the night that Patrick Pearse broke a chair

photo of Patrick Pearse's chair in Gortahork, by Eoin Mac Lochlainn
That wretched chair…

Now I don’t often write about chairs – but yes indeed, I saw a photograph of a chair in Gort a’ Choirce last week and I thought I’d have to tell you about it. It wasn’t just any old chair but it was the chair that Patrick Pearse broke when he was visiting the Donegal Gaeltacht in 1907 (we think).

Where to start… well, you may know that I have an exhibition on at the moment in An Gailearaí in Gaoth Dobhair (there’s one of the paintings below) and we were up there at the weekend, staying in Óstán Loch Altan in Gort a’ Choirce. This hotel was McFadden’s Hotel in its previous incarnation and it’s been in existence for over 100 years. Yes, and this is where Patrick Pearse stayed when he went up to visit Coláiste Uladh, one of the original Irish language colleges in the West of Ireland. (He wasn’t the only Irish revolutionary to visit – Joseph Mary Plunkett and Roger Casement also came here to study the Irish language and indeed, it was Casement’s very generous funding that got the college up and running in the first place.)

oil painting by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of ancient fireplace in Min a lea, near Gortahork
Tinteán tréigthe no.24, 50 x 50cm, oil on canvas, 2016

But they used to hold lively cultural evenings up there in the Donegal hills and the story goes that and on one such evening Pearse stood up to recite a poem; he put his knee on the chair to steady himself and the wretched thing collapsed under him. Rí rá agus ruaille buaille. Such fun. Well that chair was tenderly gathered up; it was lovingly mended and, to this day, it resides in McClafferty’s house in nearby Cill Ulta, and there’s a photograph of it in the hotel to remind us of the glory days of Gort a’ Choirce. I think you know, at this stage, what happened to my great granduncle Patrick.  As one of the leaders of the Easter Rising, he was executed in Kilmainham Gaol…

But speaking of rí rá and such, we had a lovely evening at the opening of “Tinteáin” in An Gailearaí – thanks to director Úna Campbell’s great enthusiasm. There was traditional music playing;  Traolach Ó Fionnáin, the Donegal arts officer gave a stimulating opening speech and the poet Cathal Ó Searcaigh recited “Na Bailte Bánaithe”, the poem that first inspired my series of paintings… and I met with Liam Carr whose grandfather knew Patrick Pearse.  Andrew ‘Andy’ Carr was the headmaster of Coláiste Uladh!

myself and the poet Cathal Ó Searcaigh at the opening of "Tinteáin"
myself and the poet Cathal Ó Searcaigh at the opening of “Tinteáin” in An Gailearaí, Gaoth Dobhair

I’ve told the story of the fireplaces before – see the link below:

But now, I have a one minute video of the exhibition, just to give you a general impression. Cathal Ó Searcaigh’s handwritten poem was reproduced and installed alongside my paintings.  If you can’t see the video below, try clicking into the blog post itself… The music is by my nephew, Pearse McGloughlin.

You can see more of my paintings at the links below…




  1. Very interesting to finally see the famous chair. I’ve heard about it from my mother. Her uncle was John McDonnell and this event took place in his house and this was his chair.


    • Hi Maeve, thanks for your comment, I first heard the story when I was staying in Ostán Loch Altan in Gort a’ Choirce. There’s a framed photo of the chair hanging in the lounge there. I never actually got to see it but I was assured that we only had to ask and they would show it to us. Nice to know that there are memories of Pearse still in the area, a hundred years on.


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