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Patrick Henry Pearse
Pádraig Anraí Mac Piarais
Born (1879-11-10)10 November 1879
Died 3 May 1916(1916-05-03) (aged 36)
Place of birth Dublin, Ireland
Place of death Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin, Ireland
Allegiance Irish Republican Brotherhood
Irish Volunteers
Years of service 1913–1916
Rank Commander-in-chief
Campaign Easter Rising
Other work Educator, Principal, Barrister, Republican activist, Poet

Patrick Henry Pearse (also known as Pádraic or Pádraig Pearse); Irish language: Pádraig Anraí Mac Piarais

An Piarsach; 10 November 1879 – 3 May 1916) was an Irish teacher, barrister, poet, writer, nationalist and political activist who was one of the leaders of the Easter Rising in 1916. Following his execution along with fifteen other leaders, Pearse came to be seen by many as the embodiment of the rebellion.

Early life and influences

27 Pearse Street, birthplace of Patrick and Willie Pearse

Pearse and his brother Willie were born at 27 Great Brunswick Street,[1] the street that is named after them today.[2] It was here that their father, James Pearse, established a stonemasonry business in the 1850s,[3] a business which flourished and provided the Pearses with a comfortable middle-class upbringing.[4] Pearse's father was a mason and monumental sculptor, and originally a Unitarian from Birmingham in England.[5]

Pearse grew up surrounded by books.[6] His father had had very little formal education, but was self-educated;[7] he had two children Emily and James, from his first marriage (two other children died in infancy). His second wife, Margaret Brady, was from Dublin, and her father's family from County Meath were native Irish speakers. The Irish-speaking influence of Pearse's great-aunt Margaret, together with his schooling at the CBS Westland Row, instilled in him an early love for the Irish language.

Pearse soon became involved in the Gaelic revival. In 1896, at the age of 16, he joined the Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge), and in 1903, at the age of 23, he became editor of its newspaper An Claidheamh Soluis ("The Sword of Light").

Pearse's early heroes were ancient Gaelic folk heroes such as Cúchulainn, though in his 30s he began to take a strong interest in the leaders of past republican movements, such as the United Irishmen Theobald Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet. Both had been Protestant, but it was from such men as these that the fervently Catholic Pearse drew inspiration, for the rebellion of 1916.

In 1900 Pearse was awarded a BA in Modern Languages (Irish, English and French) by the Royal University of Ireland, for which he had studied for two years privately and for one at University College Dublin. In the same year he was also enrolled as a Barrister-at-Law at the King's Inns.[8] He was called to the bar in 1901.

St Enda's

As a cultural nationalist educated by the Irish Christian Brothers, like his younger brother Willie, Pearse believed that language was intrinsic to the identity of a nation. The Irish school system, he believed, raised Ireland's youth to be good Englishmen or obedient Irishmen, and an alternative was needed. Thus for him and other language revivalists saving the Irish language from extinction was a cultural priority of the utmost importance. The key to saving the language, he felt, would be a sympathetic education system. To show the way he started his own bilingual school, St. Enda's School (Scoil Éanna) in Cullenswood House in Ranelagh, a suburb of County Dublin, in 1908. The pupils were taught in both Irish and English. Cullenswood House is now the home of a Gaelscoil, Lios na nÓg. Two years later St. Enda's School moved to The Hermitage in Rathfarnham, County Dublin, now home to the Pearse Museum.

With the aid of Thomas MacDonagh, Pearse's younger brother Willie Pearse and other (often transient) academics, it soon proved a successful experiment. Pearse did all he planned, and even took students on field trips to the Gaeltacht in the West of Ireland. Pearse's restless idealism led him in search of an even more idyllic home for his school. He found it in the Hermitage, Rathfarnham, to which he moved St Enda's in 1910. Pearse was also involved in the foundation of St Ita's school for girls, a school with aims similar to those of St Enda's.

However, the new home, while splendidly located in an 18th-century house surrounded by a park and woodlands, caused financial difficulties that almost brought Pearse to disaster. He strove continually to keep ahead of his debts while doing his best to maintain the school. In February 1914 he went on a fund-raising trip to the United States, where he met John Devoy and Joseph McGarrity both of whom were impressed by his fervour and supported him in raising sufficient money to secure the continued existence of the school.

