William Allingham was born at Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal, in 1824. When he was thirteen years old became a clerk in the bank where his father was a manager, he worked there for about six years, during that time, he used the words and images of poetry for the satisfaction of his soul.
He loved poetry from an early age and we are told he would wander about Ballyshannon in the evening, listening to the girls singing old ballads at their cottage doors. He transcribed these ballads, and changed them to his likingand then had them printed in broadsheet form to sell in the locality.
When William was nineteen he became a Customs officer, and he was stationed at different places in northern Ireland from then until he was thirty nine years old. Shortly after he obtained his appointment with the Customs he made his first trip to London and from then on he visted London regularly, and was a frequent contributor to London periodicals. Allingham made the personal acquaintance of Leigh Hunt, who treated the young writer with great kindness and he was also friendly with Alfred Lord Tennyson.
In 1850, William Allingham published his first volume of “Poems.” It was followed by “Day and Night Songs” (1854) and by various other volumes including “Laurence Bloomfield in Ireland,” a long poem which was regarded by Allingham himself as his most important work.
In 1863, he transferred from Ballyshannon to the Customs at Lymington, near Southhampton. The following year he was awarded a Civil List pension of £60 by the Government for his services to literature, and this was increased to £100 when he retired from the Civil Service in 1870.
William moved to London when he retired from the Civil Service, to become sub-editor of “Fraser’s Magazine” under J. A. Froude, whom he succeeded as editor in 1874. He married in 1874. He published a further 6 or so volumes during the remainder of his life. William Allingham died in 1889.
William Allingham loved poetry, he loved Ireland and particularly his native Donegal. He used his words so well to convey his feelings and to give us images of Ireland and the lives of people. We have the fun and magic of ‘The Fairies’; a sense of pathos in ‘The Eviction’; satire in ‘Lord Crashton, the Absentee Landlord’; images and other emotions in poems such as ‘Adieu to Belshanny’ and ‘Abbey Assaroe’. Reading William Allingham’s poetry we can see and feel the pictures as he paints them. He was a crafstman and an Irish poet to be remembered.