PH Pearse 1879-1916
Patrick Henry Pearse was born in Dublin on 10th November 1879. He
was the first child of James, a sculptor from Devon and Margaret
Brady. Educated at the Christian Brothers School, Westland Row,
Pearse went on to study at University College Dublin where he obtained
a BA and subsequently was called to the Bar. Pearse joined the Gaelic
League at the age of 16 and became editor of the League's journal,
An Claidheamh Solais, in 1906. A man of great vision, Pearse founded
Scoil Eanna, a bi-lingual school for boys, in 1908. The school was
initially located in Cullenswood House, Ranelagh, before moving
to the Hermitage in Rathfarnham two years later.
Pearse was sworn in to the Irish Republican Brotherhood in the summer
of 1913. Early in 1914 he visited the United States to raise funds
for Scoil Eanna. The following year the legendary Fenian, O Donovan
Rossa, died in the United States and the IRB decided to bring his
body home for burial in Glasnevin Cemetery. Renowned for his oratory
skills Pearse was chosen by the IRB to deliver the oration at Rossa's
graveside, a speech which included the immortal lines.
‘Life springs from death and from the graves of patriot
men and women spring living nations. The defenders of the 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 they have
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.'
A member of the Military Council of the IRB, Pearse was Commander-in-Chief
of Republican forces during Easter Week and was President of the
Provisional Government. Thus, it fell to Pearse to read the Proclamation
of the Irish Republic in front of the GPO on Easter Monday, 1916.
Patrick Pearse was executed by British firing squad in Kilmainham
Gaol on 3rd May, 1916. ‘Let no man doubt who will be master
in Ireland when Ireland is free. The people will be masters, the
great, splendid, common, sovereign people.’
- PH PEARSE
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Thomas J. Clarke 1857-1916
Thomas J. Clarke was born in 1857 on the Isle of Wight, where his
father, a sergeant in the British Army, was stationed. Soon afterwards,
his father was posted to South Africa, where the family would remain
for ten years before returning to Ireland, settling in Dungannon
Co. Tyrone. The young Clarke learned of Ireland's history and was
determined to break the connection with England. He was sworn into
the Irish Republican Brotherhood in 1880 and the following year
he left for the United States where he joined Clan na nGael. There,
he worked for a time as a night porter in the Mansion House Hotel
in Brooklyn, New York. In 1883, the Fenians organised a dynamite
campaign in England, targeting public buildings, bridges, railways
etc. Clarke was selected to go on active service in England. He
was arrested in April 1883 and appeared for trial at the Old Bailey
the following June, charged under the notorious Treason Felony Act.
He was found guilty and sentenced to penal servitude for life, serving
fifteen years in brutal conditions. Writing of his time in prison,
Clarke described the inhuman conditions yet displayed an unbreakable
‘England might force me to associate with the dregs raked
in from the gutters, might shave my head like theirs, and stamp
the government broad arrow all over me, humiliation might be heaped
on me with an unsparing hand and punishments, diabolically brutal,
measured out for years, but never for one minute did I forget that
I was an Irish Political Prisoner and, in spite of it all, never
felt any degradation. The struggle has gone on for centuries and,
in the course of it, a well trodden path has been made that leads
to the scaffold and to the prison. Many of our revered dead have
trod that path and it was their memories that inspired me with sufficient
courage to walk part of the way along that path with an upright
Clarke was released under a general amnesty for Fenian prisoners
in 1898 and returned to Ireland. While in prison Clarke had met
Fenian leader John Daly from Limerick. He visited Daly upon his
return to Ireland and was conferred with the Freedom of Limerick
City. It was here he met his future wife, Kathleen, a niece of John
Daly. The couple married in the New York in 1901 and remained there
until 1908, when they returned to Dublin. He opened a tobacconist
shop at the corner of what is now Parnell Street and O'Connell Street.
Clarke set about reorganizing the IRB and was instrumental in planning
the Rising. His was the first name to appear as a signatory to the
Proclamation, a sign of the respect and esteem in which he was held.
He fought in the GPO during Easter Week and was executed by British
firing squad in Kilmainham Gaol on 3rd May, 1916.
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Thomas Mac Donagh 1878-1916
Thomas Mac Donagh was born in 1878 at Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary.
He was educated at Rockwell College in Cashel and later studied
at UCD. A member of the Gaelic League, he taught in Scoil Eanna with
Patrick Pearse and lectured in English at UCD. A poet and playwright,
his play ‘When the Dawn Is Come’ was produced at the
Abbey Theatre in 1907. Mac Donagh associated with many of the literary
figures in Dublin at that time, including Padraig Colum, George
Russell (AE) and James Joyce. In 1912, he married Muriel Gifford
and they had two children, Barbara and Donogh. A founding member
of the Irish Volunteers in 1913, he was Director of Training and
Commandant of the Dublin Brigade. Mac Donagh was co-opted to the
Military Council a few weeks before the Rising and was in command
at Jacobs Factory during Easter Week.
Thomas Mac Donagh was executed by British firing squad in Kilmainham
Gaol on 3rd May, 1916.
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Joseph Mary Plunkett 1887-1916
Joseph Mary Plunkett was born in Dublin in 1887, son of Count Plunkett.
He was educated at Belvedere College, Dublin, and from the age of
15 was a boarder at Stoneyhurst in England. Joseph suffered poor
health throughout his childhood. He took a Degree in UCD before
travelling to Egypt. In 1911, he returned to Dublin and founded the
Irish Review. Plunkett was a founding member of the Irish Volunteers
in 1913, and was a member of the Supreme Council of the IRB. Early
in 1916 he travelled to Germany to meet with Roger Casement and make
final preparations for the landing of German arms in Ireland. A
member of the Military Council, he devised the battle plan for the
Easter Rising. The Plunkett family estate in Kimmage was used as
a training camp for returned emigrants who were to take part in
the Rising. In the weeks leading up to the Rising Plunkett became
very ill yet he rose from his sick bed to take part in the Rising.
