Music (before the show begins)
Song: “Four Green Fields”
Welcome (Josh Tuohy)
Welcome (Maura Naughton)
from Easter 1916, by William Butler Yeats
I have met them at close of day
… We know their dream; enough
Mise Maude Gonne MacBride. I was born in 1866 in England. My father was a captain in the British army and I was brought to Ireland when he was posted at Dublin Castle.
I was living the life of a carefree society girl until the day I was riding to a hunt ball in Donegal when I saw, with great concern, a family by the side of the road. They had been put outside their small home. And when I inquired about it, I was told “Oh, they’re just peasants.” Then and there, I became keenly aware of the plight of the Irish who were evicted in the Land Wars, and began a lifelong fight for Ireland’s freedom from England. I began giving speeches for the Irish Land League. I also founded the Daughters of Ireland (Inghinidhe na hEireann), starting free classes to teach the children subjects that were not allowed to be taught in the schools — Irish language, history, and music. We also offered dinners for poverty-stricken families.
In 1903 I married Major John MacBride, a hero in the Boer War, fighting against the British. The marriage soon ended and I moved to France. I was still there during the Easter Week Uprising, but my heart was with the rebel leaders and the cause for which they gave their lives.
On Easter Monday, 1916, the Proclamation of the Irish Republic was posted on buildings and fences throughout Dublin, signed by seven members of a Provisional Government.
The men who signed the Proclamation were not were not ones who glorified armed rebellion. On the contrary, they were an intellectual group of revolutionaries: poets, writers, artists, schoolteachers. But they were also social activists who strove to create a modern Irish nation. And like the patriots who had preceded them over the centuries, they saw their history — generation after generation — as a struggle for freedom from English occupation.
By the 1900s, decades of frustrated attempts to wrest even a modicum of home rule from the English Parliament came again to a head. Militias were formed to defend and protect nationalist aspirations, and when Home Rule was put on hold for World War I, and tens of thousands of Irishmen were called on to die in the trenches of Europe, thoughts turned to the need — and opportunity — for revolution.
Let us now meet the rebel leaders of Easter Week.
Is mise James Connolly — I was born in the Irish slum of Edinburgh and after a stint in the British Army, spent my adult life fighting for the rights of working men and women. The grinding poverty of my youth inspired me to dedicate myself to the improvement of working conditions of the common man, especially the poor. The bias of the British Government towards the wealthy, combined with its complete disregard for the poor, convinced me that Economic Capitalism is corrupt and Socialism is a superior alternative. Formation of labor unions became the most important guiding principle in my life. When the 1913 Employers Federation lockout began, Jim Larkin and Captain White, the aristocrat who threw in his lot with Labor, formed the Irish Citizen Army. In 1914 I became its leader and commander. When England entered the World War in 1914, I with Countess Markievicz and many others opposed conscription. In January of 1916, I was co-opted to join the Irish Republican Brotherhood Military Committee and combined the Irish Citizen Army with the Republican Army. In April I became commander of the Irish Republican Army in Dublin. Together with Sean MacDiarmada and Joseph Mary Plunkett, we had a leading role in the final preparations for the Rising. About rebel songs of freedom, my daughter Nora said, “For more may be remembered of a country’s history and treasured deep in the heart of a people through a song or a poem than through the pages of a history book.”
Is mise Constance Markiewicz — I was born Constance Georgina Gore-Booth in London. I grew up in Ireland on a large estate in County Sligo. My first experience with radical politics was with my sister Eva: She and I founded the Sligo Women’s Suffrage Society in 1896. Two years later I went to Paris to study art and theater. There I met and married a fellow student, Count Casimir Markiewicz from Poland. After returning to Ireland, our devotion to nationalist causes intensified. I joined Sinn Féin and Maud Gonne’s Inghinidhe na hÉireann — Daughters of Ireland — and founded the Fianna Éireann boy and girl scouts. I became active in the labor movement and the Irish Citizen Army with James Connolly. I learned how to run soup kitchens and second-hand clothing shops, and carried sacks of coal to the poor. In the uprising I was second in command at Saint Stephens Green and the Royal College of Surgeons, where many other women also fought. After our surrender, I was held in solitary confinement in Kilmainham jail and sentenced to death. But “on account of the prisoner’s sex”, it was commuted to life in an English prison. All of the nationalists held in England were freed in 1917, and I went on to become the first woman elected to the British Parliament. With the other elected members from Sinn Féin, we convened the first Irish parliament and declared independence. In 1922, I spoke in defense of the Republic: “I say that the new Ireland was born in Easter Week, 1916. There is the road that so many of our heroes walked, and I know the brave soldiers of Ireland will stand there — and I stand humbly behind them — men and women who have given themselves for Ireland. And I will devote to it the same amount that is left to me of energy and life.”
