Painting of famous 1916 Rising photograph to hang in the Seanad

Artist Sinead Guckian reverses the Pearse surrender photograph to reveal the woman

The photograph taken of Patrick Pearse surrendering to the British after the Easter Rising is one of the most recognisable photographs of that week.

It is also one of the most famous airbrushed photographs in Irish history. The three men in it are Pearse, Brigadier General William Lowe and Captain Harry de Courcy-Wheeler.

Next to Pearse one can discern the boot and skirt of a woman. This was nurse Elizabeth Farrell who had originally been sent by Pearse with a white flag to treat with the British for terms.

She returned for Pearse and the surrender took place on Dublin’s Parnell Street near the junction with Rutland Place.


According to an account she gave to Cisterian monks in 1956, she took a step back when the photograph was being taken so as not to appear in the photograph though she is still visible. Nevertheless, the Daily Sketch in London published the photograph three weeks later and removed all trace of her, giving the impression Pearse had surrendered alone.


Artist Sinead Guckian said she has been fascinated with the image since she was a child and could find out very little about Farrell.

“I wanted to see the woman. That need stayed with me all my life. I wanted to reverse the photograph,” she said.

Ms Guckian, a native of Drumsna, Co Leitrim, is a former Fianna Fáil county councillor and chairperson of Leitrim County Council. She graduated as a mature student from the Institute of Technology Sligo with a degree in fine art.

At midday on Monday the painting she created to mark the centenary of the Rising in 2016 will be handed over in the Seanad chamber to Senator Regina Doherty, the leader of the Seanad, as part of International Women's Day.

It will hang in the newly refurbished Seanad chamber.

Seanad Cathaoirleach Senator Mark Daly said it was clear that "there is an awful lot of men hanging on the walls of Leinster House" and it is not a good example to show the many school tours that visit the building.


“We felt the symbolism of nurse Farrell who was literally airbrushed out of Irish history was the best one to put on the walls of the Seanad.”

Ms Guckian said: “It’s an honour and hugely important for me.”

Coincidentally, Ms Guckian's grandfather Paddy Guckian was a survivor of the Selton Hill ambush which occurred 100 years ago on Thursday.

Six IRA officers were killed by the British military when they surrounded a house at Selton Hill outside Mohill, Co Leitrim, on March 11th, 1921. Paddy Guckian was one of the five who escaped.

Ms Guckian has painted portraits of all 11 IRA men at Selton Hill to mark the centenary.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times