featured somewhere there, given his role in proceedings)

Figgis seems to have been an extraordinarily unpopular figure among those who were his erstwhile comrades. The wikipedia bio discusses a search for renumeration, but notes that this was not unusual. Bax’s line “woefully unstable and vain” perhaps hints at a personality that did not endear itself as the main source of this deep unpopularity, which manifested itself in no little vindictiveness
as noted in this interesting article:

Scion of a prominent Dublin Protestant business family, he stood out from the rough country boys who were taking over high and low office in the early days of the new Free State. But that made him a target for former comrades, who despised not just his stylish elegance and air of cultured indifference, but also his independent-minded attacks on his old friends Michael Collins and Eamon De Valera. The result was one of the most bizarre and tragic events of the period.

On June 13, 1922, on the orders of Harry Boland, four men — including Bob Briscoe, who later became the first Jewish Lord Mayor of Dublin — burst into the Figgis house in Fitzwilliam Street in Dublin. Fearing they had come to shoot her troublesome husband, his wife Millie attempted to block their way and was roughly treated by the gang, who then smashed down the door to the study, held down Figgis and cut off one half of his lush red beard.

“Poor Darrell Figgis lost his nice red beard,” mocked Kitty Kiernan in a letter to Michael Collins the day the story appeared in the Evening Herald. “When I read about it I could imagine you laughing and enjoying it very much. But it was a mean thing for Harry’s cronies to do . . . he was lucky it was only his beard.”

This incident seems to have contributed at least to the breakdown of Figgis’ wife and her subsequent suicide with a gun given the couple by Michael Collins.

This 2008 Letter to the Irish Times by Breandán Ó Corráin disputes one of the oft-repeated claims about Figgis, that his fiancé’s death was due to a backstreet abortion:

A chara, – When the death of Darrell Figgis is referred to, the phrase “backstreet abortion” is often brought up in relation to his fiancé’s death. Yet the verdict of a London coroner’s court at the time was that Rita North died from peritonitis, cause unknown.

As Sandra McAvoy (April 25th) avers, Miss North’s doctor certainly claimed she had admitted to a self-administered abortion. But the case files also show that a (legal) operation by her doctor and a surgeon to remove her already deceased child was severely botched on two accounts, the details of which make horrific reading. A resultant b-coli infection may have equally been the true cause of her tragic death, and abnormalities in Miss North’s womb (a bi-corneal uterus) may point to a natural miscarriage.

Ó Corráin writes on the rather queasy treatment Figgis received at the hands of Free State notables:

Darrell Figgis himself had already been persona non grata in the new Free State: Cosgrave, O’Higgins and Blythe repeatedly used him as a butt of their jokes and a target for their venom in Leinster House, and Figgis’s views tended to subvert the legitimacy that Cosgrave’s government attempted to forge for its rule. However distasteful the manner of Figgis’s suicide, it was matched by the manner in which the members of Free State Dáil did not see fit to vote any condolences on the death of their fellow deputy.

This ill-treatment persisted unto death:

Until I travelled to London four weeks ago to find Figgis’s grave in West Hampstead Cemetery, his headstone lay under half a foot of soil. When I eventually uncovered the small, flat headstone, its simple and ironic inscription was revealed: “In Loving Memory of Darrell Figgis/ died October 25th 1925/ Not gone from memory or from love, but to our Father’s home above”.

Given the importance of “the graves of patriot men and women” in the Irish nationalist tradition, it is particularly telling that, for all his achievements, Figgis is remembered only by a monument which had become completely subsumed by the earth until this month.

Ó Corráin concludes:

Figgis was far from being a saint or model patriot, but in spite of several genuinely questionable public and private decisions, he should at least be remembered for dedicating the best part of his life to the cause of Ireland and her freedom.

This blog has a series of posts on Figgis’ last days, including copies of contemporary news coverage – herem here and here.


