A Story About Richard Kirwan

Labhrás Ó Maoilchiaráin (Labhrás Ó Ciaráin – Larry Comer) relates a fascinating story about a figure of note by the name of Richard Kirwan who resided in Woodfield and who had gained a reputation as an accomplished swordsman with the Irish Brigade in France. Labhrás who hailed from Lisheenaheiltia had an extensive repertoire of stories and spoke Irish fluently. He was invited to participate in the Doegen Project and travelled to University College, Galway, on 12th September 1930 to record “Scéal an Chiardhubhánaigh” and “Bláth Bán na hAirne” with Karl Tempel under the auspices of the Royal Irish Academy. Biographic information on Labhrás, a transcription of the recordings together with English translations and audio files may be accessed online. (Google search – “Scéal an Chiardhubhánaigh” or “Bláth Bán na hAirne” and follow the internal links).

Richard Kirwan (Risteárd Ó Ciardhubhánaigh) 1708-1779 was one of the Kirwans of Woodfield. The family was a branch of the Kirwans of Cregg Castle, Annaghdown. Three generations of Kirwans lived at Woodfield during the 18th and early 19th centuries. In November 1856 they advertised an estate for sale in the Encumbered Estates’ Court. John Hancock, Carrowntryla, Dunmore, is listed as the owner of the Kirwan estate at Woodfield in 1856 Griffith’s Valuation records.  Richard travelled to France for his education. He joined the Dillon’s regiment of the Irish Brigade. He became famous as a swordsman and duellist and for his stature which measured six feet four inches in height. He participated in the Battle of Fontenoy (1745) where the Irish Brigade played a crucial role in securing victory for the French. He became notorious because of his duelling and as a result he was obliged to leave France. He was nicknamed Risteárd Buidhe a’ chlaidhimh (Swarthy Richard of the sword). His reputation as a competent swordsman saw him take up duty in Austria where he served until his retirement in 1751. Upon returning to Ireland he married Maria Birmingham. They had four sons – Patrick who was killed in a duel, Richard, the celebrated Chemist and Geologist and President of the Royal Irish Acadamy, Andrew and Hyacincth. A watch presented to him by Louis XV, set with diamonds and pearls, was in the possession of the Kirwan family as of 1949. Labhrás takes up the story:  


Author: Pat Keaveny


‘Dunmore’ by James Greaney 1984

The Doegen Records Web Project