The day after, they killed his brother too.
As I looked around the three-roomed cottage which seemed, for all the world, like some quaint Hollywood vision of Ireland, I was sobered by the dire consequences of their actions on a personal level.
Pat and Willie may have participated in the creation of something deeply important, but my God, how did Mrs Pearse survive it all?
In the first instance, I was more interested in the historic events than the place itself.
The Black and Tans torched Padraig Pearse’s cottage in Rosmuc County Galway in 1921 and, as a result, all of its interior furnishings on display are replicas.
At the age of about thirty I flipped, from hanging prints of the most beautiful paintings in the world on my walls to hanging the most beautiful original paintings I could find or afford.
Not that beauty and price are perfectly aligned – one of my favourite pictures in my home is a sketch of a young man, in charcoal, bought off the streets in Paris in 1999 for the princely sum of 200 French francs – about €30 in today’s money. There is something human in his eyes that, to me, is very touching.
My decision to switch to real rather than replica had clear intent; a desire to connect with the actual artist, to live with her or his work, and to feel the spirit of that work.
Authenticity is one of the biggest ideas in our Western world for good reason: it is only when we experience ‘real’ that we can fully be real in ourselves.
As I pondered the replica single beds in each of the two bedrooms (a reminder of the cultural norms attending a young, single man), I was struck with force by a chance comment of the resident historian of Pearse Cottage.
Pearse had bought the plot himself in 1909, and then commissioned the building of the house.
He chose the site and the aspect. I may have been looking at a reconstruction of its furnishings but the view from door and windows – all these were as Pearse himself experienced as he penned his oration for that crusty old Fenian O’Donovan Rossa:
“…I hold it a Christian thing, as O’Donovan Rossa held it, to hate evil, to hate untruth, to hate oppression, and, hating them, to strive to overthrow them”
Pearse was an educator, not a fighter; at least not to start. His dream, informed presumably by his mother who came from native Irish-speaking stock in Co Meath and who herself was an MP, was to reintegrate the Irish language into the education system – pursuing a bilingual approach.
This was his project with St Enda’s in Rathfarnham – and one to which he dedicated his all.
History is a catalogue of ‘moments of truth’ – and Pearse’s was the permanent delay of the Home Rule Bill in 1912.
His dream was dead if a fundamental shift of power in Ireland could not be effected.
This simple cottage on a hill, I thought as I walked its interior and its lands, was owned by a romantic. Its bucolic setting, its aspect towards lake and hills, its traditional architecture – all spoke to a dreamer’s vision.
And this dreamer knew that to embark on revolution would mean certain death. Teachers and lawyers didn’t usually bear up well against the grandest army of them all.
Pearse was executed on May 3rd 1916 by the British. His brother on the 4th. Their mother outlived her sons by 16 years.
Fr Aloysius, a Capuchin, stayed and prayed with Pearse and each of the men as they awaited execution.This trusty priest at the centre of the fray was a friend of Pearse, and, indeed, my great grand-uncle.
The events of that month would pass down, through my Mum’s family, as a searing event that defined the life of Fr Aloysius, or ‘Uncle Pa’ as he was known by his family.
By this little personal thread of truth, I connect myself to the real soul of Patrick Pearse – his character as educator, romantic, friend and troubadour.
History takes care of everything else.
Brian McIntyre. August 2013
About Rothar Republic
My name is Brian McIntyre. During late July and August 2013 I am cycling the coast and borders of the Republic of Ireland, and using the opportunity to raise money for charity (The Peter McVerry Trust).
In the lead-up to the 100th anniversary of 1916, I’m interested to see how our little country is doing. Cycling its perimeter, observing and talking to its people, is my own way of taking the lie of the land.
I figure this is a 27 day-long expedition covering about 2,200km.
All monies go directly to the Peter McVerry Trust which supports young homeless people in Dublin to break the cycle of homelessness and move towards independent living.
If easier, consider sending me a pledge through private message.