JJ (Jeremiah Joseph) Callanan (1795-1829)
The poet and translator of Irish verse, was born in Ballinhassig, Co. Cork, and died at the age of just 34 in Lisbon, where he was staying for his health.
He wrote a well-known poem about Gougane Barra that many Irish people learned at school. Perhaps you remember it?
You can find the full poem here.
Some of the most memorable lines include:
There is a green island in lone Gougane Barra,
Where Allua of songs rushes forth as an arrow,
In deep-valley'd Desmond - a thousand wild fountains
Come down to that lake from their homes in the mountains.
And its zone of dark hills - oh! to see them all bright'ning,
When the tempest flings out its red banner of lightning;
And the waters rush down, 'mid the thunder's deep rattle,
like clans from their hills at the voice of the battle.
Máire Bhuí Ní Laoghhaire (1774-c.1849)
This renowned Irish-language folk poet and songwriter lived, after marriage, close to the entrance to the pass of Keimaneigh, near Gougane Barra.
Her poem 'Cath Chéim an Fhia' (Battle of Keimaneigh) is a vigorous rousing ballad and a partisan account of a battle between local Whiteboys and a battalion of Yeomanry in 1822.
Máire had little formal education, but had a great store of traditional learning, ballads, aislings, and laments from the locality. Some of them are still sung in the Irish language in the local schools today.
Robert Gibbings (1889-1958)
Robert Gibbings was born in Cork and educated in University College Cork and the Slade School in London. In the 1940s, he came to Gougane Barra Hotel for a week and stayed for six months!
A writer of fascinating travel books, he was a very skilled artist and illustrated many of his own books including Lovely is the Lee (1944) and Sweet Cork of Thee (1951) in which the area and the family are mentioned frequently and with great affection.
Neil's Mom Breda said that when she was a child, she thought he was Santa Claus!
On these I ponder
Where'er I wander,
And thus grow fonder,
Sweet Cork of thee.
Frank O'Connor (1903-1966)
Born Michael O'Donovan in Cork in 1903, Frank O'Connor was one of Ireland's best-known and most prolific short-story writers. Described as a 'master among masters' of the short-story form, O'Connor spent time in Gougane Barra, staying with Neil's grandmother in Cronin's Hotel. He was personally acquainted with the Tailor and Ansty and wrote the introduction to Eric Cross's book of the same name, when it was reprinted in 1964 long after its censorship was lifted.
In addition to writing short stories, O'Connor was a playwright, novelist, critic and translator of Irish texts. He was a life-long nationalist and went into exile in America for most of the 1950s when much of his work dried up due to his criticisms of the Irish state. He returned to Ireland in 1961 where he spent his last years until his death in 1961.
Seán Ó Faoláin (1900-1991)
Born in Co. Cork in 1900, Seán Ó Faoláin was a prolific writer in many genres, perhaps best known for his short stories. He was a vocal critic of Roman Catholicism. Appalled by the brutality following the 1916 Easter Rising, Ó Faoláin changed his name from John Francis Whelan and studied Gaelic. He became involved in anti-British activity prior to the War of Independence.
Once he had his own family, Ó Faoláin spent a number of family holidays in Gougane Barra which are fondly described by his daughter Julia in her memoir Trespassers.