Me again! If you guys remember Gideon from last week’s post, well, he’s back! First, though, I need to note a correction: in the entry last week, I set the time period as the early nineteenth century, which was incorrect. It has since been corrected to the early twentieth century.
Now then! On to the fun part. This week’s word and its third definition:
Ready? Here we go… welcome to Dublin, Ireland on Easter Monday, 24th April, 1916.
In the faded light of pre-dawn Eilish McNulty lay propped on her elbow in bed and clucked her tongue disapprovingly. “A Rising,” she said in tones of marked skepticism. “Like in 1798 and 1848?”
He remembered both, vividly. Gideon nodded as he buttoned the single-breasted tunic of heathery grey-green serge. How many others had he fought in, starting before that defeat at Kinsale? Ten? Twelve?
“Too damned many,” he murmured too low for Eilish to hear, “to be fighting another.”
“Yes. But more successful.”
She snorted expansively and shoved the covers back, pulling her wrapper around herself. “Oh aye,” she said in the broad accent that marked her as one of the serving class. “And why, I’d like t’know, are ye dead set on fighting in it? Dying in it? You’re a working man. A sensible man,” she added with an emphatic shake of the bedclothes she was smoothing that rather suggested she thought he had taken leave of his senses just at the moment.
Fully dressed in tunic, breeches, riding boots, Sam Browne belt, and bronze Volunteer badge, he said simply, “Because this time we must win. England is at war; she cannot spare all her men to crush an Irish uprising. And because we are yet unfree. ‘While Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace,’” he quoted. “They are fools with no right to an unwilling empire.”
She sniffed and gave him a haughty look. “Fine then, and to jail or the firing squad with him who wrote those fancy words!”
“You’ll mind the place for me until I return. It may be some time.”
“Fool,” she muttered. “’Course I will. But with all due respect,” she added with none at all, “I fail to see as how this can appear as being your fight.”
“It has always been my fight,” he answered, and putting on his hat, went out.
It would be more than a year before he walked over the threshold again.
AUTHOR’S HISTORICAL NOTE:
(Bear with me, I may get a tad long-winded here; skip if you like. I intended only to spare the curious the research.)
The events, uniforms, and even words spoken of here are all based in reality. The earlier Risings Eilish mentions from 1798 and 1848 are those of the Society of United Irishmen and Wolfe Tone, and the failed attempt of the Young Ireland movement, respectively. Gideon’s mention of Kinsale refers to the seventeenth century, when a rebellion by Irish earls failed. The campaign’s downhill slide began with its defeat at Kinsale.
This scene, Gideon leaving his Dublin house on the morning of Monday the 24th of April, takes place at the outbreak of another Rising: The Easter Rising of Easter Week, 1916. It was a six-day armed insurrection, mainly occurring in Dublin. Afterward sixteen perceived “leaders”—some not leaders at all—were executed. The leaders were schoolteachers, poets, shopkeepers, and labour rights proponents. One of them was shot while tied to a chair due to a bullet wound to the ankle during the week of the Rising that had left him seriously injured.
The uniform described—that of grey-green single-breasted tunic and breeches, riding boots, Sam Browne Belt, and bronze badge, is that of the Irish Volunteer of the era. They were the precursor to the Irish Republican Army before they became known as terrorists, an armed force organized to match the Ulster Volunteer Force of the northern counties.
As for the fancy words Eilish scorns, they were part of a graveside oration delivered by Pádraic Pearse (the aforementioned schoolteacher and Commander-in-Chief during the Rising) at the funeral of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa in 1915. O’Donovan Rossa had been a prominent supporter of Irish independence, and Pearse’s speech was intended to inflame nationalists. It ended with a challenge that Gideon quoted a part of here, the full words of which are:
They think that they have pacified Ireland. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools! – they have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.
Eilish’s scathing retort—“to jail or the firing squad”—proved to be correct. After his court-martial, Pearse was the first to be executed by firing squad on 3 May 1916, less than five days after he issued the order for the rebels to surrender unconditionally.
And that, more or less, is that for now. I hope you lot enjoy reading about Gideon and Eilish as much as I enjoy writing about them, because they seem to be becoming a regular feature around here. Thanks for reading, and until next time,
P.S. Fun fact: Excluding all my babble before and after the post (sorry about that), the entry itself was actually 333 words on the dot. I’m kinda proud of that.