Bairéad, Riocard (Barrett, Dick) (d. 1819), poet in Irish, was born between 1735 and 1740 in Barrack, Belmullet, Co. Mayo, on the Erris peninsula. He appears to have remained in the district for his entire life, moving only to Carne, a neighbouring parish, possibly c.1790. This may have been in part due to his marriage to Nancy, daughter of Seán Tollett of Moyrane, farmer and member of the established church. The reports of several travellers to the area, such as John Bernard Trotter's (qv) Walks through Ireland (1819) and Patrick Knight's Erris in the Irish highlands (1836), are highly favourable to Bairéad, praising him for his wit, amiability, and social graces. These attributes seem to have won him favour with the local gentry, and he had the ear of the clergy as well, both catholic and protestant. He lived on a small holding in Barrack and kept a school for many years, educating the sons of the local gentlemen. Much of his poetry has survived, some of which has been taken down in ‘English character’, a so-called phonetic transcription. Influenced by Robbie Burns, he does not appear to have learned to write Irish until he was an adult. He made a significant contribution to folk poetry and his work was much sought after by writers in English. His compositions were generally satirical and include such songs as ‘Eoghan Cóir', ‘Séamas Ó Loinsigh' and ‘Seán Gabha and Oíche Sheáin Uí De Dhiarmada'. He had contacts with Mícheál Mac Suibhne (qv), a fellow folk poet associated with Achill island during this period, and it is not clear whether he knew Antaine Raiftearaí (qv), another poet from Mayo. In common with Mac Suibhne, Bairéad was a United Irishman and was sentenced to three months in Castlebar jail for activities after the French landing in 1798. After the death of his first wife Nancy Tollett he married, late in life, Mary Moran, who thought his poetical work worthless and burnt most of it after his death. They had two children, Mary and Riocard; the latter was educated in Dublin, entered the Irish constabulary, and was stationed in Castlerea, Co. Roscommon, where he eventually died. Bairéad himself died 8 December 1819 and was buried in Cross abbey, outside Binghamstown, Co. Mayo. ‘Preab san ól', a drinking song, is without doubt his most famous composition, and he is also associated, mistakenly, with the song ‘Bean an fhir ruaidh'.
J. Karney, ‘Richard Barrett, the bard of Mayo', Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge, v (1894); Mícheál Ó Tiománuidhe (ed.), Abhráin Ghaedhilge an Iarthair, cuid i (1906), 4; T. F. O'Rahilly, ‘A song by Richard Barrett,’ Gadelica, i (1912/13), 112–26; P. de Brún, B. Ó Buachalla, T. Ó Concheanainn (ed.), Nua-Dhuanaire, i (1971), 173; Nicholas Williams (ed.), Riocard Bairéad: amhráin (1979); Beathaisnéis 1782–1881