Fallon, Padraic (1905–74), poet and playwright, was born 3 January 1905 in Athenry, Co. Galway, first son and second child among seven children of John Fallon, cattle dealer, hotelier, and butcher, and Ellen Fallon (née Dilleen). He was educated at Mount St Joseph's College, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary, and Garbally Park School, Ballinasloe, Co. Galway. On moving to Dublin, aged 18, to join the civil service as a customs and excise official, he met and was encouraged by the writer and patron George Russell (qv) (AE). It was through Russell that his first poems were published. In 1930 he married Dorothea (‘Don’) Maher (d. 1985), daughter of a north Dublin builder, and was transferred to a post in Cootehill, Co. Cavan, where he spent the next six years. While there he met Patrick Kavanagh (qv) and, on his return to Dublin and the Custom House in 1936, he became acquainted with the editor of the Dublin Magazine, Seumas O'Sullivan (qv), who published many of his poems, short stories, and articles. A collection of short stories, Lighting up time, was published in 1938.
His job took him away from Dublin for a second time in 1939, to a post in Wexford. He lived in various houses in and around Wexford town before settling (1948) in an eighteenth-century house, Prospect, on the outskirts of the town, with a small farm of twenty acres attached. He lived a quiet, even insular, family life, sailing a boat, farming his land, and raising his six sons. This period is portrayed in a whimsical and lightly novelised memoir, A hymn of the dawn, which was published (2003) by his youngest son, Padraic. While in Wexford he became friendly with the artist Tony O'Malley (qv) (1913–2003), and continued to write. In 1950 ‘Diarmuid and Gráinne’, the first of his verse plays written for radio, was produced by Mícheál Ó hAodha (qv) and was broadcast by Radio Éireann to considerable acclaim. A further sixteen plays for radio followed over the next twenty years, some of which were later broadcast on the BBC and in Holland and Germany, including ‘The vision of Mac Conglinne’ (1953), which won the coveted Italia prize for Radio Éireann. In 1954 the first of his two stage plays, ‘The seventh step’, was produced at the Cork Opera House and later in Dublin. Another play, ‘Sweet love till morn’ (1971), was also produced in Cork and had a short run at the Abbey Theatre. James Plunkett (1920–2003) directed Fallon's screenplay ‘The Fenians’ for television in 1966. Among his published plays were The fallen saint (1936) and Dialogue between Raftery and death (1952). Fallon contributed a weekly column to the Irish Press in the early fifties, then under the dynamic editorship of Jim McGuinness: he later wrote a column, ‘Here and elsewhere’, for the Irish Times. In 1965 he edited and introduced The poems of Emily Lawless.
Wide-ranging in his reading and intellectual interests, he cultivated a knowledge of Irish balladry, classical mythology, French literature, and English writers of the Elizabethan period; all of which he used creatively in his poetry and verse plays. Although he was a regular contributor to literary journals such as Dublin Magazine and The Bell, his poetry was not published widely, and this led to a degree of neglect by the reading public during his lifetime. The influence of Ezra Pound is evident in his poems, and along with Austin Clarke (qv) he was among the few writers in English to engage seriously with Gaelic literary tradition during the 1940s and 1950s. Like Clarke, he experimented with Gaelic metrical patterns, and his radio plays were an attempt to reinvigorate and modernise an ancient literary form. His rather eclectic subject matter ranged from a study of the blind nineteenth-century Irish poet Antaine Raiftearaí (qv) to personal reminiscences, poems about W.B. Yeats (qv), and poems with a strong religious or devotional element.
In 1963 he moved to Dartry, Dublin, but failed to settle and four years later, on his retirement, he moved to Penzance, Cornwall, where his son Conor (an artist) lived, as did Tony O'Malley. His health began to fail – he had a lung removed around this time – and nostalgia for Ireland brought him back to Kinsale, Co. Cork, in 1972. While visiting one of his sons in Kent, he contracted an infection that developed into pneumonia and led to his death (8 October 1974) at a hospital in Aylesford, Kent. In the summer of 1974 the Dolmen Press had published his collected poems. Subsequently his son Brian, author and art critic, edited several collections of his poetry – including Poems and versions (1983) and Collected poems (1990) – and The vision of Mac Conglinne and other plays (2005). In 1992 an inaugural festival was held in Athenry, celebrating his literary achievements. His poetry is widely anthologised, appearing in The new Oxford book of Irish verse, edited by Thomas Kinsella, and The Field Day anthology of Irish writing.