Song: “The Rising of the Moon”
Is mise Seán MacDiarmada — I was a gardener and tram operator in Belfast when I started working to build Sinn Féin as a political party, I became national organizer for the IRB and assistant to Tom Clarke.
Is mise Thomas MacDonagh — I had been a professor of French, English, and Latin when I joined the faculty at Pádraig Pearse’s school near Dublin. I cofounded the Irish Review and the Irish Theatre and wrote four books of poetry, three plays, and a study of the poet Thomas Campion. In the uprising, I was commander at Jacob’s Biscuit Factory.
At the End, by Thomas MacDonagh
The songs that I sing
But the haste of the years
Is mise Thomas Clarke — As a member of the IRB, I had to flee to America in 1880, where I joined the Clan na Gael and then travelled to England for the Fenian dynamite campaign. I was arrested there and sentenced to life, spending 15 years in an English prison before being released. After some more time in America, where I married Kathleen Daly and became a U.S. citizen, I returned to Dublin to revive the IRB while owning two tobacconist shops. Seán MacDiarmada and I set up the secret Military Committee inside the IRB to plan the uprising. As the most veteran Fenian, I was given the honor of signing my name first on the Proclamation.
Is mise Éamon Ceannt — I cofounded the Pipers Club of the Gaelic League and worked as an accountant for Dublin City. I also taught music at Pádraig Pearse’s school, St. Enda’s. In the uprising, I commanded the forces at the South Dublin Union, from which we established several outposts.
Is mise Joseph Plunkett — I was a poet and cofounder of the Irish Theatre, and my father’s estate was used as a training camp for the Irish Volunteers. The artist Grace Gifford and I were planning to be married on Easter Sunday before the rising, but events made it impossible.
I See His Blood Upon the Rose, by Joseph Plunkett
I see his blood upon the rose
I see his face in every flower;
All pathways by his feet are worn,
Is mise Pádraig Pearse — My father was an English stone carver and free thinker, my mother an Irish speaker from Galway. I trained as a lawyer, but became a journalist, writing for and editing the Gaelic League newspaper An Claidheamh Soluis. I also wrote poems and stories in Irish and English. Committed to remaking education in Ireland, I founded St. Enda’s and St. Ita’s schools to instill progressive social values and respect for Irish culture and the Irish language. As plans were being made for the rising, I wrote essays and made speeches in America and Ireland to inspire a new nation, including the well known peroration at the funeral of Fenian Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa: “The Defenders of this Realm … 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.”
Song: “A Soldier’s Song”
On Easter Monday, 1916, a thousand or so men and women from all walks of life seized control of strategic buildings across Dublin. They established the General Post Office (GPO) in central Dublin as their headquarters. Around noon, Pádraig Pearse stepped onto the porch and read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.
“IRISHMEN AND IRISHWOMEN: In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom. …
“We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people. In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty; six times during the past three hundred years they have asserted it in arms. Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State. And we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades-in-arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations.
“… The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities of all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority in the past. …
“In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.”
Song: “The Foggy Dew”
The Irish Volunteers made up the majority of the rebels. They were supported by the women of Cumann na mBan — who cared for the wounded, cooked meals, and conveyed messages through the city and country — and by the more than 200 men and women of the Irish Citizen Army.
Despite the overwhelming force and numbers of the English, the rebels held on to most of their positions for several days. The GPO, along with much of the area around it, was subjected to bombardment from English heavy guns. Writer James Stephens wrote at the time, “The finest part of our city has been blown to smithereens, and burned into ashes.”
