The Fate of The Pearse Brothers
The aftermath of The Rising
Fr Eugene Nevin's evidence
The couple of weeks following were sad, rendered particularly so by the dawn executions, enumerating our losses and the deportations, relieved only by the reports reaching us of deeds of heroism and self-sacrifice that were part of the struggle for out independence. All this belongs to the general history of the period.
Poor Mrs Pearse called here every day since the start of the Insurrection: a pathetic figure, mother of two devoted sons (and such sons!) whose fate hung on the tricky balance of British Justice as always known and exercised in this country. Sometimes she would be accompanied, but she was generally alone, a picture of calm sorrow, resignation and hope. After the surrender when it became known that both sons had survived the ordeal our eager speculation was to what next occupied our thoughts and our interchange of dreaded possibilities as to Pat’s fate. He being a principal would suffer the heavier penalty – life sentence perhaps – but Willie, a participant only, should get off lightly. So we thought.
But our wishful thinking got a rude shock when on the 3rd May the first batch of prisoners were executed, Pat taking precedence of honour. If it were a hard or unpleasant duty to meet her that afternoon trying to find and to speak adequate words of comfort to soothe the anguish that was rending her mother’s heart, it was immeasurably more embarrassing on the day that Willie was executed. During the interval between the two tragedies we had been hoping and of course fervently praying that he would be spared to her; conjuring up to ourselves reasons and precedents to confirm our hopes though, in view of past dealings, we could not altogether banish fears of the worst from our minds.
It was late in the day when I was told of her arrival. Several times did I hesitate in my passage to the reception room thinking out what to say or how to meet and comport myself in the presence of such sorrow as this latest cruel blow would inflict on a heart already overladen with grief. But she was calm. Queenly so, affliction seemed to ennoble, to spiritualise her habitually unruffled features undimmed as yet by fear. In fact, she appeared more anxious than anything to forestall the embarrassing or uneasy feelings of those coming to tender their sympathies; with just a faint movement of the lips, a quiet sadness of face veiling her innermost she says: ‘Thank God they both died for Ireland. I am sure they are pleased and what pleased them in life they knew pleased me, so I am satisfied’.
The history of the heroic Mother of the Maccabees, as told by the Inspired Writer comes naturally to the mind (11 Mac VII) ‘How the Mother was to be admired above measure, and worthy to be remembered by good men, who beheld her seven sons slain in the space of one day, and bore it with a good courage, for the hope that she had in God. And she bravely exhorted everyone of them in her own language being filled with wisdom, and joining a man’s heart to a woman’s thought, she said to them: ‘I know not how you were formed in my womb. For I neither gave you breath, nor soul nor life, neither did I frame the limbs of everyone of you. But the Creator of the world that formed the nativity of man and that found out the origin of all, He will restore to you again in His Mercy both breath and life as now you despise yourselves for the sake of His Laws’.