Some of Cavan’s great Literary Figures
Heather Brett was born in Canada and raised in Northern Ireland and has lived in Cavan for the last twenty years. She studied at the College of Art in Belfast and began to write full time in 1984.
Her first book Abigail Brown was published in 1991 and won the Brendan Behan Memorial prize in 1992. The Touchmaker was published in 1994 and was followed in 2005 by Green Monkey, Travelling. New Hope International Review described this work as being of the highest quality, singing to the reader and being like a novel in verse.
Brett along with fellow poet Noel Monahan founded Windows Publications in 1992 which gave a voice to emerging Irish writers and visual artists. The Windows Student Poetry Competition is also an important element of the initiative. Visual artists like Eileen Ferguson and Martin Campbell and poets such as Tom Conaty and Nessa O’Mahony benefited greatly from Windows support.
Brett has edited Voices from the Hollow, Toadstools and Glue and I Caught Fire, anthologies of young people’s creative writing and artwork. She has been Writer in Residence in Cavan, Louth, Longford, Midlands Collaboration of Laois, Westmeath and Offaly and the Sliabh Beagh Creative Writing project.
Her fourth poetry collection Witness was published in 2015 and has been described as ‘poetry of a refined sensibility that has much to do with expression and the deepest feelings’.
She has worked with most schools in Cavan and surrounding counties and is highly regarded as a literary facilitator.
Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the son of Thomas Sheridan (1719-1788) was born on October 30th at 12 Dorset St, Dublin.
He spent his early days in Quilca House and was educated by his father. His family moved to England and he attended Harrow from which he graduated in 1768. He studied law but after his marriage to the singer Elizabeth Linley in 1772 who his father regarded as being socially inferior he concentrated on drama, literature and politics.
His comedy The Rivals was performed at Covent Garden Theatre in 1775 to great success and the comic opera The Duenna opened in Covent Garden on November 21st and ran for seventy-four nights during the season which was unprecedented. Sheridan had now made his name and was appointed manager of Drury Lane Theatre at the end of 1776. In May 1777 he presented the comedy The School for Scandal to great acclaim.
Sheridan now entered politics and won a seat in the English parliament representing Stafford on 12th September 1780. In 1782 he was appointed Under Secretary of Foreign Affairs. He spoke for five hours and forty minutes at the famous trial in February 1787 of Warren Hastings who had served as a Governor General in India and who was being impeached for crimes and misdemeanours during his tenure there. This performance sealed his reputation as an orator.
His wife died in June 1792 and in April 1795 he married Ester Jane Ogle, the eldest daughter of Newton Ogle, the Dean of Winchester.
He purchased Drury Lane theatre in 1778 and despite the fact that fire safety measures to a high standard were installed in the building it burned down on February 24th 1809 which left Sheridan financially ruined and in debt to creditors. He was arrested in 1814 and would have ended up in debtors’ prison but for increasing infirmity. He died in London on July 7th 1816 and is buried in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey.
Charlotte Brooke was born probably in 1740 to Henry Brooke and his wife Catherine Mears at Rantavan near Mullagh. She was one of twenty-two children, and only herself and her brother Arthur lived to adulthood.
She was educated by her father and immersed herself in reading history and literature at an early age. She was part of the Protestant Anglo Irish class and took an avid interest in the Irish language and learned it from listening to native Irish speakers working on her father’s land. When the family moved to Dublin she became acquainted with scholars like Charles O’Conor and Theophilus O’Flanagan, fellow enthusiasts for the Irish language.
On the familys return to Mullagh she cared for her mother and father in their declining years. Her mother died in 1772 and her father in 1783. She published the work in 1789 which made her name, Reliques of Irish Poetry, a first of its kind containing odes, elegies, and songs in the original Irish and translations with historical and explanatory notes. Her contribution is acknowledged as a forerunner of the literary movement for the revival of the Irish language in the nineteenth century. Her financial circumstances along with her health disimproved and she moved to Moneylangan in Longford to stay with the Browne family who had been friends for years. She died on the 29th March 1793 and is buried in an unmarked grave in St John’s Church of Ireland cemetery, Longford.
Henry Brooke was born c. 1704 at Rantavan House, Mullagh, His father was Rev. William Brooke, an Anglican clergyman, rector of the union of Mullagh and Killenkere and his mother Lettice Digby, daughter of Simon Digby, Protestant bishop of Elphin.
He received his early education from a school master named Felix Comerford who ran a classical school near Cavan town. The literary Sheridan family lived at nearby Quilca and along with Jonathan Swift were frequent visitors to Rantavan House He studied in Trinity college and qualified in law in London in 1724.He became guardian to his niece Catherine Mears and married her when she was fourteen years old. The marriage produced twenty-two children, of which only two Charlotte and Arthur lived to adulthood.
He was always interested in literary affairs and while in London was friendly with Alexander Pope and George Lyttleton and with their encouragement published the poem Universal Beauty. He was always interested in politics and knew William Pitt who later served as Prime Minister. He published the play Gustavus Vasa in 1739 which concerned the liberation of Sweden from Denmark and parodied the Whig Prime Minister Richard Walpole. The play has the distinction of being the first play banned under the Licensing Act of 1737.
He was a difficult man who made enemies easily, found it hard to keep employment and the family were frequently short of money and moved home on a number of occasions. In 1766 he published the acclaimed novel The Fool of Quality which found favour with John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. His final book published was Juliet Grenville in 1774 and he retired from active work the same year and lived in a small house he built at Corfad near Mullagh.
Ill health blighted his remaining years and he died on October 10th 1783. He is buried in Teampaill Ceallaigh cemetery, Mullagh.
Shan F Bullock (John William)
Shan Fadh Bullock was born on 17th May 1865 at Inisherk, Co. Fermanagh just outside the County Cavan border near Belturbet. He was one of eleven children and his father Thomas was a farm manager on the Crom Castle estate of John Crichton. Bullock was educated at the Crom estate primary school and at Farra school in Co. Westmeath.
He moved to London in 1883 and found work as a civil service clerk. He married Emma Mitchel in 1889 and they had two children. He published his first book of stories The Awkward Squads in 1893. Bullock wrote of the world he knew, farmers and labourers and hard physical work and people aspiring to a better life.
