Barrington, Margaret (Louise) (1896–1982), writer and journalist, was born 10 May 1896 in Malin, Co. Donegal, one of three daughters of Richard Barrington, RIC sergeant (later district inspector), and Charlotte Barrington (née Scott). Owing to her mother's poor health, her early life was spent with her maternal grandfather on his estate in Malin; she later moved to her parents' home in Dungannon, Co. Tyrone. Educated at the Royal School, Dungannon, at Alexandra College, Dublin, and in Normandy, she went on to attend TCD, where she graduated as a gold medallist with a BA in modern literature (1918). She married (1922) the historian Edmund Curtis (qv) and later taught French and German in several Dublin schools. Her earliest published work dates from 5 June 1918, when she contributed an article on the treatment of women students to TCD's College Miscellany. This was followed by a short story and play, published in the Dublin Magazine in December 1923 and March 1924 respectively. Her growing literary reputation was further enhanced by her regular attendance at George Russell's (qv) social gatherings, where she met the likes of James Stephens (qv) and W. B. Yeats (qv). Liam O'Flaherty (qv), who was first introduced to her at Russell's salon (March 1924), described her as being ‘the little marvel of the literary circle here’. She appears to have rapidly embarked on an affair with O'Flaherty, and by July of that year she had left her husband and was living with him in England. Having outraged the literary establishment, she went on to contribute a controversial short story, ‘Colour’, to Francis Stuart's (qv) short-lived journal To-morrow (August 1924), in which she tackled racial and sexual taboos.
Returning to Ireland (December 1924), she and O'Flaherty were coldly received by many old acquaintances, and for a time experienced financial difficulties. After her divorce from Curtis, they married in London (March 1926), where her only child, Pegeen, was born soon after. O'Flaherty undoubtedly admired her intellect and talents and encouraged her to write (on occasion sending drafts of her work to his friend the critic Edward Garnett), but throughout their eight years together, during which they travelled extensively in Ireland, England, and France, she wrote very little. This she blamed on the ‘difficulties’ of married life. By the late 1920s the marriage was coming apart; in June 1930 she was forced to write to a friend, A. D. Peters, to ask if he knew of O'Flaherty's whereabouts. They separated in 1932. Barrington settled in London, where she entered into one of the most productive periods of her life: writing, translating, organising support for the republicans during the Spanish civil war, and providing assistance for refugees from Nazi Germany. A keen supporter of the British Labour Party, she took charge (November 1938) of the women's column of the left-wing paper Tribune. Her work was also broadcast by the BBC and in 1939 her novel My cousin Justin was published.
The outbreak of the second world war prompted her return to Ireland. With her friends Ewart Milne and Stella Jackson she established herself in Leap, Co. Cork, for some time. In the years that followed (1941–52) she regularly contributed essays, short stories, letters, and reviews to The Bell. After a period in Castletownsend (1947–53) she settled in Kinsale, where for a time she was joined by fellow writer Kay Starr. Her later years were spent in relative obscurity. She died 8 March 1982 in a Kinsale nursing home and was buried locally. A collection of short stories, David's daughter Tamar, was published posthumously (1982); at least three novels remain unpublished.