Famous People of Achill in Co. Mayo


Heinrich Boll was born in Germany in 1917. He carved out a career as a journalist and writer and in the late 1950's he made his first visit to Achill. Throughout the 1960's and into the 1970's, Boll lived and worked in Achill, residing in a cottage in the village of Dugort.

His book 'Irische Tagebuch', 'Irish Journal' is well known and recounts some of his experiences of Achill. Heinrich Boll won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1972.

The Boll Cottage in Dugort has been used since 1992 as an Artist's Residence. A local committee, the Heinrich Boll Foundation in Germany, the Boll Family and Mayo County Council maintain the cottage and administer the residency programme.


Belfast born artist, Paul Henry spent eight years on Achill Island, and became fully immersed in local life during that time.

Henry painted scenes of people at work and views of sea and mountain and his paintings have become part of private and gallery collections all over the world.

The Luxemburgh Gallery in Paris has Henry's painting of Dooagh village on permanent exhibition.


American painter Robert Henri spent several summers in Achill with his wife, between the years 1924 - 1928.

Henri is most famous for his portraits of the local people of Dooagh, which is where he stayed while in Achill. Many of these paintings are on display in galleries across the United States including Chicago and Pennsylvania.


Other painters such as Charles Lamb and Derek Hill also spent time in Achill, attracted by its wild beauty and unique character.


Grace O'Malley or Granuaile was born in Clare Island around 1530, the daughter of the chieftain of the barony of Murrisk. The O'Malley's were a powerful sea-faring family, who traded widely and refused to submit to English rule.

Grace became a fearless leader and gained fame as a sea captain and pirate. Grace and her followers were attacked and pursued by English Governors who wanted her to swear fealty for the Crown.

In 1593, Grace met with Queen Elizabeth 1 and after discussions, Grace was allowed to continue her exploits in Connaught.

Grace died around 1603, and is said to be buried in the O'Malley family tomb on Clare Island.


James Lynchehaun was born in Polranny, Achill Sound around 1858. Lynchehaun is the main character of James Carney's book 'The Playboy and the Yellow Lady' and the inspiration for J. M. Synge's play 'The Playboy of the Western World'.

Lynchehaun was a known trickster, but his fame arose from his association with local landowner Mrs Agnes McDonnell. He was appointed land agent for Mrs. McDonnell, however after some disputes Lynchehaun was discharged. In 1894, Lynchehaun allegedly set fire to Mrs McDonnell's house in the Valley.

The house was burned to the ground and the lady was seriously injured. In a subsequent trial, Lynchehaun was found guilty and sent to prison, but escaped to America. In 1903 he was arrested in America but efforts to extradite him failed and Lynchehaun died in Scotland in 1937.


Captain Charles Boycott first came to Achill around 1857. He leased land at Keem Bay and built a house there, however he moved to Corrymore House when his residence at Keem was burned down.

Boycott is alleged to have been a cruel landlord and his departure to Ballinrobe in 1877 was not regretted by local people. It was in Ballinrobe that Boycott encountered Michael Davitt and the Land League.

His name was added to the English language (boycott - to shun) when local tenants refused to work for him, in protest at his harsh and cruel tactics.


Sir Robert Peel who founded the British police force in the early 1800's, had for a time been the Irish Viceroy in Dublin. He visited Achill in 1861 and subsequently built a house in Curraun.


Eva O’Flaherty was an active Irish nationalist, a fashionista and businesswoman.

She was born on 31st March 1874, in Lisdonagh House, Caherlistane, on the shores of Lough Hacket in Co. Galway, but Achill Island became her home since the early 20th century.

She went to school in Mount Anville and Alexandra Colleges. She trained in millinery at the end of the 19th century in Paris where she met Countess Markievitcz and opened a millinery shop on Sloane Street in London.

Also, she became a well-known beauty in the Café Royal where she got in touch with an eclectic group of intellectuals and artists, many of whom visited her on Achill afterwards.

In 1910 she moved to Achill Island where she was co-founder member of Scoil Acla with the poet, journalist and, later, politician, Darrell Figgis, Colm O’Loughlainn and Anita McMahon.

In 1912 she established the St. Colman's Knitting Industry in Dooagh employing local women for almost fifty years.

By 1914 Eva was a member of Cumann na mBan in Dublin and took part in the 1916 Easter Rising as basket-woman.

Then she settled back to Achill where she died in 1963.

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