Bullock was well respected in literary circles but his work was never successful enough for him to become a full time writer. In politics he was a liberal imperialist supporting social reform but opposing Home Rule. His best known novel is The Loughsiders which tells the story of a conniving smallholder and he wrote the biography of shipbuilder Thomas Andrews in 1912 and a memoir of his youth After Sixty Years in 1931.
When Brendan Behan was in prison in England he read Bullock’s Beside Thrasna River and in his own Borstal Boy notes the difference between rural Ulster vernacular and Behan’s own urban perceptions. Shan Bullock’s wife died in 1922 and he spent the final years of his life in Sutton, Surrey and died there on the 27th February1935.
Tom Conaty is a poet and teacher from Ballyhaise, Co. Cavan now living in Dublin. He is a regular contributor to RTE Poetry programmes and a former member of Temenos Theatre where he played leading roles in The Glass Menagerie, Oedipus Rex, and Mother Courage and Her Children.
His main work concerns poetry in education and in collaboration with other artists Tom is also consultant to the Arts Council’s Arts in Education Programming and Policy and a member of the Board of Poetry Ireland. His first collection of poetry Exaltation of Starlings was published in 2010.Noel Monahan described the collection as ‘binding together earth and water, darkness and light, joy and bewilderment’.
He said that it is ‘a delightful regeneration of the natural forces in all of us’
Shane Connaughton was born on April 4th,1941 in Kingscourt, Co. Cavan and he spent his teenage years in Redhills where his father was the local garda sergeant. He is an acclaimed novelist, screenwriter and actor. He trained in theatre studies in Bristol Old Vic Theatre school.
He is probably best known for his screen plays and with Jim Sheridan he wrote the script for the 1989 film My Left Foot in which Daniel Day Lewis and Brenda Fricker won Academy awards. He also wrote the screen play for The Dollar Bottom with James Kennaway which won an Academy award for best short film. He wrote the novel A Border Station (1989) which is an autobiographical series of stories about a boy living along the border where his father is the local garda sergeant. Connaughton is also author of The Run of the Country (1991), Big Parts (2009) and Married Quarters a sequel to A Border Station (2017). He also wrote A Border Diary (1995) which looks at the people, politics and language of his native place during the filming of The Run of the Country.
He wrote the script for The Playboys (1992) directed by Gilles MacKinnon which starred Albert Finney and Aidan Quinn and which was shot in Redhills and he also adapted The Run of the Country (1995), directed by Peter Yates and also featured Albert Finney. His acting work includes appearances in Mike Leigh’s Four Days in July, Neil Jordan’s The Miracle and Philip Doherty’s Redemption of a Rogue.
Much of Connaughton’s writing concerns boundaries and borders and this is understandable seeing that he grew up along the Cavan border with Fermanagh, and the 1950s of his childhood is the setting for most of his work. He sharply observes his people and their relationships and the uniqueness of border life.
Shane and his wife Ann have two children and he lives in Ireland and London.
Philip Doherty is from Gortnakesh, Cavan and is son of Mel and Rosaleen Doherty. He received his B.A degree in 2003 and his Masters in Drama and Dramatics/Theatre Arts in 2004 from N.U.I. Galway.
He is a writer /director who has written and directed over fifty plays. He established The Gonzo Theatre in Cavan town in 2009, a company which presented productions which were modern, acerbic and challenging. Some of his plays include, Close to the Sun, Pilgrim, The Birthday Man, The Circus of Perseverance, and The Great Couch Rebellion. Pilgrim was nominated for a Fishamble New Writing Award at the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2014 and it also toured to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2015. He also co-wrote The Devil’s Ceili with Kevin McGahern with which Cornmill Drama Group won the All Ireland Drama Finals in 2014. Philip also won two PJ O’Connor Awards with his radio plays Mysterious Ways in 2006 and A Golden Triangle in 2013. His play The Experience Room won a Scripts Ireland Award in 2017.
He made his television debut as writer/director with the film Samhlú starring Tommy Tiernan which was broadcast on TG4.His comedy web-series The Begrudgers won RTE Storyland in 2012. He is also responsible for The Diamond Boutique (2011, which won the Judge’s and Audience award at the Clones Film Festival and The Goatee Uprising (2012).
His debut feature film is Redemption of a Rogue, a biblical black comedy set in Cavan about a prodigal son returning to his hometown to seek salvation for his sins. The film was released in 2020, stars Aaron Monaghan and won Best Irish Film and Best Irish First Feature at the 2020 Galway Film Fleadh.
Philip is artistic director of Fíbín, the theatre group based in Indreabháin, Connemara and in 2020 he directed the group’s spectacle at the bonfire for Lóchrann Chonamara at Maam Cross on St John’s Eve. He had previously scripted and directed the theatre show Fiach for Fibin and wrote Tóraiocht a version of the epic Fenian tale, The Pursuit of Diarmaid and Grainne which was directed by Mikel Murfi.
He lives in Spiddal, Co Galway.
Freda Donoghue is a playwright and short story writer. She worked as an academic for twenty years and has many articles published in books and journals.
Her debut play First Punk from Oldcastle was performed in the Ramor Theatre in 2105 and starred Conor Shaffrey. He plays Paddy Donohoe whose wife has left him and a friend is trying to persuade him to join the Men’s Shed. ‘I used to be somebody ‘he says. He was the first punk in Oldcastle. This play along with her second play Wish You Were Here was performed on the amateur drama circuit in 2015 and 2016.
She won the adjudicator’s award for best new writing at Shannon’s One Act Festival in 2015. Her work has been shown at the Town Hall Theatre, Cavan and by The Moogles Theatre Group. She has also been published in The Incubator and North West Words and was longlisted for the Fish Short Story Prize 2017/2018.
She founded First Wednesdays in Oldcastle, a monthly spoken word event which provides a platform for new writers to showcase their work.
Kate Ennals was born in London and has lived in Ireland for more than twenty years. She completed her M.A in Writing in N.U.I. Galway in 2013 and since then has focused on poetry and writing.
Kate worked in the community sector for thirty years supporting local groups to engage in local projects and initiatives. In this role she did training, research, project management, evaluation, newsletter and website production and facilitated a range of projects across the country.
