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It won her 10 shillings and a fan letter from an older man (he enclosed a blurred photo), who sent her poems he had written about his wartime experiences.They began an emotionally charged correspondence and eventually agreed to meet. What her correspondent had failed to mention was that his wartime service had been in the First, not the Second, World War. Exquisitely pretty, but only 4ft 11in tall, Clare Boylan decided to enter the "hidden profession" of journalism because she looked "too young and too small for a proper job".

A "victim of assorted Irish convent schools", by her own account, Clare Boylan found early success aged 16, when a poem entitled First Love was published in the local paper.Clare's father, Patrick, was a man of "remarkable but short-lived sweetness", but given to sudden moods of terrible depression when the smallest upset would trigger a tide of grievance.From her early days Clare Boylan was aware of the fact that, while her father worshipped her mother, he had no idea of the woman she really was.When Clare began bringing boyfriends home, her mother saw off most of them, even forcing one young suitor to kneel down and say a decade of the Rosary before he was allowed to take her out.The close but uneasy relationship between mothers and daughters was to be a frequent theme of Clare Boylan's work.

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