Benedict Kiely

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Benedict Kiely
Benedict Kiely.jpg
Born(1919-08-15)15 August 1919
Dromore, County Tyrone, Ireland
Died 9 February 2007(2007-02-09) (aged 87)
Dublin, Ireland
Nationality Irish
Education Mount St Columba
Alma mater National University
Genres journalist, critic, short stories
Notable awards Saoi of Aosdána, 1996
Spouses Maureen O'Connell
Frances Kiely
Children 3 + 1 deceased in infancy

Benedict "Ben" Kiely (15 August 1919 – 9 February 2007) was an Irish writer and broadcaster from Omagh, County Tyrone.

Omagh town in Northern Ireland

Omagh is the county town of County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. It is situated where the rivers Drumragh and Camowen meet to form the Strule. Northern Ireland's capital city Belfast is 68 miles (109.5 km) to the east of Omagh, and Derry is 34 miles (55 km) to the north.

County Tyrone Place

County Tyrone is one of the thirty-two counties of Ireland and one of the six counties of Northern Ireland. It is no longer used as an administrative division for local government but retains a strong identity in popular culture.


Early life


Benedict Kiely was born in Dromore, County Tyrone to Thomas John and Sarah Alice (née Gormley) Kiely. His mother was from Claramore, a townland near Drumquin. He was the youngest of six children. Kiely's father, Tom, a native of Moville, County Donegal, was a Boer War veteran. When he was only eighteen, he joined the Leinster Regiment. Over the next five or so years, he travelled over Ireland and abroad, including the Caribbean, and finally, to South Africa. He was decorated for heroism, for his actions in the Boer War (during which time he had met with General Christiaan De Wet).

Dromore, County Tyrone village in United Kingdom

Dromore is a village, townland and civil parish in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. It is situated nine miles (15 km) south west of Omagh on the A32 and sixteen miles (26 km) from Enniskillen. Its population as of 2008 is estimated to be 1,258. Agriculture and the building trades are the primary sources of employment in the town. It is situated within the Omagh District Council area.

Moville Town in Ulster, Republic of Ireland

Moville is a coastal town located on the Inishowen Peninsula of County Donegal, Ireland, close to the northern tip of the island of Ireland. It is the first coastal town of the Wild Atlantic Way when starting on the northern end.

County Donegal County in the Republic of Ireland

County Donegal is a county of Ireland in the province of Ulster. It is named after the town of Donegal in the south of the county. Donegal County Council is the local council and Lifford the county town.

Sometime after having returned to Ireland, Tom Kiely took up employment with the Ordnance Survey as a survey measurer (or "chain man"—so called because a chain was used to do the measuring). In 1920, Tom and Sarah, and their six children, moved from James Campbell's farm in Dromore to Omagh, where Tom took up the position as the porter in the newly opened Munster and Leinster Bank. After living for a short time in Castle Street and Drumragh, the family finally settled in St Patrick's Terrace in the Gallows Hill area of Omagh. This area was to be a lasting inspiration for Benedict Kiely.

Ordnance Survey organisation that creates maps of Great Britain

Ordnance Survey (OS) is the national mapping agency of the United Kingdom which covers the island of Great Britain. Since 1 April 2015 part of Ordnance Survey has operated as Ordnance Survey Ltd, a government-owned company, 100% in public ownership. The Ordnance Survey Board remains accountable to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. It is also a member of the Public Data Group.

Teenage years

Whilst he was a teenager, Kiely began to feel the urge to become a writer. He had a keen interest in the work of George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells and Jonathan Swift. In 1936, after completing his education at Mount St Columba Christian Brothers School in Omagh, he went to work as a sorting clerk in Omagh Post Office, where his brother-in-law Frank McCrory was working (Frank was the husband of Kiely's sister Eileen).

George Bernard Shaw Irish playwright, critic and polemicist, influential in Western theatre

George Bernard Shaw, known at his insistence simply as Bernard Shaw, was an Irish playwright, critic, polemicist and political activist. His influence on Western theatre, culture and politics extended from the 1880s to his death and beyond. He wrote more than sixty plays, including major works such as Man and Superman (1902), Pygmalion (1912) and Saint Joan (1923). With a range incorporating both contemporary satire and historical allegory, Shaw became the leading dramatist of his generation, and in 1925 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

H. G. Wells Science fiction writer from England

Herbert George Wells was an English writer. He was prolific in many genres, writing dozens of novels, short stories, and works of social commentary, satire, biography, and autobiography, and even including two books on recreational war games. He is now best remembered for his science fiction novels and is often called a "father of science fiction", along with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback.

