Mac Gabhann, Micheál (‘Micí’) (MacGowan, Michael) (1865–1948), Klondike miner, was born 22 November 1865 at Derryconor, Cloghaneely, Co. Donegal, one of the twelve children of Tomás Mac Gabhann, small farmer, and his wife, Bríd Ní Chanainn. Mac Gabhann attended the primary school at Magheraroarty intermittently, but his father died during his childhood and at the age of eight he was hired out at the Letterkenny hiring fair to work on a farm for six months from May to November, for which his mother received £1.10s. At the age of fourteen, by which time he had spent five or six seasons working in Donegal, Mac Gabhann went to Scotland for the first time as a migrant agricultural labourer. He spent five seasons working there before emigrating to the United States, where he found work in an iron foundry in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. After a year, he travelled to Montana, where he worked in a silver mine at Granite Mountain until the 1896 slump in silver prices made the mine uneconomical.
Having tried prospecting for gold in Montana without success, Mac Gabhann and a group of fellow miners from Donegal heard reports that gold had been discovered in the Klondike region of the Yukon. In July 1898 they left Montana and, concealing themselves on goods trains for much of the journey, made their way to Seattle. There they took passage on a ship bound for Alaska, arrived at the mouth of the Yukon in mid-September, and began to travel up the river by steamer. Because of the lateness of the season the boat halted at Fort Yukon, 300 miles short of its destination. Mac Gabhann and his companions continued their journey by canoe and on foot. After many hardships they arrived at Dawson a week before Christmas. After three years mining in the district Mac Gabhann's claim became exhausted, but by then he had extracted enough gold to assure himself of a comfortable livelihood in Ireland.
Mac Gabhann returned to Donegal; purchased an estate at Cashel, Cloghaneely, that had belonged to the Johnstons, former landlords of the district; and spent the rest of his life there. He married (1902) Máire, daughter of Hugh Dickson, a local shopkeeper; they had eleven children. In 1943 one of his daughters, Anna, married Seán Ó hEochaidh (qv), a collector with the Irish Folklore Commission, who thus had the opportunity of hearing and recording his father-in-law's reminiscences. When Mac Gabhann died at Cashel on 29 November 1948 his death attracted no attention outside of the locality, but some years after his death Proinsias Ó Conluain visited the area on behalf of Radio Éireann and became aware of the recordings that had been made by Seán Ó hEochaidh. With the latter's permission, Ó Conluain edited these and published them as Rotha Mór an tSaoil (1959). An English translation by Valentin Iremonger (qv), The hard road to Klondike, was published in 1962.
More information on this entry is available at the National Database of Irish-language biographies (Ainm.ie).