Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Orr, James

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ORR, JAMES (1770–1816), United Irishman and poet, born in the parish of Broad-Island, co. Antrim, in 1770, was only son of a weaver, who held a few acres of land near Ballycarry. James followed his father's occupation, and came into possession of the small holding on his father's death. He joined the United Irishmen, and wrote verse from an early age. Many of his poems appeared in the ‘Northern Star,’ the organ of the United Irishmen in Belfast before 1797, when the paper ceased. His poems were popular, and he was known as ‘The Poet of Ballycarry.’ He took part in the battle of Antrim on 7 June 1798, and is credited with having saved some lives on that occasion. After the engagement he escaped to America, and while there wrote for the press. He returned to Ireland in a very short time, however, and in 1804 issued a small collection of his poems by subscription at Belfast. The success of the publication unsettled him. He took to drink, and died in the prime of life at Ballycarry in Templecorran parish, co. Antrim, on 24 April 1816. He was buried in Templecorran churchyard, and a public monument was erected over his grave.

Orr's song entitled ‘The Irishman’ is a great favourite in every part of Ireland. The poem, which has been wrongly attributed to Curran, is not in Orr's collection of 1804, having been composed subsequently, but it is to be found in the collected edition of his poems published posthumously in 1817. His pithiest writings are in the Antrim dialect. His ‘Poems,’ with sketch of his life by A. McDowell, were reissued at Belfast in 1817. The sketch of his life was apparently printed in a separate form in the same year (Anderson, Early Belfast Printed Books).

[Madden's Literary Remains of the United Irishmen, 1887, pp. 62–72; O'Donoghue's Poets of Ireland; authorities cited above.]

D. J. O'D.