Hearing secret harmonies in Dunfanaghy – Arnold Bax in Donegal, from “Farewell My Youth”


The English composer Arnold Bax wrote a witty, entertaining memoir, Farewell My Youth, in 1943. Bax, prior to World War I, spent time in Dublin and the book has some marvellous pen pictures of various Celtic Revival and Nationalist figures. Bax wrote fiction under the name Dermot O’Byrne, and Ireland served as a romantic dreamland for him – although I found the thrust of this paper by Seamus de Barra – ” I do not believe that the realities of Irish life were, ultimately, realities for him” – a little on the harsh side as Farewell My Youth has some asides which reveal a certain clarity of perception. Indeed, some of the most acute writing deals with Æ , AKA George Russell, and his tendency towards mystical utterance.

There are some fascinating passages, some of which I hope to come back to here, but here is one from towards the end of the book:

I was in Glencolumcille in the autumn of 1912 when I received a postcard from “Æ ” suggesting I join him for a week at Breaghy, near Dunfanaghy where he went every September to paint. A day or two later I set off on my bicycle for that faraway place on the other side of County Donegal. I toiled over the vast wilderness of high bogland between Glen and Glengesh, led my machine down that truly awful hill, loose stones clattering and tumbling after me, and pedalled into squalid Ardara and thence to Port Noo on the sea-coast. Then I came unexpectedly upon a wedding, that of one of the comeliest, gayest, and most affectionate Irish girls I had ever known. I have often thought of you since, Mary Cannon, with your laughing eyes and mouth, and have wondered how you fared with your coastguard, and whether he proved worthy of you.

Next day I started again, riding now into the Rosses’ country (with at first rather stiff thighs) over those strangely red roads that look as though dyed with ancient carnage and that work an almost hypnotic effect upon the eye and brain. From Burtonport of the granite I took train to Dunfanaghy Road, and thence after picking up my suitcase went on to Breaghy by outside car. There at the door of a snug thatched cottage on a hill and surrounded by whin-bushes I descried “Æ ‘s” burly and bearded form, his kindly short sighted eyes peering out in search of me. Within the house we were mothered by a simple apple-cheeked old lady, and fed sumptuously on freshly caught salmon, superb eggs, and a huge and monstrously rich home-made cake.

It was an odd entranced week that I spent there, quite dreamlike in the guttering candlelight of memory. Close by our hillock was the fine house and estate of Sir Hugh Law, a Nationalist M.P. who, an old friend of “Æ “, had loaned him a summer house in the wooded grounds above the sea in which he might paint on wet days.

I have not met with many experiences which cannot be accounted for by a rational explanation, but one of these occurred in that place in the dripping Breaghy woods.

My friend was painting at his easel in the middle of the floor, in his absorption allowing his pipe to go out every two minutes and having to cross to to the mantelpiece for a light, so that between the easel and fireplace there was a rack strewn with hundreds of dead matches.

I was reading in the window seat near the door, and we had not spoken for perhaps a quarter of an hours when I suddenly became aware that I was listening to strange sounds, the like of which I had never heard before. They can only be described as a kind of mingling of rippling water and tiny belles, tinkled, and yet I could have written them out in ordinary musical notation.

“Do you hear music?” said “Æ ” quietly. ” I do, ” I replied, and even as I spoke utter silence fell. I do not know what it was we both heard that morning and must be content to leave it at that.

“The whirligig of time” : A note on Fr Pat Noise

“The whirligig of time” : A note on Fr Pat Noise


Seeing that this documentary is to be broadcast next Saturday I thought it an apt time, though any time would be an apt time, to post about my own research into the obscure career of Fr Pat Noise…

Some years ago, when lecturing in UCD, I was working on a presentation on conditions in some ways connected with the passage of time. The best known being deja vu, the perception when in a new place or situation that one has been here before, or the same thing has happened before. Of course, there is a whole psychological science of time.

In those days I had the chance to read more deeply and broadly for this kind of thing than since. I used what was then the UCD School of Medicine in Earlsfort Terrace. It was the last few months of it being part of UCD. The librarians were working on transferring stock of the main UCD Library and many older and more obscure volumes were out and about on various trestle tables. Among these was one which I had dimly heard of but had also come up in some of my reading, Vico’s The New Science. Vico believed that history went in a curve or spiral, and that events recurred.

