Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

Architect and engineer, of Dublin. Richard O'Brien Smyth, a son of William O'Brien Smyth, who had a plumbing and engineering business in Cuffe Street, Dublin, was born circa 1844. He was articled to his uncle CHARLES GEOGHEGAN CHARLES GEOGHEGAN (1) and subsequently spent about ten years - from about 1869 to about 1879 - in Limerick as an assistant to WILLIAM SYDNEY COX WILLIAM SYDNEY COX . According to his obituary, there followed a brief spell in private practice. In about 1880 he entered the public service as an inspector in the Land Improvements Branch of the Board of Works.(2)

In 1883 the first of the series of Irish Labourers Acts which addressed themselves to the improvement of rural labourers' housing was passed, and the Local Government Board for Ireland was charged with approving applications by Boards of Guardians to build agricultural labourers' housing - as well as water supply and sewerage works - in their respective areas. The Local Government Board left the design of the houses to the Boards of Guardians concerned but stipulated certain basic requirements which the houses had to meet. In 1884 Smyth was taken on by the Board as an assistant engineering inspector. In the course of his work he travelled throughout the country, holding inquiries in many places and acquiring a 'unique experience of the working of the Acts'.(3) In 1906 he read a paper on rural housing to the Public Health Congress in Cork.(4) His 'suggestion' for a prototype rural tuberculosis sanatorium, designed at the request of the Board in 1908, was published in the Irish Builder in 1911.(5) According to an editorial on rural housing published in the Irish Builder in 1910, an 'infinite fund of tact and good humour…enabled him to carry out his duties smoothly and agreeably where others might have caused friction.'(6) Shortly before his retirement, he was placed in charge of the Board's new architects' department which was formed circa 1908. He retired in November 1909, when he was presented by his colleagues with 'a very handsome buhl clock'. He was succeeded by LOUIS EDWARD HALL DEANE LOUIS EDWARD HALL DEANE . He died in March 1923 and was buried in Mount Jerome cemetery on 26 March. His pupils and assistants included FRANK EDWARD SPARROW.  FRANK EDWARD SPARROW.

Both the obituary and the article about him written soon after his retirement which were published in the Irish Builder stress the genial nature and popularity of 'O.B.S.', as Smyth was known by his friends. According to the obituary he 'keenly enjoyed every hour of life, almost to the last'. The Portmarnock and Delgany Golf Clubs were just two of the many clubs to which he belonged. As a golf enthusiast he initiated the formation of the Architects' Golfing Society in 1910 by presenting a Georgian Sheffield plate urn to be competed for annually;(7) he was elected president of the society and presented the cup at the annual dinner of the Architectural Association of Ireland for many years.(8) He enjoyed travel and had many holidays in Europe; he also participated in some of the annual excursions of the English Architectural Association to places of interest in England. In the Irish Builder obituary there is no indication that he ever married.

AAI: elected member of the original association, 27 November 1873,(9) and of the revived association, 1896.(10)
ICEI: elected member, 1881; council member, 1896, 1902-1905.(11)
RIAI:(12) member of Association for Architectural Study, 1866; associate, 1867; elected member, 1883, having been proposed by ALBERT EDWARD MURRAY  ALBERT EDWARD MURRAY and seconded by JOHN JOSEPH O'CALLAGHAN JOHN JOSEPH O'CALLAGHAN (13) elected fellow, 19 December 1907.(14)
RSAI: elected member, 16 July 1894.(15)

Addresses:(16) 127 St Stephen's Green West, 1866-71; 2 Kenilworth Square, Rathgar, 1880-1916; 9 Morehampton Road, 1917 until death.



All information in thes entry not otherwise accounted for is ICEI membership applications, II, 82, from the article marking Smyth's retirement in IB 52, 30 Apr 1910, 281, which is accompanied by a portrait photograph taken at the time of his retirement, and from the obituary in IB 65, 7 Apr 1943, 235. The portrait photograph mentioned above is reproduced again in IB 52, 20 Aug 1910, 527.

(1) According to IB 52, 30 Apr 1910, 281, most of the designs by Geoghegan which were published in IB were drawn by Smyth.
(2) He is described as a 'Land Improvement Inspector' in ??? in 1880 (incomplete reference in Jones file).
(3) IB 52, 20 Aug 1910, 527; for inquiries held by Smyth on the Board's behalf, see IB 30, 15 Feb 1888, ?; 35, 1 Feb 1893, 32; 36, 15 Aug 1894, 191; 37, 15 Oct 1895, 24638, 15 Jan 1896, 14; 39, 15 Jul 1897, 141.
(4) IB 48, 14 Jul 1906, 564.
(5) IB 48, 14 Jul 1906, 564.
(6) IB 53, 10 Jun 1911, 377,394(illus.).
(7) IAA, Architects' Golfing Club minute book 1910-1944 (Acc. 2007/71); IB 52, 14 May 1910, 301; Building News 98, 20 May 1910, 682.
(8) The urn is illustrated in IB 53, 18 Feb 1911, 97, and AAI Green Book (1914), facing p. 49; it was destroyed in Easter Week, 1916, but Smyth had a solid silver replica of 'an old Georgian cup in his own possession' made to replace it (IB 59, 20 Jan 1917, 29).
(9) IB 15, 1 Dec 1873, 319.
(10) From lists of members in AAI Green Books.
(11) Jones transcripts from lists of office bearers in TICEI.
(12) From RIAI membership lists unless otherwise stated.
(13) RIAI council meeting minutes, 4 Jun1883, 228.
(14) RIAI general meeting minutes, 19 Dec 1907, 433,434.
(15) JRSAI 24 (1894), 298, list of members.
(16) From RIAI lists of members and Jones's transcripts from Thom's directories.

2 work entries listed in chronological order for SMYTH, RICHARD O'BRIEN

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Date: 1882-1884
Nature: New church 'of early thirtheenth-century character' with bell-tower. R.O'B's design selected in competition. FS laid 5 or 6 Jun 1883 by Mrs Grogan. Consecrated, 14 Aug 1884. Contractor: T. & J. Pemberton (£1,820) Also designed organ in chancel.
Refs: RHA 1883, nos. 562,563; 1885, no. 545; IB 24, 1,15 Jun 1882, 162-3,169(illus.),183; 25, 15 Jun 1883, 183; 26, 15 Aug 1884, 239; 27, 1 Aug 1885, 216(illus.);  Irish Times, 7 Jun 1883;  exterior illus. in Clergy of Cashel and Emly; Clergy of Leighlin (Ulster Historical Foundation, 2012), 210;  exterior and interior illus. in Claude Costegalde & Brian Walker, The Church of Ireland: an illustrated history (2013), 349.

Date: 1883-84
Nature: New Domestic Gothic rectory. Contractor: Thomas and John Pemberton. Cost, exclusive of stable and coach house, £998. Completed 1884.
Refs: RHA 1884, no. 364; IB 25, 1 Nov 1883, 340-341(illus.); 26, 15 Aug 1884, 239