Biography Padraic Colum

Padraic Colum

photo of Padraic Colum
  • Time Period1881 - 1972
  • Place
  • CountryIreland

Poet Biography

Patrick Collumb, of Collumbkille, County Longford in Ireland, was the first of eight children born to Patrick and Susan on December 8, 1881. He only received eight years of formal education. His father left his job and family to seek his fortune in the gold fields of Colorado,USA but returned in 1890 and became a railway clerk. His mother passed away in 1897. He became a clerk in the Irish Clearing House at the age of seventeen. After joining the Gaelic League and the Irish Republican Army in 1901, he started calling himself Padraic Colum. His first poems were published in 1902 and the first production of one of his plays was in 1903. Padraic acted for a short time with the Irish National Theater Society, but concentrated on writing after his first play was produced. He left his job in 1904 determined to make a living as a writer.

In 1912, Padraic married Mary Maguire and in 1914 they sailed to America where they quickly fit into the literary circles of New York. In New York he met and became friends with Robert Frost. After publishing The King Of Ireland's Son in 1916, He was offered a contract by MacMillans to produce two books of children's stories per year. This agreement led to 19 books which include many of his stories of mythology for which he is best remembered. In 1922 he was commissioned by the Hawaiian Government to write two volumes containing the folklore of Hawaii. This task led him to the remotest parts of the islands as he researched the local stories and legends.

The Colum's lived in France from 1930-1933 where they met and became friends of James Joyce. Upon returning to America, they lived in Manhattan. In 1939 Padraic began teaching at Columbia University. They both became US citizens in 1945. He was president of the American Poetry Society in the 1950's. Mary died in 1957. After her death, Padraic went on extensive lecture tours throughout the United States. In 1962 he became president of the James Joyce Tower Society in Dublin.

Colum received many awards and distinctions, among them the medal of the Poetry Society in America in 1940, the Fellowship Award of the Academy of American Poets in 1952, Honorary Doctorates of the National University of Ireland, and of Columbia University in 1951 and 1958 respectively. In 1953, he was awarded the Gregory Medal by the council of the Irish Academy of Letters. During his lifetime Colum published over fifty books of poetry, fiction, drama, nonfiction, children's literature, and folklore. Most of his manuscripts are in the State University of New York at Binghamton, Princeton and Columbia University. Very few of his original papers are in his native Ireland. Three times his books were chosen as honor books for the Newbery Awards.

He suffered his first cerebral haemorrhage in June, 1970, and spent the remainder of his life in a nursing home. He died on January 11, 1972 at the age of 90.