Celebrating Irish Women Authors: Katharine Tynan Hickson

This blog post is dedicated to Marcella & Keith Flanagan, Katharine’s relatives and my life-long friends


It was a song I learnt in school and one, I’m sure, most of you know. All in the April Evening has a beautiful melody and the words touched something in my childish heart, something most of the songs that were inflicted on us at the time most certainly didn’t do. It was only many years later that I discovered that the writer of the poem that forms the lyrics of the song, was Katharine Tynan, and that she was related to my next door neighbour and life-long friend!

So who was she?

Katherine TynanKatharine was born in Clondalkin, Dublin, on 23rd January, 1859. She was one of twelve children and grow up on her father’s dairy farm. From age 6 to 14, she attended the Dominican Convent of St Catherine of Siena, Drogheda, and even considered life in a religious order.

In 1878, The Graphic, which was a British weekly illustrated newspaper, published her first poem. The influence of The Graphic within the art world was immense and she went on to contribute poems to Irish Monthly, Hibernia and Dublin University Review from 1880 to 1885.

Then in 1885, she met W.B. Yeats through the C. H. Oldham’s Dublin UniversitThe_Graphic_-_Tichborne_Casey Review. They became life-long friends and greatly influenced each other’s work. He advised her to instill her Irish Catholicism in her work. Her first book, Louise de la Valliere and Other Poems, was heavily influenced by Christina Rossetti and called by Yeats ‘too full of English influence to be quite Irish’. Her second volume, Shamrocks, contained exclusively Irish subject-matter. Her suggestion to Yeats that he should try an Irish subject resulted in Wanderings of Oisin.

In 1893 Katharine married Henry Albert Hinkson, a novelist and katharine tynan 1barrister, and a mutual friend of Yeats. The couple moved to London but when he became a Mayo magistrate in 1914, they moved back to Ireland to live in Claremorris. They had 3 children, one of whom became a writer as well – Pamela Hinkson (1900–1982). Henry died in 1919. Katharine died on 2 April 1931 in Wimbledon, London, aged 72.

During her lifetime, she wrote 100 novels, 12 collections of short stories, 3 plays, and anthologies, as well as innumerable articles on social questions such as poor children and women’s working conditions.

Jack B. Yeats painted her portrait in oil and this picture hangs in the Municipal Gallery, Dublin.

“The Wind that Shakes the Barley” is a well known song encompassing her poem as lyrics.

A prolific writer and unfortunately now almost forgotten. I will leave you with the poem/lyrics of the song that, more than anything else, engendered my love of poetry.

Sheep And Lambs
by Katharine Tynan

All in the April morning,
April airs were abroad;
The sheep with their little lambs
Pass’d me by on the road.

The sheep with their little lambs
Pass’d me by on the road;
All in an April evening
I thought on the Lamb of God.

The lambs were weary, and crying
With a weak human cry,
I thought on the Lamb of God
Going meekly to die.

Up in the blue, blue mountains
Dewy pastures are sweet:
Rest for the little bodies,
Rest for the little feet.

But for the Lamb of God
Up on the hill-top green,
Only a cross of shame
Two stark crosses between.

All in the April evening,
April airs were abroad;
I saw the sheep with their lambs,
And thought on the Lamb of God.

