Local History by Seán Beattie

Patrick Pearse

Patrick Pearse and Donegal 1915

Patrick Pearse visited the county on a number of occasions. The Donegal Historical Society museum at Rossnowlagh has a letter from Pearse to an O’Boyle family in the county who wanted to send their son to Pearse’s school at St. Enda’s College, Rathfarnham, Dublin. Most people remember Pearse for the Rising of 1916 but he was a school founder, headmaster and reformer also. The school is now a  museum. Many Donegal families sent their sons here as it was a reputable boarding school in a magnificent building in its own grounds. The letter below is written in Pearse’s hand:

28 August 1915

St Enda’s College


Colaiste Enna

Rath Fearnain.

Dear Madam

I have pleasure in reply of yours of yesterday in enclosing a copy of our Prospectus and also enclose some postcard views. 

Yes, we teach Matriculation courses and have been very successful with our pupils. Twenty-one of our boys have matriculated during the past few years, three of them winning scholarships.

Need I say that we shall be very glad to receive the pupil you have in mind. I can promise him a happy collegiate life and careful teaching in healthy and pleasant surroundings and with very desirable companions. We always succeed in making our boys feel at home with us and as we are able to give them individual attention we reap most gratifying results. My mother and sister look after the boys’ health and domestic welfare and make them very comfortable.

I shall be happy to discuss any point with you and to meet your views as regards pension, etc, in  every way I can. Hoping that we may be able to keep a place for your boy on Sept 1st.

I am, dear madam,  yours very sincerely,

P. H.  Pearse. 

No one would have suspected that less than a year later, Pearse would lead a Rising and face execution. Had he lived, would Ireland’s educational system have been different? He does not mention fees but they were probably in the prospectus. Revered in Irish history books for decades, Pearse is now undergoing a critical evaluation in academic circles. Was the Rising necessary when Home Rule was promised?

Pearse letters were fetching up to 9,000 euros at Whyte’s history auctions in Dublin in the Celtic Tiger years. This letter would fetch less but is certainly valued in four figures. It is not on display in the museum and I do not have the original, just a copy. The museum is open daily in the Friary in Rossnowlagh and is worth a visit. And the boy? As far as I am aware, the boy joined the Irish Army in later years rising to the rank of Captain.

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