Final Words and Sentiments of the 1916 Leaders
THE FINAL WORDS AND SENTIMENTS OF THE 1916 LEADERS
Following their surrender on 29 April 1916, the leaders of the Easter Rising were court-martialled and dozens of them were sentenced to death. Eventually sixteen of them, including the seven signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, who also constituted its Provisional Government, were executed. Fourteen of them were shot in the stonebreakers’ yard of Kilmainham gaol. Thomas Kent was executed by firing squad in Cork Detention Barracks, adjacent to Victoria barracks. Roger casement was hanged in Pentonville prison, London.
The slain bodies of the fourteen executed in Kilmainham were taken to Arbour Hill military detention barracks. There they were interred in the outer yard, in a trench which still holds the mortal remains of Ireland’s noblest and bravest sons. When he was sent there on 12 May 1916, Pierse McCan was amazed and horrified to discover that the trench had been dug long enough to hold 500 corpses.
Initially Thomas Kent was buried at the place where he was executed. On 18 September 2015 he was given a state funeral and reinterred with his deceased family members in his native place of Castlelyons, Fermoy.
After a highly invasive autopsy Casement’s body was dumped unceremoniously into an unmarked grave in Pentonville prison and covered with lime to hasten the disintegration of his flesh and bones. Forty nine years later his remains were repatriated and given a state funeral on 01 March 1965.
These are the last words or writings of the sixteen executed leaders. They helped change the public’s opinion about the Easter Rebellion and those who participated in it. They inspired hundreds of thousands of Irish men and women to join the fight for freedom and to persevere through all difficulties until final victory.
“I and my fellow signatories believe that we have struck the first successful blow for Freedom. The next blow, which we have no doubt Ireland will strike, will win through. In this belief we die happy”.
Thomas Clarke. 03 May 1916.
“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 of us now, but later on they will praise us. Do not grieve for all of this but think of it as a sacrifice which God asked of me and of you”.
Patrick Pearse. 03 May 1916.
“It is a great and glorious thing to die for Ireland and I can well forget all petty annoyances in the splendour of this. In all my acts I have been actuated by one motive only, the love of my country, the desire to make her a sovereign independent state. I still hope and pray that my acts may have for consummation her lasting freedom and happiness”.
Thomas MacDonagh. 03 May 1916.
“I did my best. It doesn’t matter – we had planned to go out on a job on Saturday night in which we all expected to go down”,
Edward Daly. 04 May 1916.
“Last night I had a terrible experience. I was in prison over there when a guard of soldiers came and brought me here. About half way over we heard shots. The men looked at each other and one said “Too late”. I think they were bringing me here to see Pat, but we heard only the volley of shots that took him”.
Willie Pearse. 04 May 1916.
“I am ready to give my life for God and my country.in a few hours I shall be with my God, where I will plead the cause of my beloved Ireland and will ask God to bless mother and you. Remember, girls, this is God’s will, and it is for Ireland. Father, I’d like you saw my mother and sisters and console them”.
Mícheál Ó hAnnracháin. 04 May 1916.
“Father, I am very happy. I am dying for the glory of God and the honour of Ireland”.
Joseph Plunkett. 04 May 1916.
“Do not let what you have to do ever disturb your rest. I’ve been looking down rifle-barrels all my life. Fire when I bow my head”.
John MacBride. 05 May 1916.
“Una my little one be a Nun Joseph my little man be a priest if you can James & John to you the care of your mother make yourselves good strong men for her sake Remember Ireland good by my Wife my darling. Remember me, God again Bless and Protect you and our children. I must now Prepare these last few hours must be spent with God alone Your loving Husband Michael Mallin Commandant Stephens Green Command
I enclose the buttons off my sleeve keep them in memory of me Mike xxxxxx”
Michael Mallin. 08 May 1916.