She has been published in The Moth, The International Lakeview Journal, Boyne Berries, North West Words, The Blue Nib and other journals. In 2017 she won the Westport Arts Festival Poetry Competition. Her first collection of poetry At The Edge was published in 2015. Her second collection Threads was published in 2018. These poems written over five years, some of which are about Kate’s mother while others cover the extraneous threads of life which make up the everyday. Her topics cover love, politics and place and she says ‘she likes to read a poem and have it talk to me’
Kate also runs At The Edge, Cavan, a literary reading evening and has facilitated many literature and poetry workshops.
She lives in Gowna, Co. Cavan.
Rev Thomas A. Finlay
Rev Thomas A. Finlay was born on 5th July 1848 to William Finlay and Maria Magan at Lanesborough, Co Longford. William was an engineer and obtained work in Cavan at the building of Urney bridge and Bakers bridge.
The family moved permanently to Cavan town in 1860 and purchased a provisions store and bar on Main St. Thomas was educated at St Augustine’s College, Cavan and became a novice of the Society of Jesus in 1866. He spent time in France, Rome and Germany and was greatly influenced by German agricultural practices and the involvement of the clergy in organising farmers into local cooperatives.
He was ordained in 1881 and returned to Ireland and had a busy career in the world of teaching, educational organisation and academia. He was very much to the fore in the agricultural co-operative movement and with Horace Plunkett helped found the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society. He was professor of classics, philosophy, and political economy at University College Dublin from 1903 until 1930.
He founded and edited the magazines Lyceum, New Ireland Review and Studies. He also helped found the Messenger of the Sacred Heart, the Irish Monthly and the Irish Homestead.
Using the pseudonym, A Whitlock he wrote his only novel Chances of War (Gill, 1877) which was favourably compared to Oliver Goldsmith’s sole novel Vicar of Wakefield.
He retired from U.C.D. at the age of 82 after a 49-year stint during which time he did not miss a lecture. He died in Talbot Lodge, Blackrock, on January 8th, 1940.
Michael Harding was born on 6th August 1953, the son of Michael Harding and Ellen Finlay. He was educated in Cavan and St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.
He was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1980 and served as a curate in Derrylin, Co. Fermanagh for three and a half years. He witnessed republicans celebrating after the shooting of an Ulster Defence Regiment member near Derrylin and this had a profound effect on him, it was part of the reason he left the priesthood in 1985
He is a playwright, newspaper columnist and fiction writer and an experienced actor who played the ‘Bull McCabe’ in John B Keane’s The Field in the Gaiety Theatre in 2015.
His novels include, Priest (1986), and The Trouble with Sarah Gullion (1988),
He is a prolific playwright and has had nineteen plays performed nationally. These include Misogynist, Abbey Theatre (1990), The Kiss, Project Arts Centre (1994), Amazing Grace, Peacock Abbey Theatre, (1998), The Tinkers Curse, Livin’ Dred Theatre Company (2007). He says that he learned much from his mentor, fellow Cavan man, Tom MacIntyre who was ‘like a father figure’ to him.
It was the publication of his much admired memoir Staring at Lakes in 2013 which cemented Harding’s reputation among the reading public. The honesty of the work which highlights his journey through life, leaving the priesthood, falling in love, being overwhelmed by depression and finding his way out of the dark by accepting the fragility of love and the importance of now made him a household name. He says that solace can be gained from looking at water which he did in his childhood at Killykeen and now in Leitrim. The book won 2013 Bord Gáis Energy non-fiction Book of the Year award. He has also studied and practiced Buddhism and religion he says is like poetry, an expression of hope in the future and in 2017 he wrote On Tuesdays I’m a Buddhist.
He is married to the sculptor Cathy Carman and lives in Tarmon, near Arigna Co. Leitrim.
Dermot Healy was born on November 9th, 1947 in Finea, Co. Westmeath where his father worked as a member of an Garda Siochana but he grew up in Cavan town where his mother owned the Milseanacht Bhreifne Café on Main St.
He won Hennessey Awards in 1974 and 1976 for new Irish writing and announced himself as a creative force when the Hacklers drama group which he founded with Ray O’Connor in 1979 won the All Ireland Drama Finals in Athlone in 1980 with Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot which Healy directed. He edited Drumlin magazine in Cavan from 1978 to 1980 which gave a voice to young unpublished writers and did the same later on with Force 10 magazine in Sligo.
Healy spent two periods of time in London, first when he left school and later on did a fifteen-year stint where he did casual work and at the same time wrote stories and poems. He wrote five works of fiction, Banished Misfortune, collected short stories (1982), Fighting with Shadows (1984), A Goat’s Song (1994), Sudden Times (1999), Long Time, No See (2011), and an autobiography The Bend for Home (1996). He also wrote ten plays and five books of poetry.
Healy was well appreciated by fellow Irish writers but was under the radar internationally. Seamus Heaney said that he was ‘the heir to Patrick Kavanagh’ and Pat McCabe described The Bend for Home as ‘probably the finest memoir written in Ireland in the last fifty years’. He also starred in the film I Could Read the Sky with Stephen Rea where he played the part of an old man looking back on his life. The act of remembering in prose and in pictures became a way of completing his life. The part suited Healy. He lived in Ballyconnell near Maugherow in County Sligo on the edge of the Atlantic with his second wife Helen for the last twenty-five years of his life. He died on June 29th, 2014.
Alice studied Drama and Theatre in NUI Maynooth from 2008-2010 and completed a Masters in Drama and Theatre in UCD in 2011. Her first play Katie’s Wake was shortlisted for the Cork Arts Theatre New Writing Awards and was produced under the direction of Tess Healy Maguire.
Alice co-founded The Moogles Theatre Company in 2011 to produce and promote new writing for women. She wrote and directed Intentions in 2015. In 2017 she was awarded Best New Playwright at the All Ireland One Act Drama finals with Shooting Stars which she also directed.
She has written a series of ten minute plays which have been performed during the Cootehill Arts Festival, The Cork Arts Theatre in 2018, Mullagh’s Threat on the Street, and Scriptwriters UK online sessions 2020. In 2019 Cornmill Theatre group performed The Aftermath for the 2019 One Act Festival circuit, coming third in the open section of the finals. It was also highly recommended for the New Writing award.
