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Padraig Pearse the Bard
There was a reception, hosted by the Consul General, Conor O’Riordan, at the Consulate General of Ireland in Wales (at Brunel House, Cardiff) on Friday, 26 November 1999 to mark the centenary of the Pan Celtic Eisteddfod held in Cardiff in 1899. At this eisteddfod Patrick Pearse, still only 20 years old, was inducted as a member of the Gorsedd of Bards, choosing as his bardic name Areithiwr (‘Speechmaker’).
Patrick Henry Pearse (1879-1916) was an educationalist, writer and revolutionary. Born 10 November, 1879 in Dublin. His father, a monumental sculptor*, was an Englishman; his mother was a native of Co. Meath. From his schooldays he was deeply interested in Irish language and culture. He joined Conradh na Gaeilge (the Gaelic League) in 1895, 2 years after its foundation, became Editor of its paper, An Claidheamh Solais (‘The Sword of Light’) and lectured at University College, Dublin. To advance his ideal of a free and Gaelic Ireland he founded a bilingual school in Dublin, St. Enda’s, in September, 1908.
In 1915 he joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), was co-opted to the Supreme Council, and elected to the Provisional Committee of the newly formed Irish Volunteers. When the remains of O’Donovan Rossa were brought from America in 1915 for burial in the Fenian plot in Glasnevin Cemetery, Pearse delivered a historic oration at the graveside, ending with the words
“Ireland unfree shall never be at peace”.
In the 1916 Rising he was Commander-in-Chief of the forces of the Irish Republic, President of the Provisional Government and one of the signatories of the Proclamation of the Republic. After a week’s fighting he agreed to an unconditional surrender “to prevent further slaughter of Dublin citizens”. He was court-martialled, condemned to death, and shot in Kilmainham Jail on 3 May, 1916.
His address of congratulation and greeting to the Eisteddfod included the following:
Many centuries have rolled by since the Gael and the Cymry separated from each other; yet it is not true for those who assert that there exists no bond either of relationship or of friendship between us, we are still when all is said and done, two branches of the same race.
The highlight of the reception at the consulate was the unveiling of a plaque commemorating Patrick Pearse’s induction as a member of the Gorsedd. Designed and made in black Welsh slate, the plaque was unveiled by Welsh actor and film producer, Kenneth Griffiths, perhaps best known to Irish people for his memorable TV documentary on Michael Collins, Hang out your Brightest Colours, which was banned from British screens for more than 20 years.
Kenneth Griffiths, whose home in London is called ‘Michael Collins House’, is President of Tarian (‘Shield’), a group founded a few years ago to campaign for greater political and cultural autonomy for Wales. It was 'Tarian', represented at the reception by Secretary, John Couch, which, having successfully proposed the idea of a plaque to Conor O’Riordan, commissioned Welsh artist Ieuan Rees to design and make the plaque which includes inscriptions in English, Irish and Welsh.
* James Pearse was involved in the building of a Rood Screen, paid for by the Third Marquess of Bute, which was a striking feature of St. Peter’s RC Church, Roath, Cardiff, until it was demolished in the early 70s as part of a re-ordering process following the introduction of the new rite of Mass.
Published in The Green Dragon No 9, Winter 1999/2000