The son of a Parnellite family from Co Down, Campbell took an early interest in Irish music and folklore. He was educated at St Malachi’s College, Belfast and worked in his father’s building business before becoming a teacher of English. As a young man he collaborated with the composer Herbert Hughes on English-language versions of Irish folk songs; the first volume of these was published as Songs of Uladh in 1904. In the same year he helped found the Ulster Literary Theatre; his own play the Little Cowherd Of Slainge was performed in 1905.
For a time before the First World War Campbell lived in London, where he was Secretary of the Irish Literary Society. In 1911 he moved to Dublin and took part in the Easter rising as an Intelligence Officer. In the civil war he sided with the Republicans, and was interned for seventeen months by the Free State forces. In 1925 he set up the first ever School of Irish Studies in the U.S.A., at Fordham University, New York, returning in 1939 to Ireland, where he lived in seclusion at a farmstead in Glencree, Co Wicklow, until his death.
His several volumes of poems have not worn well; he survives through the English words he wrote for My Lagan Love.
Location of plaque
At the site of the birth house, 32 Castlereagh Road, Belfast.