‘There is a grey eye which ever turns to Eirinn.’
Although my brother Pádraig travelled a good deal, his thoughts were ever of home. Like Columcille, of old, Pádraig’s heart would yearn for his beloved Ireland; his grey eyes would be wistful with longing for a glimpse of her heather-clad hills. The poet-saint’s outpourings of love and sorrow most fittingly describe my brother’s passionate desire for ‘the fair hills of holy Ireland.’
‘From the high prow I look over the sea; and great tears are in my eyes when I turn to Eirinn.
‘To Eirinn, where the songs of the birds are so sweet, and the clerk’s sing like the birds.
‘If death comes suddenly to me, it will be because of the great love I bear the Gael.’
And the swift keen death that Pádraig met so proudly came to him because he loved the Gael so well—because he loved his country so dearly—Oh! so dearly—better than he loved his young vigorous life.
I fancy that my brother had a great reverence for St Colmcille, ‘The Dove of the Church.’ He named one of the dormitories in St Enda’s ‘Naomh Colmcille,’ so that the boys sleeping there would be under this saint’s protection.
My sister has written an interesting little contribution for these pages which I am giving here. Maggie and Pat spent some time together in France and Belgium, and she remembers how he felt and spoke when away from home.
She writes as follows:—
A Few Traits in the Character of Pádraig Pearse
‘My brother was not fond of being away from home—he rather dreaded it; but during his rare visits to the Continent he took a keen delight and interest in his new surroundings, especially in things artistic.
‘He said to me when visiting the Palais de Beaux Arts in Antwerp:
‘“I come to these countries to see pictures and people.”
‘The pictures appealed to the artist in him; the people to his wonderful sympathy with human nature—its virtues and failings, its griefs and joys!
‘Pádraig was particularly interested in the coloured races, and was happy in having an opportunity of visiting the Chinese Theatre in Antwerp.
‘Apart from his patriotic love of Ireland—which is too widely known to be commented upon here—he had a strong personal love—if one may use such an expression—for the land itself: its mountains, lakes and rivers; its quiet country places and its dear, great cities.
‘On one occasion, upon his arrival at the North Wall, having visited almost every city in Belgium, he was driving through the city homewards. He looked steadily and quietly around him; then, with a note of pride in his voice, he remarked:
‘“I am not ashamed of it! It is as good as any we have seen!”
‘My brother was a man of deep religious feeling and gave evidence of this characteristic in early life. Long before he had reached his thirteenth year he was a constant attendant at the public devotions in the Church of St Andrew’s, Westland Row; the Church where he had been baptised and confirmed and where he had made his first Confession, and received his first Holy Communion.
‘He was particularly fond of the Holy Week ceremonies, and was never absent from them. Each year, also he endeavoured to gain the Portiuncula in the Franciscan Church, Merchants’ Quay.
‘But his greatest devotion was to the tragedy of Calvary—to Christ Crucified, and to the Crucifix.
‘He showed this very quietly, but very plainly, in the arrangements of the little Oratory at St Enda’s. He placed the Crucifix in the most prominent position on the altar, and would not allow it to be disturbed or outplaced by any statue or picture.
‘Sometimes I would insist on putting a statue in more prominence than the Crucifix. He would look at the altar, then look with a smile at me; and though a little disappointed, kneel down, and proceed with the usual prayers.
‘He would never tolerate the use of artificial flowers. He would have real flowers—yes—the best procurable—on God’s altar!’
Even when my brother was in Aran—those western isles which he loved so intensely—his thoughts were ‘homing’ ones. He used to be glad to go to Aran; but I fancy he was a great deal more glad to come back—home! Home meant everything to him—home, and his mother.
Yet the West was for ever calling to him—and he answered the call many a time and oft.
I have beside me a beautiful and sympathetic account of Pádraig’s visits to Aran, which, I am sure, will be read by all with deep interest.
It was written by Mrs M. Connolly, of Gort Mor, Connemara. One of her sons was educated at St Enda’s, and Pádraig used to stay at her house in Connemara, and she cherishes the memory of those happy days.
A Voice from the West
‘On a beautiful April day many years ago Patrick Pearse came for the first time to Connemara,’ writes Mrs M. Connolly.
‘As an Examiner to the Gaelic League, he had been given his choice of two centres—Donegal or Rosmuck. Although he had many friends and acquaintances in the former county, he had never been in the extreme West, and so he decided he would go to Galway.
‘The scenery and whole atmosphere of the place gripped him from the first! Indeed, the charm of Iar Connacht never, to the last day of his life, relaxed its hold on his imagination.