In the middle of the book, presumably used as a book mark at some stage, I found a faded, worn prayer card. I could barely make out the text on it except for a request to say an Our Father and a Hail Mary for the soul of Fr Pat Noise, and below this the following words:

Do you want to see what human eyes have never seen?
Look at the moon
Do you want to hear what ears have never heard?
Listen to the birds cry
Do you want to touch what hands have never touched?
Touch the earth
Truly I say that God is about to create the world.

This struck me as somewhat unusual content for a prayer card. Again, having more time than now, I was able to follow up with some research on Fr Noise in the Dublin Diocescan archives in All Hallows. I think I had a vague idea about writing some kind of paper. I am not a historian and was seeking not truth nor likelihood but astonishment. So I found out somewhat more about Fr Pat Noise.

Noise, like Fergus Kilpatrick and Dungarvan native John Vincent Moon is a figure who has somehow been forgotten, by and large, in the so called Decade of Centenaries. Unfortunately, at the time , I made my notes in a file on a laptop which is long defunct.

In the archives what we read about Fr Noise is entirely through the words of others, him being a curate in Berkeley Road who dressed in an extremely flamboyant manner, who was unambigious in his support of the workers in the 1913 Lockout, and also as proposing theological views not entirely Orthodox. However one letter describes him as travelling to the furthest reaches of orthodoxy, but not going over the precipice.

This was contained in another letter from a priest that was otherwise quite hostile to Fr. Noise. According to this priest, Fr Noise stated that there are no two moments alike and every moment is a new moment and that history is in a cycle and life is in a cycle because every moment is new again. The poem that was on the prayer card was reproduced in this letter; apparently Fr Noise read it at a ceremony. It is unrecorded what the congregation in Berkeley Road made of this.

Fr Noise’s sympathy for the 1913 Lockout and for the poor of Dublin seems to have, in a similar way, gone right to but not past the limit of what the Church hierarchy could tolerate. There are hints in another letter, by an anonymous outraged parishioner, of accusations of Socialism and Communism, but in this area Fr Noise crafted his sermons in the words of Christ Himself, and remained at the dangerous edge of orthodoxy.

The link with Peadar Clancy came through being one of the genuine customers of Republican Outfitters. This was a well known meeting place for the IRA in Dublin. Dan Breen said that really if you were an IRA man you shouldn’t stay there too long. In the letters about Noise it is mentioned that he wore quite elaborate capes and top hats which were sourced from Republican Outfitters.

He also apparently translated Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar into Irish, but there is no trace I could find of this. There is also a clipped article by Fr Noise, but from an unidentifiable periodical, on Festspiele – festivals in Switzerland in which thousands of people , possible the whole population of a town or area will renact historical events in the place where they happened. In this piece he suggests that this is something that Ireland and Dublin should emulate and and there were all these hints that the 1916 Rising was a reenactment of a previous event that had happened before in history.

Fr Noise pops up in letters beween Peadar Clancy and Sean Treacy and also seems to have been an intermediary for Clancy. Surprisingly these activities do not make it into the accusations of his various foes, and in the letters what Clancy describes are purely philosophical and theological discussions.

Fr Noise is now commemorated with a plaque on O’Connell Street, but otherwise his life is nearly totally forgotten by both the worlds of the Church and of Official Ireland. Perhaps in the narrative of commemorations and the rather self-congratulatory rhetoric about How Far We Have Come, a priest with cosmopolitan intellectual influences does not fit neatly into our perceptions of a cleric or a revolutionary. His plaque is, by coincidence, on the spot on O’Connell Bridge beside which the Millenium Clock, a digital clock inserted into the Liffey in 1994 but which was beset by all sort of problems, including time running backwards.

Annals of not-very-deceptive front business names: “Republican Outfitters”


“Republican Outfitters” was a draper’s on Talbot Street, founded by Clare-born Peadar Clancy From the Wikipedia article on Clancy:

After his release, Peadar Clancy started a drapery business of his own, called The Republican Outfitters, which was located at 94 Talbot Street.[8] According to Dan Breen, it was one of the best-known meeting places in Dublin for the IRA, and was so closely watched that it was never advisable to remain there for long.[9] By 1917, it was advertising as The Republican Outfitters: Clancy, Brennan and Walsh.[10] Clancy’s initial partners in the business were Maurice Brennan, Thomas Walsh (who, like Clancy, had been in the Four Courts garrison at Easter 1916, had been sentenced to death, but was later reprieved) and other comrades.[11] By 1920, the initial partnership had been dissolved, Brennan and Walsh had gone out on their own at 5 Upper O’Connell Street (which was also used as a base by the Volunteers, with Walsh acting as intelligence officer of the 1st Battalion)[12] and Tom Hunter had become part proprietor of the Talbot Street business with Clancy.[13]

One wonders how many customers idly went into Republican Outfitters for a new suit.

