Tuesday 21 May 2019

1916 collection shows Plunkett love letters and Pearse's family life

Portrait photograph of Joseph Plunkett
Portrait photograph of Joseph Plunkett
Photograph of Grace Gifford with fellow artist William Orpen
Patrick Pearse (on right) and his brother Willie

Ciara Treacy

Remembered as the director of military operations who sought foreign aid for the 1916 Rising, Joseph Plunkett was also a skilled communicator in his personal life.

In a love letter from April 22 1916 - two days before the Rising - Plunkett wrote to his sweetheart Grace Gifford: "Here is a little gun which should only be used to protect yourself. To fire it push up the small bar with the word 'safe' and pull the trigger - but not unless you want to shoot. Here is some money for you too, and all my love forever."

Plunkett also wrote a heartfelt poem to artist Gifford - whom he married just before his execution - on the morning of her Christening, as she was baptised into the Catholic church ahead of their planned marriage.

The composition ends: "Your burning heart now spreads its wings/In the wild beauty of your love".

The writings form the latest collection of papers and photographs related to Plunkett and Patrick Pearse, launched by the National Library of Ireland (NLI) yesterday, are available to view online free of charge.

Other notable items in the collection include a passport issued to Plunkett by the German Imperial Government in 1915 and a typescript extract from his 1915 diary.

In entries beginning on St Patrick's Day and ending on April 30, Plunkett recounts his journey through Europe to Germany to seek German aid for an Irish uprising.

The Patrick Pearse collection offers a glimpse into his early life through a childhood photograph with his brother Willie.

The half-length image of Willie and Patrick as babies, inscribed by Margaret Pearse, reads: "This is my dear little Willie, and my dear little Pat".

A poem penned by Pearse, entitled 'The Mother', can also be found in the collection.

Irish Independent

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