Fire forced the evacuation of the GPO on Friday evening to a nearby house. To prevent further casualties, on Saturday, April 29th, 1916, Pearse and Connolly sent Cumann na mBan member and labor activist Elizabeth O’Farrell across the lines with an offer of surrender.
1916, by Eric Rosenbloom
Fourteen lines to commemorate fourteen lives
Each of the myriad souls deserves a song
Thrown into this mass grave, in fourteen martyrs
A world was swept away in fire and flood
After the surrender, more than 3,000 nationalists were arrested. The leaders were identified and sentenced to death, 112 in total. Most of the others were transported to prison camps in Britain.
The executions by firing squad, starting within days of the end of the uprising, were increasingly seen as brutal. They continued for 10 days before being stopped. The bodies were thrown with quicklime into a mass grave. Fourteen rebels were executed in Kilmainham jail, including the seven who signed the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. They are the martyrs whom we honor today.
(Gonne (roman text) and Signatories (final words in italic text); after speaking his final words, each signatory bows his head)
|All of the condemned prisoners, besides speaking from the dock, wrote many letters to their loved ones while they awaited execution. Pádraig Pearse was especially prolific and even wrote some of his most famous poems during those few days. The letter to his mother, undelivered and suppressed for decades by the English, will be read at the end of this roll call of the 14 nationalists executed in Dublin in 1916. Pádraig Pearse was executed on Wednesday, May 3.|
“We seem to have lost; but we have not lost. To refuse to fight would have been to lose; to fight is to win. We have kept faith with the past, and handed on a tradition to the future.”
|Aged 58 years, the oldest of the leaders shot by the firing squad in Kilmainham jail, Thomas Clarke was executed on Wednesday, May 3.|
“I and my fellow-signatories believe we have struck the first successful blow for Freedom. The next blow, which we have no doubt Ireland will strike, will win through. In this belief we die happy.”
|Thomas MacDonagh was executed on Wednesday, May 3.|
“The Proclamation of the Irish Republic has been adduced in evidence against me as one of the Signatories. … You think it already a dead and buried letter, but it lives, it lives. From minds alight with Ireland’s vivid intellect it sprang; in hearts aflame with Ireland’s mighty love it was conceived. Such documents do not die. … Take me away, and let my blood bedew the sacred soil of Ireland. I die in the certainty that once more the seed will fructify.”
|Joseph Plunkett and the artist Grace Gifford were married in Kilmainham jail the night before he was killed. Joseph Plunkett was executed on Thursday, May 4.|
“My Darling Grace, This is just a little note to say I love you and to tell you that I did everything I could to arrange for us to meet and get married but that it was impossible. Except for that I have no regrets. … My other actions have been as right as I could see and make them and I cannot wish them undone. You at any rate will not misjudge them.”
|Ned Daly’s father had taken part in the 1867 Fenian rising and died before Ned was born in 1891. The family then lived with his uncle John, who had been in jail with Thomas Clarke, who Ned’s sister Kathleen married. Daly was commander at the Four Courts. Aged 25 years, he and Seán Heuston were the youngest of the leaders shot by the firing squad. Ned Daly was executed on Thursday, May 4.|
|Willie Pearse was a sculptor and actor and helped to run his brother Pádraig’s school. He was part of the garrison at the General Post Office. Willie Pearse was executed on Thursday, May 4.|
Michael O’Hanrahan’s father, too, had taken part in the 1867 rising. He was 2nd in command under close friend Thomas MacDonagh at Jacob’s Biscuit Factory. His brother and sister were also there. Michael O’Hanrahan was executed on Thursday, May 4.
