Sunday 11 December 2016

Nurse 'sorry she hid' in iconic image

A new book sheds light on what happened when Padraig Pearse surrendered in 1916, writes Liam Collins

Published 06/11/2011 | 05:00

CLAIMS that the woman who escorted Padraig Pearse to surrender in 1916 was "airbrushed" out of history have been disputed in a new book.

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The woman, nurse Elizabeth O'Farrell, waved the white flag of surrender which brought the Easter Rising of 1916 to a halt.

A member of Cumann na mBan, she acted as a courier during the surrender process and an RTE documentary Reabhloid -- Revolutionary Tales, shown recently, repeated the old claim that she had been deliberately removed from a photograph of Padraig Pearse surrendering to British commander Brigadier General William Lowe at the junction of Moore Street and Parnell Street in Dublin on April 28, 1916.

But according to a new book, Revolution: A photographic history of Revolutionary Ireland 1913-1923, Elizabeth O'Farrell deliberately avoided being clearly identified in the famous photograph which was taken at a side angle by a British army photographer -- something she regretted in later life when it became an iconic image of the Easter Rising.

"According to an account of the incident she gave to the Cistercian monks of Roscrea, in May 1956, O'Farrell stated that she deliberately hid from the camera," says author Padraig Og O Ruairc. "When O'Farrell saw a British soldier getting ready to take the photograph she took a step backwards behind Pearse so as not to give the enemy press any satisfaction. In later years she regretted not being pictured."

The image was published days later in the Daily Sketch and the lower part of O'Farrell's dress and her boots are clearly visible. According to the author, should someone have wanted the photograph to be "airbrushed", then all traces of the brave nurse would have been removed.

Elizabeth O'Farrell joined the Citizen Army and the Volunteers in the GPO garrison to work as a nurse and wore an improvised red-cross uniform. She had initially walked up Moore Street to a British army barricade carrying a white flag and had been taken to meet General Lowe. Her mission was to request talks between the rebels and the British. Later she took Pearse's orders to various IRA commands around Dublin telling them to surrender. Although she was tried along with other participants, she was not given a jail sentence because of her part in organising the surrender of the rebels.

The original of the famous photograph was recently bought at auction by the National Museum of Ireland.

As an aside, General Lowe's son John, who was with his father taking the surrender from Pearse, later became a successful Hollywood actor working under the name John Loder and appearing in such films as Gentleman Jim, Lady Godiva and How Green Was My Valley.

'Revolution: A photographic History of Revolutionary Ireland 1913-1923' by Padraig Og O Ruairc is published by Mercier Press

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