Portrait of 1916 nurse ‘airbrushed from history’ unveiled in Seanad

Painting of Elizabeth O’Farrell with Patrick Pearse attempt to rectify ‘historic wrong’

The  painting by Sinéad Guckian is a different take on the airbrushed picture of the Patrick Pearse’s surrender in 1916 in which the legs and boots of Nurse Elizabeth Farrell were frequently excised from the picture.

The painting by Sinéad Guckian is a different take on the airbrushed picture of the Patrick Pearse’s surrender in 1916 in which the legs and boots of Nurse Elizabeth Farrell were frequently excised from the picture.

 

A nurse airbrushed out of Irish history has been reinstated in a portrait formally unveiled in the Seanad to mark International Women’s Day.

Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell was the woman who carried Patrick Pearse’s message seeking the end to hostilities during the 1916 Rising but she was airbrushed out of the photograph of Pearse surrendering to Brigadier General Lowe.

The photograph of the Pearse surrender in 1916 in which the legs and boots of nurse Elizabeth Farrell were frequently excised from the picture. Artist Sinead Guckian has turned the picture around and painted it from the nurse’s perspective
The photograph of the Pearse surrender in 1916 in which the legs and boots of nurse Elizabeth Farrell were frequently excised from the picture. Artist Sinead Guckian has turned the picture around and painted it from the nurse’s perspective

According to an account Farrell 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.

Seanad leader Regina Doherty unveiled in the Seanad chamber the portrait of the surrender by artist Sinéad Guckian entitled Her Surrender with O’Farrell reinstated.

Cathaoirleach of the Seanad Mark Daly pointed out that “as stated by the artist, she is remembered for being forgotten.

“The unveiling of the painting in the Seanad rectifies in a very small way that historic wrong to Elizabeth O’Farrell.”

He added that “it symbolises the all too frequent airbrushing of the contribution of women from Irish history”.

Senators applauded as the portrait was unveiled.

Ms Doherty said it was an honour to unveil a “piece of beautiful art and to accept on it on behalf of all here this morning.

“I thank the artist, Sinéad Guckian, who depicted the scene of the message being delivered at the end of the hostilities of Easter week. She has done a beautiful job.

“The task now is to find a fitting and suitable place to hang it in the halls of the Oireachtas.”

Senator Mark Daly carries the painting “Her Surrender” by Sinéad Guckian from the Dáil plinth with Senator Regina Doherty (left) and Senator Fiona O’Loughlin looking on. Photo: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.
Senator Mark Daly carries the painting “Her Surrender” by Sinéad Guckian from the Dáil plinth with Senator Regina Doherty (left) and Senator Fiona O’Loughlin looking on. Photo: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.

Fianna Fáil Seanad leader Lisa Chambers thanked Guckian for a “beautiful piece of art she has gifted to the Oireachtas”.

She said “it is incredible to think that someone like Nurse O’Farrell was effectively airbrushed out of our history. As stated by the Cathaoirleach, the painting goes a small way towards rectifying that action.”