Brian O’Nolan, who wrote under the pseudonyms of Flann O’Brien and Myles na gCopaleen (among others) was born on October 5th, 1911 in Strabane, Co. Tyrone
He went to school at Blackrock College and University College, Dublin where he was active in the Literary & Historical Society. He contributed to Comhthrom Féinne, the student magazine and completed an MA thesis.
O’Nolan launched Blather magazine with his brother Ciarán and contributed to it under various pseudonyms. He entered Civil Service in 1935, serving as the Private Secretary to the Minister of Local Government and later as Principal Officer for town planning before retiring under pressure on February 19, 1953.
At Swim-Two-Birds was an immediate critical success on publication in 1939 although this soon dampened as the publisher’s, Longmans’ warehouse was bombed and most of the edition lost. O’Nolan commenced writing his ‘Cruiskeen Lawn’ column for the Irish Times under Editor R. M. Smyllie using the pseudonym ‘Myles na gCopaleen’ after the character in Bouccicault. The columns appeared (from October4 1940 until April 1,1960), for the first year in Irish and afterwards in English, in a series of raids on solecisms and pretensions.
He unsuccessfully submitted The Third Policeman to various publishers and concocted various stories to explain publishers lack of interest in it. He wrote a play, Faustus Kelly (Abbey Theatre, January 25, 1943), and then another, The Insect Play(also 1943). An Béal Bocht (1941) was published using the Myles na gCopaleen pen name.
O’Nolan married Evelyn McDonnell on December 2, 1948 He published stories and articles including ‘The Martyr’s Crown’ (Envoy 1950); lambasted ‘Titostalinatarianism’ of Tostal Festival, 1953; contributed ‘A Bash in the Tunnel’ in the "James Joyce Special Number" of Envoy(April 1951). He made the first modern Bloomsday pilgrimage with John Ryan, Patrick Kavanagh, and Anthony Cronin on June 16,1954.
As Flann O’Brien, O’Nolan issued The Hard Life (1961);An Béal Bocht was reissued as The Poor Mouth (1964). He issued The Dalkey Archive (1965), incorporating material rescued from The Third Policeman. It was dramatised by Hugh Leonard as The Saints Go Cycling In (1965).
He wrote sporadically for Radio Teilifís Éireann; TV dramas included, ‘The Dead Spit of Kelly’, ‘Flight’, and ‘The Time Freddy Retired’. He also scripted ‘O’Dea’s Yer Man’. He left a novel, ‘Slattery’s Sago Saga’ unfinished at the time of his death on 1 April 1966. The Third Policeman (1967) was issued posthumously and has resurrected O’Nolan’s reputation latterly being featured on the television series Lost.