Padraic Colum (8 December 1881 - 11 January 1972) was an Irish poet, novelist, dramatist, biographer and collector of folklore. He was one of the leading figures of the Celtic Revival.
Colum was born Padraic Columb in a County Longford workhouse, where his father worked. He was the first of eight children. When the father lost his job in 1889, he moved to the United States to participate in the Colorado gold rush. Padraic and his mother and siblings remained in Ireland. When the father returned in 1892, the family moved to Glasthule, outside Dublin where his father was employed as Assistant Manager at Sandycove and Glasthule railway station. His son attended the local national school.
When Colum's mother died in 1897, the family were temporarily split up. Padraic and one brother remained in Dublin while the father and remaining children moved back to Longford. Colum finished school the following year and at the age of seventeen, he passed an exam for and was awarded a clerkship in the Irish Railway Clearing House. He stayed in this job until 1903.
During this period, Colum started to write and met a number of the leading Irish writers of the time, including W. B. Yeats, Lady Gregory and Ĉ. He also joined the Gaelic League and was a member of the first board of the Abbey Theatre. It was at this time that he dropped the 'b' from his surname. He became a regular user of the National Library of Ireland. Here he met James Joyce and the two became lifelong friends.
He was awarded a five year scholarship to University College Dublin by a weathy American benefactor Thomas Kelly.
He was awarded a prize by Cumann na nGaedhael for his anti-enlistment play "The Saxon Shillin'". Through his plays he becamed involved with the National Theatre Society and became involved in the founding of the Abbey Theatre, writing several of its' early productions. His play, Broken Sail (1903) was performed by the Irish Literary Theatre. The Land (1905), was one of that theatre's first great public successes.
Colum's earliest published poems appeared in The United Irishman, a paper edited by Arthur Griffith. His first book. Wild Earth (1907) collected many of these poems and was dedicated to Ĉ. He published several poems in Arthur Griffiths' paper The United Irishman this time, with The Poor Scholar bringing him to the attention of WB Yeats. He became a friend of Yeats and Lady Gregory.
In 1911, with Mary Gunning Maguire, a fellow student from UCD, and David Houston and Thomas MacDonagh, he founded the short-lived literary journal The Irish Review, which published work by Yeats, George Moore, Oliver St John Gogarty, and many other leading Revival figures.
In 1912 he married Maguire, who was working at Patrick Pearse's experimental school, St Enda's, Rathfarnam, County Dublin. At first the couple lived in the Dublin suburb of Donnybrook, where they held a regular Tuesday literary salon. They then moved to Howth, a small fishing village just to the north of the capital. In 1914, they emigrated to the USA.
In America, Colum took up children's writing and published a number of collections of stories for children, beginning with The King of lreland's Son (1916). Three of his books for children were awarded retrospective citations for the Newbery Honor. A contract for children's literature with Macmillan Publishers made him financially secure for the rest of his life.
In 1922 he was commissioned to write versions of Hawaiian folklore for young people. This resulted in the publication of three volumes of his versions of tales from the island. He also started writing novels. These include Castle Conquer (1923) and The Flying Swans (1937). The Columns spent the years from 1930 to 1933 living in in Paris and Nice, where Padraic renewed his friendship with James Joyce and became involved in the transcription of Finnegans Wake.
After their time in France, the couple moved to New York City, where they both did some teaching at Columbia Universityand [C.C.N.Y]. Colum was a prolific author and published a total of 61 books, not counting his plays.
He adopted the form of Noh drama in his later plays.
Molly died in 1957 and Pádraic finished Our Friend James Joyce, which they had worked on together before her death. It was published in 1958. He divided his time between the United States and Ireland.
He died in Enfield, Connecticut, aged 90, and was buried in St. Fintan's Cemetery, Sutton.
Asked how to say his name, he told The Literary Digest the last name was the same as the word column. "In my first name, the first a has the sound of au. The ordinary pronunciation in Irish is pau'drig." (Charles Earle Funk, What's the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls, 1936.)