Her The Cheque in the Post, a full length comedy based on the memories of Ballinagh man Phil Mc Gahern was to premier in the Cornmill theatre in April 2020 but was delayed due to Covid restrictions.
Ellen’s Story, a 30-minute radio play commissioned by The Ramor Theatre was written in Autumn 2020 and most recently If has been shortlisted for this year’s Act Your Age New Writing Festival (UK) and Windows won The Dolman Theatre’s New Writing Competition 2021 and will be performed later in 2021 in the UK.
Alice also runs Kilnaleck Youth Drama Society which caters for children and young people from four to twenty years. Many of the plays are original with Cybergossip performed in 2018 being adapted for an online cyber safety awareness campaign in 2019. The group is currently working on an online teenage soap which will be released later in 2021.
Alice lives with her husband Johnny and family in Aghawee, Crosserlough, Co. Cavan.
Stanislaus Lynch was born in Ballyjamesduff in 1907 to Thomas and Sarah Lynch. Thomas was an auctioneer and spirit merchant. Stanislaus was educated locally and then in Castleknock College, Dublin.
In his time, he was acknowledged as the most authoritive writer in Ireland on all matters concerning hunting. He was a hunting correspondent, poet, author, broadcaster, huntsman and Irish Draught Horse and Connemara pony breeder.
He wrote books of poetry and hunting tales and among his publications are In Search of the Kerry Beagle, Rhymes of an Irish Huntsman, Hoof prints on Parchment, Hounds are Running, A Hunting Man’s Rambles, Echoes of the Hunting Horn and from Foal to Tallyho. He was a correspondent for The Irish Field and other equestrian publications in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. He is the only Irish writer to be awarded two Olympic Diplomas for Epic Literature, the first at the London games in 1948 and the second in Helsinki in 1952.
He hunted throughout Ireland and across Europe and won numerous prizes for show jumping. His skills as a commentator were valued and he worked at the Royal Dublin Society during Horse Show week on the Aga Khan competition. He died at his residence in Dunsany, Co. Meath in June 1983.
Tara Maria Lovett
Tara Maria Lovett is from Bray, Co Wicklow. Her aunt Kay brought her to the theatre as a young girl and she recalls seeing Equus at the Gaiety theatre which left a lasting impression on her.
She attended a writing course in Dingle in 1997 with Michael Harding who encouraged her to write plays and she produced the one act piece The Shape which won the Fingal Scribe Playwriting Award in 2000. The play was staged at the Amateur Drama League of Ireland One Act Play competition and brought on national tour. Further accolades include, the O.Z. Whitehead Playwriting Competition Award for Action Man (2001), the Sean Dunne Literary Award for The Hen House (2002) and the Eamon Keane Award for best full length play for The Piano Man at Listowel Writers Week (2002).
Other plays written by Tara Maria include, The Suck (2001), The Call (2002), and Mass Rock which is about and old and young nun living on an island off the west coast of Ireland and their relationship. The play was staged in the Ramor Theatre and featured Mary Cronin and Alice Lynch. She also wrote The Tide in 2019 which is a darkly comic exploration of the lengths two people go to in order to make their dreams a reality.
Lovett says that she tries to write plays that are ‘not about tables, chairs and bars. I want the audience to be moved, they should be engrossed, involved and maybe uncomfortable’.
She moved to Cavan in 2012 and lives in Ballyjamesduff.
Fiachra Mac Brádaigh
Fiachra Mac Brádaigh probably spanned the years 1690-1760 and he comes from the Stradone area of Laragh in Co Cavan.
He was a poet and schoolteacher. He was described by Edward O’Reilly in Irish Writers in 1820 as being ‘a witty schoolmaster of Stradone, and a tolerably good poet’. Mac Brádaigh belonged to a tradition of scholars and scribes from the South Ulster and North Leinster area where great scribal and literary activity occurred in the eighteenth century. MacBrádaigh wrote an Aisling, a Seachran, and a Faoistin as was expected of an eighteenth century poet. These are vision poems which depict in poetic terms man’s search for meaning in life. Mac Bradaigh wrote the Seachran in the townland of Drumgallon in the Spring of 1722 part of which translates
‘Writing is more lasting than memory’
‘Renown is more lasting than life’
‘and a book is more enduring than people’.
He wrote the Seachran while he was teaching and living away from home. He mentions that his wife’s name is Márie and that his children were delighted to see him on his return home having feared that he may have drowned crossing the Larah river. It was also common for poets in the eighteenth century towards the end of their lives to write Aithrí or a poem of repentance looking to atone for past sins. Mac Brádaigh does this and refers to occasions when he missed mass and was drunk amongst other misdemeanours.
There are some examples of MacBradaigh’s work in the Egerton collection in the British Museum.
Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna
Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna (1680- 1756) possibly was born in the Blacklion, County Cavan area but little is known of his family background. Tradition suggests that he was a native of the area where Fermanagh, Cavan and Leitrim meet. He was a poet and belonged to a tradition that includes Peadar Ó Doirnín, Art Mac Cumhaigh and Seamas Dall Mac Cuarta.
It is said that Mac Giolla Ghunna spent a period studying for the priesthood but was never ordained and instead got married and became a travelling poet. Little is known about his wife but some of his works indicate that he had a family.
Tradition suggests that he had rakish tendencies and his reputation literally rests on one poem An Bonnán Buí. Here he laments the death of the yellow bittern who died of thirst because Lough MacNean was frozen. He says that he would have broken the ice if he had known, that he himself has a reputation for drinking alcohol and that he doesn’t intend to suffer the bittern’s fate. A monument in Mac Giolla Ghunna’s honour is located beside Lough MacNean and the Cathal Buí festival for young poets is celebrated each year in Blacklion since 1998.
Mac Giolla Ghunna is said to have spent his final years in south Monaghan and it is here that he composed Aithreachas Chathail Bhuí where he expresses remorse for his wayward life.
His year of death is considered to be 1756 and there is some evidence that his burial place is Donaghmoyne cemetery north of Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan.
