Callan was founded by William the Marshal in 1207 and reputedly gets its name from the High King of Ireland, Niall Caille. It is reported that while at war with the Norsemen the High King arrived in Callan to find that its river was in flood. The King witnessed his servant trying to cross the river and being swept away by the fast flowing current.
The King, recorded in history as a man of action, seeing
Callan is the birthplace of some famous people, namely:
- Gerald Comerford (died 1604), the principal landowner in Callan in the late sixteenth century and also an influential politician and judge; his tomb can still be seen at St Mary’s Church.
- Edmund Ignatius Rice, founder of the Irish Christian Brothers and the Presentation Brothers
- Patrick Cudahy (1849–1919), American industrialist and philanthropist
- Callan also has links with Asa Griggs Candler‘s family and the Coca-Cola company.
- Perhaps its most famous inhabitant was Amhlaoibh Ó Súilleabháin (1780–1838), who was a schoolmaster and linen-draper in the town, and kept a diary in the Irish language between 1827 and 1835. This recorded in great detail the life of the town, which he named Callain an Chlampair or “Callan of the Ructions”. At the time the town was notorious for its extreme poverty. Amhlaoibh’s diary is considered one of the most detailed contemporary accounts of life in Ireland at the time from a native perspective.
- John Locke, Ireland’s Poet in Exile, was born here in 1847. He was the author of many well known poems, including The Calm Avonree and Dawn on the Irish Coast, also referred to as the Emigrants Anthem and for which he is probably best remembered.
- Tony O’Malley, Irish painter
- James Hoban who designed The White House and Leinster House among others was born in Desart, near Callan.
- Thomas Kilroy Irish playwright and novelist. Author of historical novel The Big Chapel.
- Thomas Nash (Newfoundland) Irish fisherman, settled in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Founder of Branch, Newfoundland and Labrador
Places of interest
- Callan Motte (The Moat), located at the top of Moat Lane just off Bridge Street, The Moat as it is locally known is one of Ireland’s best preserved Motte-and-bailey‘s.
- Saint Marys, located on Green Street.
- The Workhouse, located in Prologue, Callan
- Callan Augustinian Friary, known locally as the “Abbey Meadow” can be found at the North East end of Callan and can be accessed via Bridge Street.