Irish Short Stories: Famous and Classic

This page lists some Irish short stories with a link to read the story if possible. For more James Joyce stories, see:

For a relevant anthology, check out The Granta Book of the Irish Short Story. (Amazon)

Irish Short Stories

“The Sisters” by James Joyce

A young boy learns of the death of a priest, Father Flynn, who had been a mentor to him.

This story can be read in the preview of Dubliners(10% in)

An Encounter | James Joyce

Two boys skip school to walk around Dublin. They experience social activities and interact with the people they meet.

This story can also be read in the preview of Dubliners(48% in)

Guests of the Nation | Frank O’Connor

During the War for Independence, two Englishmen are held captive by the Irish Republican Army. The captors and captives develop camaraderie as they go about their daily routine.

This is the first story in the preview of Collected Stories(Go into Paperback preview first, then select Kindle)

“The Sniper” by Liam O’Flaherty  

At night a sniper waits on a rooftop. He risks lighting a cigarette which alerts a nearby sniper of his presence.  They exchange some fire. The sniper feels trapped, but he knows he has to get off the roof before enemy forces converge on him. (Summary & Analysis)

Read here

Naming the Names | Anne Devlin

The narrator, Finn, is Catholic, lives in Ireland, and works at a used book store. She had met a young Protestant man at the book store, and they began a love affair despite them both having other attachments. There are sectarian conflicts in the city between Catholics and Protestants. Finn arranges to meet the Protestant man in the park.

Dante and the Lobster | Samuel Beckett

It’s midday and Belacqua plans his activities. He’s going to prepare and eat lunch, pick up a lobster to bring to his aunt, and go to his Italian lesson. He needs tranquility and solitude to prepare his lunch or the whole experience is ruined. He starts by locking the door and begins his careful routine of toasting his bread on the grill.

Read “Dante and the Lobster”

Irish Short Stories, Cont’d

A Day in the Dark | Elizabeth Bowen

The narrator, Barbie, looks back on a day when she was fifteen. In a small town, she goes to the home of a prominent woman on behalf of her uncle, to return a magazine and ask that she lend her uncle a farming tool.

The Donagh; or The Horse Stealers | William Carleton

The Meehan brothers, and their wives and children, move into the small village of Carnmore. The elder brother, Antony, is cruel looking and fierce. The people are superstitious and believe the Meehans have a deal with the devil. They are mysterious and only associate with a few undesirables.

The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository | John Connolly

Mr. Berger leads a dull life. He does his job, has a few interactions with coworkers, and reads. He spends his time enjoying the many books he has. There is a shakeup at work which coincides with the death of his mother. Mr. Berger uses the changes to pursue his desire to write.

“Another Time” by Edna O’Brien

Nelly, feeling a great mental strain, leaves London for a seaside resort. She hopes to experience some sort of redemption. The reality of the trip soon sets in—a shabby hotel with a disappointing view, and people she’d like to avoid.

The Limerick Gloves | Maria Edgeworth

The Hill family is getting ready to leave for church. The daughter, Phoebe, is wearing a new pair of gloves, which her mother objects to. She points them out to her husband and gets Phoebe to admit they were a gift from Mr. O’Neill, an Irishman. They blame him for the disappearance of their dog and suspect he is planning to blow up the church.

The Burial | St. John Ervine

Mourners are gathering for the funeral procession of a young woman who drowned. They talk about how terrible it is and the conversation also turns to more personal, practical matters.

Irish Short Stories, Cont’d

The Orphan and the Mob | Julian Gough

The narrator relates the day of his eighteenth birthday. He says his failure to urinate immediately after breakfast led to his orphanage being burnt down. A letter arrived for him that morning. Before he could read it, Brother Madrigal took it, saying he could read it that evening.

The Living | Mary Lavin

Two young boys talk about how many dead people they’ve seen. Realizing that a wake is being held in town, they decide to go and try to see the body.

“In the Middle of the Fields” by Mary Lavin

An unnamed, recently widowed woman lives in Ireland on her farm. The grass on her farm needs trimming, so Ned, an old farm hand, suggests hiring a neighbor, Mr. Crossen, to do the job.

All Sorts of Impossible Things | John McGahern

James, a teacher, and Tom, an agricultural instructor, are out hunting on a Sunday. James is lonely, and has had a romantic disappointment. He’s known for always wearing a hat, even indoors. Tom has a heart defect, and is concerned about providing for his family.

Read “All Sorts of Impossible Things”

So On He Fares | George Moore

Ulick, ten-years-old, lives with his mother in a cottage in Ireland. His father, a soldier, is away from home. Ulick wants to watch the boats pass, but his mother is controlling and strict, confining him to the garden. He dreams of running off.

Read “So On He Fares”

Irish Short Stories, Cont’d

First Confession | Frank O’Connor

A seven-year-old boy, Jackie, has to make his first confession before taking Communion. Jackie is concerned because he doesn’t like his grandmother, who has recently come to live with him, and an elderly woman has impressed upon him the seriousness of his confession.

My Oedipus Complex | Frank O’Connor

An adult narrator talks about his boyhood with his mother while his father was away at war. He was close to his mother, and his father’s occasional visits didn’t disrupt his routine. He wanted a baby in the house because all the other families had one.

The Trout | Sean O’Faolain

A young girl and her brother find a fish in a narrow well. She doesn’t know how it got there, and she thinks about how it has been alone for so long.

Read “The Trout” (PDF)

The Wave | Liam O’Flaherty

A two hundred foot high cliff has developed a cavern at its base from “battling” for thousands of years with the incoming waves. Waves continue to crash in, and high tide is approaching.

This story has no human or animal characters. The “characters” are the cliff and the waves.

“A Meeting in Middle Age” by William Trevor

Mrs. da Tanka and Mr. Mileson, strangers, meet and board a carriage together. She is married and has been married two other times. He’s a lifelong bachelor. They don’t talk much. They’ve come to some sort of arrangement, brokered by a mutual acquaintance, that isn’t immediately clear. We learn some of their personal histories.

This is the first story in the preview of The Collected Stories of William Trevor(Go into Paperback preview first, then select Kindle)

The Ballroom of Romance | William Trevor

Bridie is a spinster in her mid-thirties who lives with and cares for her father. She only has a few breaks from her regular routine, one of which is a weekly visit to a dance hall. It is frequented by women looking for husbands and men who are just passing time or enjoying themselves. Bridie has marriage on her mind.

Read “The Ballroom of Romance” (PDF)

I’ll keep adding Irish short stories as I find more.