Katharine’s rather impressive catalogue of work includes:
  • Louise de la Vallière (1885) poems
  • Shamrocks (1887)
  • Ballads & Lyrics (1891)
  • Irish Love-Songs (1892)
  • A Cluster of Nuts, Being Sketches Among My Own People (1894)
  • Cuckoo Songs (1894)
  • Miracle Plays 1895)
  • The Land of Mist and Mountain (1895)
  • The Way of a Maid (1895)
  • Three Fair Maids, or the Burkes of Derrymore(c.1895) later Illustrated by G. Demain Hammond
  • An Isle in the Water  (1896)
  • The Golden Lily (1899)
  • The Dear Irish Girl (1899)
  • Oh, What a plague is Love! (1900)
  • Her Father’s Daughter (1900)
  • Poems (1901)
  • A Daughter of the Fields (1901)
  • A King’s Woman (1902)
  • Love of Sisters (1902)
  • The Great Captain: A Story of the Days of Sir Walter Raleigh (1902)
  • The Handsome Quaker, and other Stories (1902)
  • The Adventures of Carlo(1903) illustrated by E. A. Cubitt
  • The Luck of the Fairfaxes (1904)
  • A Daughter of Kings (1905)
  • Innocencies (1905) poems
  • For the White Rose (1905)
  • A Little Book for Mary Gill’s Friends (1905)
  • The Story of Bawn (1906)
  • The Yellow Domino (1906)
  • Book of Memory (1906)
  • Dick Pentreath (1906)
  • The Cabinet of Irish Literature. (4 volumes) (1906) editor, expansion of work by Charles Read
  • The Rhymed Life of St Patrick (1907) Illustrated by Lyndsay Symington
  • Twenty-One poems, selected by  B. Yeats (Dun Emer Press, 1907)
  • A Little Book of XXIV Carols (1907)
  • Father Mathew(1908) biography of Theobald Mathew
  • Experiences (1908)
  • A Union of Hearts (1908)
  • The House of the Crickets (1908)
  • Ireland 1909)
  • A Little Book for John O’Mahony’s Friends (1909)
  • The Book of Flowers(1909) with Frances Maitland
  • Mary Gray (1909)
  • A Girl of Galway
  • The Rich Man
  • A Red, Red Rose (c.1910)
  • Heart O’ Gold or the Little Princess
  • The Story of Cecelia (1911)
  • New Poems (1911)
  • Princess Katharine(1911)
  • Twenty-five Years: Reminiscences (1913)
  • Irish Poems (1913)
  • The Wild Harp (1913) poetry anthology, editor, illustrated by C. M. Watts
  • A Mesalliance (1913)
  • The Daughter of the Manor (1914) illustrated by John Campbell
  • A Shameful Inheritance (1914)
  • The Flower of Peace (1914) poems
  • Mary Beaudesert, V. S. (1915)
  • Flower of Youth(1915) poems
  • The Curse of Castle Eagle (1915)
  • The House of the Foxes (1915) novel
  • Joining the colours (1916)
  • Lord Edward: A Study in Romance (1916)
  • The Holy War (Great War Poems) 1916.
  • The Middle Years (1916)
  • Margery Dawe (1916) illustrated by Frank E. Wiles
  • Late Songs (1917)
  • Herb O’Grace (1918) poems
  • The sad years (1918) tribute to Dora Sigerson
  • The Years of the Shadow (1919)
  • The Honourable Molly (1919)
  • Denys the Dreamer (1920)
  • The Handsome Brandons (1921) Illustrated by G. D. Hammond
  • Bitha’s Wonderful Year (1922)
  • The Wandering Years (1922)
  • Evensong (1922)
  • White Ladies (1922)
  • A Mad Marriage (1922) novel
  • Memories (1924)
  • Life in the Occupied Area (1925)
  • The Man from Australia (1925)
  • The Wild Adventure (1927)
  • Twilight Songs (1927)
  • The Face in the Picture (1927)
  • Haroun of London (1927)
  • Pat, the Adventurer (1928)
  • The Respectable Lady (1928)
  • The River (1929)
  • Castle Perilous (1929)
  • The Squire’s Sweetheart (1930)
  • Denise the Daughter (1930)
  • Collected Poems (1930)
  • The Admirable Simmons (1930)
  • The Forbidden Way (1931)
  • Philippa’s Lover (1931)
  • A Lonely Maid  (1931)
  • The Story of Our Lord (1932)
  • The Other Man (1932)
  • An International Marriage (1933)
  • Londonderry Air (1935)
  • The Briar Bush Maid
  • A little radiant girl, illustrated by John Campbell
  • A Passionate Pilgrim
  • Maxims
  • The Poems of Katharine Tynan (1963) edited by Monk Gibbon
  • A Girls Song

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