1 in stock

London: Jenkins, 1918. Second edition. Crown octavo. pp. 120, 8 (Publisher’s List). Green cloth, title in black within a black border on upper cover and spine. A very good copy in rare frayed dust jacket.

Patrick MacGill (1889-1963) poet and novelist was born in Maas, County Donegal and grew up in Glenties, the ‘Glenmornan’ of his fiction. As the eldest of eleven children in a poor Catholic family, he was sent out to the ‘hiring fair’ of Strabane at the age of twelve, remitting most of his small wages as a bonded servant to his parents. Two years later he emigrated to Scotland to work in the potato-fields as a `tatie-hoker’, then on the railways and construction sites. This experience of itinerant labouring formed the basis of his novels Children of the Dead End and The Rat Pit. He began writing verse in his teens and his first collection Gleanings from a Navvy’s Scrapbook, printed at Derry, attracted the attention of the royal chaplain, Sir John Neale Dalton, who found him a job at the Royal Library at Windsor Castle. The issue of his second book of verse, Songs of a Navvy, with ‘Windsor Castle’ given as his address on the cover, caused a sensation. In 1913 he was taken on as a cub reporter on the London Daily Express. Unhappy with this position he returned to Donegal and wrote Glenmornan which incurred the wrath of the Catholic Church, due to its socialist

and anti-clerical tone.
He was already known as ‘the navvy poet’ by the time he joined the London Irish Rifles at the beginning of the first world war. Injured at the battle of Loos (September 1915), he returned to London, where he met the romantic novelist Margaret Gibbons, niece of Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore, Maryland. They were married in November 1915, and had three daughters - twins Patricia and Christine, and Sheila - all of whom became published writers. In 1917, dressed in his British army uniform, he made his last visit home, to a family funeral. He had no subsequent desire to return to Donegal or to Ireland, though much of his later writing had Irish settings or subjects.
That he was condemned in Ireland only served to alienate him further from the land of his birth. The family moved to Switzerland in 1926 as a result of TB. By 1930 they had moved to the US, where the depression caused cancelled lecture tours and his daughter Christine recalls that ‘the subsequent years were dominated by much pain and poverty’ (address to MacGill Summer School, 1981), resulting in most of Patrick’s books being sold to pay bills. As a result of multiple sclerosis his health declined rapidly over the years, and he died in Miami, Florida, on 23 November 1963 (the same day John F. Kennedy was assassinated). He is buried in St Patrick’s cemetery, Fall River, Massachusetts.


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