Richard T. Cooke remembers the author of ‘The Little Book of Christmas’


Brian O’Higgins was once a household name among the people of Ireland. He was a farmer’s son born in Kilskyre, Co. Meath, on July 1st, 1882. He was educated at the local national school.

On reaching fourteen years of age, he left and was apprenticed to a grocer in the nearby town of Clonmellon. In the summer of 1901, he set off for Dublin where he gained employment in a Leeson Street public house.

Writing held a special interest for him, even from an early age; and his greatest dream was that one day he hoped to write a book. He received a literary award from the ‘Irish Fireside Club’ and this encouraged him to make contributions to the Meath Chronicle, St. Patrick’s Magazine and the Irish People.

His verses attracted much attention, so much so that his Christmas cards, which were well-versed with beautiful Celtic colourful designs, were popular not only at home but also abroad, especially in America. They were particularly popular among Irish exiles and never failed to remind them of the ageless charm of Christmas in Ireland.

He was a man of modesty and never aspired to be a great poet; his main ambition was to be able to communicate with the ordinary people through the simple everyday language of his poetry.

As long as his poems served as inspiration for the ordinary people of Ireland, he felt that he was doing what God had intended for him. In reference to this he said: ‘From the moment I first realised that I could write in a way that my own people, the people from whom I had sprung – the ordinary people of Ireland – could understand, I wanted to cry out that God had given them a land worth living and dying for, a land so richly dowered that it could be, though small, among the greatest in the world with a past of which no man need ever be ashamed…and with a destiny of which there could not be the slightest doubt if only the young people were worthy of the sacrifices which had been made for them by men and women as noble as the world has ever known”.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own