Born: November 10, 1879 in Dublin
Died: May 3, 1916 in Dublin
Patrick Henry Pearse (Padraig MacPiarais) is known as an Irish patriot, scholar, teacher and poet. He was a student of literature and history and wanted to free Ireland from the rule of the British. In 1908, he established St. Edna’s College to educate young Irish citizens about Irish customs, language, and beliefs. Pearse was a key figure in organizing the Easter Rising. He had been an active member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and was named an affiliate of its Supreme Council. He wrote a number of position papers and poems to express his intellectual and emotional feelings about the pursuit of Irish freedom. Perhaps the most memorable of these is “Mise Éire”:
“Mise Éire” (in Irish first)
Sine mé ná an Chailleach Bhéarra.
Mór mo ghlóir:
Mé a rug Cúchulainn croga.
Mór mo náir:
Mo chlann féin a dhíol a máthair.
Uaigni mé ná an Chailleach Bhéarra.
“I am Ireland”
I am Ireland:
I am older than the Old Woman of Beare.
Great my glory:
I that bore Cuchulainn the valiant.
Great my shame:
My own children that sold their mother.
I am Ireland:
I am lonelier than the Old Woman of Beare.
The story surrounding the Old Woman of Beare is a conflicting one and I have read a number of different versions. Some claim this woman to be virginal and others quite the opposite. You will have to forge your own interpretation on that one. As for Cuchulainn, his story is one of an Irish warrior based perhaps partly on reality and partly on legend. The basic premise is that Cuchulainn alone defended Ulster against an invading army of Connaught. When he was mortally wounded, he strapped himself to a rock to keep fighting.
Pearse’s famous funeral oration for O’Donovan Rossa is truly unforgettable. Some of Ireland’s most haunting words were uttered in that speech alone:
“The Defenders of this Realm have worked well in secret and in the open. They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools! - they have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.”
For more information on Patrick Pearse, please visit http://www.patrickpearse.com.