Kenealy, William (1828–76), journalist, poet, and nationalist, was born 1 July 1828 in Cloyne, Co. Cork, the son of a blacksmith and farmer. He worked as a teacher and was appointed headmaster of Churchtown national school, but was dismissed when authorship of an inflammatory pamphlet was ascribed to him. Bishop Edward Maginn (qv) found him work in his diocesan college and subsequently as editor of the Lamp, a catholic paper published in York. Kenealy spent some time in Leeds working on the Lamp while he also established a reputation as a poet, contributing nationalist verse as ‘William of Munster’ to Duffy's Fireside Magazine and the Nation. He is believed to have written the introduction to Edward Hayes's volume Ballads of Ireland (1855), which included some of his own work.
By 1855 Kenealy had returned to Ireland and settled in Thurles, Co. Tipperary, to edit the Tipperary Leader. Within a year he was prosecuted for libel by a local protestant clergyman, and when Kenealy refused to name the journalist who had written the article in question he was jailed and ordered to pay £2,000 in damages, a sum he was quite unable to find. While in jail he is believed to have written one of his best-known poems, a ballad entitled ‘The moon behind the hill’, published in the Citizen, the New York paper of John Mitchel (qv), and the Nation (20 Dec. 1856). He also applied from prison for the editorship of the nationalist Kilkenny Journal, and won out over his friend Charles Kickham (qv), who evidently bore no ill-feeling, and later described him as ‘genial William of Munster’ (Old Kilkenny Review, 346). The Kilkenny Journal was then owned by Mary Anne Maxwell, who, like her husband, Cornelius (Con) Maxwell (d. 1851), was a staunch O'Connellite. On his marriage to Maxwell's daughter Rosa in 1858, Kenealy received a half share in the paper.
Though he remained on the fringes of Fenian circles, Kenealy was highly active in local politics, particularly in the tenant right movement, which he championed in the Kilkenny Journal. He was a founder member of the Tenant's Association, and toured the country with E. P. Mulhallen Marum (1823–90) in its support. Regarded by contemporaries as a persuasive public speaker, he became a central figure in Kilkenny society. A proprietor (or shareholder) of the Kilkenny Circulating Library Society from 1859, he was also a member of the Kilkenny Corporation, and was elected lord mayor of the city in 1872 and 1873. He was honoured by the French Red Cross Society for assistance given to those wounded in Paris during the Franco-Prussian War. Kenealy died suddenly 5 September 1876 at his home in Kilkenny, and was buried in St Patrick's cemetery, Kilkenny.