Heritage hot spots: History, nature, art, environment


Pearse Museum, Dublin

What is it?The Pearse Museum is housed in the former home and school run by Patrick Pearse, the leader of the 1916 Rising. The boys’ school, Scoil Eanna, was founded by Pearse in 1908 and first housed in Cullenswood House, his family home in Ranelagh. From 1910, he rented the 18th-century house and 20 hectares of parkland in Rathfarnham to escape what he called “the suburban groove” and give his students greater freedom to exercise and study nature.

After the execution of Pearse and his sculptor brother, William, his mother and sister continued to run the school until 1935. His sister, Margaret Pearse, was a member of the Dáil and, later, the Seanad until her death, in 1968. The grounds, the house and its contents came into State ownership after her death. The Pearse Museum opened in 1979, the centenary of Patrick Pearse’s birth.

Why visit?The museum gives us a keen insight into Patrick Pearse’s radical and innovative approach to education. He believed in a child-focused system that nurtured the student’s abilities by inculcating a love of learning rather than one that emphasised exam-focused rote learning. An appreciation of drama, art (the school had its own gallery), nature, Gaelic sports and music were taught alongside traditional subjects. Visitors can see Pearse’s study, the family sitting room (his mother, brother and sisters moved there with him and helped him to run the school) and the school dormitory, study hall and chapel.

Why now?The museum’s Object Lessons exhibition consists of 16 items from the collections at the Pearse Museum, Kilmainham Gaol, in Dublin, and Derrynane House, in Caherdaniel, Co Kerry. Among them are the last cups Patrick and William Pearse drank from before they left for the Rising, a chair leg Sheila Humphries played rounders with when she was a republican prisoner in Kilmainham Gaol, and a British military medal that was presented to Michael Mallin, one of the executed leaders of the 1916 Rising, when he fought with the Royal Scots Fusiliers on the Punjab frontier in the 1890s.

The exhibition, which runs until March 11th, encourages us to reflect on the things we keep and why. The nature-study room and parkland, with riverside walks and walled garden, are also well worth a visit.

How do I get there?The Pearse Museum is in St Enda’s Park, Grange Road, Rathfarnham, Dublin. (By bus, take the 16 to its Grange Road terminus.) It is open every day except Tuesday, and admission is free. Call 01-4934208 or see heritageireland.ie.