Callanan, Jeremiah J. (1795–1829), poet and verse translator, was born in Ballinhassig, Co. Cork, of a respectable medical family. Educated locally and in Cobh, he studied for the priesthood in Maynooth at the encouragement of his parents, but left (1818) to begin medical studies in TCD. After four years he withdrew from the university owing to lack of funds, having distinguished himself only in poetry: he won the vice-chancellor's medal for a poem on the accession of George IV. He returned to Cork and, although offered a tutorship at Dr Maginn's school, he enlisted in the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment, bound for Malta from Cobh, but friends managed to buy him out in the Isle of Wight. With the encouragement of William Maginn (qv) he published some verse translations from Irish in Blackwood's Magazine (1823) and gravitated towards the circle of John Windele (qv) and Thomas Crofton Croker (qv), whose Researches in the south of Ireland (1824) inspired him to spend the following years travelling throughout the south-west of Ireland working on his projected ‘Munster melodies’, which never appeared. In 1825 he took a position as tutor in the Everton school near Carlow, leaving to spend the summer of 1826 in Clonakilty, Co. Cork. About this time he composed ‘Gougane Barra’ and wrote to Maginn and Croker seeking assistance with the publication of his work in the New Monthly. Callanan also formed an attachment with Alicia Fisher, but this came to nothing as Fisher, a methodist, would not convert to catholicism. In 1828 Blackwood's Magazine published ‘The outlaw of Loch Lene’, an adaptation, which greatly enhanced his literary reputation. Having contracted tuberculosis, he left Ireland for Lisbon, where he acted as tutor to the family of the Cork merchant Hickey. He boarded a ship for Cork in early September 1829 but was forced off by illness and died in Lisbon 19 September 1829 of a throat infection. He is buried in the graveyard of San José.
Callanan showed a deep appreciation and love of the countryside and its traditions in his adaptations and his original work. How familiar he may have been with his Gaelic originals is unclear, as his adaptations seldom formed the integral basis of his work; yet in capturing their spirit and substance in style and metre Callanan demonstrated a rare poetic gift. ‘The recluse of Inchidoney’ (1830), a narrative poem, revealed a love of the landscape and a growing disillusionment with British rule, and further collections of his poems were posthumously edited and published both in London (1839) and Cork (1847, 1861). His literary remains, collected by John Windele, are held in the RIA.
More information on this entry is available at the National Database of Irish-language biographies (Ainm.ie).