for the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising.
He was interviewed on 2 January 1966 for the RTE Television project "Portraits 1916".
He died in 1968.
I never in my life heard his voice until a clip of this interview was put online for the 90th anniversary in 2006.
Later the long interview was put online.
15 minute interview for "Portraits 1916".
It is unedited footage, with gaps, and sometimes questions that do not really work.
Pearse and St.Enda's
When did you go to St.Enda's?
... It must
have been about [sounds like '99 but he means 1909].
I came up to Dublin from Limerick in that year
and I was delighted to hear I was being sent to
an Irish school. It
turned out to be the first school that
built, in Oakley Road, Ranelagh. ...
moved to the boarding school in Rathfarnham. That was a completely different
sensation to anything I had ever experienced at school before,
because we were left to ourselves, our honour. We were told it was up
to us to be honest and straight, tell the truth
– ideal qualities generally.
And to give us our due I think we really
kept fairly reasonably near that.
I remember one time when I put up a fight about a bit of treatment we got
in connection with I think it was breaking into the orchard and stealing fruit.
Anyhow the culprit wouldn't give himself up,
so the whole school was held in for a day.
I proceeded to try and organise a strike.
And as usual [given human nature]
I found I was the only one on strike in the end.
So I proceeded to stay out for the day.
morning I was told to go in and see
Pearse. Pearse talked to me like
a father, as he always did. That was the outstanding quality really he
possessed. That he looked upon us as his children. He
didn’t think of us at all as just pupils paid by the father and mother to
go there. He really helped us every way that anyone could have helped
a boy. ...
to me like a father and said I’ll leave it to you now. You know
you did wrong – I'll leave it to you to fix your own punishment. ...
the mentality he had when he actually dealt with a boy. He put it up
to the boy himself to realise where he was at fault.
He also of
course instructed us in shooting,
BSA .22 rifles.
I remember out in
the back garden firing at targets.
of course was the man
that really got us into that. He was the drill sergeant there. He was
a man we all admired. He was a great athlete, sturdy,
and, as you know, afterwards he gave his
life in the very cause that he always spoke to us about. We never
visualised that happening in the end, but he always did speak as if
there was going to be some time in Ireland a fight for our freedom.
[Pearse as a teacher] was absolutely outstanding.
a thing that I don’t think was ever really taken into account by
people. You fell for his words. He had a magnetic quality. And he had
a lovely voice. And he had of course absolute logic. ... If you listened
to him you couldn’t deny everything he said was what you should
do and what your aim in life should be.
course we none of us visualised that he was himself going to die on
the very type of buildup and mind and training that he was trying
to install in us.
Well was it apparent that he was building you up for
definitely. It was afterwards we realised it. At least I realised it afterwards.
And everyone that was at St Endas. And of course he brought St Enda’s
boys down into the
himself. I wasn’t with them
because unfortunately my parents [he says parents even though no father],
as the years went on,
decided that it
wasn’t worldly enough, that Pearse was too idealistic.
actually was putting the wrong things first from the point of view
of the world. Like his poem, "The Fool"
Running away from Clongowes
But in any
case I was taken away from school and an effort made to send me to
from which I ran away and spent three days up in the
And certainly that was an experience, because I had only a
very light water-proof, no blanket or anything else of course and it
was September. Of course it shouldn’t have been cold, but up in
the mountains at night I never slept a wink for the two nights I was up there.
On the third night I came down to
[the gardener of St.Enda’s]
and explained what I was doing.
And the school didn't open for 3 days after the school I was to go to.
So I had to fill in the 3 days. That's why I was up the mountains.
[St.Enda's could not take him back without parental consent.
He had to go back to Clongowes.]
Pearse in the 1916 Rising
You didn't meet Pearse again then until you went in to the Post Office?
No, I didn’t meet him until the famous Monday, Easter Monday.
had sent me up to one of the upstairs rooms in
the Post Office and later on Pearse came round as he was examining
the various outposts and he saw me and he was delighted. His eyes lit up
and he said
"I'm glad to see another St Enda’s boy
back again with us!"
And he alluded to the
- had I
seen it - and I said Yes, because I had come up
through the streets and I had seen the people gathering around looking at it and
excited talk going on. ...
What was he like as a commander inside in the Post Office?
I think he was more
propagandist. He came around twice to us giving us pep talks. One of them ...
raised our hearts. We heard that there were 3 different bands of
Volunteers marching on Dublin and that there'd been a big battle out at
and ... there was supposed to be help
coming by air, whether that was true or not - a Zeppelin or
something of that kind; a rumour going round amongst us.
I had the motor car
O’Rahilly’s motor car, and I’d been
driving that around for a couple of days collecting goods – but
of course when it came to the final point we had to leave it as a
barricade in Prince’s Street.
But I had been appointed to help
who was a Commissariat
And we moved back down with some of the wounded into
.. broke through walls.
I wasn’t actually in
And I heard of my uncle’s death
only 2 days later when I was in the
A Tommy mentioned about
one of the leaders, O’Rahilly, being killed. And it was a
frightful shock because I knew they’d got out alright. I didn’t
know that any of them had been killed at the time.
When did you meet Joe Plunkett first?
A few days before the Rising actually ...
sent me a message ... to bring our family car to the Post
Office on the Monday morning. But he didn’t know at the time
that we hadn’t a car of our own. It was half and half jointly
owned between O’Rahilly and Humphreys. So of course O’Rahilly
had already brought the car into the Post Office, so I wasn’t
able to do that bit of work for him.
McDonagh at St.Enda's
was another of those outstanding teachers
you didn't sit in the desk and not listen to him.
Because he was an out and out poet himself.
And he explained everything ...
I remember reading an article of his ...
about 3 or 4 weeks before the Rising.
It was a marvellous bit of work,
building one up for a Rising
which was obviously coming up at the time.
It was in the air.
I think as schools went, St.Enda's managed to get on with very little [corporal] punishment.
I most definitely was never punished there.
Although I did some things that would warrant it at times.
More on Pearse at St.Enda's
was that type of educationalist that he wanted to bring out every
side of your character. He had music of course. For anyone who could
play the piano or the violin. He had the art classes with his brother
doing both sketching, painting, and sculpture if you were interested in it –
to give you a chance.
In regard to the plays – he himself of course had 2
or 3 plays he wrote,
but he also had a wonderful passion play
at Easter one year.
I’ll never forget Willie Pearse
as Pontius Pilate in it.
You really felt you were back in the past,
living the whole thing through.
remembers a day out at a pageant.]
We went up by train,
had the usual feed that boys look forward to,
and then we went out in
the field and fought with weapons - wooden weapons and wooden shields. Generally it was a
see much of [Pearse]?
Well no, you wouldn't of course.
He used to turn up always though, as far as I remember, at
night time for the Rosary
[You would] say the Rosary in Irish. ... Boys
would get different turns saying the decades every time so that you’d
know your Irish prayers anyhow!
I’ve often thought afterwards how he got so much
done in his life, his short life.