Executed Rising rebels honoured at Kilmainham Gaol
First three killed, Pearse, Clarke and MacDonagh, commemorated on centenary
Patrick Pearse’s grandnephew, Patrick Pearse and his grandson Jamie Preston, pause to look at a plaque baring his name during a ceremony to commemorate Pearse, Thomas Clarke and Thomas MacDonagh, who were executed after the Easter Rising, at Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Commemoration events have taken place in the Stonebreakers’ Yard in Kilmainham Gaol to mark 100 years since the start of the executions of the leaders of the Easter Rising.
Patrick Pearse, Tom Clarke and Thomas MacDonagh, the first three leaders to be executed, were remembered in similar but distinct commemorations which took place on the spot where they died on May 3rd, 1916.
Similar events will mark the exact centenary of the executions of the other 11 men killed
by a British army firing squad at the Stonebreakers’ Yard.
The transcripts of the short courts martial were read out.
In the case of Tom Clarke, who offered no defence and made no statement, the proceedings took only a few minutes to recount.
The presence of Capuchin friars from Church Street lent a sense of continuity to proceedings. Their predecessors had been there for the men in their final hours and their testimony was read out by their contemporaries.
Mr Kelly spoke of living up to the ideals of the Proclamation, namely a nation that “cherishes all of the children equally”. He said Pearse was well aware of the effect on his family of his pending execution and had written his poem The Mother foreseeing his death.
Capuchin friar Adrian Kearns recalled the testimony of Fr Columbus Murphy, who ministered to Pearse in his final hours. He did not “quail before the possibility of death . . . but faced his last moments with dignity and with grace”.
Fr Murphy remembered Pearse being a “sad, forlorn figure weighed down by the sense of responsibility” who lamented the loss of life and hoped it would not be in vain.
A wreath was laid on behalf of the Pearse family by his namesake Patrick Pearse, a great-grand nephew.
Brother Peter Rogers recalled that Clarke was defiant rather than melancholic in his last hours.
Fr Murphy visited him too. Clarke, the friar recalled, was “relieved that he was to be executed. His one dread was that he would be sent to prison again.”
There was no member of Clarke’s family present to represent him at the commemorations so a wreath was laid on behalf of the family by the staff of Kilmainham Gaol.
Several of MacDonagh’s surviving grandchildren were present. His granddaughter Barbara Cashin laid a wreath on behalf of the family. Her father Donagh and her aunt Barbara were left orphans a year after the Easter Rising when MacDonagh’s wife Muriel drowned off the coast of Skerries in July 1917.
Ms Cashin said her father had mixed feelings about the Rising, given the double tragedy that befell him and his sister a short time afterwards.
“He had a horrendous childhood. He had a strange upbringing and hated to talk about it,” she said.
“He had a split mind about it. I remember asking him as a child about it and saying he must be proud. Weren’t they wonderful. He said, ‘they may have been fools as well’.”
The ceremony in took place with full military honours. The Last Post and Reveille were played and the service concluded with the national anthem.