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Bryan MacMahon letters to Jack O'Reilly

Collection MS-2003-018: Bryan MacMahon letters to Jack O'Reilly


  • Creation: 1949 - 1980

Scope and Contents

Letters from MacMahon to collector Jack O'Reilly regarding MacMahon's writing, literature in Ireland, and politics. MacMahon reflects on the conflicting time demands of his short stories, novels, and theatrical productions, as well as his work teaching. The two men share news of their families, remininscences of O'Reilly's forebears in Ireland, and thoughts on the perceptions of Irish politics at home and abroad.


Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical Note: Bryan MacMahon

Bryan MacMahon was born in Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland on September 29, 1909 to Patrick and Joanna (Caughlin) MacMahon. He was educated locally at the national school and then went to St. Michael's College in Listowel. He trained as a teacher at St. Patrick's Teacher Training College in Dublin. He taught briefly in Dublin but returned to live in Listowel for the remainder of his life. In 1936 he married Kitty Ryan and they had five sons. MacMahon taught for 44 years at Scoil Réalta na Maidine (a parochial school), ran a bookstore, and during World War II worked in factories in England.

MacMahon was a novelist, short-story writer, dramatist, folklorist, and collector of traditional Irish music and song. He began publishing short stories in The Bell magazine, which were collected into his first book, The Lion Tamer, in 1948. Over his career he authored ballads, children's books, fiction, poetry, travel books, and scripts for radio and television, but he was best known for his novels and short stories. His first stories "The Good Dead in the Green Hills" and "Exile's Return" were published in The Bell in 1945. Some of his other works include his autobiography The Master (1992), The Red Petticoat and Other Stories (1955), and Children of the Rainbow (1952). His novel The Honey Spike was adapted for the stage and performed at the Abbey Theater in 1961. He also helped to co-found Listowel Writers' Week in 1970. He was made a member of the Irish Academy of Letters.

He died in on February 13, 1998 at the age of 88.


Battersby, Eileen. "Writing of Bryan MacMahon put social irony in sharp focus." The Irish Times. February 16, 1998. Accessed on May 26, 2020

"Bryan Mac Mahon – Man of Listowel." Listowel Writers' Week. April 4, 2018. Accessed on May 26, 2020

Hourican, Bridget. "Macmahon, Brian Michael." Dictionary of Irish Biography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: Royal Irish Academy, 2009.

Stringer, Jenny, and John Sutherland. “Macmahon, Bryan.” The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Literature in English. Oxford University Press, 1996.


.5 Linear Feet (1 container )

Language of Materials



Composed of letters from twentieth-century Irish author Bryan MacMahon to Jack O'Reilly, a collector in San Francisco. The correspondence discusses MacMahon's work, as well as political and literary topics relating to Ireland.




Because the current accessioning system was not used until January 1986, it is not possible to know exactly the dates of acquisition of materials received before that time. However, information on file indicates that these materials were a purchase from Serendipity Books.

Bryan MacMahon Letters to Jack O'Reilly
Rachael Young
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Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States