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AERIDHEACHT - Taking the Air

Tuesday 5th - Sunday 10th July 2016, Pearse Museum, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16


Patrick’s father, James Pearse, was an English stonemason who came to Ireland in 1857. Following the death of his first wife in 1876, he married Margaret Brady, a nineteen-year-old shop assistant. James was largely self-educated and had a love of books and learning. In politics he was a supporter of the radical English republican and atheist, Charles Bradlaugh. He also wrote a pamphlet in defence of Home Rule in Ireland.

Margaret Pearse, in contrast, came from a traditional Irish Catholic family. She was a pious woman and devoted to her children, Margaret (born 1878), Patrick (born 1879), William (born 1881) and Mary Brigid (born 1884). She was a very loving mother and Patrick was particularly close to her.

Pearse and Sons:

James Pearse’s reputation as a stone carver grew over the years. In 1890 he set up his own company, Pearse and Sons, which soon became one of the largest monumental sculpture businesses in Ireland. His work can still be seen in churches in both Ireland and Britain.

Growing up living beside their father’s sculpture yard, and surrounded by his lavishly illustrated art books and casts of famous sculptures, both Pearse brothers developed an appreciation of art. William inherited his father’s artistic skill and studied art in the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin before going on to further study in Paris and London. The brothers ran Pearse & Sons for several years after the death of their father in 1900.


Both Patrick and William Pearse were pupils at the Christian Brothers School on Westland Row. Patrick continued his studies at the Royal University, Dublin where he was awarded a BA in Modern Languages. At the same time, he was studying law at the Kings Inns and was called to the bar in 1901. However he only ever took one legal case.

Aged just sixteen, Patrick and a school friend set up the New Ireland Literary Society, which was devoted to promoting Gaelic literature. Pearse was elected president and both he and his siblings were heavily involved in the Society’s activities. His first published work, Three Lectures on Gaelic Topics, was based on papers he had delivered to the members of the society.

The Gaelic League:

Founded in 1893, the Gaelic League aimed to preserve and revive the Irish language. Patrick Pearse was one of its most enthusiastic members. Having joined at the age of sixteen in 1896, he became a member of its Executive Committee only two years later. He made frequent visits to the Irish speaking areas of the West of Ireland, both on Gaelic League business and to improve his Irish. In 1903 he was employed in the influential role of editor of the League’s newspaper An Claidheamh Soluis (‘The Sword of Light’).

As editor, Pearse urged the creation of modern literature in Irish. Although he had published several translations of Irish folk tales, his first work of fiction was a boy’s adventure story called Poll an Phiobaire, which he wrote under the pseudonym ‘Colm Ó Conaire’ in 1905. Over the following years he became one of the leading modern writers in Irish, producing short stories, poems and plays.