Patrick Joseph Gaynor (1882 – 1936)
Athlete and Author was born in Riverstown, County Sligo. He trained as a teacher and taught for short periods in both Sooey and Gleann before his appointment as teacher and then Principal in Calry National School where worked from 1911 until his death in 1936.
The 1911 Census shows PJ Gaynor (aged 28) resident in the schoolhouse in Loughanelton townland with his wife, Birdie (aged 26), and daughter, Pauline (aged 9 months). He states his occupation as National Teacher. It would appear that he became Headmaster of Calry NS upon the retirement of Francis O’Connor NT who is referenced in Michael Hargadon’s autobiographical notes Incidents of my Career.
Calry NS c.1926. PJ Gaynor standing on left side. The other teacher may be Francis O’Connor.
A noted athlete and a crack racing cyclist, his achievements on the track won him the nickname ‘The Sligo Flyer’. He was champion of Connacht over all distances and won a number of national championships, including the 4-mile event. In 1906, he won the Cockrane Cup outright and retired from competitive athletics.
In addition to his athletic feats, P J Gaynor was well known as a short-story writer. He was a regular contributor to various Irish and American periodicals and newspapers, including “The Irish Emerald”, ”The Catholic World’ and “The Irish Independent”. In 1932, the Talbot Press published a collection of his stories, under the title “Around the Hearth : humorous sketches of Irish Country Life”, most of which have a West of Ireland, if not a Sligo, setting. It enjoyed both a wide circulation and favourable comments. The “Irish Press” reviewer described Gaynor as “a writer who tells an amusing racy story of the Irish countryside and tells it very well”. Another remarked that ”his rendering of the vernacular is remarkably good and his stories are such as may be heard at corn or hay harvest, at wakes or around the cottage fire”.
In 1933 his one act play, “The Young Fellow“, was published in Dublin. Described as a “breezy Irish comedy” it was first produced there and broadcast by Radio Eireann from the Father Mathew HaII.
It subsequently produced in Sligo by the Sligo Unknown Players and elsewhere throughout the country by various amateur groups with much success. Shortly before his death he wrote a three-act comedy, which he called “Professor Tooceypegs “, but this was never published. Another unpublished work was a book of short-stories entitled “The Three-leaved Shamrock”.
PJ married Birdie O’Beirne on 3 August 1901 in Sligo. Togther they raised a family of five – three girls and two boys.
Patrick J. Gaynor, sportsman, author and playwright, died on January 9th, 1936, aged 54 years. Sligo cemetery is his final resting place.
Contributor: Roddy Gaynor
Gaynor family photo archive
Sligo The Light of Bygone Days Vol 11, Sligo Families Chronicles of Sixty Families past & Present, John C Ternan Sligo Avena Publications 2009)