• March 18, 2019

We all know the more prominent figures the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin such as Pearse and Connolly not to mention ‘the one who got away’ (from being executed) Eamon De Valera. However Joseph Plunkett is less well celebrated and indeed he was one of the least likely revolutionaries. Yet his is one of the most evocative stories of that weekend. Plunkett was married just hours before his execution in the chapel at Kilmainham to Grace Gifford on Easter Sunday. His wife was allowed back for a few hours on Easter Monday morning when he was shot.

He is remembered again not least in Gerry Cunningham’s musical play ‘Blood Upon the Rose’ written on the centenary of the Easter Rising and already having had several performances in Ireland. It is to be staged in London shortly.

The play takes its title from one of Plunketts poems:

“I see his blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of his eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.

I see his face in every flower;
The thunder and the singing of the birds
Are but his voice-and carven by his power
Rocks are his written words.

All pathways by his feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,
His cross is every tree.”

Plunkett was an unlikely revolutionary a poet and journalist he was sick from an early age having contracted tuberculosis he spent some of his earlier years in sunnier climes (Algiers).

He only joined the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood) in 1915 having earlier been a member of the Gaelic League. His commitment to the cause, together with some military training acquired at at OTC at an English public school, ensured that by the time of the Rising he was in the front rank.

The Plunkett story heaps irony upon irony because at the time of the Rising Plunkett, who had never fully recovered from tuberculosis he suffered as a child, was dying anyway. He had risen from his sick bed to take part in the Rising and doctors had not given him long to live. The British Military went ahead and shot him anyway.

‘Blood Upon the Rose’ is on in London at the end of March here’s a link to the review:


Image: Grace Gifford and Joseph Plunkett. Grace never remarried.

Bernard Moffatt

Celtic League

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