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Brothers Patrick and William Pearse and the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin

Updated on September 18, 2020
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L.M.Reid is an Irish writer who has published many history articles online and in magazines.

William and Patrick Pearse Easter Rising 1916
William and Patrick Pearse Easter Rising 1916 | Source

Patrick and William Pearse

This is the story of brothers, Patrick and Willie Pearse. One a teacher and the other a famous sculptor. Both were Irish soldiers during the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin Ireland. This action was taken to free Ireland from British occupation.

The bodies of the brothers were dumped in a mass grave in Arbour Hill Prison Yard and covered in Quick Lime. This is now the Arbour Hill Memorial Park were 14 of the men executed after the 1916 Easter Rising are buried and honoured.

Patrick Pearse and the 1916 Easter Rising
Patrick Pearse and the 1916 Easter Rising | Source

The 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin Ireland

The Irish soldiers surrendered after a week. The British Government held court martials and found the Irish men guilty of treason. Many of the soldiers were sentenced to the Death penalty. Fourteen men were executed in Kilmainham Jail in Dublin including the leaders of the Easter Rising. Patrick Pearse was one of those leaders and was shot dead by firing squad. His brother Willie Pearse was executed because he was the brother of Patrick Pearse.

The Brothers

At noon on Easter Monday, 24th April 1916, Patrick Pearse left Liberty Hall and marched up Sackville Street, now O’Connell Street. Patrick Pearse, James Connolly and Joseph Plunkett led the way. Marching with them were the Irish men and women of the Irish Citizen Army and the Irish Volunteers. They halted outside the General Post Office. Connolly gave the order to charge. Also with Patrick Pearse was his brother William Pearse who was four years younger than him.

It was a bank holiday, but the GPO was open for business. The confused customers and workers were led out onto the street. The men then secured the building, barricading themselves inside. Once everything was secure Patrick Pearse and James Connolly walked out the main door of the GPO and onto the porch. Patrick Pearse read out the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, as Connolly stood proudly beside him.

The Proclamation of the Irish Republic

He read the whole document and began with, ' Irishmen and Irishwomen, in the name of God and of dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom…… We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland…'

When Patrick Pearse had finished, James Connolly shook his hand and said, ' Thanks be to God Pearse, that we have lived to see this day.' The document was posted on to a column of the building. They both walked back into the GPO. The Proclamation of the Irish Republic had been written by the Irish soldiers and printed at Liberty Hall, the headquarters of the Irish Citizen Army in Dublin. Copies were posted all over Dublin that day.

William Pearse and the 1916 Easter Rising
William Pearse and the 1916 Easter Rising | Source

Patrick Pearse

Patrick Pearse was born on November 10th 1879 at 27 Great Brunswick Street in Dublin Ireland. He was well educated and qualified as a barrister. But his love was for the Irish language and writing.

In 1908 he opened St Enda's School. It was successful in getting the boys to use both English and Irish in their general conversation. Eventually all lessons were taught in Irish. The school moved to a larger building in Rathfarnham in 1910. His brother, Willie took over the running of the school as the preparations for the 1916 Easter Rising drew nearer.

William Pearse

William Pearse was born in November 1881, at 27 Great Brunswick Street, now Pearse Street. He studied to be a sculptor like his father, in Dublin and Paris. When his father died he took over the family business. Many pieces of his work can be seen in churches all over Ireland.

He worked part time at his brother’s school as an art teacher. But once Patrick became too busy because of the preparations for the Rising, Willie took over the running of the school and became a full time teacher.

1916 Easter Rising

Fighting begins in the 1916 Rising on 24th April when British soldiers, the Lancers charge the GPO. Soon after the reading of the Proclamation, a group of British soldiers, the Lancers, charged down O’Connell Street. Many were injured, and two were killed. They retreated.

The GPO saw no heavy fighting until Tuesday evening, when they were attacked by machine guns and snipers. By Wednesday evening British reinforcement's had arrived. They opened fire with two field guns, setting the surrounding buildings on fire. Liberty Hall was also on fire.

Shelling of Dublin by the British Army

At 10.00 am on Thursday morning a shell hit the newsprint store in Middle Abbey Street. The giant rolls of paper were soon alight and this spread to neighbouring buildings. The British troops could not pass Abbey Street to get to the men in the GPO, because the Irish soldiers at the Irish Independent offices were able to keep them pinned down.

Patrick Pearse, Joseph Plunkett and Michael O'Rahilly had to take over the running of the GPO when James Connolly had been seriously injured on his way back from Abbey Street on Thursday evening. But by Friday morning, James Connolly was back again in the main hall. He could not take an active part as he was lying on a mattress on the floor, but this did not stop him accessing the situation and giving the orders.

The Irish Soldiers Leave the GPO on Friday

On Friday evening the GPO was hit by a shell. Once the British troops had got the range of the building it was doomed as fires broke out in the GPO. In the basement of the building there were guns, ammunition and gunpowder. It was only a matter of time before the GPO blew up. It was decided to evacuate the men to the factory of Messrs, Williams and Woods, in Parnell Street.