The Volunteers and Home Rule

In April 1912 John Redmond leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, which held the balance of power in the House of Commons committed the government of the United Kingdom to introducing an Irish Home Rule Bill. Pearse gave the Bill a qualified welcome. He was one of four speakers, including Redmond, Joseph Devlin MP, leader of the Northern Nationalists, and Eoin MacNeill a prominent Gaelic Leaguer, who addressed a large Home Rule Rally in Dublin at the end of March 1912. Speaking in Irish, Pearse said he thought that "a good measure can be gained if we have enough courage", but he warned, "Let the English understand that if we are again betrayed, there shall be red war throughout Ireland."[9]

In November 1913 Pearse was invited to the inaugural meeting of the Irish Volunteers—formed in reaction to the creation of the Ulster Volunteers—whose aim was "to secure and maintain the rights and liberties common to the whole people of Ireland".[10] In an article entitled “The Coming Revolution” (November 1913) Pearse wrote:

As to what your work as an Irish Nationalist is to be, I cannot conjecture; I know what mine is to be, and would have you know yours and buckle yourselves to it. And it may be (nay, it is) that your and mine will lead us to a common meeting-place, and that on a certain day we shall stand together, with many more beside us, ready for a greater adventure than any of us has yet had, a trial and a triumph to be endured and achieved in common.[11]

The Home Rule Bill just failed to pass the House of Lords, but the Lords' diminished power under the Parliament Act 1911 meant that the Bill could only be delayed, not stopped. It was placed on the statute books with Royal Assent in September 1914, but its implementation was suspended for the duration of the First World War.

John Redmond feared that his “national authority” might be circumvented by the Volunteers and decided to try to take control of the new movement. Despite opposition from the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Volunteer Executive agreed to share leadership with Redmond and a joint committee was set up. Pearse was opposed to this and was to write:[11]

The leaders in Ireland have nearly always left the people at the critical moment; they have sometimes sold them.The former Volunteer movement was abandoned by its leaders; O’Connell recoiled before the cannon at Clontarf; twice the hour of the Irish revolution struck during Young Ireland days and twice it struck in vain, for Meagher hesitated in Waterford, Duffy and McGee hesitated in Dublin. Stephens refused to give the word in ‘65; he never came in ‘66 or ‘67. I do not blame these men; you or I might have done the same. It is a terrible responsibility to be cast on a man, that of bidding the cannon speak and the grapeshot pour.[11]

The Volunteers split, one of the issues being support for the Allied and British war effort. A majority followed Redmond into the National Volunteers in the belief that this would ensure Home Rule on their return. Pearse, exhilarated by the dramatic events of the European war, wrote in an article in December 1915:

It is patriotism that stirs the people. Belgium defending her soil is heroic, and so is Turkey . . . . . .
It is good for the world that such things should be done. The old heart of the earth needed to be warmed with the red wine of the battlefields.
Such august homage was never before offered to God as this, the homage of millions of lives given gladly for love of country.[12]

Irish Republican Brotherhood

Proclamation of the Irish Republic, read by Pádraig Pearse outside the General Post Office in Dublin at the start of the Easter Rising, 1916.

In December 1913 Bulmer Hobson swore Pearse into the secret Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB),[13] an organisation dedicated to the overthrow of British rule in Ireland and its replacement with an Irish Republic. He was soon co-opted onto the IRB's Supreme Council by Tom Clarke.[14] Pearse was then one of many people who were members of both the IRB and the Volunteers. When he became the Volunteers' Director of Military Organisation in 1914[15] he was the highest ranking Volunteer in the IRB membership, and instrumental in the latter's commandeering of the remaining minority of the Volunteers for the purpose of rebellion. By 1915 he was on the IRB's Supreme Council, and its secret Military Council, the core group that began planning for a rising while war raged on the European Western Front.

On 1 August 1915 Pearse gave a graveside oration at the funeral of the Fenian Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa. It closed with the words:

Our foes are strong and wise and wary; but, strong and wise and wary as they are, they cannot undo the miracles of God Who ripens in the hearts of young men the seeds sown by the young men of a former generation. And the seeds sown by the young men of '65 and '67 are coming to their miraculous ripening today. Rulers and Defenders of the Realm had need to be wary if they would guard against such processes. Life springs from death; and from the graves of patriot men and women spring living nations. 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. (Full text of Speech)

Easter Rising and death

Pearse was chosen by the leading IRB man Tom Clarke to be the spokesman for the Rising. It was Pearse who, on behalf of the IRB shortly before Easter in 1916, issued the orders to all Volunteer units throughout the country for three days of manoeuvres beginning Easter Sunday, which was the signal for a general uprising. When Eoin MacNeill, the Chief of Staff of the Volunteers, learned what was being planned without the promised arms from Germany, he countermanded the orders via newspaper, causing the IRB to issue a last-minute order to go through with the plan the following day, greatly limiting the numbers who turned out for the rising.

