Padraic Colum recalls meeting the man who supplied the Invincibles with knives, life in America and his friendship with James Joyce.

Born in Longford in 1881, one of Padraic Colum’s most well known and enduring poems is ‘She Moved Through The Fair’.  

Part of the Literary Revival of the early 20th century, he was a member of the Gaelic League, and one of the founders of the Abbey Theatre, for which he wrote many plays.  

With his wife, he travelled to the United States in 1914 to visit relatives, but ended up staying there for longer than initially intended.   An established writer by that time, Colum was working hard trying to make ends meet.

On a train journey to Washington DC, he happened to meet one Doctor Hamilton Williams, who had provided The National Invincibles with the surgical knives for their most infamous mission, in which Chief Secretary of Ireland Lord Frederick Cavendish and Permanent Under Secretary Thomas Henry Burke were fatally stabbed in the Phoenix Park. 

Born one year after the murders, which caused a great sensation at the time, Padraic Colum could not believe that this unassuming man, a legendary figure from his youth, was

A respectable gentleman who took snuff, and read the Gospels in Greek.

Padraic Colum got his first break with the publication of his first book 'The King of Ireland's Son' in 1916.  An invitation from the Hawaiian legislature followed, which saw him travel to Hawaii to research Polynesian folklore, and write three books on Hawaiian folk traditions for use as part of the school curriculum there.   

Padraic and Mary Colum lived in Paris in the 1930s, and it was there that he renewed his friendship with James Joyce, whom he knew from his time in Dublin when the two were frequent visitors to the National Library. The couple also knew Hemmingway and Scott Fitzgerald, 

Neither of whom made a good impression on me.

He recalls a story James Joyce told him about the one and only time he met Marcel Proust in a literary salon in Paris.  A rather unimpressed Joyce described the celebrated writer, who arrived hours late, as being, 

Dressed like the hero of the Sorrows of Satan

This episode of ‘Writer In Profile’ was presented by Niall Sheridan.  ‘Writer in Profile’ was a weekly television interview with a well-known Irish writer. First broadcast on 29 October 1968, it ran until 1976.  

Padraic Colum RTÉ Guide (1968)
RTÉ Guide Article on Padraic Colum, 29 November 1968