Memories of Myles


Sir, – A propos de nomen na Gopaleen, as they say in the best concentrics, the nomenclative or nomenclatorial saga of Brother Barnabbas, aka Myles na gCopaleen, or Brian O’Nolan, or Brian Ó Nualláin, or Flann O’Brien, the conundrum of the paternal monicker is even more complicated than outlined in Frank McNally’s entertaining Irishman’s Diary (October 1st). Myles père (Michael, or Micheál) was known as Nolan, not O’Nolan, as was the grandfather (Donal Nolan). The Mylesian father was born Michael Victor Nolan in July 1875, was married as Michael V Nolan, but signed the church register as Miceál O Nualáin, although when he was appointed to the Revenue Commissioners in Dublin an extra L and a fada on the capital O was added to the surname, which then became Ó Nualláin. This was the preferred choice of surname among those family members who did not wish to be addressed by the Anglicised “Nolan”.

When Myles’s Brian/Flann worked in the department of local government in Dublin he used the correct version of his name in Irish, Brian Ó Nualláin. But not even “The Brother”, or the late editor Bertie Smyllie, knew just how many different pen-names or aliases were used by Myles, who might be described as “Six Authors in Search of a Character. – Yours, etc,


Clareville Road, Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Brian Ó Nualláin (Flann O’Brien) acted as secretary to the McCarthy tribunal into the death of 35 children in a fire at St Joseph’s Orphanage, Cavan in 1943. Many questions remained unanswered after that inquiry, but Ó Nualláin’s career as a civil servant was not enhanced when he penned the lines: “In Cavan there was a great fire; Joe McCarthy came down to inquire/ If the nuns were to blame/ It would be a shame/ So it had to be caused by a wire”. – Yours, etc,


Lorcan Drive,

Santry, Dublin 9.