When the Easter Rising eventually began on Easter Monday, 24 April 1916, it was Pearse who read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic from the steps of the General Post Office, the headquarters of the rising. After six days of fighting, heavy civilian casualties and great destruction of property, Pearse issued the order to surrender.

Pearse and fourteen other leaders, including his brother Willie, were court-martialled and executed by firing squad. Thomas Clarke, Thomas MacDonagh and Pearse himself were the first of the rebels to be executed, on the morning of 3 May 1916. Pearse was 36 years old at the time of his death. Roger Casement, who had tried unsuccessfully to recruit an insurgent force among Irish-born prisoners of war from the Irish Brigade in Germany, was hanged in London the following August.

Sir John Maxwell, the General Officer commanding the British forces in Ireland, sent a telegram to H.H. Asquith, then Prime Minister, advising him not to return the bodies of the Pearse brothers to their family, saying, "Irish sentimentality will turn these graves into martyrs’ shrines to which annual processions will be made, which would cause constant irritation in this country.[16] Maxwell also suppressed a letter from Pearse to his mother,[17] and two poems dated 1 May 1916. He submitted copies of them also to Prime Minister Asquith, saying that some of the content was "objectionable".[16]


Bust of Pádraig Pearse in Tralee, County Kerry.

Pearse wrote stories and poems in both Irish and English. His best-known English poems include "The Mother", "The Fool" and "The Wayfarer".[18] He also wrote several allegorical plays in the Irish language, including The King, The Master, and The Singer. His short stories in Irish include Eoghainín na nÉan ("Eoineen of the Birds"), Íosagán,"An Gadaí" Na Bóithre ("The Roads"), and An Bhean Chaointe ("The Keening Woman"). These are translated into English by Joseph Campbell (in the Collected Works of 1917).[19] Most of his ideas on education are contained in his famous essay "The Murder Machine". He also wrote many essays on politics and language, notably "The Coming Revolution" and "Ghosts".

Pearse is closely associated with the song, "Oró Sé do Bheatha 'Bhaile", for which he composed additional lyrics.


Largely as a result of a series of political pamphlets that Pearse wrote in the months leading up to the Rising, he soon became recognised as the main voice of the Rising. In the middle decades of the 20th century Pearse was idolised by Irish nationalists as the supreme idealist of their cause. With the outbreak of conflict in Northern Ireland in 1969 Pearse's legacy was used by the Provisional IRA. However, Pearse's reputation and writings have been subject to criticism by some historians, who have seen him as dangerous, fanatical, psychologically unsound and ultra-religious. As Conor Cruise O'Brien, onetime Labour TD and former unionist politician, put it: "Pearse saw the Rising as a Passion Play with real blood." Others have defended Pearse, suggesting that to blame him for the violence in Northern Ireland was unhistorical and a distortion of the real spirit of his writings. Though the passion of those arguments has waned in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, his complex personality still remains a subject of controversy for those who wish to debate the evolving meaning of Irish nationalism.

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern described Pearse as one of his heroes and displayed a picture of Pearse over his desk in the Department of the Taoiseach.[20]

Pearse's mother Margaret Pearse served as a TD in Dáil Éireann in the 1920s. His sister Margaret Mary Pearse also served as a TD and Senator.


The building in Rathfarnham, on the south side of Dublin, that once housed Pearse's school, St Enda's, is now the Pearse Museum.

Pearse Street and Pearse Square in Dublin were renamed in 1926 in honour of Pearse and his brother Willie, Pearse Street (previously Great Brunswick Street) being their birthplace. Other Pearse Streets can be found in Athlone, Ballina, Bandon, Cahir, Cavan, Clonakilty (formerly Sovereign Street), Gorey, Kilkenny, Kinsale, Mountmellick, Mullingar, Nenagh and Sallynoggin (where there are also Pearse Park, Avenue, Road and other uses of the name).

There are Pearse Roads in Ardara, Ballyphehane (which also has Pearse Place and Square), Bray, Cookstown (County Wicklow), Cork, Cranmore (which also has Pearse Crescent and Terrace), Dublin 16, Enniscorthy, Graiguecullen (County Carlow), Letterkenny, Limerick (which also has Pearse Avenue), Sligo, The Lough (Cork), Tralee and Turner's Cross (Cork).

