Sears, David (1899–51), newspaper proprietor, journalist, playwright, was born 24 May 1899 in the family home at Parnell Street, Wexford town, son of William Sears (qv), proprietor of the Enniscorthy Echo, and his wife, Gretta (née Morris). He was educated at the Loreto convent and the Christian Brothers' School, both in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, and (from 1910) at St Enda's, Dublin. Throughout his life Sears expressed reverence for his teachers: he saw Patrick Pearse (qv) as having created almost ‘an ideal educational institution', and recalled Willie Pearse (qv) as ‘the most sublimely unselfish man I have ever met’ and an admirer of boyish idealism. He thought Thomas MacDonagh (qv) ‘the best educationist and worst schoolmaster’ he had ever known. Sears emphasised that Patrick Pearse never actively sought to recruit his pupils into the Volunteers, but regarded those past pupils who participated in the Easter rising as vindicating his life’s work as a teacher.
He joined the Irish Volunteers in 1915, despite Pearse's initial disapproval, and participated in the Easter 1916 rising as part of the South Dublin Union Garrison while still a student at St Enda's. Surrendering along with the rest of the garrison, he was held in Richmond Barracks for two weeks before being released on account of his youth. He began studying at University College Dublin (UCD) and continued as a Volunteer, rising to the rank of lieutenant of the C Company, 4th Battalion, in the Dublin Brigade. He was mainly involved in drills and training.
In August 1920 he left UCD without graduating and moved to Wexford town to become the town correspondent for his father's newspaper, the Enniscorthy Echo. He joined the Volunteer's South Wexford Brigade, serving as its commanding officer from October 1920 to February or March 1921. On 20 December 1920 he led an unsuccessful assault on the Royal Irish Constabulary barracks in Carrig-on-Bannow, Co. Wexford, during which an unarmed civilian attacked him and was shot dead. He resigned as commanding officer because he felt the brigade was achieving little under his leadership. Thereafter, he participated in several arms raids but seems to have been less active.
In 1923 he joined the reporting staff of the Irish Independent (which had previously employed his uncle Richard), and he subsequently became well known as its art and drama critic and as a book reviewer. (He was also art critic of the Irish Sketch.) While the Irish Independent, like other Dublin papers for most of the century, treated artistic coverage as jobbing journalism rather than the work of a specialised correspondent, throughout his life Sears enjoyed genuine respect in Dublin's literary and artistic circles because of his love of theatre and his personal artistic credentials.
He wrote several plays, which were staged by the Gate Theatre and enjoyed contemporary acclaim: ‘Juggernaut’ (1929), which won the gold medal for English language drama at the 1928 Tailteann Games, ‘The dead ride fast’ (1931), ‘Grania of the ships’ (1933) and ‘The forced marriage’ (1941). ‘Juggernaut’ depicts a middle-class south Dublin Redmondite family who are persuaded to hide a wounded IRA gunman and then to let him escape, although his survival means death for the daughter's British officer fiancé. (It was the only one of Sears's plays to be published (Birr, 1952); typescripts of the rest are held in the National Library of Ireland.) Sears's friends attributed the rejection of ‘Juggernaut’ by the Abbey to ‘the pique and prejudice of a prominent lady’, the lady concerned being Augusta Gregory (qv); its uncompromising and schematic insistence on the absolute necessity of crushing personal happiness under the ‘juggernaut’ of patriotism makes it chiefly of interest as a symptom of contemporary popular taste and a possible point of departure for The moon in the yellow river by Denis Johnston (qv). Sears also won the best novel prize at the 1924 Tailteann Games for an unpublished, and since lost, novel set during the war of independence, 'Children of Thor'.
Sears was a parliamentary reporter on the Irish Independent and secretary of the Oireachtas Press Gallery; a founder member of the National Union of Journalists, he served as vice-chairman of the Dublin branch. After his father died in 1929 he became chairman of the board of directors of the Enniscorthy Echo, as well as its chief leader writer, and held these positions until his death. In October 1945 he was elected vice-president of the Irish branch of the writers' association PEN. He travelled extensively and regarded Paris as his second home, spending part of his annual holiday at Parisian art shows. In later years he suffered from ill health, possibly connected to what was described as his physical as well as intellectual imitation of G. K. Chesterton; this was a little harsh as Sears was certainly heavyset, but hardly obese.
David Sears died on 1 September 1951 at Les Chamilles, Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, while paying one of his regular summer visits to France; he was buried in the local cemetery. He married Ann Mary Manning in Dublin on 2 September 1925; they had no children. His career illustrates mid-century middlebrow tastes, the ramifications of St Enda's influence, and the relatively underdeveloped nature of a newspaper industry where one man undertook so many different functions.