At 29, he was the youngest of the signatories to the Proclamation.
He fought in the GPO alongside Pearse, Clarke and Connolly. He married
Grace Gifford in the chapel in Kilmainham Gaol the day before his
execution. Grace Gifford's sister gave the following account of
‘Joe has been engaged to Grace since December and they
were to be married on Easter Sunday. MacNeill's orders countermanded
not only the Rising but also the wedding, for Joe was so involved
in the Military Council affairs that morning that he had time for
nothing else. Grace and he agreed that if he were arrested she would
marry him in prison.'
At dawn on Wednesday 3rd May, 1916, Grace's brother-in-law,
Thomas Mac Donagh, had been executed in Kilmainham. At 6 o clock
that evening she was summoned to the Jail. For two hours she walked
up and down, alone in a prison yard, while Joe, she was told waited
in a cell. At 8 o'clock she was taken to the prison chapel and,
as she entered, her fiancée was led in by a party of soldiers
with fixed bayonets. The soldiers remained in the chapel while,
at the altar, Father Eugene McCarthy, the prison chaplain, read
the marriage service by the light of a candle (the gas supply having
failed). Two soldier witnesses shifted their rifles from hand to
hand as they assisted at the ceremony. Immediately afterwards the
newly-married couple were separated. Grace was taken to lodgings
found for her by Father McCarthy in Thomas Street and Joe was escorted
back to his cell.
They met only once again. Grace was brought to the Jail from
Thomas Street in the early hours of Thursday morning. Soldiers with
fixed bayonets stood by while she spoke to her husband in his cell.
'Your ten minutes are up,' said the officer in charge, glancing
at his watch, and they parted for ever.’
Joseph Mary Plunkett was executed by British firing squad on 4th
They met only once again. Grace was brought to the Jail from Thomas
Street in the early hours of Thursday morning. Soldiers with fixed
bayonets stood by while she spoke to her husband in his cell. 'Your
ten minutes are up,' said the officer in charge, glancing at his
watch, and they parted for ever."
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Eamonn Ceannt 1881-1916
Eamonn Ceannt was born in Glenmeaddy in Co. Galway in 1881 the son
of a RIC man. He was ten years of age when the family moved to Dublin
and he attended the Christian Brothers in North Richmond Street.
Ceannt went on to study at University College Dublin. On leaving
University, he worked in the Rates Department of Dublin Corporation
and was subsequently promoted to the City Treasurer’s Office.
From an early age, Ceannt had a love of the Irish language and culture.
He was a member of the Gaelic League and was an accomplished uileann
piper. He joined the Irish Volunteers at the founding meeting in
the Rotunda in 1913. In 1914, as Officer Commanding of the 4th Dublin
Battalion, he led his men to Howth to meet the Asgard and offload
the weapons that would arm the Volunteers. During Easter Week he
was in command of the 4th Battalion in South Dublin Union, his second
in command that week was Cathal Brugha who was severely injured
during the fighting. Eamonn Ceannt was executed by British firing
squad on 8th May, 1916.
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Seán MacDiarmada 1883-1916
Seán MacDiarmada was born in Kiltyclogher, Co. Leitrim, in
1883. At the age of fifteen he travelled to Glasgow where he lived
for a time, before moving to Belfast where he worked as a tram conductor.
It was in Belfast that he joined the Gaelic League, Sinn Féin
and the Irish Republican Brotherhood. In 1907, as National Organiser
of Sinn Féin he played a key role in that party's first electoral
contest, the North Leitrim by-election. In Dublin he met Tom Clarke
and they developed a great friendship. Clarke appointed MacDiarmada
National Organiser for the IRB. He travelled extensively throughout
the country and was a hugely popular figure. An extremely industrious
character, MacDiarmada served as editor and manager of the IRB
newspaper, Irish Freedom. He was also one of the founders of the
Irish Volunteers, fulfilling the role of Secretary to both the Supreme
Council of the IRB and the Military Council. Despite having to use
a walking stick as a result of having contracted polio in 1911,
MacDiarmada played a leading role in the events of Easter Week,
fighting in the GPO. Seán MacDiarmada was executed by British
firing squad on 12th May, 1916.
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James Connolly 1868-1916
James Connolly was born to Irish parents in Edinburgh in 1868. He
worked from the age of eleven, initially as a printer’s devil.
He joined the British Army at the age of fourteen and was stationed
in Ireland. He and his family settled in Dublin for a time and in
1896 Connolly founded the Irish Socialist Republican Party. This
was followed, in 1898, by the founding of an Irish socialist newspaper,
‘The Workers Republic’. He lived in the United States
from 1903-1910 where he was an organiser for the Industrial Workers
of the World, and also editor of The Harp. On his return to Ireland
he settled in Belfast and took the position as Organiser for the
newly formed Irish Transport and General Workers Union. A leading
figure during the 1913 Lockout, he was instrumental in the establishment
of the Irish Citizen Army to protect workers from vicious attacks
by the police. Entirely self-educated, Connolly was a prolific writer
and, in 1914, he re-established The Workers Republic. During Easter
Week, Connolly was Commandant General, Dublin Division of the Army
of the Irish Republic and fought in the GPO. He was severely injured
during the fighting, having been hit in the leg by a sniper’s
bullet. He was the last of the signatories to be executed. On the
morning of his execution, Connolly was transported, by ambulance,
from the field hospital in Dublin Castle, to the stone breakers
yard in Kilmainham Gaol. There, he was carried off by stretcher
and strapped to a chair.
James Connolly was executed by British firing squad on 12th May,
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