‘Half an hour after his arrival when lunch was ready, he was nowhere to be found. At last when he was seen, hatless, on an eminence, turning from side to side, with his head thrown back, as if he could never see enough of the mountains, the wide moors, the lakes studded with islands, which lay around him. He only remained the weekend on his first visit; but St John’s Eve found him back again. He had heard some stories of the customs of the district, and was anxious to be present at the bonfires which form part of the old-time ceremonies. He remained to the very end, and brought his burning sod of turf home as carefully as did the little urchins of the family with whom he was staying.
‘His chief characteristic was his simplicity and his love for children. He entered into all their fun; understood intimately the child mind, and became one of themselves. The little girls of the aforesaid family brought their dolls to him to have their illnesses prescribed for. Then Pádraig was to be seen gravely informing an anxious looking little maid as to whether the treasure was to be allowed to sit up, or if it had safely passed the crisis in measles, or whatever ailment it had been suffering from.
‘Pádraig aided and abetted a small boy in his wickedness of introducing a pair of undesirable puppies into the family. He contrived a hiding-place sufficiently far from the house to prevent their music being heard, until such time as the bean a’ tighe could be safely approached on the subject. He would sit on the stairs while the imps sprawled all over him, soiling his collar.
‘It was in Iar Connacht that Pádraig found material for Íosagán, An Mháthair, etc. The characters he took from local sources. His desire for the stories of the people, their habits, customs, and salutations was insatiable. Many a night the fear-an-tighe and himself had to be threatened with dire punishment before they could be induced to adjourn their sitting when midnight had struck.
‘Once Pádraig brought down a cinematograph operator and gave an entertainment in an adjacent school. But first of all he provided a plentiful supply of barnbracks and sweets for the children. It was the first time that anything like it had ever been seen in the district and many funny remarks were passed thereon.
‘One old woman tried hard to get behind the screen to see the real people! Her remarks should be quoted in Irish in order to give the real full value. Pádraig had beautiful rural scenes shown. That night was made the theme for another of his stories, The Road.
‘Pádraig kept on coming year after year, at all seasons, whenever he could spare a week, to Iar Connacht, as if he could never see enough of Connemara. All this time he was trying to acquire some land on which to build a cottage—a real old Irish style of one. He wanted beyond anything to buy an island in the lake just beneath the spot where he eventually did build his little house. But the fates—in the person of the landlord—were unpropitious.
‘After many failures, however, Pádraig succeeded at last in buying a piece of rough mountain, and on it he had a three-roomed thatched cottage built. He wished to be able to see the mountains every time he looked out of window or door. So his houseen faced the north, and he had his wish.
‘He came down a couple times a year after his cottage was built; and in the summer usually brought some of St Enda’s boys and his mother and sisters. The boys had camps set up on the brow of the lake in warm weather.
‘With the windows wide open to the superb air of mingled sea and mountain breezes, Pádraig sat at his desk weaving out of his fertile brain the beautiful fancies, the unmatchable stories—some so pathetic (like Eoineen of the Birds)—which have brought tears to the eyes of thousands who have since had the privilege of reading them. The sorrowful stories were written in his later years, when the troubles of his country were engrossing his attention; the brighter ones were penned during his earlier visits to Connemara.
‘Pádraig was as courteous to the poorest peasant woman in Iar Connacht as he would be to the most fashionably-dressed lady in Dublin. He was never anything but considerate, unselfish, and kindness itself to all with whom he came into contact. He was a splendid listener, but never talked much himself.
‘Go ndeanadh Dia trocaire ar d’anam, a Phádraig uasail!’
Truly, it was a strangely insistent voice which called to my brother—that soft, crooning voice from the West—caressing and tender, and alluring, as are the fragrant, wet winds which murmur over its brown bogs. And Pádraig was ever faithful to that earnest call, and went, time and again, to Connemara, and still further, to Aran of the Saints. And there, with the musical Gaelic voices in his ears, and the wide clean sea and grey rocks all around him, the great dream of his life materialised, changing from a dream to a wonderful reality! That constant, ever present dream of founding a school for boys, a school which would also be a—home!
On Aran’s holy isle, where many centuries before the glorious St Enda had raised the banner of Christ, a vision of St Enda’s School must have risen before Pádraig, with the gentle saint of Aran as its patron.
At the foot of the Dublin hills, in the historic Hermitage, St Enda’s School now stands, its massive grey walls enshrining many a treasure. It is a hallowed memorial of the dead patriot.