With much of Irelands 1916 commemorations focusing on the political and military not to mention a degree of controversial revisionism which has caused anger it was interesting to stumble across this article in the Irish Times that looked at the life of Easter Rising leader Padraig Pearse from a different perspective.
The article is entitled ‘Patrick Pearse: Nature lover and warmonger’ so initially I thought ‘not more revisionism’ but when I read the article I was pleasantly surprised.
It focuses on Pearse’s time at St. Enda’s School (Scoil Éanna) on the outskirts of Dublin at the foot of the Wicklow Mountains.
I visited St Enda’s some years ago as part of a visit arranged by An Conradh Ceilteach as a social outing after the Celtic League AGM held in Dublin City. I remember thinking then that it must have been a great place almost 100 years earlier before the sprawl of the Dublin suburbs had spread out around it.
Evidently Pearse thought that as well because as the article says (quote):
“Indeed, this centrality of nature in education was one of the main reasons he moved the school from Cullenswood, in Rathmines, to the Hermitage, which stood on the then largely undeveloped slopes of the Dublin Mountains above Rathfarnham. In a 1910 article he stresses the suitability of the new location for “that spacious outdoor life, that intercourse with the wild things of the woods and wastes . . . which ought to play so large a part in the education of a boy”.
“He writes with infectious enthusiasm of the “life out there, in the woods, in the grass, in the river . . . I don’t think more of wild life can be crowded into 50 acres anywhere else so near Dublin . . . The shyer creatures of the hills and mountains abide with us or come to visit us as if they felt at home here.”
Pearse often portrayed as the nationalist obsessed with the idea of waging war and ‘the blood sacrifice’ it seems had another side a ‘passionate love of the natural world’.
Familiar with various works of Pearse and the ferocity of the Rising I was surprised by the reference in the article to a ‘geasa’ against killing animals (quote):
“Pearse made a logbook entry from 1909 in another article that gives some flavour of his approach: “Milo McGarry found a fine specimen of a Red Admiral Butterfly in the school garden today. It was dead already (we are under geasa not to kill wild things) so Arthur Cole undertook to mount it for the museum.”
“This geasa (taboo) against killing animals is curious, as this was a time when naturalists embraced hunting and fishing. One might also have thought that hunting formed an essential part of the “hardening” Pearse said was one of the benefits of direct contact with nature.”
Sadly the article finishes on a note that is as true in Man as it is in Ireland i.e. that the interest in the natural world fostered in primary schoolchildren is pushed aside as children move on to secondary and the emphasis is placed on preparing them for the jobs market (quote):
“In keeping with Patrick Pearse’s vision of nature education, primary pupils visit the room regularly on tours, but the guide, Martina Halpin, makes the sadly familiar point that hardly any secondary schools visit: “Because of their curriculum they are in the classroom all the time. That’s a pity.”
A pity indeed!
The full article is at this link:
Image: Padraig Pearse with his brother Willie in the garden at St Enda’s they both taught at the school and they were both executed by the British Army after the rising.
Related link: Pearse Museum at St Enda’s Park:
Issued by: The Manx branch of the Celtic League
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The Celtic League established in 1961 has branches in the six Celtic Countries including our own Mannin branch. It promotes cooperation between the countries and campaigns on a range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, military activity and socio-economic issues
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