Pádraig Ó Máille was born to Anthony and Jane (née Burke) O’Malley of Louisburgh, Co Mayo on the 4th of June, 1931, the second of six children. He attended Accony National School and St Jarlath’s College, Tuam, Co Galway. On finishing his secondary studies, in 1949, Pádraig began his training for the missionary priesthood in St Patrick’s, Kiltegan. Eight years later, on Easter Sunday, the 21st of April, 1957 he was ordained a priest.
Fr Pádraig was appointed to Calabar, Nigeria where he taught in a number of secondary schools and did weekend parish work. In 1968, he was forced to leave the country due to the Civil War. While in Ireland he did the Higher Diploma in Education in University College Galway and taught at nearby St Mary’s College. In 1970 he was appointed to Mzuzu Diocese, Malawi. After language studies Pádraig was appointed Parish Priest of St Teresa’s Parish. He also did some teaching in Chaminade Secondary School. In 1972 he registered for an M.A. programme at the University of Malawi in Chancellor College, Zomba. Because of his many other commitments it took him four years to complete the degree.
In March 1976 he was appointed lecturer in the English Department of the same college. Three years later he was withdrawn by the Society to serve as Director of Renewal, a post which took him to all the missions of the Society. He returned to his university post in Malawi in 1984. Meanwhile, some of his colleagues on the academic staff had attracted the unfavourable attention of President, Dr Kamuzu Banda. They found in Pádraig a trusted friend who supported them and their families and was in a position to bring their stories to an international audience. This story is told in Pádraig’s book Living Dangerously. The book ends when the Catholic Bishops of Malawi issued their Lenten Pastoral Letter “Living Our Faith” on the 8th of March 1992 and as a consequence Pádraig and some of his fellow missionaries were expelled from Malawi and declared prohibited aliens. However, that was not the end of Pádraig’s relationship with Malawi. Two years later he was back on a visit and, on arrival, was invited by the democratically elected President, Bakili Muluzi to dinner in his official residence, Sanjika Palace.
Pádraig was very ill when he was deported from Malawi in 1992 and was on his way home for medical treatment when the deportation order was served on him at Blantyre Airport. He was therefore unable, for health reasons, to return permanently to Malawi. He taught for a time in St Patrick’s College, Carlow. In 1995 he was invited to become Honorary Consul for Malawi in Ireland and served in that post for the next twenty years. He also developed strong links with Pobal an Aifrinn, the group that organises Masses in Irish for communities in Dublin. He wrote several books and wrote regularly for this publication. He visited Malawi a number of times and on one such visit, in 2001, he was conferred with an honorary doctorate by the University of Malawi.
Pádraig’s health necessitated frequent stays in hospital and after one such stay, in the Spring of 2015, he decided to transfer to the Care Unit in Kiltegan. He was very happy there. His retirement as Honorary Consul was marked by a celebratory dinner hosted by the Malawian Ambassador to Ireland H.E. Kena Mphonda. On the 4th of March 2017, Mr Mphonda, made a special trip from London, where he is also High Commissioner to the UK, to visit Pádraig in Kiltegan. Shortly afterwards Pádraig was admitted to Naas Hospital where he died on the 19th of March.
Pádraig was a man of many callings. He was a missionary, a priest, a teacher, a poet, a writer, a raconteur, a champion of justice and peace, an Irish republican, a Mayo man and a loyal member of St Patrick’s Missionary Society. He brought huge energy and passion to all his undertakings. He had a special place in his big heart for the underdog, for those on the margins and for those without a voice. He had a way with words and was a truly gifted writer, translator and literary critic. He had a life-long love of the Irish language and spoke it with the fluency of a native Irish speaker.
I líonta Dé go gcastar sinn.
Place of Rest: Kiltegan