There are Pearse Parks (residential streets) in Drogheda, Dundalk and Tullamore, and (parkland) on the outskirts of Arklow and in Tralee (the former demesne of Tralee Castle). There are other Pearse Avenues in Carrickmacross, Ennis, Mervue in Galway and Mallow. Carrigtwohill has a Patrick Pearse Place and there is a Pearse Bridge in Terenure. There is a Pearse Brothers Park in Rathfarnham and a Pearse Terrace in Westport.

Longford has Pearse Drive and Pearse View. Crumlin (Dublin) has a Pearse Memorial Park.

Educational institutions

Cullenswood House, the Pearse family home in Ranelagh where Pádraic first founded St Enda's, today houses a primary Gaelscoil (school for education through the Irish language) called Lios na nÓg, part of a community-based effort to revive the Irish language. Crumlin (Dublin) has the Pearse College of Further Education, and there was formerly an Irish language summer school in Gaoth Dobhair called Colaiste an Phiarsaigh. In Rosmuc there is an Irish-medium vocational school, Gairmscoil na bPiarsach. The main lecture hall at the Cadet School in Ireland is named after P.H. Pearse.

Sports venues and clubs

A number of Gaelic Athletic Association clubs and playing fields in Ireland are named after Pádraic or both Pearses:

  • Antrim: Pearse Park, Dunloy; Patrick Pearse's GAC, Belfast
  • Armagh: Annaghmore Pearses GFC; Pearse Óg GAC and its grounds, Pearse Óg Park, Armagh
  • Cork: CLG Na Piarsaigh, Cork
  • Derry: Pádraig Pearse's GAC, Kilrea; Pearse's GFC, Waterside, Derry (defunct)
  • Donegal: Pearse's Park, Ardara
  • Dublin: Ballyboden St. Enda's GAA (called after Pearse's school); Pearse's GAC, Rathfarnham (defunct)
  • Galway: Pádraig Pearse's GAC, Ballymacward & Gurteen; Pearse Stadium, Salthill
  • Kerry: Dromid Pearses GAC; Kilflynn Pearses HC (defunct)
  • Limerick: CLG Na Piarsaigh, Limerick
  • Longford: Pearse Park, Longford
  • Louth: CPG Na Piarsaigh, Dundalk
  • Monaghan: Pearse Brothers GAC, Ballybay, and its grounds, Pearse Park
  • Roscommon: Pádraig Pearse's GAC
  • Tyrone: Pearse Óg GAC, Dregish; Fintona Pearses GAC; and Galbally Pearses GAC, and its grounds, Pearse Park; a defunct club, Leckpatrick Pearse Óg GAC
  • Wexford: Naomh Eanna GAA (called after Pearse's school); P.H. Pearse's HC, Enniscorthy (defunct)
  • Wicklow: Pearse Park, Arklow

So also are several outside Ireland:

  • Australasia: Pádraig Pearse GAC, Victoria
  • London: Brother Pearse's GAC, London
  • Scotland: Pearse Park, Glasgow; Pearse Harps HC (defunct)
  • Yorkshire: Brothers Pearse GAC, Huddersfield
  • North America: Pádraig Pearse GFC, Chicago; Pádraig Pearse GFC, Detroit

There are also soccer clubs named Pearse Celtic FC in Cork and in Ringsend, Dublin; and Liffeys Pearse FC, a south Dublin soccer club formed by the amalgamation of Liffeys Wanderers and Pearse Rangers. A Pearse Rangers schoolboy football club remains in existence in Dublin.

Other commemorations

In 1916 the English composer Arnold Bax, who had met the man, composed a tone poem entitled In Memoriam Patrick Pearse. It received its first public performance in 2008.[21]

In Belfast the Pearse Club on King Street was wrecked by an explosion in May 1938.[22]

Westland Row Station in Dublin was renamed Pearse Station in 1966 after the Pearse brothers.

The ten shilling coin minted in 1966 featured the bust of Patrick Pearse. It is the sole Irish coin ever to have featured anyone associated with Irish history or politics.

In Ballymun the Patrick Pearse Tower was named after him. It was the first of Ballymun's tower blocks to be demolished in 2004.[23]

In 1999 the centenary of Pearse's induction as a member of the Gorsedd at the 1899 Pan Celtic Eisteddfod in Cardiff (when he took the Bardic name Areithiwr) was marked by the unveiling of a plaque at the Consulate General of Ireland in Wales.[24]

Postage stamps commemorating Pearse were issued by the Irish postal service in 1966, 1979 and 2008.


