Cartan, Joseph (1811–91), newspaper proprietor, journalist, and writer, was born in January 1811 of a farming family in Tullyallen, Co. Louth. He showed an interest in politics from an early age, being inspired by the catholic emancipation movement and in particular the election in 1826 of Alexander Dawson (1771–1831), the emancipationist MP for Co. Louth. His journalistic career began in the 1830s on the Drogheda Argus, on which he was engaged for a time as editor. He also contributed to the Dublin Penny Journal. During this period he published his novel Philip Callan, or, The forty shilling freeholder, which centres on events surrounding Dawson's election, and an Essay on patriotism: legends and stories of Co. Louth (1839), which included short tales and patriotic songs. Poor health forced him temporarily to abandon journalism, and he settled in Dundalk and married. He bought a hotel and established a public car service which ran from Dundalk to Newry. It is probable that he was the Joseph Cartin, hotel proprietor of Clanbrassil Street, who voted for the pro-repeal candidate Charles MacTavish in 1847. Cartan himself was actively involved in the repeal movement. President of the local branch of the Repeal Association, he was elected chairman when the repealers established a majority on the town council.
Following the opening of the Dublin to Belfast railway Cartan closed his transport service. The recurrence of illness led him to give up his hotel business and move for some months to an English health resort. On returning to Ireland he established the Dundalk Democrat and People's Journal, the first issue appearing on 20 October 1849. From the start it endorsed nationalism and tenant right, and then later the Tenant League, founded in 1851, and Independent Party candidates running for Louth. Cartan's editorials could be both vitriolic and controversial, and during the 1854 election campaign between John McNamara Cantwell and Chichester Fortescue (qv) the paper came in for criticism. His attacks on Lord Clermont resulted in Clermont's taking legal action against him; Clermont obtained a verdict with damages, and when Cartan was unable to pay the full amount he was imprisoned in Dundalk jail. He remained in journalism until 1872, when the death of his wife and his own poor health led him to retire. He moved back to Drogheda, where he became a prominent benefactor of local charities and the catholic church. He died 4 December 1891 at his residence in Fair Street, Drogheda, and was buried in Tullyallen cemetery.