January 19th, 1972


FROM THE ARCHIVES:Micheál Mac Liammóir of the Gate Theatre wrote an appreciation for the funeral of the writer Padraic Colum

‘Padraic Colum, the oldest of our poets, has gone from us, and we who loved and admired his work, who loved and admired himself it may be even more fervently, feel poorer by his absence among us.

“I had met him many times before we came into close comradeship through Mogu, his play on Persian themes, which Hilton Edwards and I had decided should be our offering for Christmas. It was a fine play from which, as he often told us, the idea for the more widely known Kismet had been taken by Edward Knoblock, and yet Colum’s world was not at its most powerful in this overtrodden road of Islam. His own world, his innermost secret, lay in the bare and stony tracks, not of the desert but of the boglands of Connaught, and I had conceived an immense admiration for him when he came to see me in Galway two summers before, and we had tramped over the grey roads by the sea together while he, breathing the warm mist-laden air with delight after his years in America, told me of his play and of his hopes that we would put it on.

“On his lips, spoken with that slow mid-western voice of his in the quiet grey summer afternoon among stone walls and fields that were yellow with buttercups and fairy horses, the story had pulsed with glowing alien enchantments – a magic Arabian carpet seemed to unroll itself before us, gay with flowers and jewels, alive with impossible adventure.

When the play had run its course, Padraic gave a party for the cast which included, as well as ourselves, Coralie Carmichael, Meriel Moore, Betty Chancellor and Orson Welles, and I remember agreeing with many hilarious and shadowy figures afterwards, all of us in that state where reason and affection have merged life’s difficulties into one blinding radiance, how terribly nice a man he must have been, how far above our own meanness and lowness, how unspotted by the world, to say, as he had continually said throughout the evening. ‘A more charming lot of boys and girls I’ve never met in my life. Look at them! Not one rotten face among them. Congratulations, Hilton and Micheal. A more delightful set of people I never met. Never.’

“In reality, we were not all charming or delightful at that party. But Colum, the poet of Wild Earth, had eyes perhaps that saw through or beyond all the wretched fabric of hysteria and futility that spreads itself inevitably over such evenings.

“But Padraic Colum always found the gold hidden under the sod as well as at the foot of the rainbow. His image is before me as I speak these words: a short, sturdy figure with a face that, for all its smiling and eloquent friendliness, recalls the face of Dante . . . I said somewhere about him once that he ‘would take a boat again some day and find himself an alien everywhere’. Now he has taken the boat, but I do not think that, in the unknown regions that may be happier than this, he will find himself an alien.’

Read the full original at iti.ms/VWk44W