Pádraic Ó Conaire (1882-1928)


Life
[var. ‘Sean-Pádraic’] b. Galway, abandoned by father, a publican, in 1888; orphaned at mother’s death, 1893; raised by English-speaking uncle in Rosc Muc, with two younger brothers; learned Irish at local National Schools; received scholarship to Scoil Éanna [St. Enda’s] from Patrick Pearse; ed. Rockwell and Blackrock College, and went to sea; he entered the British Civil Service in 1899, and joined Gaelic League in London shortly after;
 
m. in 1903, he fathered four children but left job and family to become a travelling story-teller and the author of four hundred short stories, both for adults and children - the latter notably including “M’Asal Beag Dubh [My Little Black Donkey]”; influenced by French and Russian masters; early works incl. Bairbre Ruad, a play (1908, rep. 1929), Deoraidheacht (1910, 1916), rep. with revised spelling as Deoraíoct (1973), An Sgoláire Bocht, written 1904 (1913), and Tír na nIongantas (1913, 1917);
 
won Oireachtas Prize in 1909 with “Neil”; drank heavily while in London, returning to Ireland in 1914; sworn into IRB by Seán T. O’Kelly, 1913; An Chéad Chloch (1914); Seacht mBuaidh an Eiríghe Amach [Seven Victories of the Rising] (1918), short stories (1918) -later rep. with revised spelling as Seacht nBua an Eirí Amach, Club Leabhar choice for 1967 and still untranslated; An Crann Géagach (1919), essays; Béal an Uaignis (1921); Síol Eabha (1922); contrib. to Irish Review, 1922-;
 
Brian Og (1926), novel; Beagnach Fíor (1927; rep. 1954); Fearfeasa Mac Fearsa (1930); M’Asal Beag Dubh (1944, and eds.); Scothscéalta (1956, reps.), story collection; d. in pauper’s ward of Richmond hospital; bur. New Cemetery, Bohermore, Galway City; a statue by Albert Power in Eyre Square, Galway was vandalised by youths from Co. Armagh, who knocked off the head, 1999; it now resides in Galway City Museum having been restored in c.2007; there are plans for a bronze casting to replace it on Eyre Sq. DIW IF FDA OCIL

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Works
Fiction
  • Nóra Mharcuis Bhig (Dublin: Clódhanna Teo 1909);
  • Deoraidheacht (Clódhanna Teo [Connradh na Gaeilge] 1910); new ed. Deoraíocht, foreword by Mícheál Mac Liammóir (Dublin: Talbot 1973); Do. [rep. as] Deoraí, ed. Pádraigín Riggs [sic] (Baile Átha Cliath: An Clóchomhar 1994), and Do. as Exiles [Deoraíocht], trans. [trans.] trans. Gearailt Mac Eoin (Cló Iar-Chonnachta 1994, 1996), 150pp.;
  • An Chéad Chloch (1914), and Do. [rep. edn.], ed. Padraigín Riggs (Cork: Mercier 1978);
  • Seacht mBuaidh an Eirighe Amach ([Clódhanna Teo] 1918), and Do. [new edn.], ed. Tomás de Bhaldraithe (Dublin: Sáirséal & Dill 1967);
  • Síol Eabha (Dublin: Martin Lester 1922);
  • Scothscéalta, ed. Tomás de Bhaldraithe (Dublin: Sáirséal & Dill 1956) [selected stories];
  • The Finest Stories of Pádraic Ó Conaire (Dublin: Poolbeg 1982) [infra].
Plays
  • Bairbre Ruadagus Dramaí Eile ed. Pádriag Ó Siadhail (Beal an Daingin 1989).
Miscellaneous
  • Also ‘Lucht Peann Faoin Saorstat’, in The Free State [ed. by Bulmer Hobson] (8 Aibreán 1922), p.4;
  • ‘An Fhírinne agus an Bhreag sa Litridheacht’, in Fáinne an Lae (Bealtaine 1923), p.1, 6].
  • ‘Uaigneas’ - Treoir don Leabhar Scothscéalta Pádraic Ó Conaire (Cork: Mercier 1972).

