Merriman, Brian (DNB00)

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MERRIMAN, BRIAN (1757–1808), Irish poet, was born in the parish of Clondagad, barony of Clonderlaw, co. Clare, where his father was a farmer. He became a schoolmaster at Kilclerin in the parish of Feakle, co. Clare, a region so wild that up to 1823 it had no road practicable for any kind of wheeled vehicle. He occasionally acted as resident tutor in the houses of the neighbouring gentry. In 1780 he wrote a poem of two thousand lines, entitled, ‘Cuirt an mheadhoin oidhche’ (‘The Midnight Court’), of which numerous copies exist. That in the British Museum (Egerton 111) is an abridged version of 1024 lines. The poet is walking by the Graney river and falls asleep. A young woman appears as a witness, and denounces the men of Ireland, their carelessness of beauty, and love of wealth. Brian is convicted as their representative, and is about to be flogged when he awakes. The description of the river and its banks show great appreciation of natural beauty, the dialogue contains many witty passages, and the versification is smooth. The poem at once became popular, and very many copies circulated in manuscript in Clare and Limerick. He was a good fiddler, and wrote several songs. He died in Limerick in 1808. He is sometimes called MacGillameidhre in manuscripts, but those who spoke Irish only called him Merriman, and his patronymic is probably purely English.

[Egerton MS. 111, art. 149, in Brit. Mus., S. H. O'Grady's Cat. of Irish MSS. in Brit. Mus. p. 493; E. O'Reilly in Transactions of Iberno-Celtic Society, Dublin, 1820; J. O. Daly's Pious Miscellany, Dublin, 1868; Poets and Poetry of Munster, 2nd ser. Dublin, 1860.]

N. M.