Portrait of a poet


A chara, – Niamh Campbell has not found much information on Claire Mc Allister, whose portrait adorns the cover of her novel This Happy (Culture, June 17th). She cannot have searched for very long.

Claire Mc Allister arrived in Dublin in 1948. She was 18 years of age, wealthy, a published poet, of striking appearance with long auburn hair that earned her the sobriquet Marmalade. Patrick Kavanagh, as was his wont, fell in love with her at first sight, and persuaded her that she was the subject of Raglan Road, despite the problem of hair colouring.

Her relationship with Patrick Swift resulted in a series of portraits by the artist.

The portrait used for the cover of Niamh’s novel was painted in 1951, not 1957, and was titled Girl on a Couch.

She returned to America in 1952, but maintained many of her Irish contacts, including Kavanagh.

Her Irish experience is well recorded in Antoinette Quinn’s fine biography of Kavanagh, and in Veronica Jane O’Mara’s book on Patrick Swift, titled PS . . . Of Course. – Is mise,



Baile Átha Cliath 5.