Tom MacIntyre was born on 10th December, 1932 and was from Bailieborough, Co Cavan. He was educated in St Patrick’s College, Cavan, studied English literature in University College Dublin and taught English and History at Clongowes Wood College. He was a noted footballer and won a senior championship medal with Bailieborough in 1952 and played for Cavan. He also taught at the University of Michigan and Williams College, Massachusetts.
He was an acclaimed bilingual playwright, poet and short story writer and was a member of Aosdána. Sixteen of his plays including Dance for your Daddy (1983), Sheep’s Milk on the Boil (1994), Good Evening, Mr Collins (1995) and What Happened to Bridgie Cleary (2005) were premiered at the Peacock Theatre, the downstairs theatre at the Abbey and his collaboration with director Patrick Mason and actor Tom Hickey for the Abbey production of The Great Hunger was one of the highlights of his career. He was a disciple of Patrick Kavanagh and William Butler Years who were dreamers and he believed in ghosts and spirits and often said that the lakes of Cavan were haunted. He was indifferent to literary success, was a risk taker who found his individual voice by freeing himself from the thoughts of the collective. He said that writing was a way of praying, a soul journey.
Tom Hickey who acted in The Gallant John Joe, Rise Up Lovely Sweeney, What Ever Happened to Bridget Cleary and The Great Hunger said that his plays changed the way a whole generation of actors and directors saw the world. He said that MacIntyre never avoided anything, was insightful about human behaviour, never avoided the darkness and his whole disposition was expressed from deep in his bones, from the soul of Cavan.
He wrote nineteen stage plays, six books of poetry, the novel The Charollais (1969) and Through the Bridewell Gates: A Diary of the Dublin Arms Trial (1971)
He had five children from his first marriage to Peggy McCarthy and married secondly in 2015 to Celine McAdam. He died on the 31st October 2019.
Brendan McCann was born in 1940 and grew up in Kilconny near Belturbet, Co Cavan. He trained as a teacher of History and English and spent much of his career in Cavan. He was appointed assistant principal in Loreto College Cavan in 1978 and principal in 1994 where he continued until his retirement.
He is a prolific playwright and poet and his first play Perry Como’s Leaving Town was presented in 1978 by the Belturbet Players. It won the All Ireland Rural Drama award. R.T.E screened the film Volkswagen Joe (2013) based on his border play which starred Stuart Graham and was directed by Brian Deane. The film tells the story of a mechanic from Northern Ireland during the Troubles who must face a tough decision that will change his life forever. The film won over a dozen international awards including Best Short Drama at the Celtic Media Awards. Other plays include Tangler in Court and The Matter with Lazarus which was short listed for the Full Length Play Award at Listowel Writers Week.
Erne Valley, his poetry collection which spanned a lifetimes work was launched by Noel Monahan in November 2017.
Kevin McGahern is a comedian, TV presenter, writer and actor. He was born in 1986 and grew up in Gowna, Co Cavan.
He graduated from The University of Wolverhampton in 2009 with a degree in Animation. He became a stand-up comedian and states that his influences are Steve Martin and Dylan Moran.
In 2001 he starred in the independent film No Party for Billy Burns which was written and directed by Padraig Conaty. The film starred Shane Connaughton and Charlie McGuinness.
In 2013 he became the host of the T.V show, The Republic of Telly which ran until 2017. He co-wrote The Devil’s Ceili with Philip Doherty which went on to win two awards including best play at the RTÉ All Ireland Drama Festival in 2014. The play presents the psychedelic experiences of three social climbers in a small Cavan town who are slipped LSD by the devil.
In 2017 he hosted his own documentary series Kevin McGahern’s America in which he explores various aspects of life in America including, gun rights and intimacy in the digital age. McGahern was praised for his low key interviewing style.
He also wrote and starred in a video for LGTB Noise called Armagaydon. The video was well received internationally.
Padraic McIntyre is an actor, director, writer and producer, is a native of Bailieborough Co Cavan where he lives with his wife Lisa and three children.
He says that his interest in drama goes back to when he was ten years old and his mother brought him to a production of Playboy of the Western World by Druid Theatre in Shercock hall and was captivated by Mick Lally, Marie Mullen, Brid Brennan and Sean McGinley and the other cast members. He trained as an actor at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and has an MA in Theatre Studies from DCU.
After drama school he acted in Howie the Rookie, A Skull in Connemara, Loves Labours Lost and other productions in England but felt that he had to write his own material and create his own work in order to make an impression. He returned to Ireland and with Aaron Monaghan and Mary Hanley set up Livin’ Dred Theatre Company in 2003 with the aim of bringing quality new and existing theatre to the North Midlands region and beyond. Some Livin’ Dred productions include, Beauty Queen of Lenanne, Belfry, Conversations on a Homecoming, The Tinkers Curse, The Dead School and Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme.
McIntyre’s writing credits include, The Little Dance Girl, Carnival at Glenaduff, A Holy Show, The King of Ireland’s Son, The Lost Weekend, The Hero of the Half Acre, and Cuckoo Connolly’s Curious Clock Shop. However, it is The Night Joe Dolan’s Car Broke Down which raised McIntyre national profile. Since its first production in 2010 this has become a hugely popular fixture in Ireland’s theatrical calendar. It enjoyed nine runs in Dublin’s Olympia Theatre where it was watched by over 60,000 patrons and was also performed in various venues throughout Ireland and abroad. Cast members from Bailieborough’s and Mullagh’s Drama Groups played leading roles.
When he was Artistic Director of the Livin’ Dred Theatre company Padraic directed their first seventeen shows. He is currently manager of Ramor Theatre and Cavan Town Hall Theatre.
John McManus is from Cross, Ballyconnell. Co. Cavan.
He first came to literary prominence in 2005 when he won the P J O’Connor Radio Drama Award for the play No Hate Going to Loss, which came first from an entry of 365 plays from Ireland and overseas. The comic tour de force where McManus makes the most of the Cavan dialect between a farmer and a builder was written in five nights after McManus finished has day’s work as a plasterer. His 2008 play Will You Swop Knees with Me finished third in the same competition and A Lock of Fierce Roars received a rehearsed reading as part of Druids Debuts Festival, in July 2008.
