Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/O'Leary, Joseph

O'LEARY, JOSEPH (d. 1845?), songwriter and journalist, was born in Cork about 1795. In youth he joined a company of strolling players, but his theatrical experience was short, as the manager wras insolvent. About 1818 he commenced to write for the Cork papers — notably, the 'Freeholder,' a scurrilous sheet which was edited by John Boyle, and lasted till 1842. O'Leary's contributions were considered very powerful, and it was in its columns his famous Bacchanalian song, 'Whiskey, drink divine,' appeared. About 1818 he also wrote for the 'Bagatelle,' a short-lived Cork periodical; and for a time he edited the 'Cork Mercantile Reporter.' Between 1825-8 he contributed to 'Bolster's Cork Quarterly,' and to two London periodicals, the 'Dublin and London Magazine' and 'Captain Rock in London.' Richard Ryan [q. v.], the Irish biographer, who seems to have known him, says in his 'Poets and Poetry' (1826, ii. 141), that he was, in 1826, preparing a translation of Tibullus. In 1830 O'Leary published a pamphlet 'On the Late Election in Cork,' under the signature of 'A Reporter.' There are also some poems by him in Patrick O'Kelly's 'Hippocrene' (1831) [see O'Kelly, Patrick]; and in 1833 a small collection of his poems and sketches appeared at Cork in an anonymous volume, entitled 'The Tribute.' In 1834 he came to London and joined the staff of the 'Morning Herald' as parliamentary reporter. He seems to have met with little success in London, and drowned himself in the Regent's Canal about 1845. O'Leary has been confused with 'The Irish Whiskey-Drinker'—i.e. John Sheehan.

Another contemporary Joseph O'Leary (fl. 1835), a barrister, published 'Law of Tithes in Ireland,' Dublin, 1835, 8vo; 'Rent Charges in lieu of Tithes,' Dublin, 1840, 8vo; 'Dispositions for Religious and Charitable Uses in Ireland,' Dublin, 1847, 8vo.

[Brit. Mus. Cat.; Windele's Cork and its Vicinity, p. 126; Ryan's Poets and Poetry, 1826, ii. 141; Bentley's Ballads, ed. Sheehan, 1869, p. 142; Dublin and London Magazine, 1825-7; O'Donoghue's Poets of Ireland, p. 193.]

D. J. O'D.