Patrick Pearse and James Connolly
Patrick Pearse and James Connolly | Source

British Machine Guns

Michael O'Rahilly led the first detachment of thirty soldiers. Seventeen were injured and four killed, one of them, The O'Rahilly. Michael Collins was with the group but uninjured. The next attempt was just as hazardous. They managed to get a truck across the road to give them some cover from the machine guns.

The Irish soldiers only managed to get to Moore Street before being pinned down by the British troops. The terraced houses were occupied by the people who lived there and other civilians who had taken shelter when the fighting began.

All the men were eventually able to get to Moore Street, with Winifred Carney, Connolly's secretary, and nurses Julie Grennan and Elizabeth O' Farrell, accompanying them. The remainder of the wounded and the women had already left for the Hospital. They expected to be arrested at the hospital but were let go, much to their surprise. Holes were knocked through the walls of the Moore Street houses so that the men could disperse among them.

16 Moore Street

16 Moore Street in Dublin, the headquarters of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising. On Saturday morning Patrick Pearse and Sean McDermott decided the corner house they were in was not safe or practical as their headquarters.

The holes were downstairs in some houses and upstairs in others, depending on how thick the walls had been. The journey took a long time and was extremely painful for James Connolly.

The holes were small so he had to be taken off the stretcher and put on a blanket, with four men carrying him. His ankle was in a bad way and had turned gangrenous. Inevitably it got banged about as he passed through one hole to another. They stopped at 16 Moore Street, (then Hanlon's fish Market), because the journey was too painful for James Connolly.

Kilmainham Jail Cross
Kilmainham Jail Cross | Source

The Surrender

A meeting was held with James Connolly, Patrick Pearse, Sean McDermott, Tom Clarke, Joseph Plunkett and Willie Pearse to plan their next move. The plan was for Sean McLoughlin to lead a charge of twenty men to the barricades at the top of Moore Street, while the remainder retreated to the Four Courts.

A pub in Moore Street 'The Flag ', had caught fire, the owner, Robert Dillon, his wife and daughter ran out of the burning building quickly, holding a white flag. The British Troops at the barricade at the top of Henry Street were so startled that they machine gunned the three of them dead before realising they were civilians.

James Connolly and Patrick Pearse knew that there would be a lot more civilians killed in Moore Street before the fighting was over. They held another meeting. The plan to storm the barricade was aborted and they decided to surrender.

Elizabeth O'Farrell with Patrick Pearse

Captain Michael O'Reilly stuck a white handkerchief on a stick out of 15 Moore Street. It was immediately met with a hail of bullets. He made a second attempt, this time all was quiet. He gave the ' White Flag ' to Elizabeth O'Farrell. She walked out onto the road very slowly at 12.45 pm on Saturday 29th April and approached the barricade. She asked to speak to the Officer in Charge. After arranging the surrender details and returning to the leaders twice, she and Patrick Pearse left Moore Street at 3.30 pm.

The surrender took place at the corner of Parnell Street and Moore Street when Patrick Pearse handed over his sword, automatic pistol and holster, pouch of ammunition and his canteen to General Lowe. It was agreed Elizabeth O'Farrell would take the surrender order to the other outposts under the protection of a military escort.

Patrick and William Pearse

Patrick Pearse and his younger brother Willie are executed by the British Authorities. Patrick Pearse was taken away in an armored car to British Headquarters. Here he wrote the surrender order.

That evening he was transferred to Arbour Hill Prison. Patrick Pearse was taken to Richmond Barracks on 2nd May where he was tried by Court Martial. He was brought to Kilmainham Jail that evening. He received a sentence of death. A few hours before his death, he wrote to his mother. He said goodbye to her and his sisters and also wrote that he hoped his brother Willie would be safe.

A Soldiers Death

He went on to say, ' this is the death I should have asked for if God had given me the choice of all deaths - to die a soldiers death for Ireland and for freedom. We have done right. People will say hard things about us now, but later praise us. Do not grieve for all this, but think of it as a sacrifice that God asked of me and of you ‘

Patrick Pearse did not see his mother or sisters before his execution. As William Pearse entered Kilmainham Jail, having just been transferred from Richmond Barracks, he heard the shots that killed his brother.

Patrick Pearse was shot dead on 3rd May, 1916 in Kilmainham Jail yard. His body was brought to Arbour Hill Prison Yard. A large hole had been prepared to bury all those who had been sentenced to death and were to be shot.

Father Aloysius, a Capuchin Brother went to the house of Patrick Pearse that morning at 10.00am. He brought the news that Patrick Pearse had been shot dead that morning at dawn to his mother and sisters.

William Pearse is Executed

After the surrender William Pearse spent Saturday night at the spot across from the Rotunda Hospital with all the Irish soldiers who had surrendered. He marched to Richmond Barracks on Sunday morning with the rest of the men. He was tried by Court Martial, and then transferred to Kilmainham Jail.

