Comyn, David (1854–1907), Irish-language revivalist, was born 13 May 1854 in Henry St., Kilrush, Co. Clare, only child of John Comyn and Mary Comyn (née Hassett). On leaving school, he joined the National Bank as a clerk and was based, for the most part, in College Green, Dublin. Although he was not brought up as an Irish-speaker and never acquired fluency, he was deeply committed to the preservation and revival of the language and developed a deep knowledge of Irish literature. In December 1876 he was co-founder of the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language (SPIL) and immediately set about finding practical ways to further the language movement. He lobbied intensively for the inclusion of Irish on the curricula for national and intermediate schools, and in 1878 he successfully achieved that goal. To further the teaching of Irish in schools, he published the First Irish book (1877); this text (reprinted fourteen times by 1879) drew heavily on Canon Ulick Bourke's (qv) ‘lessons’, printed originally in the Nation. This was complemented by the Second Irish book (1878) and Third Irish book (1879). He began collecting poems, songs, stories, and sayings in Irish to preserve them, and urged others to do the same. He used this collection in the course of the many columns he wrote in such newspapers and journals as the Irishman, the Shamrock, Young Ireland, the Teachers' Journal, and the Weekly Journal.
By the end of 1879 he became disillusioned with the inactivity of the majority of SPIL members, who failed to follow worthy sentiments with effective deeds, and although he did not split from the association, he channelled his efforts into Gaelic Union Publications which he formed with the assistance of Fr Owen Nolan. Using the same address as the SPIL, the Gaelic Union concentrated on producing low-price books in Irish. Amongst its earliest publications were Comyn's Laoidh Oisin ar Tír na nÓg in 1880 and Mac ghníomhartha Fhinn in 1881. He founded and edited (1882–7) Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge. He joined the Gaelic League on its foundation in 1893, was a member of its central council, and was a judge at Oireachtas literary competitions. However, his principal contributions to the language movement consisted of publications such as Irish illustrations to Shakespeare (1894), the unpublished poems of Peadar Ó Doirnín (qv) in Irisleabhar na Gaedhilge (1895–6), and the first volume (1902) of his translation of Foras Feasa ar Éirinn by Geoffrey Keating (qv). He never succeeded in finishing the remaining volumes, due to failing health, and, having lived for several years in Brighton Square, Rathgar, Dublin, he died 21 February 1907. According to his friend and fellow Irish-language activist, Douglas Hyde (qv), his health deteriorated through overwork and lack of exercise, which left him overweight. His collected books, letters, and manuscripts, eloquent testimony to his almost encyclopedic knowledge of Irish and world history, were presented to the NLI as the David Comyn bequest in 1907.