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Chapters

The 1916 Easter Rising

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felt by the United States for colonialism. Yet, all in all, perhaps it was asking a little too much to expect Maxwell' for foresee any of this. The red-coat had been exchanged for that of khaki, but the leopard had not changed its spots. During the week 2-9th May, Maxwell was in sole charge of the trials and sentences ' by field court martial ' which was trial without defence or jury and in camera. He had 3,400 people arrested, 183 civilians tried, 90 of whom were sentenced to death. Fifteen were shot beween thh 3rd and 13th May ( Thomas Kent was executed in Cork on the 9th May ) whilst Sir Roger casement for his involvement, was hanged in Pentonville Prison, London on the 3rd August 1916. A total of 1,480 me were interned in England and Wales under Regulation 14B of the Defence of the Realm Act 1914, many of whom, like Arthur Griffith, had little or nothing to with the affair. Camps such as Frongoch internment camp became ' Universities of Revolution ' where future leaders like Michael Collins, Terence McSwiney and J.J O'Connell began to plan the coming struggle for Irish Independence.The British Prime Minister H.H Asquith and the government were all at once terribly alarmed at the speed and secrecy of events before intervening to stop more executions. In particular great embarrassment ensued due to the failure of applying DORA ( Defence of the Realm Act ) regulations of general court martial with a full court of 13 members, a professional judge, local advocate and held in public, which could have prevented some executions. Maxwell admitted in a report to Asquith in June that the impression that the leaders were killed ' in cold blood ' without trial had resulted in a ' revulsion of feeling ' that had set in, in favour of the rebels, and was the result of the confusion between applying DORA as apposed to Martial law ( which Maxwell actually pressed for himself from the beginning ) Although Asquith promised on two occasions to publish the court martial proceedings, they were held surpressed by the British Government until the 1990's.

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' Bloody 'Maxwell

To write about the final days of each leader at Kilmainham prison before he was executed would be another website in the making. I have therefore only written some brief accounts of their final days before they passed into the pages of Irish history.

The Court Matrial trials were held behind closed doors, and surrounded in mystery. Those who were put on trial had no one to act in defence, and could call no witnesses. The trials were held at Richmond Barracks, Dublin, apart from the that of James Connolly, who, due to his injuries was tried in Dublin Castle.

Members of the Court Martial present were Brigadier-General C.G Blackader ( President ) Lieutenant-Colonel G. German and W.J Kent. The charge against Pearse was that he ' Did take part in an armed rebellion and in the waging of war against His Majesty the King, such act being of such a nature as to be calculated to be prejudicial to the Defence of the Realm and being done with the intention and for the purpose of assisting the Enemy. ' To this charge Patrick Pearse pleaded not guilty. The 1st witness against Pearse was 2nd Lieutenant S.O King ( 12 Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers ) who stated: I was on duty at the Rotunda, Dublin, on Sunday 29th April. The Sinn Fein was firing at the soldiers. The accused came from the neighbourhood from which the shots were being fired. The accused was in the same uniform in which he is now, with belt, sword and revolver on, and 3 with ammunition. The accused surrendered to General Lowe. ' Patrick Pearse then cross-examined the winess and asked if he was a prisoner in our hands and how were you treated? "nd Lieutenant King confirmed that he was a prisoner and that he had been well treated.

The second witness was Constable Daniel Coffey ( Dublin Metropolitan Police ) who stated: ' I was present when the accused Pearse was in custody at Irish Command HQ at about 5pm on Saturday 29th April. I identify him as a member of the Irish Colunteers. I have seen him several times going through the city with bodies of men and acting as an officer. ' Patrick Pearse declined to examine the witness. In his Court Marial Speech Pearse went to some lengths to refute the suggestion that the insurrection had been financed with German gold as was genuinely believed by most people at the time. He said:

' I desire in the first place to repeat what i have already said in latters to General Maxwell and Brigadier-General Lowe. My object in agreeing to unconditional surrender was to prevent further slaughter of the civilian population of Dublin and to save the lives of our gallant fellows, who have made for six days a stand unparalleled in military history, were now surrounded and ( in the case of those under the immediate command of headquarters ) without food. I fully understand now, as then, that my own life is forfeit to British law, and i shall die very cheerfully if i can think that the British Government, as it has already shown itself strong, will now show itself magnanimous enough to accept my single life in forfeiture and to give a general amnesty to the brave men and boys who fought at my bidding. In the second place i wish it to be understood that any admissions i make here are to be taken as involving myself alone. They do not involve and must not be used against anyone who acted with me, not even those who may have set their names to documents with me ( The Court assented to this ) I admit i was Commander-General Commander-in-Chief of the forces of the Irish Republic which have been acting against you for the past week and that i was President of the Provisional Government. I stand over all my acts and words done or spoken in these capacities. When i was a child of ten i went down on my knees by my beside one night and

