Pádraic Ó Conaire is today celebrated as one of the greatest and most prolific writers in the Irish language. Amongst his most famous works is the short story M’asal beag dubh (My little black donkey), and the novel Deoraíocht (Exile). Ó Conaire was born by the docks in Galway in 1882, and had a relatively privileged upbringing despite the fact that he was orphaned by the age of eleven. He spent a period living with his uncle in Garaffin, Ros Muc, Connemara. Although the household was English-speaking, the area was in the Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking area) and Ó Conaire learned to speak Irish fluently. He later attended boarding school in Blackrock College in Dublin. In 1899, Ó Conaire joined the Civil Service in London. He started to write extensively, winning many prizes for his stories and books, but also began to drink heavily. Ó Conaire married Mary McManus and had four children, but returned to Ireland in 1914 leaving his family behind. In Ireland, Ó Conaire joined the Republican movement and, following the establishment of the Irish Free State, set up a branch of the Labour Party in Galway. However, he gradually became disillusioned and his writings became darker and more despairing. His later years were spent in Galway and were characterised by poverty and alcohol abuse. In 1928, at the age of 46, Ó Conaire died alone and penniless in Richmond Hospital, Dublin. He is buried in the New Cemetery in Bohermore, Galway.
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