Mac Giollarnáth (Mac Giolla An Átha; Forde), Seán (1880–1970), writer and folklorist, was born 13 September 1880 at Gorteen, about 9 miles from Athenry, Co. Galway, eldest son among nine children of Michael Forde and his wife Brigid Curley, proprietors of a shop and a small farm. He was educated locally, receiving extra tuition from an uncle who was a schoolteacher, and obtained a position with the inland revenue in London. While there he joined both the Gaelic League – where he became friendly with the writer Pádraig Ó Conaire (qv) – and the Irish Republican Brotherhood. He returned to Ireland in 1908 as editor of a short-lived bilingual monthly, An Connachtach, and in the following year he was appointed to succeed Patrick Pearse (qv) as editor of An Claidheamh Soluis, the weekly journal of the Gaelic League. Mac Giollarnáth was a member of the Irish Volunteers but was on a visit to his family in Co. Galway at the time of the 1916 rising, in which he took no part. He began to study law in the same year and, having qualified as a solicitor in 1920, established a legal practice in Athenry. He was nominated as a judge in the republican courts by Austin Stack (qv), the acting minister for home affairs, and in 1925 he was appointed a district justice in Connemara, where he is remembered for his informality and the humanity of his sentencing.
Mac Giollarnáth continued to write after his appointment to the bench, and his publications during the 1930s included translations of works by Lady Gregory (qv) and Seumas MacManus (qv), stories for children, and books about ornithology – a subject in which he was keenly interested. However, he is chiefly remembered for his work in compiling and editing three important collections of folklore: Peadar Cois Fhairrge (1934), Loinnir Mac Leabhar agus Sgéalta Gaisgidh Eile (1936), and Annála Beaga ó Iorrus Aithneach (1941). His most substantial original work was Mo Dhúthaigh Fhiáin, a vividly written collection of fourteen essays on the natural history, landscape, and traditions of Connemara that appeared in 1949. In 1959 he was conferred with an LLD by the NUI in recognition of his work as a folklorist.
Mac Giollarnáth married Tríona Ní Fhearáin, from Magherafelt, Co. Londonderry; they had three sons. He died in Galway city on 28 January 1970.