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Edward Lysaght

“Pleasant Ned Lysaght,” barrister, wit and song-writer, was born in County Clare on 21st December, 1763, son of John Lysaght, of Brickhill, and Jane Eyre Dalton, of Deerpark, in the same County. He was educated at Doctor Hare’s school in Cashel, where Doctor Lanigan, the celebrated ecclesiastical historian, was his fellow-pupil, and, surprisingly, his friend, for no two friends ever bore such contrasting characters. Later, he graduated B.A. at Trinity College, M.A. at Oxford, and studied law at the Middle Temple in London.

For a time he practised at the English Bar, being employed as counsel in many election petitions, but not proving very successful he returned to Ireland, where he became famous on the Munster Circuit, more for his wit and convivial good living than for his ability or success as a barrister. Often short of cash, he would even laugh at his own predicament, and once, when an accommodating friend signed a bill for him and requested that he be sure to take it up when it became due, he replied: “Of course, I will—and the protest along with it.”

Lysaght’s politics were doubtful, for whilst writing ballads against the Union, he accepted £500 from Castlereagh to write lampoons against the Anti-Union members.

He was an excellent lyric poet, and Moore wrote of him:—

“I look back upon Lysaght with feelings of love. All his words were like drops of music.” On his death, Dr. Griffin, his son-in-law, and later Protestant Bishop of Limerick, published a collection of his poetry, together with a short biographical note. While this memoir is sympathetic, the collection is not complete, for the Bishop says:—

“It has become necessary to omit those lyric strains which produced a Tyrtean effect at a certain period not yet forgotten.”

“It can hardly be on these grounds that the “Rakes of Mallow” was excluded but, however, the book included the best of Lysaght’s complimentary poems as well as his most famous historical ballad on Grattan—“The Man Who Led the Van of the Irish Volunteers”:—

He watched it in its cradle and bedewed its hearse with tears,
“A British Constitution (to Erin ever true),
In spite of State pollution, he gained in Eighty-two.
This gallant man who led the van of the Irish Volunteers.”

Typical of Lysaght’s impish humour, this ballad was composed to the air of “The British Grenadiers.” Lysaght died in 1811 in very embarrassed circumstances, and the measure of his popularity may be gauged from the fact that a subscription for the benefit of his widow and two unmarried daughters realised the very handsome sum of £2,484.

Source: Robert Herbert, ‘The Worthies of Thomond, II’, Limerick, 1944.

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Edward Lysaght