Jonathan Swift 17th/18th-century Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, and poet

Jonathan Swift was an Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet and cleric who became Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.

However, Kiely soon realised that the post office would not provide him with the life of the scholar which he so desired. So, in the spring of 1937, he left Omagh and began a new life in Emo Park, Portarlington, Co. Laois, where he decided he would train as a Jesuit priest. His life as a Jesuit was not meant to be for, exactly a year later, in the spring of 1938, Ben suffered a serious spinal injury, which resulted in a lengthy stay in Cappagh Hospital in Finglas, Dublin. During his hospitalisation, Kiely was given plenty of time to think about the course his life had already taken, and about a course it might take. He also realised that he lacked a vocation to the priesthood and abandoned his training as a Jesuit.

Emo, County Laois Town in Leinster, Ireland

Emo is a village in County Laois, Ireland. It is located near Portlaoise on the R422 regional road just off the M7 Dublin–Limerick motorway.

Portarlington, County Laois Town in Leinster, Ireland

Portarlington, historically called Cooletoodera, is a town on the border of County Laois and County Offaly, Ireland. The River Barrow forms the border. The town was recorded in the 2016 census as having a population of 8,368.

County Laois County in the Republic of Ireland

County Laois is a county in Ireland. It is located in the south of the Midlands Region and is also located in the province of Leinster, and was formerly known as Queen's County. The modern county takes its name from Loígis, a medieval kingdom.

Part-time journalist

When he got out of hospital in 1939, Kiely returned to Omagh to recover from his back problem. It was here where he waited for the beginning of term at University College in Dublin. The following year, he began working as a part-time journalist in the weekly Catholic Standard newspaper (which was then edited by Peter Curry). In 1943, Kiely graduated from National University with a B.A. in History and Letters.

University College Dublin university located in Dublin, Ireland

University College Dublin is a research university in Dublin, Ireland. It has over 1,482 faculty and 32,000 students, and it is Ireland's largest university. The university originates in a body founded in 1854 with John Henry Newman as the first rector known as the Catholic University of Ireland, re-formed in 1880 and chartered in its own right in 1908. The Universities Act, 1997 renamed the constituent university as the "National University of Ireland, Dublin", and a ministerial order of 1998 renamed the institution as "University College of Dublin - National University of Ireland, Dublin".

The Catholic Standard was an Irish weekly Roman Catholic newspaper. It ceased publication in 1978.

First marriage

On 5 July 1944, Kiely married Maureen O'Connell. This marriage produced four children:


In 1945, Kiely began working for the Irish Independent , where he was employed as a journalist and critic. In 1950, now a father of four, he joined the Irish Press as a literary editor. In 1964, he moved to America, where he was a Writer-in-Residence at Emory University, visiting professor at the University of Oregon, and Writer-in-Residence at Hollins College (Virginia). He spent four years in those three different places. In 1968, he returned to Ireland after having spent four years in America. In the spring of 1976, he was Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Delaware. He continued to receive acclaim for his writing and journalism (a career which spans over six decades) receiving the Award for Literature from the Irish Academy of Letters. By now, he was one of Ireland's best known writers. In 1996, he was named Saoi of Aosdána, the highest honour given by the Arts Council of Ireland.

Later years

Kiely visited Omagh in 2001. This was marked by the unveiling of a plaque outside his childhood home on Gallows Hill by Omagh's Plain Speaking Community Arts group. In an interview at that time, when asked about censorship, he remarked with a typical quip: "If you weren't banned, it meant you were no bloody good". In September every year in Omagh, an event called The Benedict Kiely Literary Weekend is held to celebrate the author's many achievements. [1]


A well-known brother-in-law was Frank McCrory who worked for many years as a playwright/songwriter of pantomimes at Omagh Town Hall. Frank's wife Eileen was Benedict Kiely's sister. Drumquin is often mentioned in his novels and stories as the source of his maternal family connections. His mother was from Claramore, a townland near Drumquin.[ citation needed ]


According to RTÉ News, Kiely died in St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin on 9 February 2007, [2] aged 87. The twice-married author and father of four (who had been living out of Omagh for 69 years) was survived by his second wife Frances, his daughters Anne Kiely and Emer Cronin, son John Kiely, and a large extended family.

List of works

Short stories

Literary Criticism and Non-Fiction



Television and radio broadcasts

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  1. Ireland, Culture Northern (2010-09-13). "Benedict Kiely Literary Weekend" . Retrieved 2016-08-01.
  2. Benedict Kiely obituary,, 9 February 2007; accessed 24 August 2015.