Henebry, Richard (de Hindeberg, Risteard ) (1863–1916), priest, Irish-language scholar, and traditional-music collector, was born 18 September 1863 in Portlaw, Co. Waterford, son of Pierce Henebry, farmer, and Ellen Henebry (née Cashen) of Clogheen, Co. Tipperary. He was educated at schools in Carrick-on-Suir, Clonmore, Portlaw, and Waterford. Having spent a year studying for the priesthood at St John's College, Waterford, he transferred to St Patrick's College, Maynooth (1886–92). He later studied at the universities of Freiburg and Greifswald (1896–8), and was the first native Irish-speaker to receive formal modern linguistic training. He received his doctorate from Greifswald (1898) for a thesis on the dialect of Waterford.
After ordination (June 1892) at All Hallows College, Dublin, he spent four years working as a chaplain and curate near Manchester. During this period he was introduced to the study of Old Irish by John Strachan (qv) of Victoria University, Manchester. In 1896 he was offered the newly created chair of Irish at Catholic University, Washington DC, on condition that he first undertake advanced studies in Germany. This he did, under Rudolf Thurneysen (qv) and Heinrich Zimmer (qv). He joined the staff in Washington in autumn 1898, but his term was dogged by ill-health and rumours regarding his suitability for the job. A belligerent person at times, he reputedly had difficulties with his colleagues. He also managed to draw the scorn of Irish-Americans during this time by publicly mocking their reverence for such token symbols as the shamrock, the harp, and the round tower, which he regarded as symptomatic of their ignorance of the true essence of Gaelic tradition. After a year of unpaid leave in Colorado nursing tuberculosis, he was informed by Catholic University in the spring of 1901 that his contract would not be renewed. He spent a further two years in Colorado before returning to Ireland to become a chaplain in Waterford city. In 1904 he took a position teaching Irish at Berkeley, California, but again his health failed him and he resigned after a short period and returned again to Waterford. He taught Irish in a variety of places in the Waterford area, notably during the summers from 1906 at Ring College, which he helped establish. He also lectured on Irish archaeology for a year at Maynooth before being appointed professor of Irish at UCC (1909). His appointment to this position owed a lot to the fact that for different reasons both he and the president of Maynooth were at loggerheads with the Gaelic League. The president saw the league, which had recently succeeded in having compulsory Irish introduced for NUI matriculation, as an interfering body, whereas Henebry's disagreement with the league centred around his belief that the classical language, and not contemporary speech, ought to be the basis for the revived literary language. He retained his UCC post till his death. He was an unconventional teacher who had a dislike of exams and was known for such eccentricities as sharing porter with his students while listening to live pipe music in class. The Irish courses he taught in UCC were rigorous, with a clear emphasis on archaic material.
His publications include Sounds of Munster Irish (1898) and Eachtra an Ghobbáin Saoir (1910). While in America he edited and translated a large part of the life of Colum Cille (qv) by Manus Ó Donnell (qv), which he published in Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie (iii–v). In a series of essays entitled ‘Revival Irish’ in the Leader (1908–9), he scathingly attacked many of the attempts that were being made at creating a modern prose literature in Irish, particularly those of Patrick Pearse (qv). Henebry's own small creative output in Irish is noteworthy for its pseudo-archaic style. A number of his writings and speeches are collected in Seán Ó Currín's Scríbhne Risteird de Hindeberg (1924).
In addition to his work on the Irish language Henebry attempted to analyse the structure of Irish traditional music. This gave rise to Irish music (1903) and the posthumous A handbook of Irish music (1928). These, though idiosyncratic, are regarded as being among the earliest works of ethnomusicology. A number of wax cylinder recordings made by Henebry in Co. Waterford, and now housed in UCC, are believed to be the earliest field recordings of Irish traditional music and song. He played a number of musical instruments himself, including fiddle and pipes.
Henebry died 17 March 1916 in Portlaw, Co. Waterford, and was buried in Carrickbeg, Carrick-on-Suir.