Bibliographical details

The Finest Stories of Pádraic Ó Conaire (Dublin: Poolbeg 1982) [15 short stories]; contains translations by Eoghan Ó Tuairisc, Tom MacIntyre, Sheila O’Sullivan, Eithne Strong, Niall Toibin, Con Houlihan, John MacArdle, Redmond O’Hanlon, Bryan MacMahon, Donal MacAmhlaigh, Diarmuid Ó Muirithe, Thomas Murphy, Thomas McCarthy [sic for MacCarthy], John Jordan, & Val Mulkerns.

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Criticism
  • U. D’A., ‘Padraic Ó Conaire’ [obituary], in The Irish Book Lover (July–Dec. 1928) [Vol. XVI], p.74 [infra];
  • P. S. O’Hegarty, ‘Pádraic Ó Conaire’, in The Bell, 8, 3 (1944), pp.233-29;
  • Aine Ní Chaimhin, Pádraic Ó Conaire (1947);
  • Seosamh Mac Grianna, Pádaic Ó Conaire agus Aistí Eile (Dublin: Oifig an tSoláthair 1936; new edn. 1969, 1986);
  • Ó Broin, Deoraíocht, Réamchainteanne agus Iarbhbreitheanna - Mhill Sé an Scéal le bheith Avant-Garde, review of Caoin tú Féin, in Inniu (22 Nollaig 1967);
  • Seosamh Ó Cuaig, review of Ceol na nGiolcach, in Inniu (14 Mean Fómhair 1968);
  • Oliver Snoddy, ‘Notes on Literature in Irish Dealing with the Fight for Freedom’ in Éire-Ireland, 3, 2 (Summer 1968), pp.138-48 [infra];
  • Breandán Ó Conaire, ‘Blas na hAoise’, review of Éan Cuideáin in Comhar (Eanáir 1970), pp.19-20;
  • Mac Aonghusa, ‘Phádraic Uí Chonaire, in Ros Muc go Rostov (Dublin 1972), pp.51-61;
  • Seán Mac Reamonn, ‘Reassessments, 15, ‘Pádraic Ó Conaire’, in The Irish Times ([n.d] 1974);
  • Seán Ó Conghaola, ‘Bhuail mise le Sean-Phádraic Ó Conaire’, in Inniu (29 Lúnasa 1975);
  • Seán Ó Tuama, ‘The Other Tradition: Some Highlights of Modern Fiction in Ireland’, Patrick Rafroidi, Rafroidi and Maurice Harmon, eds, The Irish Novel in Our Time, Université de Lille 1975-76, p.31-45; espec. p.33f.;
  • John Jordan, ‘Deoraíocht’, in Pleasures of Gaelic Literature [ed. Jordan] (Mercier 1977), pp.13-24;
  • Cathal Ó Hanle, Promhadh Pim (Maynooth 1978);
  • Tomás de Bhaldraithe, Pádraic Ó Conaire: Clocha ar a Charn (Baile Átha Cliath: An Clóchomhar 1982); Prionsias MacAonghusa, ‘Pádraic Ó Conaire: notaí beaga faisneise’, in Feasta (Feabhra 1982), q.pp.;
  • Micheál Mac Craith, ‘Deoraíocht agus The Elephant Man’, in Macalla (Gallaimh 1982), pp.1-7;
  • Gearóid Denvir, ed., Pádraic Ó Conaire, Léachtrí Cuimhneacháin ([Indreabhán] Galway: Cló Chonomara 1983) [see contents]; incl. Declan Kiberd, ‘Pádraic Ó Conaire agus Cearta an Duine’, pp.45-57; An tSr. Eihblín Ní Chionnaith, ‘Pádriac Ó Conaire, 1882-1928’; Pádraigín Riggs, ‘An Deoraíocht i Saothar Uí Conaire’, &c.];
  • Croistóir Mac Aonghusa, ‘Pádraic Ó Conaire, Nótaí Beaga Faisnéise’, In Gaillimh agus Aistí Eile (Dublin 1983), pp.107-119;
  • Prionsias Mac Aonghusa, ‘Pádraic Ó Conaire – Sracfhéachaint’, in Irish Times (15 Oct. 1984);
  • Tomás Ó Broin, Saoirse Anama Uí Chonaire (Gaillimh 1984);
  • Nollaig Ó Gadhra, ‘The Private Life of Pádraic Ó Conaire’, in Irish Times (12 Oct. 1983);
  • Eibhlín Ní Chionnaith, Pádraic Ó Conaire, Scéal a Bheata (Cló Iar-Chonnachta 1993; 1995), 498pp;
  • Déirc an Dochais: léamh ar shaothair Phádraig Óig Uí Chonaire [Astí Léirmheasa] (Indreabhain: Cló Iar-Chonnachta 1995).
Query: ‘A Question of Inheritance: The Anglo-Irish Tradition’ [q.auth.].

