Roscommon Holiday

John McGahern - Irish author raised in Roscommon


John McGahern was a mutli-award winning author who was described as 'the greatest living Irish novelist' during his time. Born in Leitrim, McGahern was the eldest child of seven. His farher was a Garda sergeant stationed in county Roscommon and his mother was a primary school teacher who also ran the family farm just outside Ballinamore in Leitrim.

Tragically his mother died of cancer when McGahern was still in primary school and the family moved to Cootehall, halfway between Boyle and Carrick on Shannon. Here he finished primary school and won a scholarship to the Presentation Brothers secondary school, Carrick on Shannon. Here McGahern excelled once again and was awarded the county scholarship for his Leaving Certificate results. He took a place in teacher training that was offered to him by St Patrick’s College of Education in Drumcondra and found work in a Clontarf primary school.

McGahern wrote six novels, each of which had some autobiographical elements, and many caused controversy upon release, ultimately leading to him being dismissed from his teaching position. After this he emigrated to London where he continued to write and also worked in a number of jobs before returning to Ireland in later life. His best known is 'Amongst Women', which is detailed below. Click the following link for information on and a list of John McGahern novels.

Amongst Women

'Amongst Women' is McGahern’s most famous novel and takes place in a rural setting like that of his Roscommon and Leitrim homes. The story follows Michael Moran, an IRA veteran who is the dominate force of his family farm. The work is praised for its insight into a family with such a father figure, and for the understanding shown in the potrayal of the main character. The children in the story leave for Dublin and London and the character of Luke is similar to McGahern himself. Luke left for London and could not reconcile with his father whereas McGahern did return home even if relationship with his father was strained. The story also deals with the life McGahern left behind in the family farmhouse.

McGahern wrote his autobiogrpahy 'Memoir' in 2005, a year before he died. The death of his mother, Susan, from cancer was something he never forgot in his life or his writings and he himself succumbed to the disease in the Mater Hosptial in 2006. He is buried beside his mother in Dublin. A documentary about his life, 'John McGahern: A Private World', was released in 2005.