Irish Teacher, Barrister, Poet, Writer, Nationalist and Political Activist
Patrick Pearse holds a significant role in Irish history. As one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising and a signatory of the Irish Proclamation, he proclaimed the Irish Republic by reading the Irish Proclamation outside the GPO on Easter Monday, 24th April 1916.
Patrick Pearse was born in Dublin on November 10th 1879 at 27 Great Brunswick Street now named Pearse Street. His father James was a stonemason from Birmingham and his mother Margaret was from Dublin. Patrick was the second eldest child in the family and he had two sisters and one brother. From an early age Patrick had a strong interest in the Irish language and spent many summers in Galway learning Irish. He joined the Gaelic League in 1896 and he became editor of its newspaper An Claidheamh Soluis (The Sword of Light).
Move into Politics
Patrick set up a bilingual school for boys, St Enda’s in September 1908. In 1910 the school moved out to the Hermitage in Rathfarnham. Patrick supported the Home Rule Bill in 1912. This signalled his direct involvement in politics where previous to this his main activities were focused on education and literature. With the level of opposition to the Home Rule bill by unionists Patrick began to contemplate that a rebellion was necessary to secure Irish Independence.
In November 1913 Patrick was invited to the inaugural meeting of the Irish Volunteers and in the same year, he was also sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB). In the following months and years Patrick became more involved in political activity; he became a member of the IRB’s Supreme Council and its secret Military Council. On August 1st 1915, Tom Clarke asked Patrick to deliver the graveside oration at the funeral of the Fenian Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa. Tom told Patrick to make it “as hot as hell”. Patrick delivered a speech that aroused the huge crowd that was present. His speech ended with the following forceful words “… the fools, the fools, the fools, they have left us our Fenian dead and whilst Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace”.
1916 Easter Rising
Patrick was prominent in all stages of planning the 1916 Easter Rising including the drafting of the Irish Proclamation. Before the start of the Easter Rising he was chosen as president of the Irish Republic. He proclaimed the Irish Republic by reading the Irish Proclamation outside the GPO on Easter Monday, 24th April 1916 and along with James Connolly, he commanded the GPO Garrison for the week of the rebellion. As the fighting continued throughout the week, Patrick became increasingly aware of the amount of destruction that the Easter Rising had caused and the number of civilians that had lost their lives. Fearing the loss of more innocent lives, Patrick Pearse surrendered to General Lowe at 3.30pm on Saturday 29th April.
Following his arrest Patrick was taken to Richmond Barracks where he was court martialled. He was sentenced to death. On May 3rd 1916, Patrick Pearse was executed in the Stone Breakers’ Yard of Kilmainham Gaol. He was the first of sixteen leaders to be executed. His brother Willie Pearse was executed the following day on May 4th 1916. They are both buried in Arbour Hill.