Patrick Kennedy (folklorist)

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Born early part of 1801[1]
Kilmyshal, County Wexford, Ireland
Died 29 or 28 March 1873 [2][3][4]
Resting place Glasnevin Cemetery[4][a]
Occupation bookseller
Language English
Nationality Ireland
Genre folklore, local lore
Notable works Legendary fictions of the Irish Celts (1866)
Spouse Maria (née Kelly?)[5]


Patrick Kennedy (early 1801 – 29 March 1873)[9] was a folklorist from Co. Wexford, Ireland. A bookseller by trade, he is known for his collections of Irish (Leinster) folktales. The tales are told in rusticated English of the Irish peasantry who had established roots in The Pale, the anglicized part of Ireland.[10] He is "widely credited with preserving irish idioms in the turn of phrase, sentence structure, Irish words".[9]


Kennedy was born in the early part of 1801[1] in Kilmyshal beyond the outskirts of Bunclody,[1] County Wexford, Ireland, in a financially well-off family of peasant stock.[9] Mount Leinster, which loomed tall over his hometown served as a backdrop of his first book.[1] His schooling at Cloughbawn was interrupted in 1819 when he filled a teacher's post vacated by a friend.[1] In 1820 or 21, he left for Dublin and enrolled in a teacher-training program at the Kildare Place Society (officially called the "Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor of Ireland"), and in 1822 or 1823, was appointed as a teacher there.[9]

He abandoned the teaching profession at some time uncertain, and established a lending-library and bookseller shop on Anglesea Street (not a full stretch of street but the corner of Cope Street) in Dublin.[11] Edward Dowden remembered the proprietor "with round, bald head, grizzled beard, and a smile and twinkle over all his face."[12]

Alfred Webb's A Compendium of Irish Biography (1878) writes that his home often played host to the "Hibernian Temperance Association,",[13] though possibly this is a result of confusion with Dr. Patrick Kennedy, Bishop of Killaloe, associated with Father Mathew's temperance movement.

Literary career[edit]

Some of his stories which he sent to Sheridan Le Fanu in 1862, appeared as "Leinster Folk Lore" in the Dublin University Magazine from 1861 till 1869.[14] This was followed by pieces such as "Legends of Mount Leinster," published in the Irish Quarterly Review.[2] Later a full collection was published by Macmillan and Company in 1866 as Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celts (1866). The first included tale is "Jack and His Comrades," later reprinted by Joseph Jacobs.

The collected stories were interleaved with a considerable amount of his own narrative: his "stories link by running commentary and characterized by often ponderous moralizing"[15]

Patrick Kennedy was one of the pioneers in uncovering Irish folkloric material, with a lasting impact on William Butler Yeats and the Celtic Revival movement.[8]


under pseudonym of Harry Whitney
as Patrick Kennedy

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ A different man by the same name is given in O'Duffy, R. J. (1915). Historic Graves in Glasnevin Cemetery. Dublin: James Duffy and Co. p. 32. "Thy will be done." "Sacred to the memory of Patrick Kennedy, who died 17 September 1872, aged 82 years, and of Elizabeth, his wife, who died 10 December 1867, aged 75 years."... author of the "Banks of the Boro", etc.  Date and age of death do not match, nor the wife's name (Maria according to Gordon)


  1. ^ a b c d e Delaney 1983, p. 49
  2. ^ a b Griffiths 1890, p. 467-; persons who died on 29 March starting p.460
  3. ^ Alspach 1946, p. 405
  4. ^ a b Fitzgerald, Thomas W. H. (1811). Ireland and her people; a library of Irish biography, together with a popular history of ancient and modern Erin (Internet Archive). 3. Chicago: Fitzgerald book company. pp. 276–277. He died March 28, 1873, and buried at Glasnevin 
  5. ^ Gordon 1996, p. 181. "He married a woman named Maria (her surname may have been Kelly), and they had daughters named Elizabeth, Monica, and Margaret and sons named John, Charles, and James."
  6. ^ Gordon 1996, p. 181, "In his notes he mentioned being influenced by early oral literature collectors such as the Brothers Grim and Peter Christen Asbjørn-sen"
  7. ^ Legendary fictions of the Irish Celts (Kennedy 1866, p. 4)
  8. ^ a b Alspach 1946
  9. ^ a b c d Gordon 1996, pp. 181–2
  10. ^ Dorson, Richard Mercer (1999). History of British Folklore (snippet). Dictionary of literary biography. 159. Taylor & Francis. p. 431. ISBN 9780415204767. 
  11. ^ O'Hart, John. Irish Pedigrees: Or, The Origin and Stem of the Irish Nation. 1. p. 229n. 
  12. ^ Dowden, Edward (Dec 1884). "Dublin City". The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine. 29 (2): 174. 
  13. ^ Webb, Alfred John (1878). "Kennedy, Patrick". A Compendium of Irish Biography. M.H. Gill & Son. p. 272. 
  14. ^ Legendary fictions of the Irish Celts (Kennedy 1866, p. viii)
  15. ^ Ó Giolláin, Diarmuid. Locating Irish Folklore: Tradition, Modernity, Identity. pp. 103–4.