Peadar O’Donnell was born in 1893 in a Meenmore, near Dungloe, County Donegal. His family was Irish-speaking. His father was a migrant worker and musician. He trained as a teacher in Dublin and then became a teacher, working on Arranmore Island, off the coast of Donegal. He became an organiser for the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union and this led him to socialism.
He organised a unit of the Irish Citizen Army and then joined the Irish Republican Army (IRA). He was involved in various guerrilla activities and became an commander of the IRA.
He was opposed to the Anglo-Irish Treaty (which divided Ireland). He was part of a group that took over the Four Courts building in Dublin and was subsequently caught and imprisoned. He joined in a mass hunger strike and eventually escaped in 1924. While in prison he was elected as a TD (the Irish equivalent of MP). He became involved in socialist causes and remained involved in the anti-Treaty IRA.
He was a founder of the Republican Congress, which was opposed by the IRA, which had a brief success but then declined. He subsequently went to Spain and fought for the Spanish republicans opposed to Franco.
He had been writing since 1925 but, in the 1940s, he focused more on writing and much less on politics. His second novel, Islanders (US: The Way it Was With Them), received considerable acclaim. As well as writing novels, he wrote a play, edited the magazine The Bell and three memoirs. He died in 1986 at the age of ninety-three.
Books about Peadar O’Donnell
Peter Hegarty: Peadar O’Donnell
Donal Ó Drisceoil: Peadar O’Donnell
1925 Storm (novel)
1928 Islanders (US: The Way it Was With Them) (novel)
1929 Adrigoole (novel)
1930 The Knife (novel)
1932 The Gates Flew Open (prison diary)
1933 Wrack (drama)
1934 On the Edge of a Stream (novel)
1937 Salud! An Irishman in Spain (memoir)
1955 The Big Windows (novel)
1963 There Will Be Another Day (autobiography)
1975 Proud Island (novel)
1985 Not Yet Emmett (history)