By: Padraic Fallon
‘A Hymn of the Dawn’ tells of the life of the poet Padraic Fallon (1905-1974), his wife Don and their six sons during an idyllic summer in the south-east of Ireland in the 1950s. At Prospect, a Georgian house with a small farm, the poet writes his poems, newspaper columns, and radio plays, ‘a cigarette smouldering in the ashtray at his elbow, pounding the keys of his typewriter as his eyes stare beyond the words’. His sons, when not working on house or farm, exploit the solitude and open spaces: fishing, soldiering, sailing, poaching, and finally embarking on an expedition in an old herring cot to discover the secrets of the inland waterways.
The poet has his own adventures. He collects ballads and sea shanties for his radio programme, meeting sailors and fishermen, jaunting along the coast in his old car. He takes to the open harbour in a tiny punt. His sons go with him on a fishing-boat to visit a lighthouse.
Other figures emerge in rich colour: the ploughman, the well-digger, the wildfowler, the handyman, the water diviner, the mischievous uncle from Dublin, poachers and fishermen, the aspiring Caruso who sings to a full moon, and the local man who runs naked through their fields.
To Prospect come visitors from the outside world – the artist Tony O’Malley, piper and traditional singer Seamus Ennis, the poet Austin Clarke, the art critic and former gunman Ernie O’Malley, and a succession of writers, critics and poets.
Brilliantly fusing fact with fiction, ‘A Hymn of the Dawn’ is an exquisitely realized evocation of childhood, as the author – the poet’s youngest son – lovingly recreates the mysteries and magic of the countryside and its people.
PADRAIC FALLON was born in Wexford in 1946, the sixth son of the poet Padraic Fallon. He is married with four children. He lives and works in London. This is his first book.
PADRAIC FALLON (1905-1974) was born in Athenry, County Galway. He worked as a customs official for over forty years, mainly in Wexford. His first work was published by AE (George Russell) in the Irish Statesman. He continued to publish prolifically – poems, stories, and reviews – in many periodicals. But no collection of his poetry appeared until the publication by the Dolmen Press of Poems in the year of his death.
His work was much influenced by writing in the Irish language, which he called in an article in The Bell, a ‘powerful ghost’. Along with Austin Clarke, he was one of the few writers in English to seriously engage with the Gaelic literary tradition in the 1940s and 1950s. His verse plays ‘Diarmuid and Grainne‘ (1950) and ‘The Vision of Mac Conglinne’ (1953) were broadcast on Radio Éireann, and described by Micheál Ó hAodha as the ‘most successful modernizations of old Irish literature’.
His play ‘Sweet Love Till Morn’ was staged by the Abbey Theatre in 1971, while a screenplay ‘The Fenians’ was directed for television by James Plunkett in 1966.
Padraic Fallon died in Aylesford, Kent, and is buried in Kinsale, County Cork. ‘Poems and Versions’, edited by his son Brian, appeared in 1983, featuring many previously uncollected poems as well as translations from the Greek, Latin and French. His ‘Collected Poems’ was finally published by Gallery Press in 1990.