Callan, Philip (1837–1902), politician, was born 27 May 1837 at Cookstown House, near Ardee, Co. Louth, only son of Owen Callan, a well-to-do tenant farmer, and his wife Elizabeth (or Bessie), eldest daughter of Patrick O'Carroll, and was educated at Clongowes Wood College, Co. Kildare, before entering the Inner Temple in London. He was called to the English bar in 1864 and the Irish bar in 1865.
While practising in London and Dublin, Callan became active in politics in his native county and soon acquired great political influence there. In 1868 he stood for parliament in Dundalk (as a liberal) and was returned – a remarkable achievement in a small borough constituency for a man without substantial means. He became, though never a Fenian, a conspicuous advocate of an amnesty for Fenians still imprisoned and an ardent follower and respected adviser of Isaac Butt (qv), in whose Home Government Association he was prominent. He stood again in 1874 and was returned for both Dundalk and Co. Louth, opting to sit for the former (where he had defeated Charles Russell (qv)). Callan was one of nine members of the parliamentary committee of the Irish home-rule party set up in March 1874. While loyal to Butt, he was, with Joseph Gillis Biggar (qv) and other Irish home-rulers, an obstructionist. In 1876 he spoke in the commons in defence of the ‘Manchester martyrs’. But among militant home-rulers Callan was widely mistrusted, partly because it was believed he had sought places from Gladstone and Disraeli. In the struggle for power between Butt and Charles Stewart Parnell (qv) which began in 1877 he stalwartly supported the former. At the elections of 1880, Russell defeated him but he stood again, for Co. Louth, and was returned. He was not a Land Leaguer and accepted with little enthusiasm the leadership of Parnell.
When in 1885 fresh elections approached he was rejected as a candidate for the new constituency of North Louth by Parnell's party caucus. Parnell strongly objected to Callan, probably because he spread word of the leader having an affair with Katharine, wife of William Henry O'Shea (qv). Undeterred he stood as an independent. Parnell campaigned personally against him. Callan was defeated by Parnell's candidate, Joseph Nolan (1,451 votes to 2,581). In 1888, Callan was the foremost collaborator of Frank Hugh O'Donnell (qv) in the latter's libel action against The Times newspaper which led to the setting up of a special commission to investigate Parnell and his party. Later attempts to re-enter parliament, for North Louth (1892) and South Louth (1896), failed. In 1892, after Parnell's death, despite the support of the Parnellites, who strongly disliked his opponent, Timothy Michael Healy (qv), Callan's defeat was by 1,569 votes to 2,268. His local power basis, though it remained, was, after the rise of Parnell, insufficient to ensure the continuance of the parliamentary career of one who rated independence above solidarity. Callan's most noteworthy achievement as a legislator was the passing of a bill abolishing the requirement that candidates for the Irish bar dine at an inn of court in London. Philip Callan died 13 June 1902 at his residence in Lower Baggot St., Dublin.
He married, in 1867, Jane Frances MacDonnell, daughter of Philip MacDonnell of Ardee. Their first son, Owen MacDonnell, was a dissolute character; the second, Walter (1874–1953?) was private secretary to the lord lieutenant of Ireland (1903–6), secretary of the royal commission on congestion (1906–8) and private secretary to the governor general of Australia (1908–11); he practised later as a barrister in Ireland.