Pearse’s pastoral hideaway: ripe for commemoration?
The State seems reluctant to build a cultural centre at Pádraig Pearse’s cottage in Rosmuc, Connemara, to remember our ‘Ghandi with guns’
Lake view: Pádraig Pearse’s cottage overlooking Loch Oiriúlach. Photograph: Seán Mannion/Connemara Light
Loch Oiriúlach translates as Lake by the Thickets, and the young Dubliner who acquired a site by it just over a century ago had an eye for a rural idyll. No worries then about septic-tank or water charges or non-principal-private-residence tax: his main challenge was money to build on a meagre teacher’s wage.
It took him four years, and many trips west, taking the train to Maam Cross on the Galway-Clifden line, and covering the last few kilometres by sidecar. By 1909 Pádraig Pearse had his little thatched cabin near Rosmuc village.
It was known as an Aill Mhór, named after the big rock at the back of the house depicted in Pearse’s story Eoghainín na nÉan. The writer was himself “a very timid person with that shyness that is the preserve of the loner”, the local Gaelic League organiser Colm Ó Gaora wrote in his autobiography, Mise.
Ironically, the 1916 Rising leader’s affinity for south Connemara was shared by the earl of Dudley, the British lord lieutenant, who owned Inver Lodge, a little farther west, where he entertained his mistress, Gertie Miller.
“Imagine the impact of that story if told properly by the State,” says the Independent south Connemara councillor and broadcaster Seósamh Ó Cuaig, who is a grand-nephew of Colm Ó Gaora, and the maker of a documentary,Taibhsí na Staire, that deals with the relationships Pearse and the earl had with Rosmuc.
“There was Pearse penning some of his best writings, and being visited by almost every 1916 proclamation signatory, and the queen’s representative having it off with his lady in his large lodge down the road . . . The whole history of Ireland in two Connemara holiday homes within one half square mile.”
It’s not quite the story that a handful of visitors, most on bikes and in Lycra with a mix of English and Australian accents, hear on a cloud-free summer’s morning, having ventured up the short lane to the cottage. Still, it’s uncompromising enough, as two Office of Public Works tour guides explain how this “quiet young writer, educationalist and advocate of the nonpolitical ideals of the Gaelic League, and Home Rule supporter”, was appointed to the Irish Republican Brotherhood’s supreme and military councils shortly after he joined it, in 1914.
In the guest bedroom Pearse’s poem The Wayfarer hangs on a wall behind the single wooden bed. His own bedroom has a small desk, but he often wrote by the lake, the guide explains, recounting how visiting Irish students stayed there in big tents during Connemara’s first coláiste samhradh.