Curran, Henry Grattan (1800–76), barrister, resident magistrate, and author, was born 5 February 1800 in Tipperary, illegitimate son of John Philpott Curran (qv), master of the rolls; his mother's surname was Fitzgerald. Having one stepbrother and one stepsister, Sarah Curran (qv), he was, however, known as H. G. Fitzgerald until he adopted his father's surname in 1828. Brought up in the Church of Ireland, he entered TCD in November 1816. He was admitted to Gray's Inn (May 1824) and qualified as a barrister (King's Inns, 1828). At this stage his life was dominated by literary and political pursuits. In 1831 James Hardiman (qv) acknowledged him as a friend of recognised ‘poetical’ ability, and he contributed fourteen of the 130 translations included in Hardiman's collection of Gaelic ballads. These are sentimental effusions without much literary merit, and it is likely that he worked up the versions from cribs supplied by Hardiman. Their style, like that of the other versions in the collection, anticipates the patriotic rhetoric of the Young Irelander verse published a decade later: ‘The Gael's aching heart sinks with shame and distress’. One or two of his own compositions caught the public imagination, particularly ‘The fate of the forties’, a lament for the disenfranchised forty-shilling freeholders of 1829. He has been associated with the popular ballad ‘The wearing of the green’, but in fact did no more than touch up the authentic folksong, which dates from about 1800. Though he spoke at church meetings in favour of catholic representation in the O'Connellite electoral campaigns of the late 1820s, his own political views were less radical than the sometimes florid verse might suggest, amounting to a non-sectarian unionism protective of Irish culture. He rejected the repeal movement of the 1830s. By the later 1830s he had been admitted to the select body of barristers on the home circuit, where he worked, sometimes on crown employment, until his appointment to the resident magistracy (June 1851). Friendly with the legal author Edmund Hayes, he published a polemical novel on the injustices of the land system, Confessions of a Whitefoot (1844), dedicated to the Devon commission of inquiry. Showing how a sincere young man becomes entangled in a secret society, having endured injustice from landowners and magistrates, it was intended to show aspects of the system that would not appear from examining the technicalities of land law. By contrast with the melodramatic plot, the style is simple, concrete, and sardonic. His pamphlet Coercion constitutional (1848) defended the controversial crime and outrage act of 1847. He served as RM to the Strokestown district, Co. Roscommon (1851–61), and was then transferred to Parsonstown, Kings Co. (Offaly), where he worked until he fell ill in the early summer of 1875, well after the normal age of retirement. As a magistrate, he was reportedly erudite and impartial. He died 12 February 1876. His wife (whose name is not known) had died in 1875; they had one son.
NLI, wills and administrations, 1876; James Hardiman, Irish minstrelsy or Bardic remains of Ireland (2 vols, 1831), i, p. xxxviii; Thom, 1850–76; Return of the name, age, date of appointment, salary, fees and allowances of every stipendiary magistrate or resident magistrate in Ireland, HC 1852–3 (107), xciv, 1; Return of the name, age, date of appointment, salary, fees and allowances of every resident or stipendiary magistrate in Ireland, HC 1860 (288), lvii, 3; Return of all stipendiary magistrates in Ireland over the age of 60, HC 1862 (459), xlvi, 3; Charles Gavan Duffy, The ballad poetry of Ireland (1866), 161; Kings County Chronicle, 10, 17 Feb. 1876; O'Donoghue, Poets of Ireland, 129; Alumni Dubl., 213, 284; Bill Wannan (ed.), The wearing of the green: the lore, literature, legend and balladry of the Irish in Australia (1965), 1–4; Brady & Cleeve, 50; Kings Inns admissions