Padraic Colum (Columb) was born on 8th December, 1881, in a Longford workhouse where his father was employed. He was the eldest of seven siblings and when his father moved to the USA in 1889, having lost his job, to take part in the Colorado Gold Rush, Padraic and his family remained in Ireland. His father returned in 1892 and the family were reunited and lived in Dublin. But Padraic’s mother, Susan, died in 1897 and the family was split up. Padraic and one brother remained in Dublin to finish their education whilst the rest moved back to Longford.
He showed literary promise from a young age. Perhaps the hardship of his upbringing, both experienced and observed, served to ignite his creativity. He was friends with the likes of W.B. Yeats, AE and Lady Gregory and was a member of both the Gaelic League and the first board of the renowned Abbey Theatre.
During time spent researching in the National Library of Ireland, he met and befriended James Joyce. It was to be a lifelong contact. He became a noted folklorist, collecting stories and ballads from across Ireland, adding lines to them himself as needed. In 1912 he married Mary Maguire, also a literary figure in Dublin of that time. He taught for a time at Scoil Éanna, a school of Pádraig Pearse. The couple migrated to the USA in 1914, seemingly for a visit but which location was in fact to be their home for most of their remaining years.
Padraic Colum died on 11th January, 1972, in Enfield, Connecticut at the glorious age of 90. His body was brought home to Ireland and interred in St Fintan’s Cemetery, Sutton, in Dublin, beside his beloved wife who also died previously in New York in 1957. He left behind a substantial body of work and a solid reputation as an Irish literary great. Below is one of his most famous poems, much favoured by Rebel Voice for its easy rhyme and simplistic imagery. Today Free Verse appears to be all the rage. Rebel Voice is unsure how Padraic Colum would fit into the somewhat pretentious trends that dominate Irish literature of today. It would be nice to think that quality will out.
Old Woman Of The Roads
O, to have a little house!
To own the hearth and stool and all!
The heaped up sods against the fire,
The pile of turf against the wall!
To have a clock with weights and chains
And pendulum swinging up and down!
A dresser filled with shining delph,
Speckled and white and blue and brown!
I could be busy all the day
Clearing and sweeping hearth and floor,
And fixing on their shelf again
My white and blue and speckled store!
I could be quiet there at night
Beside the fire and by myself,
Sure of a bed and loth to leave
The ticking clock and the shining delph!
Och! but I’m weary of mist and dark,
And roads where there’s never a house nor bush,
And tired I am of bog and road,
And the crying wind and the lonesome hush!
And I am praying to God on high,
And I am praying Him night and day,
For a little house – a house of my own
Out of the wind’s and the rain’s way.