Beamish, Richard Henrik (1861–1938), brewer and politician, was born 16 June 1861 at Ashbourne, Glounthaune, Co. Cork, eldest child of Richard Pigott Beamish, DL, brewer, and his wife Hulda Elizabeth Constance, only daughter and heiress of Charles Gustavus Mosander, professor of chemistry, Royal Academy of Sciences, Stockholm. Educated at Haileybury, Beamish studied agriculture in Sweden (1881–7). After a study trip to Denmark, he wrote a treatise, ‘An improved method of feeding milch cows’, the findings of which were subsequently introduced into Sweden. Later he wrote a treatise on the content of butter.
Beamish probably joined the Beamish & Crawford brewery shortly after his return to Ireland, and in 1899 he became the acting partner of the Beamish family. The firm, incorporated as a company in 1895, was restructured (September 1901) as a result of acquiring the brewers Lane & Co. Beamish became chairman and managing director (1901–30); during his stewardship the firm acquired the Dungarvan brewery (1906) and Allman, Dowden & Co., Bandon (1914), and entered a joint venture with John Walsh, MP, manufacturing aerated waters (1914). After the first world war the high rate of duty on beer led to a drop in consumption which, with industrial relations problems, saw the company in a serious predicament, not alleviated until after Beamish retired (1930).
He was active in Cork civic affairs as an alderman (Centre Ward) for many years, mayor of Cork (1906), DL, and high sheriff of Cork city (1907, 1911). Chairman of the public works committee, he oversaw the expenditure of £30,000 on street paving, took a keen interest in the development of Cork port, and represented Cork corporation at the first International Congress of Cities, Town Planning, and Housing at Ghent, Belgium (1913). He was a trenchant critic of the city council, seeing it dissolved in 1923; though elected to the reconstituted council (June 1930), he did not attend any meetings from December 1931 onwards.
A prominent unionist before 1922, he visited Downing St. (4 August 1920) as part of a deputation and told Lloyd George that dominion status for Ireland was the only alternative to anarchy. In May 1922 he, Darrell Figgis (qv), and Col. Maurice Moore (qv) met with the Irish Farmers' Union to see what action farmers would take regarding the nomination of independent candidates at the general election. This was seen by Éamon de Valera (qv) as an attempt to break up his election pact with Michael Collins (qv).
An unsuccessful independent candidate for Cork borough in the 1922 general election, Beamish was elected to the dáil the following year as a member of the Progressive Association (1923–June 1927). Though largely supporting the Cumann na nGaedheal government, he rarely spoke in the dáil. Bills with which he concerned himself included those on the courts of justice, intoxicating liquor, and local government (1923–5). He advocated a central road board responsible for all road construction in the state; was highly critical of the low standard of education in the agricultural colleges; and, as a member of the dáil committee on wireless broadcasting (1924), totally opposed any project involving public expenditure on broadcasting as a medium of entertainment. Beamish was governor of the Munster Institute for many years, a freeman of London (1918), a fellow of the Linnean Society, and a renowned horticulturist: his garden contained some of the rarest shrubs and plants. At Glounthaune he had a small home farm where, following the Howenheim system of intense grass cultivation, he grazed a herd of Kerry cattle.
He married (October 1903) Violet Edith (d. 15 January 1939), daughter of Lt-gen. Sir William Pitcairn Campbell, KCB, ADC to Edward VII. They had one son, Richard Pigott Beamish, chairman of Beamish & Crawford 1949–66, and two daughters. The family resided at Ashbourne, Glounthaune, Co. Cork, and in 1931 Beamish moved to England; there he resided at 36 Brunswick Gardens, Kensington, London, and later at the Thicket, Oatlands Avenue, Weybridge, Surrey. On his death (23 February 1938) his estate in Ireland was worth £674.