Gerald Griffin was born in Limerick, Ireland, the son of a brewer. He went to London in 1823 and became a reporter for one of the daily papers, and later turned to writing fiction. One of his most famous works is The Collegians, a novel based on a trial he had reported on, that of John Scanlan, a Protestant Anglo-Irish man who murdered Ellen Hanley, a young Catholic Irish girl. The novel was adapted to the stage as The Colleen Bawn, by Dion Boucicault. In 1838, he burned all of his unpublished manuscripts and joined the Catholic religious order "Congregation of Christian Brothers" at The North Monastery, Cork, where he died from typhus fever.
Gerald Griffin has a street named after him in Limerick City and another in Cork City, Ireland. Loughill/Ballyhahill GAA club in west Limerick play under the name of Gerald Griffins.