Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/McKowen, James

McKOWEN, JAMES (1814–1889), Ulster poet, was born at Lambeg, near Lisburn, co. Antrim, on 11 Feb. 1814, and received an elementary education at a local school. After working as a boy at a thread manufactory he entered Messrs. Richardson's bleach works, Belfast, and remained there during the whole of his active life. About 1840 he had begun to contribute racy poems to the ‘Northern Whig’ and other Ulster papers, generally over the signature of ‘Kitty Connor,’ and he also wrote a little for the ‘Nation,’ using the signature of ‘Curlew.’ One of his pieces, ‘The Old Irish Cow,’ became very popular throughout his native province, while another, ‘The Ould Irish Jig,’ a humorous effusion, is known throughout Ireland. He died on 22 April 1889. His poems have secured him a place in several Irish anthologies, where his name is sometimes misspelt McKeown. Like many other popular Irish poets, his writings have not yet been collected, but there are nine of his poems in ‘The Harp of Erin,’ a collection of Irish verse edited by Ralph Varian (‘Duncathail’), Dublin, 1869.

[Northern Whig, 24 April 1889; information from friends of McKowen.]

D. J. O'D.