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Monday 12 November 2018

Pearse's heroic sideways pose? He did it to hide embarrassing squint

Pearse always posed sideways, as in this family portrait and iconic picture from our history books. But rare photos of the Rising leader head on and as a boy show he had a squint which worsened as he got older.
Pearse always posed sideways, as in this family portrait and iconic picture from our history books. But rare photos of the Rising leader head on and as a boy show he had a squint which worsened as he got older.
Pearse always posed sideways, but rare photos of the Rising leader head on show he had a squint which worsened as he got older.
Pearse always posed sideways, as in this family portrait, but rare photos of the Rising leader head on show he had a squint which worsened as he got older.
Pearse always posed sideways, as in this family portrait and iconic picture from our history books. But rare photos of the Rising leader head on and as a boy show he had a squint which worsened as he got older.

John Spain Books Editor

ALL the iconic images of Easter Rising leader Patrick Pearse show him in profile. Now a new book, 'Patrick Pearse: A Life in Pictures', explains why.

The reason is that Pearse had a pronounced squint in one eye and this made him camera-shy. It also made him determined only to be photographed from the side, to conceal what he felt was such a disfiguring squint.

In family pictures, or pictures of him with groups of colleagues, Pearse always struck a sideways pose even though everybody else in the picture would be looking straight at the camera.

The new book of pictures taken throughout Pearse's life clearly shows this.

But the book also includes a rare image of Pearse looking at the camera face on, which, although somewhat blurred, shows the extent of his squint.

The book, compiled and written by the curator of the Pearse Museum, Brian Crowley, says that Pearse was "very self-conscious" about his eyes.

"It appears to have affected him from birth and was hereditary. Whenever possible, he made sure that he was only photographed in side profile," Mr Crowley writes.

Another rarely seen picture of Pearse in the book shows him as a schoolboy wearing glasses.

The squint is visible in that picture also but it appears to have got worse as he got older and was very pronounced when he reached manhood.

ICONIC

The iconic profile pictures of Pearse – such as the one on the cover of the new book – have given him a distant, heroic image over the years.

But now we know that he had a very practical reason for always posing sideways for the camera.

And it wasn't a desire to adopt a heroic pose.

"From his teenage years on, he rarely allowed himself to be photographed in any way other than in profile. He carefully controlled how the camera, and posterity, would see him," Mr Crowley writes.

The book tells the story of Pearse's life in pictures, from his comfortable middle-class childhood in Dublin to his development into a rebel leader prepared to use force to win an independent Ireland.

Gathered together for the first time, the collection of images gives a new insight into one of the great figures from our history.

The 160-page book is published next week by Mercier Press as a large paperback at €14.99.

Irish Independent

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