Liberty Hall, once described by the Irish Times as ‘the centre of social anarchy in Ireland’, it was the headquarters of the Irish Citizen Army and a focal point for radical politics in the years leading up to the Rising of 1916. I attended a performance there last Friday, a play called: “Seven Lives for Liberty”.
This was a moving theatrical tribute to the the seven signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, created by Frank Allen and James Connolly Heron and featuring the wonderful songs of Patrick Waters.
The show included a series of dramatic vignettes and scenes from the last moments of the signatories which had the whole audience close to tears. One such moment was the recitation by Mrs. Pearse (actress: Brenda McSweeney) of the poem: “The Mother”, written by her son Patrick…
I do not grudge them: Lord, I do not grudge
My two strong sons that I have seen go out
To break their strength and die, they and a few,
In bloody protest for a glorious thing,
They shall be spoken of among their people,
The generations shall remember them,
And call them blessed;
But I will speak their names to my own heart
In the long nights;
The little names that were familiar once
Round my dead hearth.
Lord, thou art hard on mothers:
We suffer in their coming and their going;
And tho’ I grudge them not, I weary, weary
Of the long sorrow – And yet I have my joy:
My sons were faithful, and they fought.
My father, Piaras F. Mac Lochlainn put together a book entitled “Last Words”, a collection of the letters and statements of the leaders executed after the Easter Rising but sadly, he died in 1969 when the book was still in proof.
As editor and keeper of the museum for the Kilmainham Jail Restoration Society and as organising secretary of the National Commemoration in 1966 of the 50th anniversary of the Rising, he was ideally equipped for the task of compiling “Last Words”. At Easter this year, the current director of Kilmainham Jail Museum, Niall Bergin, told me that this book is one of the definitive books on the 1916 leaders and, almost fifty years later, still one of their bestsellers.