Image of Padraic Colum


Lifetime: 1881 - 1972 Passed: ≈ 52 years ago


Irish Poet, Novelist, Dramatist, Biographer,



Padraic Colum

Padraic Colum was an Irish poet, novelist, dramatist, biographer, playwright, children's author and collector of folklore. He was one of the leading figures of the Irish Literary Revival.

Colum was born Patrick Columb in a County Longford workhouse, where his father worked. He was the first of eight children born to Patrick and Susan Columb. 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, having moved to live with his grandmother in County Cavan. When the father returned in 1892, the family moved to Glasthule, near Dublin, where his father was employed as Assistant Manager at Sandycove and Glasthule railway station. His son attended the local national school.

When Susan Columb died in 1907, the family was temporarily split up. Padraic (as he would be known) and one brother remained in Dublin, while their 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 Æ. He also joined the Gaelic League and was a member of the first board of the Abbey Theatre. He became a regular user of the National Library of Ireland, where he met James Joyce and the two became lifelong friends. During the riots caused by the Abbey Theatre's production of The Playboy of the Western World, Padraic Colum's father, Patrick Columb, was one of the protestors. Padraic himself was not engaged in the protests, although he did pay his father's fine afterwards.

He was awarded a five-year scholarship by a wealthy American benefactor, Thomas Hughes Kelly. He used it to read, study and write. He did not attend University College Dublin, or any other University as a student.

He was awarded a prize by Cumann na nGaedheal for his anti-enlistment play, The Saxon Shillin'. Through his plays he became involved with the National Theatre Society and became involved in the founding of the Abbey Theatre, writing several of its early productions. His first play, Broken Soil (revised as The Fiddler's House) (1903) was performed by W. G. Fay's Irish National Dramatic Company. The Land (1905), was one of that theatre's first great public successes. He wrote another important play for the Abbey named Thomas Muskerry (1910).

His 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 Æ. He published several poems in Arthur Griffith's 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 1908, he wrote an introduction to the Everyman's Library edition of Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Mystery and Imagination.

In 1912 he married Maguire. Padraic taught at Pádraig Pearse's experimental school, Scoil Éanna in Rathfarnham, County Dublin and Mary Maguire taught at the girls' school, Scoil Íde or St. Ita's, which was set up in Cullenswood House, Ranelagh, Dublin, once Scoil Éanna had moved to Rathfarnham.

Mary died in 1957 and Padraic finished Our Friend James Joyce, which they had worked on together. It was published in 1958. Colum divided his later years between the United States and Ireland. In 1961 the Catholic Library Association awarded him the Regina Medal. He died in Enfield, Connecticut, age 90, and was buried in St. Fintan's Cemetery, Sutton.

Books by Padraic Colum

The Girl Who Sat by the Ashes Cover image

The Girl Who Sat by the Ashes

Fiction Fairy Tale
Children's Literature Myths Legends

"Because she used to herd Goats in the high places and the rocky places, she went by the name of Girl-go-with-the-Goats. But that was not the name that she herself called herself. She called herself Maid-alone..." So begins Padriac Colum's renditio...

The King of Ireland's Son Cover image

The King of Ireland's Son

Fiction Novel
Children's Literature Myths Legends

The King of Ireland's Son is a children's novel published in Ireland in 1916 written by Padraic Colum, and illustrated by Willy Pogany. It is the story of the eldest of the King of Ireland's sons, and his adventures winning and then finding Fedelma,...

The Children's Homer, The Adventures of Odysseus and the Tale of Troy by Padraic Colum Cover image

The Children's Homer, The Adventures of Odysseus and the Tale of Troy by Padraic Colum

Fiction Mythology
Children's Literature Troy Trojan War

Also known as "The Children's Homer," this is Irish writer Padraic Colum's retelling of the events of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey for young people. Colum's rich, evocative prose narrates the travails of Odysseus, King of Ithaca: his experiences fightin...

The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles  Cover image

The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles

Fantasy Fairy Tale
Epic Adventure Ancient Short Stories Journey Myths Legends

The book The Golden Fleece and the Hero's Who Lived Before Achilles by Padraic Colum is about a young boy named Jason goes on a quest to find the golden fleece. Jason was the son of king Aeson, but becomes an orphan when he was 3 years old. Aeson sen...

The Children of Odin  Cover image

The Children of Odin

Fairy Tale
Children Sacrifice Myths Wisdom Legends Mischief

Master storyteller Padraic Colum's rich, musical voice captures all the magic and majesty of the Norse sagas in his retellings of the adventures of the gods and goddesses who lived in the Northern paradise of Asgard before the dawn of history. Here a...

The Voyagers: Being Legends and Romances of Atlantic Discovery Cover image

The Voyagers: Being Legends and Romances of Atlantic Discovery

Fiction Fairy Tale
Marine Mystery Adventure Romance Nautical Legend Myths Discovery Historical

Embark on a thrilling journey through time and legend with "The Voyagers: Being Legends and Romances of Atlantic Discovery" by Pádraic Colum. This mesmerizing collection of tales takes readers on a captivating exploration of the brave souls who dared...