taken from the Introduction to Poems of the Irish revolutionary brotherhood (Padraic Colum, 1916)
“The years that brought maturity to the [poets] who were foremost to sign, and foremost to take arms to assert, Ireland’s Declaration of Independence, may come to be looked back on as signal days in Irish history. They were days of preparation. The youth of Nationalist Ireland had turned to a task – the task of learning – of learning first the Irish language, of learning then about Irish public affairs, and at the end of learning arms and about the handling of men.
The generation that became conscious twenty years ago turned with hope, faith and reverence to Gaelic Ireland. From the remnant of the Gaelic speaking people they would learn what civilization their country was capable of attaining to. Those who regarded themselves as the historic Irish nation were then rediscovering their origins and their achievements : they were Celts; they were of the race of Brennus and Vercingetorix, of Cuchullain and Maeve, of Columbanus and Scotus Eiriugena; they were of the breed of the warriors who had shaken all empires although they had founded none; of the race of the missionary saints, and of the lovers of learning who had made themselves the patrons and protectors of European culture. The Ireland they willed would not be an autonomous West Britain, but a resurgent Gaelic nationality. And their race-dream was as fantastic perhaps as the race-dream of any other reviving people.
Those who mastered the Irish language began to learn it in classes spontaneously organised in the cities and the villages, and they made themselves fluent by living with fishermen and small farmers in far islands and remote villages. Classwork made a comradeship between young men and women. Their first control was over classes and their first intervention in public affairs was from the lecture platform.
Padraic Pearse was the first of the young men to be seriously spoken of in the Gaelic League. He had learned Irish in one of the few schools where it was then taught, and he took up Irish studies in University College, then part of the old Royal, and now part of the new National, University. He graduated from University College and was called to the bar. Meanwhile he had mastered the language and had learnt about Gaelic life by living for long spaces of time in a cottage he owned in one of the poorest districts of West Connacht.
George A. Bermingham (the pseudonym of clergyman and novelist Rev. James Owen Hannay) published a study of twelve different Irish ‘types’ in 1913. The illustrations of each Irish type were taken from oil paintings by Jack B. Yeats. These descriptive paintings are a contemporary and unique glimpse of pre-war Ireland. Hilary Pyle (a Jack. B. Yeats’ biographer) wrote that
The illustrations are fine achievements, paintings of typical characters making up the Ireland of the day, parish priest, businessman, farmer and so on, the results of carefully trained observation combined with a natural and intuitive creativity, and they demonstrate individuality, good draughtsmanship, a sense of design and gift for dramatic narrative.
The Limerick Vigilance Committee was especially active from 1911 to 1914. They first came to notice in 1911 when they succeeded in confiscating a consignment of English newspapers at the train station, which they burned in public. For this act they garnered the National headlines and were looked upon as the vanguard of the movement by other Vigilance Committees. They held their largest rally in Limerick city on the 29th November 1913.
This large meeting was attended by nearly 5,000 citizens of Limerick who protested against “the sale of evil literature in the city.” The meeting was organised by the Limerick Vigilance Committee and was held at the O’Connell Statue. Several city bands were also present and the Limerick Chronicle made note of those who were present on the platform addressing the crowd, the lists includes politicians, public servants, professionals, the clergy and business men.
The celebration of St. Patrick’s Day as a National Holiday in Ireland was first practised in Limerick in 1902? To mark this the shops and pubs in the city were closed. In 1903 there was a Ball held at Sarsfield Barracks, and the Limerick Pipers’ Club played at an ‘Irish Night’ concert at the Athenaeum. By 1912 the day was well established on the local calendar.
An account of St. Patrick’s Day in Limerick (Limerick Chronicle, 1912)
There is a dual celebration this year, owing to the day falling on a Sunday. All the large business houses in the city are closed and employees are thus enabled to enjoy a little relaxation from the toils of business.
The day is being observed with becoming fitness. The weather is exceptionally fine, and large numbers are abroad enjoying the sunshine which lights up the atmosphere. Everyone, young and old, are sporting the shamrock, and the day is being honoured in the best possible fashion. In the various churches of all denominations, special services in honour of the Patron Saint are being held and are attended by large numbers.
At St. Mary’s Cathedral, where the Union Jack flies from the Tower, the song being sung is “The Hymn of St. Patrick” (Muspratt) The day is being observed by all classes. The ships in port are dressed in celebration of the day. In the evening at St. Michael’s Parochial Church, the Rev. G. Nolan, Professor of Irish at Maynooth, will be preaching to a large congregation. A few showers are beginning to fall. The sobriety of the people is remarkable. Due to the coal strike, the Railway Company will not be running any excursions, but many plan to journey out of town by one or other of the ordinary trains. The principal attraction outside the city being the Point-to-Point Races at Newmarket-on-Fergus which will be well attended.