Family Background

Robert Dwyer Joyce

Robert Dwyer Joyce's "The Wind That Shakes The Barley"

Robert Dwyer Joyce’s “The Wind That Shakes The Barley”

Born in 1830, he attended a local hedge school and initially trained as a national teacher and succeeded his brother Patrick as principal of the Model School in Clonmel. He resigned his position in 1857 to study medicine at Queen’s College, Cork graduating in 1865. While still a student his first collection of songs and ballads was published in 1861 titled Ballads of Irish Chivalry. He contributed many airs to The Petrie Collection of the Ancient Music of Ireland, published in 1855. He was also a prolific journalist, contributing articles to Irish nationalist publications such as the Nation and Irish People. These activities led to his appointment as a professor of English literature in the Catholic University of Ireland in 1866 and he was also given membership of the Royal Irish Academy. Two years later he emigrated to America, largely due to his disillusionment at the failure of the Fenian rising in 1867. In addition to lecturing at the Harvard Medical School, he continued his literary and political activities. He was friends with and an influential voice among the leading Irish nationalists in the United States. Among his literary works were a novel, The Squire of Castletown and two volumes of prose Legends of the Wars in Ireland and Irish Fireside Tales. It is for his ballads however that he is most popularly remembered particularly for ‘the boys of Wexford’, ‘the wind that shakes the barley’ and ‘the blacksmith of Limerick. Due to ill-health he returned to Ireland in September 1883 and died at his brother’s house in Dublin in the following month.

Patrick Weston Joyce

PW Joyce's "Irish Music and Song", 1901

PW Joyce’s “Irish Music and Song”, 1901

Born in 1827 he was educated at a number of hedge schools in Kilmallock, Galbally and Mitchelstown. In 1845 he was employed as a teacher in the new national system and became principal of the Clonmel Model School. In 1856 he moved to Dublin to work for the Commission of National Education, one of fifteen teachers elected to re-organise primary education in Ireland. He enrolled in Trinity College obtaining a BA degree in 1861 and an MA three years later. As an educationalist, his most noted publications were A Handbook for School Management, A Child’s History of Ireland and The Geography of the Counties of Ireland. In 1870 he was given an honorary doctorate degree from TCD for his contribution to Education. He became Principal of Marlborouogh St Training College in 1874, a post he retained until his retirement in 1893. He published more than 30 books on Irish history, literature, music, language and folklore. His three volumes on Irish place names and his linguistic study, English as we speak it in Ireland were particularly notable. He was a strong supporter of the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language, served on the commission for the publication of the Brehon Laws, was President of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland and a member of the Royal Irish Academy. He died in January 1914 and is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

Joyce Family

PW Joyce with wife Caroline

Patrick Weston Joyce with his wife Caroline

The Joyce family in Ireland are descended from a Norman invader, Thomas de Joise, who conquered land in Connacht in the late thirteenth century. The origin of the name is generally considered to derive from a Breton personal name “Iodoc”, a diminutive of “Juidcaelh”, meaning ‘lord’, and introduced into England at the Norman Invasion of 1066 though it is also suggested that it might derive from the village of Josse sur Mer, in Normandy.

Thomas de Joise, married Honorah O’Brien a daughter of one of the O’Brien’s of Thomond in 1283 and established the Joyce dynasty on the borders of counties Galway and Mayo.  They became one of the famous ‘Tribes of Galway’ and the continuation of the Joyce name in the west of Ireland can be seen to this day in the area of Connemara known as Joyce’s Country.

The Joyce Brothers of Glenosheen traced their origin to this area. In the late seventeenth century Seán Mór Seoighe moved from there to Lixnaw, Co. Kerry, apparently to work as a steward for the Fitzmaurices, another Norman family who had acquired substantial estates in Munster. Both he and his son, Risteárd Caol Seoighe acquired land of their own, both in Kerry and around Athlacca, Co. Limerick. In the next generation, Bearnárd Rua Joyce moved permanently to the latter estate possibly as a result of his marriage to Bríd McAuliffe, from Newmarket, Co. Cork around 1750. Their son, Gearóid Mór, married a local Athlacca woman, Mary Anne Hogan and it was their son, popularly known as Roibeárd the Gaeilgeoir, who moved to Glenosheen on his marriage in 1783. His wife, Anne Howard, appears to have inherited land there from her father, though she had four brothers. The Howards were a strong musical family and R.W. Joyce felt that it was from the Howard side of his family that he inherited his interest in music and song.

The son of this marriage, Garret Joyce, was the father of the ‘Joyce Brothers’. According to the 1821 census, he was then 27 years of age, a shoemaker ‘occasionally employed’ and married to Elizabeth (Betty) O’Dwyer from the nearby area of Glenroe. They were then living in Ballyorgan,

had two young sons and were to go on to have eight sons in all. Betty’s mother was Mary Weston, daughter of a wealthy protestant landowner, Major Weston whose name is still enshrined in the place-name Ballinacurra Weston, now a suburb of Limerick city. Robert was to add his grandmother’s name to his as an adult, hence the name by which he is generally know, Robert Weston Joyce while his brother Patrick chose his mother’s maiden name, becoming Patrick Dwyer Joyce.

Patrick, as well as his older brothers, was born in Ballyorgan however by the time of Robert’s  birth in 1830 they had moved to Glenosheen where the brothers grew up under the shadow of Seefin mountain, in an area rich in Irish folklore and tradition, which was to have a profound and lasting impression on their lives and future careers.