Another famous inmate during the turbulent 1920’s in the Women’s Gaol was the outstanding Cork writer, Frank O Connor. He was born Michael O Donovan in Cork on September 17th 1903. Educated at St. Patrick’s National School- where one of his teachers was Daniel Corkery, who encouraged his literary talent. While still in his teens he fought in the Civil War and ended up in the Women’s Gaol in Sunday’s Well. His first job was that of a clerk in the Great Southern Railway office in Cork. He later worked as a librarian in Wicklow, Cork, and Dublin, for varying periods. His first book of short stories “Guests of the Nation” appeared in 1931, followed in 1932 by a novel “The Saint and Mary Kate”. From 1935 to 1939 he was a director of the Abbey Theatre and worked in close contact with W.B. Yeats. Two plays were produced by him in the Abbey:”In The Train” (1937) and “Moses Rock” (1938). His biography of Michael Collins “The Big Fellow” appeared in 1937. He became best known for his short stories publishing a number of collections from 1936. In 1939 he went to the U.S.A. where he lectured in a number of universities, and became a regular contributor to the “New Yorker”. He was elected to the Irish Academy of Letters in 1941. He returned to Ireland in 1960, and became lecturer in English in T.C.D. in 1963.
As well as fiction, he wrote books of travel and comment on Ireland, literary criticism, an autobiography in two volumes: “An Only Child”, and “My Father’s Son”, and made many translations from the Irish, including a racy rendering of “Merriman’s Midnight Court” (1945).
With David Green he edited and translated: “A Golden Treasury of Irish Poetry, A.D. 600 to 1200”, to bring to the general reader the most important branch of medieval poetry”…..from the only period when Ireland was an independent country. He died in Dublin on the 10th March, 1966.