Pigot, John Edward (1822–71), Young Irelander, writer, musician, and lawyer, was born 28 February 1822 at Kilworth, Co. Cork, eldest son of David Richard Pigot (qv), chief baron of the exchequer, and his wife Catherine (née Page). He entered TCD in 1839 (BA, 1843), and was a prominent member of the College Historical Society, where he met fellow future Young Irelanders John O'Hagan (qv), John Blake Dillon (qv), and Thomas Davis (qv). Pigot formed a particularly close friendship with Davis, who encouraged him in the cultural endeavours that were an integral part of Young Ireland nationalism. He was involved with The Nation from its foundation in October 1842, contributing verse under the name ‘Fermoy’ (later collected in The voice of the Nation (1845), and The spirit of the Nation (1845)), of which the best known is the ballad ‘Up for the green’ (1842). An accomplished musician, he greatly admired Irish music, and with William Elliot Hudson (qv) began collecting traditional airs. Pigot and Davis also published advertisements in The Nation asking readers to submit tunes for which the journal's poets would produce patriotic lyrics. Pigot himself composed music for popular poems such as ‘The memory of the dead’. A charismatic and handsome figure, he did much to win support for Young Ireland among fashionable society in Dublin, and was allegedly the model for the protagonist of Marmion W. Savage's (qv) satirical novel The Falcon family, or, Young Ireland (1847).
Pigot's nascent legal career temporarily hindered his nationalist activities in the mid 1840s; he was admitted to the King's Inns (1841) and Lincoln's Inn (1843), was called to the Irish bar (1844), and was again in London between 1845 and 1847 to complete his legal training. While in London he continued to collect melodies from Irishmen in the city, and maintained close links with other Young Irelanders, lodging with his close friend O'Hagan and corresponding with Davis. A member of the Repeal Association, he became increasingly critical of the political leadership of Daniel O'Connell (qv), and resigned in September 1845. He was devastated by Davis's death that month, and was a pallbearer at his funeral. Returning to live in Ireland in 1847, he joined the newly founded Irish Confederation, serving on its council and sharing responsibility for confederate clubs in Leinster with Charles Gavan Duffy (qv). Despite his father's links to O'Connell and the whig government (in 1846 David Richard Pigot had been appointed chief baron of the exchequer), Pigot insisted that no compromise could be reached between the Confederation and the Repeal Association. As political tension increased, Pigot became the military correspondent for The Nation and compiled articles on guerilla warfare, though he argued against any unnecessary breach of the law. Illness forced him out of the country during the July 1848 rising (Duffy later alleged that Pigot succumbed to the influence of his father), but he was part of the legal defence team for William Smith O'Brien (qv) and others during the state trials held later that year.
After the failed rebellion of 1848, Pigot focused his energy on cultural rather than political matters, and in 1851 married the musician Anne Prendergast. He was closely involved in the Society for the Preservation and Publication of the Melodies of Ireland (1851), in whose service he travelled extensively throughout Ireland collecting traditional melodies. His considerable collection (he is said to have recorded over 3,000 airs) was used by George Petrie (qv) and P. W. Joyce (qv) in their published anthologies of Irish music. Pigot persevered in his efforts to revive the Irish language, and was a member of the Committee for the Publication of an Irish Dictionary. He continued to work in journalism, contributing a series of articles on the sculpture and paintings of the 1853 Dublin exhibition to the Expositor, and articles on music to The Nation. In 1853 he wrote a memorandum proposing the founding of a national art gallery in Ireland (a project that had been cherished by Davis), and he was later a founding member of the NGI (1864). In July 1858 he and Denis Holland (1826–72) reestablished the Irishman, and he regularly contributed to the paper until the mid 1860s under the signatures of ‘Firinne’ and ‘Gall’. He served as treasurer to the Celtic Society, and was a member of the RIA (elected 1851) and the Irish Archaeological Society, and a co-founder of the RHA.
Pigot's legal career in Ireland was not particularly successful, as he refused to accept crown briefs or preferment. In 1865 he moved to India to practise at the Bombay bar, where he prospered. He returned to Ireland in 1870, but his health had been fatally weakened by overwork and the Indian climate and he died 1 July 1871, aged 49, at his father's house, 15 Merrion Square East, Dublin. His collection of Irish music is in the RIA. His letters to the Young Irelander John Martin (qv) are in the PRONI, and letters to Thomas Davis are in the NLI.
More information on this entry is available at the National Database of Irish-language biographies (Ainm.ie).