Bheldon, Riobard (Bob Weldon ) (c.1834–1914), poet in Irish, was born in Briska, Kilrossanty, Kilmacthomas, Co. Waterford, son of Michael Weldon, farmer, and Catherine Stack. His initial occupation (c.1856) seems to have been as a farm hand, but he subsequently worked as a sawman at the Comeragh mill in Furraleigh. He was given a house within the mill compound and became acquainted with Pádraig Ó Cearmada (Patrick Carmody), who had originally come from Co. Clare to act as tutor to the children of William Fairholme, a Scot. Ó Cearmada subsequently taught in the local protestant school and in middle age learned to write Irish for the express purpose of taking down Bheldon's songs and verse. Dr Richard Henebry (qv), collected material from him for his doctoral dissertation as Bheldon was an acclaimed authority on Decies Irish, although there is no firm evidence to suggest that he ever acquired the ability to read or write Irish himself. Ó Cearmada would note down his compositions and then discuss grammatical points with Fr Maurus Ó Faoláin of Mount Melleray abbey. In effect both Ó Cearmada and Ó Faoláin acted as secretary and editor to Bheldon. His first composition, an elegy on a local priest, was published in Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge (July 1900). In the Oireachtas of 1901, despite some modest success, he felt his compositions were judged to be failures. This slight was to rankle, but the Gaelic League later asked him to recite ‘duan an Oireachtais’ (an annual occasion on which a specially composed song was read out to the gathering) in August 1905. Bheldon's performance ensured he was proclaimed a great success. He composed an elegy on Ó Cearmada's death in January 1909; in December 1909 his wife Joanna died. The musicologist Charlotte Milligan Fox (qv) visited him in the spring of 1912 and was most impressed by the grace of his work. Bheldon mainly composed elegies, love songs, praise poetry, and occasional verse. His linguistic ability and his understanding of traditional poetry ensured that he was held up as an example to all at a time when the revival was seeking to rekindle a national literature. The patronage he received from a major cultural organisation must have done much to instil confidence in his ability to compose. In this way, Bheldon, a local and felicitous folk poet, managed to come to national attention as a torch-bearer for the poetical tradition.
In June 1914 he became ill and entered the hospital attached to the poorhouse in Kilmacthomas. He died 12 July 1914 and is interred beside the church in Kilrossanty. He married Joanna Christopher from Graiguearush and had four children: Michael, John, Alice and Bridget.
More information on this entry is available at the National Database of Irish-language biographies (Ainm.ie).