John MacBride had studied medicine and worked as a chemist and later was water bailiff. He raised an Irish brigade to fight with the Boers in South Africa against the English. Too well known to be part of planning the uprising, he “happened by” Thomas MacDonagh’s troops setting forth on Easter Monday and joined them in holding Jacob’s Biscuit Factory. John MacBride was executed on Friday, May 5.
|Éamonn Ceannt was executed on Monday, May 8.|
“My Dearest wife Áine, Not wife but widow before these lines reach you. … My poor little sweetheart of how many years ago. Ever my comforter, God comfort you now. What can I say? I die a noble death, for Ireland’s freedom. Men and women will vie with one another to shake your dear hand. Be proud of me as I am and ever was of you. … Sweeter still you are my little child, my dearest pet, my sweetheart of the hawthorn hedges and Summer’s eves. … I have one hour to live, then God’s judgment and, through his infinite mercy, a place near your poor Grannie and my mother and father and Jem and all the fine old Irish Catholics who went through the scourge of similar misfortune from this Vale of Tears into the Promised Land.”
|Michael Mallin worked as a silk weaver and a social activist. Half of his siblings died young, and he joined the British Army at 14, serving 12 years in India, where he observed and learned the guerilla tactics of the resistance fighters. He was 2nd in command of the Irish Citizen Army, and with the assistance of Constance Markiewicz commanded the forces in St. Stephens Green and the Royal College of Surgeons. Michael Mallin was executed on Monday, May 8.|
|Con Colbert had worked as a bakery clerk, became a leader of the Gaelic boy scouts, and was drill instructor at Pádraig Pearse’s school. While the uprising was being planned, he was Thomas Clarke’s bodyguard. He commanded an outpost from the South Dublin Union at Watkins’ Brewery, which later joined the group at Jameson’s Distillery. Before the surrender, he took over that command to save the life of the captain, who was married. Con Colbert was executed on Monday, May 8.|
|A railway clerk and commander at the Mendicity Institution. Seán Heuston was executed on Monday, May 8.|
|Seán MacDiarmada was executed on Friday, May 12.|
“Good-bye, dear brothers and sisters. Make no lament for me. Pray for my soul and feel a lasting pride at my death. I die that the Irish Nation may live.”
|James Connolly had been seriously wounded on Easter Thursday and was near death when he was carried on a stretcher to the stonebreakers yard in Kilmainham jail and tied to a chair to be killed. James Connolly was executed on Friday, May 12.|
“We went out to break the connection between this country and the British Empire, and to establish an Irish Republic. Believing that the British Government has no right in Ireland, never had any right in Ireland, and never can have any right in Ireland, the presence, in any one generation of Irishmen, of even a respectable minority, ready to die to affirm that truth, makes that Government forever a usurpation and a crime against human progress. I personally thank God that I have lived to see the day when thousands of Irish men and boys and Irish women and girls were ready to affirm that truth, and to attest it with their lives if need be.”
Narrator: brief setup for:
[Pádraig Pearse’s letter to his mother, May 1, 1916]
(read by Mrs. Margaret Pearse)
“My dear Mother, … I was brought in here on Saturday evening and later all the men with us in Moore St. were brought here. Those in the other parts of the City have, I understand, been taken to other barracks and prisons. All here are safe and well. Willie and all the St. Enda’s boys are here. I have not seen them since Saturday, but I believe they are all well and that they are not now in any danger. Our hope and belief is that the Government will spare the lives of all our followers, but we do not expect that they will spare the lives of the leaders. We are ready to die and we shall die cheerfully and proudly. Personally I do not hope or even desire to live, but I do hope and desire and believe that the lives of all our followers will be saved, including the lives dear to you and me (my own excepted) and this will be a great consolation to me when dying.
“You must not grieve for all this. We have preserved Ireland’s honour and our own. Our deeds of last week are the most splendid in Ireland’s history. People will say hard things of us now, but we shall be remembered by posterity and blessed by unborn generations. You too will be blessed because you were my mother.”
The sacrifice of the uprising re-energized the Irish Republican movement, which then swept the parliamentary election in 1918. Instead of going to London, they convened the first Irish parliament, the Dáil, in Dublin. On January 21, 1919, they reaffirmed the 1916 Proclamation and declared independence.
In the words of historian Anne-Marie Ryan, “These men who were executed for their part in the rebellion became the martyrs of Easter Week and provided the inspiration for the subsequent revolution in Ireland. Their stories did indeed, as Yeats wrote, ‘stir the boiling pot’.”
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.
Song: “Óró ’s é do bheatha ’bhaile”
Song: “A Nation Once Again”