promised God that i should devote my life to an effort to free my country. I have kept that promise. First among all earthly things, as a boy and as a man, i have worked for Irish freedom. I have helped to organise, to arm, to train and to discipline my fellow countrymen to the sole end that, when the time came, they might fight for Irish freedom. The time, as it seemed to me, did come and we went into the fight. I am glad that we did, we seem to have lost, we have not lost. To refuse to fight would have been to lose, to fight is to win, we have kept faith with the past, and handed a tradition to the future. I repudiate the assertion of the prosecutor that i sought to aid and abet England's enemy. Germany is no more to me than England is. I asked and accepted German aid in the shape of arms and an expeditionary force, we neither asked for or accepted German gold, nor had any traffic with Germany but what i state; my aim was to win Irish freedom; we struck the first blow ourselves but i should have been glad of an ally's aid. I assume that i am speaking to Englishmen who value their own freedom, and who profess to be fighting for the freedom of Belgium and Serbia. Believe that we too love freedom and desire it. To us it is more desirable than anything else in the world. If you strike us down now we shall rise again and renew the fight. You cannot conquer Ireland; you cannot extinguish the Irish passion for freedom; if our deed has not been sufficient to win freedom then our children will win it by a better deed. '

Patrick Pearse was found guilty by the court and sentenced to death. On the morning of his execution Pearse wrote to his mother:

' My dearest mother, i have been hoping up to now it would be possiblt to see you again, but it does not seem possible. Good-bye, dear mother. Through you i say good-bye to ' Wow Wow ( a sister ) Mary Brigid, Willie, Miss B, Michael, cousin Maggine and evryone at St. Enda's. I hope and believe thatWillie and the St. Enda's boys will all be safe. I have written two papers about financial affiars and one about my books which i want you to get. With them are a few poems which i want added to the poems in MS. in my bookcase. You asked me to write a little poem which would seem to be

said you about me. I have written it, and a copy is in Arbour Hill barracks with other papers. I have just received Holy Communion. I am happy, except for the great grief of parting from you. This is the death i should have asked for, if God had given me the choice of all deaths - to die a soldier's death for Ireland and for freedom. We have done right. People will say hard things about us now, but later on will praise us. Do not grieve for all this, but think of it as a sacrifice which God asked of me and of you. Good-bye dear mother, may God bless you for your great love to me and for your great faith and me He remember all you have so bravely suffered. I hope soon to see papa, and in a little while we shall all be together again. I have not words to tell you of my love for you and how my heart yearns for you all. I will call you in my heart at the last moment.

  Your son Pat '
 

The only visitor prior to his execution was a monk of the Capuchin Order, Father Aloysius who was denied access to the execution despite his request. The order of preparation was that a target of white cloth, approximately 4 inches wide was placed roughly over the heart of the accused. His hands were bound and eyes blinfolded. Patrick pearse was led out to the old Stonebreakers Yard at Kilmainham Prison. It is believed that the majority of the

leaders executed stood to attention at the spot in the yard, which is now marked by a single cross. It was at the cross, sandbags were stacked to receive the volley of gunfire from the firing squad. The firing squad consisted of twelve members of the Sherwood Foresters - who took up formation 10 paces from their target. Six of these knelt, while the remainder stood, and when given the order by the commanding officer, fired eleven bullets at the target which was pinned on the chest of the accused. The second part of the process was, if necessary, the coup de grace; a single shot with a revolver, made by the commanding officer to the back of the skull if still alive. At the break of dawn May 3rd 1916 at 3.30 am Patrick Pearse was executed. Sir John Maxwell sent a telegram to the British Prime Minister Asquith, advising him not to return the bodiies of Patrick Pearse and later his brother Willie to their family saying ' Irish sentimentality will turn these graves into martyr's shrines to which annual processions will be made, which would cause constant irritation in this country. ' Maxwell also suppressed a letter from Pearse to his mother, and two poems dated 1st May 1916. He submitted copies of them to Asquith, saying some of the material was ' ojectionable ' Patrick Pearse is buried at Arbour Hill Cemetary.

The Mother

I do not grudge them; Lord, I do not grudge
My two strong sons that i have seen go out
To break their strength and die, they and a few,
In bloody protest for a glorious thing
They shall be spoken of among their people,
The generation shall remember them,
And call them blessed!