Military Wiki
J. P. Donleavy
Donleavy appearing on After Dark in 1991
Born James Patrick Donleavy
(1926-04-23)23 April 1926
Brooklyn, New York, United States
Died 11 September 2017(2017-09-11) (aged 91)
Mullingar, County Westmeath, Ireland
Alma mater Trinity College, Dublin
Known for The Ginger Man
A Fairy Tale of New York
  • Valerie Heron (m. 1946–69)
  • Mary Wilson Price (m. 1970–89)
Children 2
  • Patrick Donleavy
  • Margaret
Awards Bord Gáis Lifetime Achievement Award

James Patrick Donleavy (23 April 1926 – 11 September 2017) was an Irish-American novelist and playwright. His best-known work is the novel The Ginger Man, which was initially banned for obscenity.

Early life

Born in New York City, to Irish immigrants Margaret and Patrick Donleavy,[1][2] and receiving his education at various schools in the United States, he served in the US Navy during World War II.[3] After the war ended, he moved to Ireland. In 1946 he began studying at Trinity College, Dublin, but left in 1949 before taking a degree.


Donleavy's first published work was a short story entitled A Party on Saturday Afternoon, which appeared in the Dublin literary periodical, Envoy in 1950.[1] He gained critical acclaim with his first novel, The Ginger Man (1955), which is one of the Modern Library 100 best novels.[4] The novel, of which Donleavy's friend and fellow writer Brendan Behan was the first person to read the completed manuscript,[2][5] was banned in Ireland and the United States by reason of obscenity. Lead character Sebastian Dangerfield was in part based on Trinity College companion Gainor Crist, an American Navy veteran also studying at Trinity College on the G. I. Bill, whom Donleavy once described in an interview as a 'saint,' though of a Rabelaisian kind.[6] Correctly or incorrectly, his initial works are sometimes grouped with the Kitchen Sink artists as well as the "Angry Young Men".[5] Another novel, A Fairy Tale of New York, provided the title of the song "Fairytale of New York".

In March 2007, Donleavy was the castaway on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs.[7]

In 2015, Donleavy was the recipient of the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award at the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards.[8]

Personal life

Donleavy declared himself to be an atheist at the age of 14.[9][not in citation given] In 1946, he married Valerie Heron; the couple had two children: Philip (born 1951) and Karen (born 1955). They divorced in 1969 and he remarried in 1970 to Mary Wilson Price; that union ended in divorce in 1989.[5] In 2011, it was reported that Donleavy had not fathered his two children with Price. A DNA test in the early 1990s had confirmed that Rebecca was the daughter of brewing scion Kieran Guinness, and Rory was the son of Kieran’s older brother Finn, whom Price married after her divorce from Donleavy. “My interest is only to look after the welfare of the child,” Donleavy told The Times, “and after a certain stage, you can’t worry about their parentage”.[10]

He lived at Levington Park, a country house on 200 acres (0.81 km2) directly on Lough Owel, near Mullingar, County Westmeath from 1972.[5]

Donleavy died on 11 September 2017, aged 91.[11]

List of works


  1. 1.0 1.1 Campbell, James (14 September 2017). "JP Donleavy obituary". London. Retrieved 15 September 2017. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "JP Donleavey, author of The Ginger Man, dies". BBC. 14 September 2017. Retrieved 14 September 2017. 
  3. "JP Donleavy obituary: acclaimed author of ‘a bawled-out comic song of sex’". Dublin. 14 September 2017. Retrieved 16 September 2017. 
  4. Gussow, Mel (28 June 2000). "The Classic With a Pornographic Pedigree". 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Campbell, James (26 June 2004). "The spice of life". London. Retrieved 14 September 2017. 
  6. 'An Interview with J. P. Donleavy' Journal of Irish Literature January 1978
  7. "Desert Island Discs: JP Donleavy". Retrieved 14 September 2017. 
  8. "Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards 2015 winning authors revealed". 25 November 2015. Retrieved 14 September 2017. 
  9. "Series 7 Programme 2". The Meaning of Life, broadcast on RTÉ One, 13 January 2013. 
  10. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Independent 15 September 2017
  11. Gates, Anita (13 September 2017). "J.P. Donleavy, Acclaimed Author of ‘The Ginger Man,’ Dies at 91". New York. Retrieved 14 September 2017. 

External links

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).