McManus’s next play The Quare Land (a dark comedy) was read at the Galway Theatre Festival in October 2009 and opened in Nuns Island Theatre, Galway in July 2010 starring Des Keogh and Frank O’Sullivan. The story is set in Cavan and features Hugh Pugh, a 90-year-old who is having a bath and is interrupted by a developer trying to buy one of his fields to expand his golf course. Seamus O’Rourke also toured Ireland with the play in 2013 and it was also produced in New York at the Irish Repertory Theatre in 2015 as part of the Origin Irish Festival where it won the Best Playwright Award.
John then wrote Danger Money described as ‘a close up of rural Irish life full of heartache and humour’. Seamus O’Rourke also performed this play. In March 2017, O’Rourke along with Fiona Fitzpatrick teamed up with McManus in his play The Cavan Curse, a farce which reflects the so called ‘Mayo’ football curse onto the Cavan senior team who have reached the 2017 final against Kerry.
In June 2017 his play The Determinator received a rehearsed reading by Aaron Monaghan in the Town hall Theatre, Cavan. The play features a man from Dowra who hopes to win back an ex-girlfriend before her impending marriage. McManus worked again with Seamus O’Rourke on An Ogeous Brose, a play about two builders digging a grave on St Mogue’s island.
For Culture Night 2020, McManus wrote The Barber of Belcoo. The play was performed in the Cavan Geopark, was directed by Padraic McIntyre and starred Brid Ni Neachtain.
Noel Monahan was born in Granard, Co. Longford. He was a secondary school teacher and formerly Deputy Principal in St Clare’s College, Ballyjamesduff, Co. Cavan. He is a bilingual writer in English and Irish and has seven poetry collections published by Salmon Poetry.
Opposite Walls (1991), Snowfire (1995), Curse of the Birds (2000), The Funeral Game (2004), Curve of the Moon (2010), When the Wind Sleeps (2014), and Chalk Dust (2018). His work has been included in anthologies including Windharp (Penguin), Tra Una Vita E L ‘Altra (Guanda, Italy) Lost Between (New Island), Even the Daybreak (Salmon) and Everything to Play For (Poetry Ireland).
Noel’s work has been translated into French, Italian, Romanian and Russian and he has participated in several festivals and Summer Schools including Framingham State University, Massachusetts, William Carleton Summer school, Patrick Kavanagh Weekend, Dublin Writers Festival, Kilkenny Arts Festival, Strokestown International Poetry Festival, Goldsmith Summer school and the Dublin Book Festival. His work was included in the prescribed text for the New English Leaving Certificate Course. He is extremely well regarded by his peers and the late John Montague praised him for colonising the ground once ploughed by poets like Patrick Kavanagh in transforming his everyday surroundings with his poetic vision. Sometimes he deals with topics like loneliness and uncertainty and handles these topics with compassion and a unique voice.
Noel’s works of drama include, Half a Vegetable, Talking Within, Fathers of Time, Broken Cups, Where Borders Begin, The Hidden Child, and To Walk on the Wind. His play The Children of Lir was directed and performed by Livin’ Dred theatre. He has co-edited Windows Publications with Heather Brett since 1992. His work with Heather has helped shape the careers of Irish writers including Nessa O’Mahony, Joseph Woods, Lorna Shaughnessy and Grace Wells.
Noel has won several literary awards including, Poetry Ireland Sea Cat National Award (2001), The P.J. O’Connor, RTE Radio Drama Award (2001), The Hiberno-English Poetry Award (2004), The Irish Writers Union Poetry Award (2005) and The William Allingham Poetry Award.
He lives in Strageliff, Cavan with his wife Anne.
Rebecca is a poet, novelist and literary magazine editor and was born on 28th June 1975.She was educated in Loreto College Cavan, Queen’s University Belfast and Kings College, London.
She has an M.A.in American Literature. She worked with Oxford University Press as an editor in non-fiction and Oxford Classics. She has also worked as commissioning editor for Saqi Books. With Will Govan she cofounded The Moth magazine in 2010 which is published quarterly and features poetry, short fiction and art by established and up and coming writers and artists. Paul Durcan said that The Moth ‘is exquisitely designed and is choc a bloc with exciting new artworks and word works’. It offers one of the top prizes in the world for a single unpublished poem.
Her debut poetry collection We’ll Sing Blackbird was shortlisted for the Strong Shine Award and she is recipient of a Geoffrey Dearmer Prize from Poetry Review. Her first novel He is Mine and I Have No Other was published in 2018. The story centres on Lani Devine who falls in love but is haunted by the stories of 35 orphaned girls buried near her in an unmarked grave. Christine Dwyer Hickey describes it as ‘a haunting novel which cuts into the delicate and dangerous world of the adolescent, a true work of art’.
Rebecca has also been published by The Guardian, The Spectator and Poetry Review.
She lives in Milltown, Belturbet with her husband Will Govan and children, Bruce, Ralph and Nancy.
Agnes O’Farrelly was born on the 24th June 1874 at Raffony House, Mullagh. She was one of five daughters and three sons of Peter Farrelly and his wife Ann Sheridan.
The family name was Farrelly but in adulthood Agnes and the other family members used O’Farrelly. She attended Raffony National school and then the Holy Faith Convent, Glasnevin. She graduated from the Royal University of Ireland with a B.A in 1899 and an M.A in 1990. She was appointed as a lecturer in Irish at Alexandra and Loreto colleges and also taught Irish in the Central Branch of the Gaelic League. She was appointed lecturer in modern Irish at U.C.D. in 1909 and was a member of the NUI Senate from 1914 to 1949.In 1932 on the retirement of Douglas Hyde, she was appointed professor of modern Irish in U.C.D. and held this position until her retirement in 1947.
She presided at the inaugural meeting of Cumann na mBan (1914) and was a close friend of Roger Casement and was to the fore in organising a petition seeking a reprieve of his death sentence. She was a great supporter of the game of camogie and was appointed honorary president of the Camogie Association in 1934 and in 1941 became president. She was an advocate for inclusivity and opposed the foreign games ban of the G.A.A.
