Galway City Museum
Fáilte chuig Músaem Cathrach na Gaillimhe

Pádraic Ó Conaire: Man & Statue

Padraic O Conaire

Pádraic Ó Conaire and his wife, Molly. 1982 stamp commemorating centenary of Pádraic's birth. Cover of M'asal Beag Dubh (My Little Black Donkey)

Pádraic: The Man

Pádraic Ó Conaire was born by the docks in Galway in 1882, and had a relatively privileged upbringing despite the fact that he was orphaned by the age of eleven. He spent a period living with his uncle in Garaffin, Ros Muc, Connemara. Although the household was English-speaking, the area was in the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking area) and Ó Conaire learned to speak Irish fluently. He later attended boarding school in Blackrock College in Dublin, where he shared a classroom with Éamon de Valera, who would later play a leading role in the foundation of the State.

In 1899, Ó Conaire joined the Civil Service in London. He started to write extensively, winning many prizes for his stories and books, but also began to drink heavily. Ó Conaire married Mary McManus and had four children, but returned to Ireland in 1914 leaving his family behind.

In Ireland, Ó Conaire joined the Republican movement and, following the establishment of the Irish Free State, set up a branch of the Labour Party in Galway. However, he gradually became disillusioned and his writings became darker and more despairing. His later years were spent in Galway and were characterised by poverty and alcohol abuse. In 1928, at the age of 46, Ó Conaire died alone and penniless in Richmond Hospital, Dublin. He is buried in the New Cemetery in Bohermore, Galway.

Pádraic Ó Conaire is today celebrated as one of the greatest and most prolific writers in the Irish language. Amongst his most famous works is the short story M’asal beag dubh (My little black donkey), and the novel Deoraíocht (Exile). The latter tells the tale of an Irish exile in London who is badly mutilated as a result of an accident, and becomes a circus freak.

Padraic O Conaire

Photographs taken with the statue of Pádraic Ó Conaire, Eyre Square, 1970s

Pádraic: The Statue

In the 1930s Albert Power was commissioned to carve an almost life-size statue of Pádraic Ó Conaire, which was unveiled in Eyre Square by Irish leader, Éamon de Valera, on Whit Sunday, June, 1935.

During its time in Eyre Square Sean Phádraic (‘Old Pádraic’ as it was known locally) was held in great affection by locals and visitors alike, and became an iconic symbol of the City. In 1999 vandals beheaded the statue; the head was retrieved and re- attached, but the crack is still visible. The statue remained in Eyre Square until 2004, and was eventually relocated to the Museum for safekeeping where it continues to welcome visitors to Galway.

Padraic O Conaire

Diarmuid de Faoite with Sean Phádraic, Galway City Museum

Podcast on Pádraic

Here writer, director, and actor Diarmuid de Faoite speaks about Pádraic Ó Conaire as his muse, and describes what his writing tells us about the man.

Please Listen to or Download the following podcasts

Diarmuid de Faoite speaks of his love of Ó Conaire's writings

Pádraic Ó Conaire is Galway's Little Mermaid

Pádraic Ó Conaire: The Biographical Facts

Pádraic Ó Conaire: A Quintessentially Galway Writer

Diarmuid de Faoite's favourite Ó Conaire Stories

The Significance of Pádraic Ó Conaire Today

An Extract from Ó Conaire's short novel Deoraíocht