Padraic Fiacc Passes Away – Poetry News January 24th

Today on My Poetic Side we bring you the sad news that the literary world has lost another important member. The poet Padraic Fiacc has died, age 94.

Irish Poet Padraic Fiacc Passes Away Aged 94

Padraic Fiacc, the Irish poet, who was born Patrick Joseph O’Connor, passed away on Monday evening at the nursing home in Belfast where he had been living. He was 94.

Tributes have been paid to the great poet by figures in the literary world and also President Michael D Higgins who had visited Fiacc last week and read poetry to him. The president said
He went on to praise the poet for his courage in being able to bring difficult subjects to his work, despite the tragedy and loss he had experienced in his life.

Born Patrick Joseph O’Connor in 1924, in Belfast, Fiacc chose the pseudonym to honour his mentor the poet Padraic Colum. The family lived in the Lisburn area of Belfast, but when their home was set on fire during an anti-Catholic action, Fiacc”s father left and emigrated over to New York. He left his son behind in the care of his maternal grandparents. In the late 1920’s the family was reunited when the rest of the family travelled to New York. Fiacc was raised in Hell’s Kitchen and attended two of the local high school.

It was during this time he met the man who became his mentor, Padraic Colum. He produced a volume of poetry and 4 plays which have since been lost. Following high school, Fiacc enrolled at the Seminary of St Joseph where he studied for a further five years under the Irish Capuchin Order. He was not happy with the life of a prospective priest and left St Joseph”s. This was 1946 and anxious to avoid military service he returned to Belfast.

His reputation as a poet really took off on his return to Belfast, and in 1948, he appeared in New Irish Poets, as well as a number of other publications.

During the early fifties, he returned to America to take care of the family he had left behind. He returned to Ireland in 1956 and settled in Glengormley, County Antrim with the American Artist Nancy Wayne, his new wife.

“Woe to Boy”, his anthology (which was never published in his original format) won him the AE Memorial Award in 1957. It was, however, his first full collection “By the Black Stream” which was published in 1969 that truly established him. This was followed by a number of other volumes over the course of the next three decades.

His life, and his work was plagued by tragedy, in addition to the unrest going on in Northern Ireland at the time Fiacc’s marriage collapsed. The murder of Gerry McLaughlin, a friend of Fiaccs caused a complete mental breakdown during the 1970’s – this was the point in his life when he wrote “The Wearing of the Black” . This was termed the most controversial anthology on the Troubles.

In 1981, In recognition of the contribution that Padraic Fiacc had made to Irish literature he was elected as a member of Aosdana.

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