Here we have a remarkable photograph that viscerally reminds us of the fundamental nature of war and conflict – Lt Gilbert Arthur Price seconds before his death in a gun battle at Republican Outfitters:


Or is it? It turns out that remarkable photographs, even then, often were remarkable for other reasons.

Here is some footage from “Irish Destiny“, the 1926 silent film from which the above photo is actually taken:

My Best of Tipperary Stained Glass (a personal selection of ten images)

My Best of Tipperary Stained Glass (a personal selection of ten images)

Since this post from January I have been blogging intermittently picture of stained glass from Churches in Tipperary. As I wrote in that original post:

Recently visiting various churches in Clonmel I was struck by how striking the stained glass windows were. None were particularly celebrated or well-recognised, yet were – quite apart from any religious consideration – beautiful, literally luminous works of art. It struck me that they deserve to be celebrated and recorded. Perhaps there is somewhere, online or in a book, which the stained glass windows of Tipperary are collected, but here is my humble effort in that line.

I have been opportunistically taking pictures of stained glass since. I have strayed beyond just one county. I have also been frequently mortified at my lack of photo skills. It is comforting to find from others that stained glass is tricky to take pictures of.

I tend to take these photos when I get the chance – ie between work, family life and other commitments. Therefore they very much reflect my own locality and routine with a definite South Tipp bias. I also have found that Church of Ireland churches tend to be locked when I have tried to go in. I don’t want to distract from services or people at prayer so I try to avoid the times of services/masses. So these images have all been from Catholic Churches – which was not my intention at all!

Anyhow, the posts on Tipperary stained glass are as follows:

Stained Glass of Augustinian Priory, Fethard

Stained Glass from Church of St John The Baptist, Kilcash, Tipperary

Stained Glass of Holycross Abbey, Holycross, Tipperary

Stained glass from St Mary’s Church, Grangemockler, Tipperary

Stained Glass from Church of the Visitation, Cloneen, Tipperary 

Stained Glass from Powerstown, Clonmel, Tipperary Part 1

Murphy Devitt Studios Stained Glass in Chapel of St Anthony, Franciscan Abbey, Clonmel

Murphy Devitt Stained Glass from Franciscan Abbey, Clonmel.

“A kind of gospel in glass”: stained glass from the Church of the Holy Trinity, Fethard, Tipperary.

Stained Glass from New Birmingham/Glengoole, Tipperary

Stained glass from St Mary’s Church, Killenaule 


A random image from a site already linked to above:

sunlight through stained glass – St Anthony’s Chapel, Franciscan Friary, Clonmel

From the above I have decided to make a personal selection of my ten favourite images gathered on this stained glass adventure. I don’t pretend to be an expert, a good photographer or a systematic researcher. I am learning more and more about stained glass as time goes by but don’t intend to turn this into another arena of excess striving.

Reviewing the pictures I am rather mortified at the out of focus and generally bad images… so I will strive (irony) to improve this (and may prune egregious examples) I have decided to choose, in so far as possible, purely on aesthetic grounds and purely on the images themselves, as opposed to the place or how the window looks in reality, or any other consideration.