Bibliographical details
Gearóid Denvir, ed., Pádraic Ó Conaire, Léachtrí Cuimhneacháin ([Indreabhán] Galway: Cló Chonomara 1983), incls. Declan Kiberd, ‘Pádraic Ó Conaire agus Cearta an Duine’, pp.45-57; An tSr. Eihblín Ní Chionnaith, ‘Pádriac Ó Conaire, 1882-1928’; Pádraigín Riggs, ‘An Deoraíocht i Saothar Uí Conaire’, &c.];

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Commentary
U. D’A., “Padraic Ó Conaire” [obituary], in The Irish Book Lover (July–Dec. 1928) [Vol. XVI]: ‘The death of Padraic Ó Conaire is a national loss, and Ireland present and future is the poorer. He went too soon, leaving great work undone, but the work he did was also great. Take the opening invitation to the highroad in An Crann Gé agach . Here in this passage is a master of words and phrases just feeling himself, disporting himself in the wonderful medium of his art language. How at home he is, never jerky, never pausing, just flowing from the first word to the last! But later in the same book we have all the varying scenes, just a series of vignettes; the craftsman - for he is a craftsman - makes his medium vanish ; words and phrases no longer dwell in the mind lost in the atmosphere the great master has created. Then (to borrow the phraseology of a sister art) we note economy of line. Ó Conaire’s work is a sketch in the paucity of line and a picture in the fu lness of meaning and expression ; so much in so little. A sentence or two suffice. Ó Conaire simply conjures up something you onetime saw or felt, but in his happy language he supplies the warmth or light your poor observation missed. All is quickly done, but simply and calmly. There is none of the effervescence of the modern short story in his style. But has he style ? Well, of course he has, but you do not see it, nor find it by comparison with other writers. Someone has likened Ó Conaire to Anatole France, and it is possible the suggestion came from a perusal of Le Jongleur de Notre Dame. Le Jongleur is great work with more imagination but less of pleasing fancy than An Crann Gé agach. They resemble in their tenderness, their humanity, simplicity, playfulness. But Pádraic lets things happen and relates them while the Frenchman invents the happenings that relation may follow. So by comparison Le Jongleur is scintillating and dramatic whereas Ó Conaire flows, engaging, interesting, even. You observe the way that Anatole France carries you, but in Ó Conaire you see nothing of the way until he surrenders you to yourself at the end. / It is hard to say what writer, if any, he really resembles. Did he make his style or did he discover something new and old - in the native speech? In him Ireland lost her most original writer since Synge. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam!’ (p.74.)

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Patrick Kavanagh, ‘The Irish Tradition’, in Collected Pruse (MacGibbon Kee 1967): ‘[...] The Irish ideal of a literary genius - weak, charming and a challenge to nobody - is in the image of that celebrated synthetic tramp, Padraig Ó Conaire, with his goat tethered outside the Bailey Restaurant. I find it hard to pass from this image without saying that Ó Conaire, choosing the disreputable life, is the direct opposite of my idea of the poetic genius. The poet does not seek [197] misfortune; the poet does not pursue experience - experience pursues him. The poet does not go searching for beauty or intensity; these things happen to him. But that is a long story.’ (cp.233; rep. in Mark Storey, Poetry and Ireland Since 1800: A Source Book, Routledge 1988, pp.187-98.)

