I grew up as a first generation Irish-American. My ancestors didn’t come during the 1840s (and the myth of a potato famine), they arrived in the Twentieth Century, just barely (between 1900 and 1908). This week is the anniversary of the Easter Rising, the Irish Revolution of 1916.
Liam Neeson was in a movie about the Irish patriots and their revolution (and the civil war that followed), Michael Collins. The film came out in the nineties—about the same time Michael Flatley was amazing people as the Lord of the Dance.
(Look at those hands moving! Mine would have been pinned to my skirt. Look at those skirts! My dance teacher must be rolling in her grave, but, being a rebellious sort, I love it.)
Our revolution – that’s how my grandparents would have termed it. Nana refused to surrender her Irish citizenship, even though she never once returned home after her arrival in 1900. According to my dad, his father travelled back to Ireland in 1916 – and was on Sacksville St. (now O’Connell St.) to witness the shelling of the General Post Office. Family stories are fuzzy, he was in the Post Office, he wasn’t. Maybe he was with the contingent at St. Stephen’s Green. I don’t know. I know his choices have colored family history; a rebellious lot we are. My grandparents listed their place of origin as The Republic of Ireland, and even before 1916, they were Irish citizens, not British.
The Irish Revolution, the Easter Rising, was a small affair, as revolutions go. But it would have made the Spartans proud, long before any Arab Springs. It was over in a week, but the vastly out-numbered Irish Republicans had made an impression that would echo through time and affect those of Irish descent, both in Ireland (The Republic, and the North) and abroad, almost one hundred years later. Like the pillars on the Post Office, changed—scarred, but not broken.
The British executed fourteen men at Kilmainham Gaol, between May 3 and May 12, 1916, some of them leaders of the revolution, some of them not. Some very involved, some not at all. Take a moment over the next two weeks to honor men who died for their belief in a free Ireland.
And their names we keep where the fenians sleep…
3 May: Patrick Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh and Thomas J. Clarke
4 May: Joseph Plunkett, William Pearse, Edward Daly and Michael O’Hanrahan
5 May: John MacBride
8 May: Eamonn Ceannt, Michael Mallin, Sean Heuston and Conn Colbert
12 May: James Connolly and Sean MacDiarmada
As down the glen one Easter morn to a city fair rode I
There Armed lines of marching men in squadrons passed me by
No fife did hum nor battle drum did sound it’s dread tatoo
But the Angelus bell o’er the Liffey swell rang out through the foggy dew
Right proudly high over Dublin Town they hung out the flag of war
‘Twas better to die ‘neath an Irish sky than at Sulva or Sud El Bar
And from the plains of Royal Meath strong men came hurrying through
While Britannia’s Huns, with their long range guns sailed in through the foggy dew
‘Twas Britannia bade our Wild Geese go that small nations might be free
But their lonely graves are by Sulva’s waves or the shore of the Great North Sea
Oh, had they died by Pearse’s side or fought with Cathal Brugha
Their names we will keep where the fenians sleep ‘neath the shroud of the foggy dew
But the bravest fell, and the requiem bell rang mournfully and clear
For those who died that Eastertide in the springing of the year
And the world did gaze, in deep amaze, at those fearless men, but few
Who bore the fight that freedom’s light might shine through the foggy dew
Ah, back through the glen I rode again and my heart with grief was sore
For I parted then with valiant men whom I never shall see more
But to and fro in my dreams I go and I’d kneel and pray for you,
For slavery fled, O glorious dead, When you fell in the foggy dew.
These lyrics may or may not be copyrighted! Retrieved from http://celtic-lyrics.com/lyrics/201.html April 25, 2012