  1. Thornley, David (Autumn – Winter, 1971). "Patrick Pearse and the Pearse Family". Dublin: Irish Province of the Society of Jesus. pp. 332–346. ISSN 0039-3495. Retrieved 1 December 2010. 
  2. Miller, Liam (1977). The noble drama of W.B. Yeats. Dublin: Dolmen Press. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-391-00633-1. 
  3. Casey, Christine (2005). Dublin: the city within the Grand and Royal Canals and the Circular Road with the Phoenix Park. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-300-10923-8. 
  4. Stevenson, Garth (2006). Parallel paths: the development of nationalism in Ireland and Quebec. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's Press. p. 189. ISBN 978-0-7735-3029-4. 
  5. Patrick Pearse: Life. Ricorso, Bruce Stewart. Retrieved: 7 January 2011.
  6. Walsh, Brendan (2007). The pedagogy of protest: the educational thought and work of Patrick H. Pearse. Oxford: Peter Lang. p. 12. ISBN 978-3-03910-941-8. 
  7. Crowley, Brian (2009). "‘The strange thing I am’: his father’s son?". History Ireland. History Publications Ltd. Retrieved 5 December 2010. 
  8. Chronology of Pádraic Pearse
  9. Ruth Dudley Edwards, Patrick Pearse: The Triumph of Failure, (1977) p. 159
  10. Foy, Michael; Barton, Brian (2004). The Easter Rising. Sutton Publishing. pp. 7–8. ISBN 0-7509-3433-6. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Seán Cronin, Our Own Red Blood, Irish Freedom Press, New York, 1966, pg.15
  12. "Peace and the Gael", in Patrick H. Pearse, Political writings and speeches, Phoenix, Dublin, (1924) p. 216, National Library of Ireland
  13. In a statement to the Bureau of Military History, dated 26 January 1948, Hobson claimed: "After the formation of the Irish Volunteers in October, 1913, [sic, the Volunteers were formed in November] Pádraig Pearse was sworn in by me as a member of the IRB in December of that year ... I swore him in before his departure for the States." (See: National Library of Ireland, 3.2.1 Bulmer Hobson and Denis McCullough, in The 1916 Rising: Personalities and Perspectives, p. 18, accessed 1 January 2008. Hobson, in his Foundation of Growth of the Irish Volunteers, 1913–1914, also states that Pearse was not a member of the IRB when the Irish Volunteers were founded in November.
  14. Kathleen Clarke says in My Fight for Ireland's Freedom that it was "towards the end of 1913" when Tom Clarke had Pearse co-opted onto the Supreme Council of the IRB.
  15. Eoin Neeson, Myths from Easter 1916, Aubane Historical Society, Cork, 2007, ISBN 978-1-903497-34-0 Pg.87
  16. 16.0 16.1 Quotations from P.H. Pearse, Proinsias Mac Aonghusa, Mercier Press, RP 1979, ISBN 0-85342-605-8
  17. Author:Patrick Pearse – Wikisource at
  18. The Mercier Companion to Irish literature. Cork: Mercier Press. 1998. p. 183. ISBN 1-85635-216-1. 
  19. Patrick Pearse, Short Stories. Trans. Joseph Campbell. Ed. Anne Markey. Dublin, 2009
  20. Bertie Ahern, interviewed about Pearse on RTÉ, 9 April 2006.
  21. BBC Proms 24 July 2008
  22. "Belfast club wrecked", Ottawa Citizen, p1, 26 May 1938
  23. Dublin City Public Libraries history of Ballymun Towers
  24. [1] Account of Gorsedd commemoration, 1999


  • Joost Augusteijn, Patrick Pearse: The Making of a Revolutionary, 2009.
  • Tim Pat Coogan, Michael Collins. Hutchinson, 1990.
  • Ruth Dudley Edwards, Patrick Pearse: the Triumph of Failure, London: Gollancz, 1977.
  • F.S.L. Lyons, Ireland Since the Famine. London: Collins/Fontana, 1973.
  • Dorothy Macardle, The Irish Republic. Corgi, 1968.
  • Arthur Mitchell & Pádraig Ó Snodaigh, Irish Political Documents 1916–1949. Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1985
  • Sean Farrell Moran, Patrick Pearse and the Politics of Redemption: The Mind of the Easter Rising 1916, Washington, Catholic University Press, 1994
  • Mary Pearse, The Home Life of Pádraig Pearse. Cork: Mercier, 1971.
  • Patrick Pearse, Short Stories. Trans. Joseph Campbell. Ed. Anne Markey. Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2009

External links

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