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Oliver Snoddy, ‘Notes on Literature in Irish Dealing with the Fight for Freedom’, in Éire-Ireland, 3, 2 (Summer 1968), pp.138-48; remarks on Seacht mBuaidh an Eirighe Amach (1918): ‘[a]t least one of its stories, “Beirt Bhan Misniúil,” is among the best short stories I have read. The narrator arrives to the mother of a man killed in the Rising to find that the man's girl friend, knowing of the death, is deliberately keeping it from the old blind mother who keeps insisting that it will not be long before she sees her son again. When it transpires that the mother is also trying to keep the news (which she has intuitively learned) from her dead son's girl friend, the scene is masterfully described and avoids both sentiment and exaggeration. Similarly in “Anam an Easbaig” the author skillfully handles the symbolic inspiration the fires of Dublin were to become to those who were mere onlookers during the week, but who were willing participants in both the passive and active political resistance in the ensuing years.' (p.147.)

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Quotations
The writer’s (he)art: ‘The objective of the writer’s art is to move the human heart ... Modern writers are uninhibited. They reveal both good and evil ... They realise that horror and wonder still exist, as they have existed from the beginning of time ... that their own hearts are as strange as any wonder that has existed ... that man himself is the source of all wisdom and the soil of all wonder ... When modern continental) writers emerged from the pit in which they were excavating they held something smeared and dirty in their hands which had the shape of a human being .. and they cried out: “this is a man! this is the human being! this is the Truth!” But little attention was paid to them for some time. It was though that the smeared and dirty shape they held was too ugly to be a man.’ (Ó Conaire, essay of 1908; in M. O. Droighneáin, Taighde I gComhair Stair Litridheachta na Nua-Ghaelige, Dublin, 1936; trans. by Seán Ó Tuama and quoted in Patrick Rafroidi, ‘A Question of Inheritance: The Anglo-Irish Tradition’, in Rafroidi and Maurice Harmon, eds, The Irish Novel in Our Time, Université de Lille 1975-76, p.33.)

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References
Aisling Ní Dhonnchadha, An Gearrscéal sa Ghaeilge 1898-1940 (1981); Máirín Nic Eoin, An Litríocht Réigiúnach (Baile Átha Cliath: An Clóchomhar Tta 1982); Alan Titley, An tÚrscéal Gaeilge (1991).

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Desmond Clarke, Ireland in Fiction [Pt. II] (Cork: Royal Carbery 1985), lists Field and Fair, trans. Cormac Breathneach, ill. Michael MacLiammoir; 12 sketches, ‘travels with a Donkey in Ireland’ (Talbot 1929), 94pp [life in the open, roadside, wood, and quarrry, incl. ‘fifty years a Widow’ and ‘Hill of My Heart’, an impression of sunrise from a moutain above Glendalough]; The Land of Wonders, trans. Eamonn O’Neill (n.d.) [fairy tale of Capt. Ross leaving Galway harbour, mutiny with children adrift in barrels, fed by birds, fostered by lion on island; joined by mother and return to Galway with lion]; The Woman at the Window (Talbot 1921; new. ed. with ills. by Michael MacLiammoir, 1932) [7 stories, vices, the worst side of human nature, gloomy]. FDA3, gave real effect to notion of modern Irish literature in his stories [BIOG, 932, as above.]

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University of Ulster Library, Morris Collection, holds Field and Fair: travels with a Donkey in Ireland (1929); Sgealta Aniar (1923).

Hyland 1995, trans. C. Breathnac, Fair and Field (Talbot Press 1929), [var 1930] [ill. Micheál Mac Liammóir]; intro. F. R. Higgins.

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Notes
Deoraíocht (1910), a novel: disappointed in love, Michael Mullen leaves native Galway for England; crippled in motor accident; period in Ireland as circus freak, decked out as murderous madman and paraded in Galway streets; his life spent homeless or in seedy lodging in London; meagre plot rich in coincidence; violent mood swings; pathetic dream of domestic bliss. (See review of translation, John Dunne, in Books Ireland, Feb. 1995.)

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Austin Clarke gives an account of an evening spent in the kips in Dublin with Ó Conaire, during which a pretty girl dancing in the middle of the floor reveals undergarments in tricolour; Padraic borrows a pound from him, and Clarke is ‘surprised to learn some weeks later from one of the girls that he had spent the night with her.’ (Clarke, A Penny in the Clouds, 1968, p.99; quoted in Peter Costello, The Heart Grown Brutal, 1977, p.179, ftn.)

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