Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Milliken, Richard Alfred

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MILLIKEN or MILLIKIN, RICHARD ALFRED (1767–1815), poet, was born at Castlemartyr, co. Cork, on 8 Sept. 1767. His father, Robert Milliken, was of Scottish origin, and before coming to Cork, where he joined the established church, was a quaker. Richard was apprenticed to an attorney, and after being admitted and sworn he began business for himself in Cork. He was not much employed in his profession, and most of his time was devoted to painting, poetry, and music. In 1795 he contributed poetical pieces to the Cork ‘Monthly Miscellany,’ and in April 1797 started, jointly with his sister, who wrote some historical novels, a magazine entitled ‘The Casket,’ which appeared monthly till February 1798. On the breaking out of the rebellion he joined the Royal Cork volunteers, and became notorious for his ‘zeal and efficiency.’ In 1807 he published at Cork ‘The Riverside,’ a blank-verse poem and in 1810 a short tale, ‘The Slave of Surinam.’ In 1815 he laid the foundation of a society for the promotion of the fine arts in Cork, which followed an exhibition of his own and other local artists' drawings. He died 16 Dec. 1815, and was buried with a public funeral at Douglas, near Cork.

Milliken is now remembered chiefly as the author of the song ‘The Groves of Blarney, they look so charming,’ a burlesque of a doggerel ballad, ‘Castle Hyde,’ written by an itinerant poet named Barrett about 1790. There are various readings of the song, the rebellion having given rise to some scurrilous additions to the original, and a version is printed in ‘The Reliques of Father Prout.’ The song was frequently sung on the stage by the elder Charles Mathews. Other of Milliken's lyrics, which figure in Irish anthologies, are the ‘Groves of de Pool’ and ‘Had I the Tun which Bacchus used.’ Of several dramas and farces apparently never published, ‘Dugourney in Egypt, an afterpiece,’ was played with success at Sadler's Wells in 1805–6.

In 1823 a volume of ‘Poetical Fragments of the late Richard Alfred Milliken,’ with memoir and portrait, was published in London by subscription. Neither the ‘Groves of Blarney’ nor the ‘Groves of de Pool’ is included.

[Memoir in Poetical Fragments, as above; Crofton Croker's Popular Songs of Ireland, 1839, pp. 89, 141; O'Donoghue's Poets of Ireland, p. 163; H. Halliday Sparling's Irish Minstrelsy; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. xi. 452.]

J. C. H.