Harry Clarke window of Our Lady of Fatima, Augustinian Abbey, Fethard, Co Tipperary
St Anthony’s Chapel, Franciscan Abbey, Clonmel (Murphy Devitt Studios)
From Church of the Visitation, Cloneen

From Church of the Visitation, Cloneen

From St Mary’s Church, Killenaule

From St Mary’s Church, Killenaule
Detail of window of Our Lady of Fatima, Augustinian Abbey, Fethard
From Church of the Holy Trinity, Fethard
From Church of St John the Baptist, Powerstown
From Church of St John the Baptist, Kilcash


The Derrynaflan Monastery and Easter Pilgrimage

The Derrynaflan Monastery and Easter Pilgrimage

Recently I visited Derrynaflan with my son (5) and found it a wonderful site. The approach was challenging – we came from the Southern Route following a trip along roads with less and less room to turn and more and more grass in the middle. Then we had to climb various gates and pass through the eerie, desert-like (albeit very wet) bog landscape to Derrynaflan itself. We had a mighty time scrambling around and copying the designs on the Goban Saor’s purported grave. My son had absorbed that there was some kind of treasure story linked to the place, albeit the subtleties of the legal arguments passed him by. He did wonder if we found a euro coin would we have to give it to the government. Curious to know what came of the Derrynaflan trail proposed here?

Also curious to find out more about the Penal Law-era Franciscan friary which is mentioned briefly in various online resources.

These are the graveslabs in situ – the last picture gives a sense of surrounding terrain (didn’t take many photos):

Pilgrimage In Medieval Ireland

Derrynaflan is best known for its medieval metal work, including a two-handled chalice known as the Derrynaflan chalice, on display in the  National Museum of Ireland.

derrynaflan-hoard The Derrynaflan hoard (the chalice and associated ecclesiastical objects)

The  chalice along with a paten, a liturgical strainer and basin were part of a hoard of treasure found by metal detectorist on land close to the  monastery of Derrynaflan Co Tipperary.  The complications, surrounding their discovery, helped to instigate Ireland’s current metal detecting laws which make it illegal for anyone to engage in metal detecting without a licence.

As a child I remember going on a school trip to the National Museum at Kildare St. After all these years I still remember  this visit clearly, along with  our teacher pointing out this treasure (Derrynaflan Chalice) found in my home county. I also purchased a small booklet in the museum shop on the chalice which…

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“A particularly bright, holy and gifted child” – the life and losses of Richard Robert Madden


In The Church of the Assumption, Booterstown, Dublin we find the above poignant plaque. Here is the text as the above turns out to be a little blurry:

MADDEN. Of your charity pray for the soul of
/Richard Robert Madden, M.D.
/formerly Colonial Secretary
/of Western Australia &c. “A man who loved his Country.”/
Author of “History of United Irishmen” and many other works.
/Remarkable for Talents Piety, and Rectitude, the 21st and last surviving son of/Edward Madden, born in Dublin August 20th 1798 died at Booterstown Feb 5th 1886
/and interred in Donnybrook Churchyard/
also for the soul of his relict Mrs Harriet T Madden, the 21st and last surviving child of
/John Elmslie Esq. Born in London August 4th 1801
/converted by a singular grace to the Catholic Faith in Cuba (circa) 1837
/died at Booterstown Feb 7th 1888/
A woman of rare culture, endowments and piety, a most loving Mother, and died as she had lived, her mind unclouded, her last breath a prayer.
/and for the soul of their loved son William Ford Madden/
who was drowned in the Shannon March 29th 1848 in his 19th year/
On whose souls sweet Jesus have mercy, Amen
also in loving memory of their grandchildren William Joseph H Ford Madden/born Jan 10th 1871 died Sept 14th 1871 and of Bridget Gertrude Harriet Madden (Beda)/a singularly bright, holy, and gifted child, born July 17th 1875 died on the 16th June 1882 in her seventh year.

I find these plaques moving in general, and this one even more so than most. One considers Madden’s long, interesting life, and the losses of his son, infant grandson, and later granddaughter. There is a certain restraint to the simple plaque which is a counterpoint to the ornate language.

Richard Robert Madden lead an extremely varied life: playing a role in the abolition of slavery and as a historian of the United Irishmen. The Egypt Sudan Graffiti page has images of Madden’s various graffiti on Egyptian antiquities.

