29 September 1909 - 13 February 1998
MacMahon was a folklorist, short story writer, poet, playwright and producer of plays, novelist, lecturer and ballad-maker. He also wrote pageants, radio features, and television scripts and plays. His first play The Bugle in the Blood was produced in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, in March 1949. The Honey Spike followed in 1961 and won major national and international awards. Song of the Anvil was again choice of the Abbey Theatre for the International Theatre Festival in 1960, using music composed by Seán Ó Riada.
In 1952 his first novel, Children Of The Rainbow, was published in Britain, the United States and Canada. In 1970 he published also in the US a further book for children, Patsy-O and his Wonderful Pets. He also wrote Brendan of Ireland, a book of the life of a child in the Irish countryside. His autobiography, The Master, was published in 1992. A novel, Hero Town, was posthumously published in 2005.
Bryan MacMahon had a great love of the Irish language, of which he was a fluent speaker. He spent much of his time in the islands and Irish-speaking areas. His translation from Irish of Peig, the autobiography of Peig Sayers of the Great Blasket Island, has gone through several editions. It was serialised by Radio Éireann and attracted a large audience. He was one of the very few outsiders who could speak Shelta, the secret language of the Irish travelling people. His article on the lives of the Irish travellers, appeared in Natural History (New York) in 1971. It was later published in Merian (Germany), attracting world-wide attention from sociologists.