Guinan, Joseph (1863–1932), writer and priest, was born at Millbrook House, Cloghan, Co. Offaly; his parents were comfortable tenant farmers. Educated at St. Mel's College, Longford, he entered Maynooth in 1881. After being ordained in 1888 by Bishop Bartholomew Woodlock (qv), he spent the first five years on a temporary mission in Liverpool, during which time he wrote a series of articles entitled ‘Amongst the Liverpool Irish’. Failing health forced him to return to Ireland in 1893, where he joined the staff at St Mel's College, teaching English and mathematics, and lectured on Christian doctrine, as well as serving as a curate in Legan, Co. Longford. From 1900 to 1908 he served as a curate in St Mary's parish, Athlone. In his early years as a priest he admitted to having some patriotic feeling but to being not quite sure of his political views beyond that. In a lecture ‘Famine years’, delivered at St Joseph's Temperance Hall, Longford, in 1907 and published by the Catholic Truth Society of Ireland in 1908, he declared he would go further than John Mitchel (qv) in blaming England for the Great Famine. He wrote several stories and sketches illustrative of Irish peasant life and of the relations between priests and people. He hoped that his first novel, Scenes and sketches in an Irish parish, or Priest and people in Doon (1903), would ‘help to revive the holy and sacred, yet maybe fading spells of home, amongst Irish Americans’. This was followed in 1905 by his best-seller, The soggarth aroon, in which a benevolent priest presides over his poverty-stricken flock and fights to protect them from the depredations of landlordism; the catholic clergy rather than the Land League, which is characterised as materialistic and demagogic, is portrayed as the real guardian of the people. The Moores of Glynn was published in 1907, The island parish in 1908 and Donal Kenny in 1910. The curate of Kilcloon (1913) expresses the fears of catholic peasant farmers when an Irish–American returns to claim a smallholding that his family had quit during the Famine.
In 1909 he was moved to a curacy in the parish of Wheery and Tisaran near Ferbane. Two years later he was promoted to parish priest and transferred to Bornacoola, Co. Leitrim. He remained there till 1920, when he was appointed by the Holy See as canon and transferred to the parish of Ardagh, Co. Longford, where he remained till his death. He published no novels between 1913 and 1924 owing to his duties as a parish priest, but he campaigned enthusiastically for catholic literature. A regular contributor to the Catholic Bulletin, the Irish Monthly, and the Irish Rosary, he always appealed for more support for these monthly catholic family magazines. In 1921 he helped found the Ardagh and Clonmacnoise Antiquarian Society, serving as its secretary and editing its journal, which began in 1926. After 1924 he again began publishing, with Annamore being one of his most popular works; like The soggarth aroon it dealt with the land question, a topic that greatly interested him, and portrays ‘an absentee landlord as well-meaning but destroyed by lack of moral guidance’ (Maume, 44). In 1927 he purchased ‘The Court’ for use as a school of domestic economy to be run by the Sisters of Mercy. He also secured a portion of land for the use of the parish priest in Ardagh. In 1928 he unveiled a monument at Ballinamuck, Co. Longford, in commemoration of the 1798 rebellion. He published The patriots (1928), a novel modelled on the life of Seán Mac Eoin (qv), the legendary ‘Blacksmith of Ballinalee’. Guinan was emphatic in his support for the treaty side in the civil war, while loudly condemning the Irregulars. Because of his frank and open treatment of national politics through the period of the war of independence and civil war, The patriots was not published in Britain or Ireland. He willed all his literary rights to his bishop, James MacNamee (1876–1966). He died 5 January 1932 at St Brigid's, Ardagh.