Harkin, Hugh (1791–1854), journalist, teacher, poet, and nationalist, was born 6 July 1791 in Magilligan, Co. Derry. Little is known about his early life and education before he established a career as a teacher and journalist attached to various newspapers in both Britain and Ireland. He also worked as an accountant (1839–42) in the office of the Belfast Vindicator which was edited and owned by Charles Gavan Duffy (qv), and was appointed professor in the catholic diocesan seminary of Down and Connor. In the 1840s he spent some time living in Edinburgh (as reflected in his contributions to the Nation in 1843) and England, working in Leeds, where he was the original editor of the catholic paper The Lamp, and York, where he published Sacred songs for the people (1849) and edited the Bulletin (1852–3).
His poems and stories, which often demonstrate his devout catholic faith, sometimes appeared anonymously (such as Monody on the death of the late John Young, 1832) or under pseudonyms (‘Henry Picken’, ‘H’ in the Nation, ‘Unexva’ in the Belfast Vindicator, and possibly ‘Heber’ in the Bulletin). He was an associate of Patrick O'Kelly (qv), and may have inspired and contributed to the latter's long poem ‘The Doneraile Litany’.
A noted orator, Harkin was a staunch supporter of both catholic emancipation and repeal. He was a prominent figure among Belfast catholics, whom ‘he had served well by voice and pen’ (O'Donoghue, 185). He died 1 January 1854 at 2 Donegall Square, Belfast.