“My dying wishes are that you shall remember your state of health, work only as much as may be necessary and freely accept the little attentions which in due time will be showered upon you. You will be – you are, the wife of one of the leaders of the Revolution. Sweeter still you are my little child, my dearest pet, my sweetheart of the hawthorn hedges and Summer’s eves. I remember all and I banish all that I may be strong and die bravely. I have one hour to live, then God’s judgement and, through his infinite mercy, a place near your poor Granny and my mother and father and all the fine old Irish Catholics who went through the scourge of similar misfortune from this Vale of Tears into the Promised Land. Bíodh misneach agat a stóirín mo Chroidhe. Tóig do cheann agus bíodh foighe agat go bhfeicfimid a chéile arís i bhFlaithis Dé tusa, mise agus Rónán beag beag bocht. Adieu, Éamonn”.
Éamonn Ceannt. 08 May 1916.
“Remember me to the boys of the Fianna. Remember me to Mícheál Staines and to his brothers and to all the boys at Blackhall Street.
Father, sure you won’t forget to anoint me? My Jesus, mercy”.
Seán Heuston. 08 May 1916.
“Here is what I am leaving you”, and he took three buttons belonging to his Volunteer uniform out of his pocket. “They left me nothing else. We will all meet above under happier circumstances. If you are let down to exercise tomorrow and if you meet all the girls ask them to say one Hail Mary each for the three of us who will be gone. The priest will be here in a minute now so I will not lie down again”.
Con Colbert. 08 May 1916.
“I request that no Irishman be asked to shoot me.
I have been a total abstainer all my life and a total abstainer I’ll die. I have done my duty as a soldier of Ireland and in a few moments I hope to see the face of my God. Give it (his temperance badge) to Fr. Aherne, Castlelyons. I got it from him and I wish it to be returned to him untarnished. He may like to get it. Goodbye.”
Thomas Kent. 09 May 1916.
“I, Seán MacDiarmada, before paying the penalty of death for my love of country and hatred of her slavery, desire to leave this message for my fellow-countrymen:
That I die as I have lived, bearing no malice to any man, and in perfect peace with Almighty God. The principles for which I give my life are so sacred that I now walk to my death in the most perfectly calm and collected manner.
I go to my death in Ireland’s cause as fearlessly as I have worked for that sacred cause during all my short life.
I ask the reverend Eugene McCarthy, who has prepared me to meet my God, and who has given me courage to undergo this ordeal, to convey this message to my fellow-countrymen.
God save Ireland”.
Seán MacDiarmada. 12 May 1916.
“Well, Lillie. I suppose you know what this means?”
“James, James. It’s not that – it’s not that”, mama wailed.
“Yes, Lillie”, he said, patting her hand, “I fell asleep to-night for the first time. I was awakened at eleven and told I was to be shot at dawn.”
Mama was kneeling, her head on the bed, sobbing heart-breakingly. Daddy laid his hand on her head.
“Don’t cry, Lillie,” he pleaded. “You’ll unman me”.
“But your beautiful life, James,” mama sobbed. “Your beautiful life.”
“Hasn’t it been a full life, Lillie,” he said. “And isn’t this a good end?”
James Connolly. 12 May 1916.
“Think of the long succession of the dead who died for Ireland – and it is a great death. Oh! That I may support it bravely. If it be said I shed tears, remember they came not from cowardice but from sorrow – and brave men are not ashamed to weep sometimes….
It is a strange, strange fate, and now, as I stand face to face with death I feel just as if they were going to kill a boy. For I feel like a boy – and my hands so free from blood and my heart always so compassionate and pitiful that I cannot comprehend how anyone wants to hang me….
It is they – not I – who are the traitors, filled with a lust of blood – of hatred of their fellows.
These artificial and unnatural wars, prompted by greed of power, are the source of all misery now destroying mankind….
Alas, so much of the story dies with me – the old, old story – yet, in spite of all – the truth and right lives on in the hearts of the brave and lowly. It is better that I die thus – on the scaffold…
It is a glorious death for Ireland’s sake with Allan, Larkin and O Brien and Robert Emmet – and the men of ’98 and William Orr – all for the same cause – all in the same way. Surely it is the most glorious cause in history.
Ever defeated – yet undefeated.”
Roger Casement. 03 August 1916.