In our February blog, Turlough O’Riordan discusses the sequence of events that led to the resignation of attorney general Patrick Connolly in August 1982, and the origins of GUBU – a phrase that has become firmly embedded in our political and cultural lexicon.

In our first Dictionary of Irish Biography blog of 2024, Patrick Maume highlights some examples of Irish ‘great detectives’, elusive figures who have nevertheless become prominent in our fiction, politics and popular culture.

Darragh, Austin (1927–2015), doctor and businessman, was born in the family home in Heytesbury Street, Dublin, on 27 April 1927, the sixth of nine children of Alexander Darragh, a mathematics teacher, and his wife Frances (née McDonnell). He grew up in Terenure, Dublin, and spent his primary and secondary schooling at the Catholic University School (CUS), Leeson Street, Dublin. A keen sportsman, he was a hard charging back for the CUS rugby team, gaining selection for the Leinster schools’ team in 1944.

Casey, Juanita (Joy Barlow) (1925–2012), novelist, poet, artist and expert horse breeder, was born on 10 October 1925 and adopted soon after. In the 1980s she tracked down her birth certificate, which revealed that she had been named Lorna and born within London’s outer suburbs at Elm Drive, Teddington, the daughter of Bertha Louise Newman; no father’s name was listed. She was adopted into the wealthy brewing family of Gerald Haw Taunton Barlow and his wife Mary (née Bischoff), who raised her as Joy Barlow.

Lovett, Ann (1968–84), schoolgirl, was born in Cobh, Co. Cork, on 6 April 1968, the seventh of nine children (three girls and six boys) of Diarmuid Lovett (d. 1987), builder and publican, and his wife Patricia (née MacNamee, d. 2015).

Fenton, Tony (Anthony Fagan, ‘the Dude’) (1961–2015), music broadcaster and disc jockey (DJ), was born Anthony James Fagan in Donnycarney, Co. Dublin, on 25 March 1961, the second of four sons and one daughter to Brendan Fagan, a carpenter with his own business, and his wife Ethna Fagan (née Lynskey). In an interview in 2011 Fenton recalled his childhood as a time of great happiness, despite the relative hardships of Ireland of that period.

Bushell, Ellen Sarah (‘Nellie’) (1884–1948), silk weaver, usher and activist, was born on 23 January 1884 at 57 Francis Street, Dublin, to Edward Bushell (d. 1904), a silk weaver, and his wife Ellen (née Walshe). Bushell’s mother was dead by 1901 and Edward had remarried, to a woman named Annie. The 1901 census shows the three of them living at 17 Lower Clanbrassil Street, Dublin 8, but no occupation is recorded beside either of the women’s names. By 1911 Bushell was living alone at 19 Newmarket Street, Dublin 8.