He was too late to see Patrick before he was shot. William Pearse was visited by his sister and mother. They spoke William in his cell. He told his mother that he had not seen or spoken to his brother Patrick since the surrender. William Pearse was shot dead in Kilmainham Jail yard at dawn on 4th May 1916. His body was thrown into the pit at Arbour Hill beside his brother Patrick and covered in quick lime.

President John F Kennedy
President John F Kennedy | Source
JFK Lays a Wreath
JFK Lays a Wreath | Source

Arbour Hill Memorial Park

Patrick Pearse and William Pearse are buried together at Arbour Hill Memorial Park in Stoneybatter Dublin 7 Ireland. Over the next few days the bodies of fourteen men who were executed by the British Army for their part in the 1916 Easter Rising were dumped in this pit at Arbour Hill.

After each body was thrown in it was covered in quick lime. This was to prevent the relatives from recovering the bodies later. Patrick Pearse and William Pearse were brothers who are remembered in Irish history for their part in the 1916 Easter Rising.

They lie together in death at Arbour Hill Memorial Park along with twelve other men who were executed by the British Government for their part in the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin.

Also Buried in the Mass Grave

  • James Connolly
  • Tom Clarke
  • Joseph Plunkett
  • Con Colbert
  • Sean Heuston
  • Sean McDermott
  • Thomas MacDonagh
  • Michael O'Hanrahan
  • John McBride
  • Eamonn Ceannt
  • Michael Mallin
  • Edward Daly

Arbour Hill Mass Grave
Arbour Hill Mass Grave | Source


  • Patrick Pearse 16 Lives. Ruán O'Donnell
  • William Pearse 16 Lives. Ruán O'Donnell
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  • 1916 As History. The Myth of the Blood Sacrifice. C. Desmond Greaves. 1991
  • As I was going down Sackville Street. Oliver St John Gogarty. 1980
  • Women of Ireland, A biographic Dictionary. Kit and Cyril O Ceirin. 1996
  • Ghosts of Kilmainham. Kilmainham Jail Restoration Society. 1991
  • The Insurrection in Dublin. James Stephens. 1966
  • Kilmainham. Kilmainham Jail Restoration Society. 1982
  • The History of Kilmainham Gaol. Government of Ireland 1995.
  • Ireland Since The Famine. F S L Lyons. 1973
  • Markievicz, The Rebel Countess. Moriarty & Sweeney. 1991
  • Guns and Chiffon. Women Revolutionaries and Kilmainham Gaol. Government of Ireland. 1997
  • The Irish Republic. Dorothy Macardle. 1968
  • North Dublin Easter 1916. North Inner City Folklore Project. Souvenir 1992.
  • Agony at Easter, The 1916 Irish Uprising. Thomas M. Coffey. 1971
  • A Terrible Beauty is Born. Ulick O'Connor. 1975
  • Terrible Beauty. Diana Norman. 1987
  • Constance Markievicz. Sean O'Faolain. 1938
  • Sixteen Roads To Golgotha. Martin Shannon.
  • 1916 Rebellion Handbook. Mourne River Press. 1998
  • 113 Great Irishwomen and Irishmen. Art Byrne & Sean McMahon. 1990
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  • The Easter Rebellion. Max Caulfield. 1964
  • The O'Rahilly. Marcus Bourke. 1967

1916 Easter Rising


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    • viking305 profile imageAUTHOR

      L M Reid 

      5 years ago from Ireland

      All the men women and children who fought for Ireland during the Easter Rising deserve to be remembered. Many lives were lost but eventually Ireland became a Free State. A Pity our politicians in power now and not so long ago sold out our freedom once again to Europe

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Enjoyed the read very well done Padraig Pearse and the other brave men were truly heroes who were murdered by the British terrorists just because they wanted to make there homeland a nation once again the crime the british scum charged them with was a love of the land they were born in. God bless them and God bless Ireland.

    • Anesidora profile image


      10 years ago from Pandora's Box

      Fabulous work Viking. I can't wait to read more from you in this Irish history series.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      A piece of class work on the Father of Republicanism Padraig.To me he was a powerful leader with great insight.

      James Connolly was also but was a Socialist and did not want the rising but had no choice.Ireland has been a Republic since the start and to me a disaster if it took in Socialists.Ive noticed some never use the name Socialist when calling themselves Republican.My Grandfather and his group of volenteers hated socialism as it goes against the Church in order for it to work.Like them our Church kept our faith that brought us through 900 years of war with the British and the Brits knew it as that's what created the Penal Days


    • LeanMan profile image


      10 years ago from At the Gemba

      So much about the history of Ireland that I knew nothing about.

    • billyaustindillon profile image


      10 years ago

      I am learning so much about Ireland through your series. Patrick Pearse and William Pearse I had heard as the Pearse brothers but new little more - thanks for all the information.


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