Agnes O Farrelly wrote in both Irish and English, often under the pseudonym ‘Uan Uladh’. Her prose work includes The Reign of Humbug (1900), Leabhar an Athar Eoghan (1903), Filidheacht Sheagháin Úi Neachtain (1911) and her novels Gradh agus Cradh (1901), An Cneamhaire (1902) and the travelogue Smaointe ar Árainn (1902). Poetry includes Out of the Depths (1921) and Áille an Domhain (1927). She lived at 38 Brighton Rd, Rathgar and died on 5th November 1951.
Dave Rudden is from Bawnboy, Co Cavan, was born in 1988 and is son of Aidan and Marie Rudden.
He trained as a teacher but it was while studying for a Masters in Creative Writing in U.C.D. that his literary skills showed. He was asked to write the first chapter of a novel for homework and the piece of work turned into a book called Knights of the Borrowed Dark.
After finishing his MA, Rudden sent the manuscript to twenty-five agents, it caught the eye of Puffin Books and he was on his way. Knights of the Borrowed Dark was published in 2016, the first book in a teenage fiction series about an orphan boy who discovers he is part of a secret army that protects the world from a race of shadowy monsters.
The following two books in the series Forever Court and The Endless King were published in 2017 and 2018. Knights of the Borrowed Dark was chosen as the Dublin UNESCO City of Literature’s Citywide Read which involved Dave visiting every library in Dublin and speaking to around 20,000 children. He reckons that he has visited over 200 schools and libraries. The celebrated children’s horror writer R.L Stine says that Knights of the Borrowed Dark is ‘clever, dark and fun’.
Dave was invited to write Dr. Who stories and in 2018, Twelve Angels Weeping was published followed in 2020 by The Wintertime Paradox: Festive stories from the World of Dr. Who.
He is working on an adult fantasy book and wants to do it justice and do for Irish mythology what Game of Thrones did for War of the Roses. He does not take his success for granted and loves talking to children and adults about how accessible writing is. He says ‘Writing is a muscle; you train it like anything else’.
He lives in Dublin.
Mary Anne Sadlier
Mary Anne Madden was born in Cootehill on December 31st 1820. Her father was Francis Madden a local merchant. Her literary abilities were evident from an early age and she contributed articles to The Nation.
She emigrated to Montreal in 1844 and published her first book Tales of Olden Times in 1845. She married publisher James Sadlier in 1846 had six children and her most productive writing period came after her marriage when she produced eighteen books and also wrote for the Pilot and American Celt.
Two of her novels, Blind Man’s Daughter and New Lights are set in Ireland and New Lights deals with the Irish Famine. New Lights was a popular novel which attacked the Protestant practice of converting the poor Irish while promising them soup and also condemns peasant retaliation and violence.
The Sadliers moved to New York in the 1860s and Mary Anne counted among her friends the Archbishop of New York John Hughes and the Irish nationalist Thomas D’Arcy McGee. McGee was a Catholic Irishman who opposed British rule in Ireland and worked for a peasant revolution to overthrow the system and gain independence for the country. Sadlier hoped to inspire Irish people through her writings while McGee would participate in political rallies and generate support for Ireland. McGee was assassinated in 1869 and his death was a bad blow to Sadlier. She edited a collection of his poetry in 1869 to honour him.
She produced about sixty books but lost copyright to her early works. In 1902 she received a special blessing from Pope Leo X111 for service to the Catholic Church. She moved back from New York to Canada where she died in 1903.
Francis Sheehy Skeffington
Francis Sheehy Skeffington was born in Bailieborough on 23rd December 1878 and was raised in Downpatrick, Co. Down.
He was son of Dr. Joseph Bartholmew Skeffington and Rose Magorrian. Frank as he was known was educated in his early years at home and then by the Jesuits in St Stephens Green, Dublin. He attended U.C.D and gained a Master’s degree and while there was active in student politics and debating societies.
He married Hanna Sheehy in June 1903 and they adopted the name Sheehy Skeffington. They supported Women’s Rights and Frank was also President of the Socialist Party of Ireland. In 1907 he wrote a novel In Dark and Evil Days which was published in 1916, the year of his death and he also published a biography of Michael Davitt in 1908.
Sheehy Skeffington was a pacifist and resigned as vice chairman of the Irish Citizen Army when the organisation became a military entity. At the start of the Easter Rising he opposed the violent methods of the insurgents and advocated a nonviolent form of civil disobedience. He spent Easter Monday on Dublin’s streets encouraging people not to loot shops and was back at the same the following day. A group of inner city poor started heckling him and followed him and the group was intercepted by members of the East Surrey Regiment at Portobello Bridge and Sheehy Skeffington was arrested and brought to the local barracks. An officer in charge, Captain John Bowen-Colthurst took Sheehy Skeffington as a hostage on a raiding party that night during which 19-year-old James Coade was shot and killed and two journalists arrested.
The following morning Bowen-Colthurst ordered that the journalists and Sheehy Skeffington be executed. Hannah did not learn of her husband’s fate until Friday when the chaplain who attended to the executed men informed her. She was offered financial compensation by the British government but refused it because it came on the condition that she would not speak or write about the murder. Francis Sheehy Skeffington is considered one of the martyrs of the 1916 rising.
Thomas Sheridan (1687-1738)
Thomas Sheridan was born at Quilca House, Mullagh, Co. Cavan in 1687. He attended Trinity college where he received a B.A degree in 1711, a M.A degree in 1714, a B.D. in 1724 and a D.D. in 1726.
His father was James Sheridan and two of his uncles were William Sheridan, Bishop of Kilmore and Ardagh and Patrick Sheridan, Bishop of Cloyne. He married Elizabeth MacFadden whose father Charles owned Quilca house and he ran a school in Capel Street which was attended by upper class children from the city. The couple had three children, James, Richard and Thomas (1719-1788). Quilca House was originally owned by the Sheridans but because they backed King James 11 it was forfeited to the McFaddens who were in the service of King William. Upon the death of Charles McFadden, Quilca House became the property of Thomas Sheridan.