From the DNB:

Madden, Richard Robert (1798–1886), author and colonial administrator, the youngest son of Edward Madden (1739–1830), a silk manufacturer of Dublin, and his second wife, Elizabeth, the youngest daughter of Thaddeus Forde of Corry, co. Leitrim, was born at Wormwood Gate, Dublin, on 22 August 1798. He was educated at a private school in Dublin, and studied medicine in Paris, Naples, and St George’s Hospital, London. While in Italy he became acquainted with Lady Blessington and her circle, and acted as correspondent of the Morning Herald. Between 1824 and 1827 he travelled in the Levant, visiting Smyrna, Constantinople, Crete, Egypt, and Syria; he published an account of his travels in 1829. He returned in 1828 to England, where he married Harriet (d. 1888), the daughter of John Elmslie of Jamaica; they had three sons, including Thomas More Madden.

Madden was elected a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1828, and was made an FRCS in 1855. He practised as a surgeon in Curzon Street, Mayfair, until, in 1833, he went to Jamaica as one of the special magistrates appointed to resolve disputes between black apprentices and their white masters in the transitional system which, in 1834, replaced slavery with apprenticeship as a preliminary to full freedom. His energetic support for the apprentices brought him into conflict with the plantation owners, and he resigned in November 1834. He published a two-volume account of his experiences, A twelve-month’s residence in the West Indies during the transition from slavery to apprenticeship (1835).

In 1836 Madden was appointed superintendent of the liberated Africans and judge arbitrator in the mixed court of commission in Havana. During his four years in Cuba he published a number of works on slavery, including an Address on Slavery in Cuba, Presented to the General Anti-Slavery Convention (1840). He left Cuba in 1840 to accompany Sir Moses Montefiore on his mission to Egypt to plead for a group of Jews from Damascus accused of ritual murder. Again he wrote an account of his experiences. The following year he was sent to west Africa as a commissioner of inquiry into the administration of British coastal settlements, where he exposed the ‘pawn system’, which was a disguised form of slavery. From November 1843 until August 1846 he acted as the special correspondent at Lisbon of the Morning Chronicle. In 1847 he was appointed colonial secretary of Western Australia, where he strove to protect the few remaining rights of the Aborigines. After returning to Ireland on leave in 1848, he took up the cause of the famine-stricken peasantry, and in 1850 resigned his Australian office in favour of that of secretary to the Loan Fund board at Dublin Castle, which he held until 1880.

Madden’s interest in his homeland provided the source of his most enduring work, The United Irishmen, their Lives and Times (7 vols., 1843–6), which was issued in a second edition in 1858; A History of Irish Periodical Literature from the End of the Seventeenth to the Middle of the Nineteenth Century (2 vols., 1867); and Literary Remains of the United Irishmen of 1798 (1887), a collection of ballads, songs, and other united Irish literary works. His other work of importance was the three-volume The Literary Life and Correspondence of the Countess of Blessington (1855). Madden had been an intimate of the Gore House circle since his meeting with the Blessingtons in Naples in 1821; despite this advantage, and despite his access to the papers, it has been remarked that ‘no one who attempts to use his book can help but deplore the chaotic arrangement, the faults of copying, the digressions and the frequent errors in plain statement of fact which disfigure it’ (Sadleir, 388).

Madden was a member of the Royal Irish Academy, and a corresponding member of the Society of Medical Science. He died at his residence, 3 Vernon Terrace, Booterstown, co. Dublin, on 5 February 1886 and was buried in Donnybrook graveyard there.

Madden’s medical career is almost incidental in the above. Interestingly, he was a “convert” to homeopathy

Among his many books is The Infirmities of Genius Illustrated by Referring the Anomalies in the Literary Character to the Habits and Constitutional Peculiarities of Men of Genius, . This has an arrestingly blunt opening:

It is generally admitted that literary men are an irritable race, subject to many infirmities, both of mind and body; the worldly prosperity and domestic happienss are not very often the result of their pursuits.

In the midst of the many words written by and about Richard Robert Madden, I can’t help longing to hear the voice of Bridget Gertrude Harriet Madden, Beda, the “particularly bright, holy and gifted child” lost at the age of seven. This is not to downplay the other losses recorded for posterity; her brother William Joseph, Richard Robert’s son William Forde Madden. There is something strongly affecting about the closing lines of this plaque, and whatever one’s beliefs (or lack thereof) surely a longing that Richard Robert and his granddaughter would have some kind of reunion is an entirely understandable one. As the final words of the plaque say, Requiesicant in Pace. Amen.