Cúndún, Pádraig Phiarais (1777–1857), Irish-language writer, was born at Shanakill, a son of Piaras Cúndún, a farmer of Kilmacdonagh, Ballymacoda, Co. Cork, and his wife, Máire. He had two brothers, Tomás and Cit, and he may have had at least one sister. Information is scant on his youth, but despite having little formal education he could read and write Irish and was on good terms with many of the local schoolteachers. He had no knowledge of English. In 1811, at the age of 34, he married Maighréad, daughter of Christine and Cormac Mac Carrthaigh, of Clonpriest, Co. Cork.
Towards the end of 1826 Cúndún abandoned his 54-acre holding by Inchiquin castle, which was liable to flooding, to emigrate to America, where his paternal uncle's children had already settled near Utica in New York state; he left Ireland despite having been offered a position to teach Irish with the local Bible society and having secured episcopal permission through his parish priest, Father Peadar Ó Néill (who had returned from transportation for political activities in 1798). Sailing from Cobh with his wife and children, he landed in Quebec, and made straight for Utica, from where he travelled with wagon and horses to search for a suitable holding. Although farms were plentiful, proximity to a catholic church was a major influence on his choice of the Deerfield Hills, three miles from Utica and adjacent to his relatives’ farms, where he finally settled in 1827; having borrowed to purchase the land, he did not gain ownership of the freehold until 1834. Cúndún began to write letters home after 1834, regularly composing poetry and songs for the enjoyment of his former neighbours in Shanakill. These compositions were copied throughout the district and had a wide readership. It seems that Cúndún was aware of his popularity at home. In 1840 his wife died and this affected him deeply: he wrote nothing in the following seven years.
In a letter to a neighbour, Tomás Ó Briain, in 1848 Cúndún states that before leaving Ireland in 1826 he had burned a box that contained all but one of his first compositions. His remaining poetry shows a mastery of traditional stressed metres unusual for his time, and the prose style he developed was direct, assured, and fluent. ‘Tórramh an bharaille’ is recognised as being among the best of his compositions. Cúndún engaged in correspondence with Dáibhí de Barra (qv) and Amhlaoibh Ó Súilleabháin (qv) but probably never met either. In his letters he constantly encourages his neighbours to emigrate, though this seems to have had little effect. Throughout his life he showed a marked antipathy to proselytising and a deep affection for, and sophisticated cultivation of, his native language. He died 13 March 1857 and was buried beside his wife in St Agnes’s cemetery, Utica, New York state. He was said to have had ten children, including Seán, an attorney, who became mayor of Portage, Wisconsin. The current location of Pádraig Cúndún's papers is not known, but his collected letters, which provide much interesting information on emigrant life in America, were edited and published by Risteárd Ó Foghludha (qv) in 1932.
More information on this entry is available at the National Database of Irish-language biographies (Ainm.ie).