British novelist Graham Greene, author of such classics as Brighton Rock, The Third Man and The End of the Affair, visited and stayed on Achill Island a number of times in the late 1940s. He wrote parts of the novels The Heart of the Matter (subsequently banned in Ireland) and The Fallen Idol in the village of Dooagh, and Achill Island is also said to have inspired Greene to write some of his best poetry.
Graham Greene retained a special affection for Achill Island, which he mentioned frequently in his letters and notes, although this was largely due to the circumstances of his visits. Graham Greene was introduced to Achill by his mistress, Catherine Walston. The story of Graham Greene's relationship with Catherine Walston, the vivacious American wife of millionaire British MP Harry (later Lord) Walston, has been chronicled in William Cash's book 'The Third Woman' (pub. 2000) and was turned into a film, 'The End of the Affair', by Neil Jordan in 1999.
Catherine Walston rented a cottage in Dooagh, on the western part of Achill Island. By all accounts it was a rustic retreat for the wealthy society hostess, with no electricity, one outside tap for water, and a corrugated iron roof on the traditional stone cottage. It stands in stark contrast to the other locations at which the affair was played out - including the Paris Ritz, the Italian isle of Capri, and aboard film director Alexander Korda's yacht The Elsewhere. Sadly for Graham Greene enthusiasts and historians, the cottage in Dooagh on Achill Island has now been demolished.
Catherine Walston was undoubtedly herself introduced to Achill Island by Ernie O'Malley, the Castlebar-born former IRA leader during the 1916-23 uprising. O'Malley, who turned to art and literature after the Civil War, had married the wealthy American heiress Elen Hooker. Elen and Ernie O'Malley lived at Burrishoole Lodge, located between Achill and Newport. The Lodge was situated close to the historic Burrishoole Abbey, the 15th Century Dominican Priory with links to Granuaile (Grace O'Malley), the infamous 15th century Irish pirate queen. Ernie O'Malley's marriage to Elen took place behind her father's back, but on learning of her daughter's plans Elen's mother did send a close and trusted third party to report on the suitability of the O'Malley family (Elen's younger sister Blanchette was married to John D. Rockerfeller III). That emissary was the Hooker's former nanny, Sarah Sheridan, who was also grandmother to Catherine Walston. It has also been claimed that Catherine first met O'Malley in the US, before she married Harry Walston.