He was very friendly with the Dean of St Patricks Cathedral, Jonathan Swift who was a regular visitor to Quilca House and Swift often stood in for Sheridan if he was absent from teaching duties at the Capel Street school. Through Swift’s influence he was appointed a Royal Chaplin but before his appointment he preached a sermon which was considered politically suspect and his appointment was revoked. He was appointed to the parish of Drumlane in Cavan and in 1735 as headmaster of the Royal school in Cavan where he stayed for three years.
In 1738 he went to live with Swift but they soon quarrelled and the friendship ended. He was a noted scholar and translated and published the Philoctetes of Sophocles in 1725, the Satyrs of Persius in 1728 and also translated the Satires of Juvenal. Sheridan died suddenly while having dinner in the house of a former pupil in Rathfarnham on October 10th, 1738.
Thomas Sheridan (1719-1788)
Thomas Sheridan was son of Thomas Sheridan (1687-1738). He was born in Quilca House, Mullagh, Co. Cavan in 1719.He was educated in Westminster college where he became a King’s scholar.
He attended Trinity College, Dublin and received his B.A degree in 1739 and his M.A in 1843.
His father wished him to be a school master but he only had aspirations for the stage. He made his début as Richard 111 at the Theatre Royal in Smock Alley theatre in January 1743 and on the strength of this performance he obtained work in Drury Lane theatre London.
He returned to Dublin in 1747 and became manager of the Theatre Royal which proved a success. He was known as ‘Manager Tom’. Around this time, he married Frances Chamberlaine. He returned to London and appeared in Covent Garden Theatre which went well. In 1756 he returned to Dublin as manager of the Theatre Royal but this was short lived and he returned to England and became a teacher and elocutionist.
He published A Course of Lectures on Elocution in 1762 which is considered Sheridan’s best known work. He believed in the positive effect of good and correct public speaking to ensure perfect delivery in all the arts. He believed that elocution covered facial expression, gestures, posture, movement as well as the voice. He lived for a period in Blois, France for the sake of his health and his wife died there on September 26 th, 1766. He returned to England and lived in Bath. In 1769 he wrote A Plan of Education for the Young Nobility and Gentry and in1780 he published his General Dictionary of the English Language.
He died at Margate on August 14th,1788 and is buried in the centre isle of Saint Peter’s Church in the Isle of Thanet.
Barbara M (Bee) Smith
Barbara M (Bee) Smith is from Jamaica, has lived in Berwick, Pennsylvania and London and moved to Dowra, Co. Cavan in 2001.
She is a poet, writer, tour guide and workshop facilitator. In London she was a member of the Hackney Poetry Circle and worked in writing groups with Alison Fell and Gillian Allnut.
Her poetry has been published in journals in Britain, United States and Ireland. Her Haiku is included in the first anthology of Irish Haiku, Bamboo Dreams. Bee creates spiritually themed tours focusing on the Tuatha de Danann, St Brigid and Myths Among the Megaliths in the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark.
She also provides Writing Workshops in West Cavan for beginners, participants with mental health challenges and prisoners in Loughan House.
Jonathan Swift was born on 30th November 1667 in Dublin. His parents were Jonathan Swift 1640-1667) and Abigail Erick. Swift’s father died before he was born and his mother returned to England leaving the boy in the care of his uncle Godwin Swift.
He attended Trinity College and received his B.A in 1686 which largely comprised of religious studies. He received his M.A. in 1692 and was ordained a priest and appointed to the Diocese of Connor in 1694. He did not settle in County Antrim and went to England as secretary to the diplomat Sir William Temple. When Temple died in 1699 he returned to Ireland and obtained a position as clergyman at Laracor, near Trim in Co. Meath.
He wrote many of his works around this period and obtained his Doctor of Divinity from Trinity College. He met Ester Johnson while working for Sir William Temple and called her ‘Stella’, it is not clear if they married though it is certain that Swift did not wish her to marry anyone else. He published A Tale of a Tub and The Battle of the Books in 1704 and began to gain a reputation as a writer. Swift was a frequent traveller to London and became active in politics sometimes acting as a mediator in disputes. He was friendly with Queen Anne and hoped that the friendship would result in a favourable church appointment in England. However, the Queen was not best pleased with some of his writing and he was offered the position as Dean of St Patricks Cathedral in Dublin in 1713.
Swift turned his attention to serious writing and produced a Proposal for Universal Use of Irish Manufacture in 1720, Drapier’s Letters in 1724 and A Modest Proposal in 1729. He visited his friends the Sheridans in Quilca House on many occasions and it was said that much of Gullivers Travels was written here.
Ester Johnson died in January 1728, she was buried in St Patrick’s Cathedral and her death greatly affected Swift. He wrote his own obituary Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift in 1731, his friends, John Gay and John Arbuthnot died and Swift’s physical and mental health deteriorated. He became quarrelsome and lost some of his friendships including that of Thomas Sheridan. His closest friends had him declared unsound of mind and memory in order to protect him from unscrupulous individuals. In 1742 he may have suffered a stroke and on 19th October 1745, Swift died. His buried in St Patrick’s Cathedral beside Esther Johnson.
Anthony C West
Anthony C West was born near Guilford, County Down in 1910, the youngest child of George and Ellen West and he had two brothers and two sisters.
His full name was Cathcart Anthony Muir West but he was known as Tony. George inherited a farm at Coras Point, Kilmore from a relative, Emma West and the family moved to Cavan. Tony really enjoyed his time in Cavan and liked the fact that Catholic and Protestant got on with each other. He attended Gartbratten school and when he was sixteen he got an office job with Allen and Halpin, solicitors in Cavan town.
West was a restless individual and emigrated to America where he worked as an interior decorator, bar man and in a bank. He became a ‘hobo’ jumping trains and eventually ended up in Hollywood and all before he was 21. He started to write and got a couple of short stories published in Esquire magazine. During the Second World War he went to England and joined the Royal Air Force. When the war ended he worked on farms around England before settling in Anglesey with his wife Olive Mary Burr.
He received a £300 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation which allowed him to write professionally. His works include The Native Moment, Rebel to Judgement, As Towns with Fire, All the Kings Horses and other stories and his most popular novel The Ferret Fancier, a book whose central character is Simon Green who lives in a border county at the end of the Irish Civil War and which the New York Times described as ‘a minor masterpiece’.
Anthony C (Tony) West died in London in 1988.