Saturday, 2 April 2016



We are in the middle of the 1916 / 2016 celebrations of the Easter Rising led by Padraig Pearse.

And at the age of 63 I was surprised to learn that a poem of his has been discovered that, to some, suggests that he was, to put it gently, a "boy lover".

He did open and run a private school for boys called Saint Enda's. He was also part of founding a school for girls called St. Ita's. 

The poem is called: LITTLE LAD OF THE TRICKS.

Little lad of the tricks,
Full well I know
That you have been in mischief,
Confess your fault truly.

I forgive you, child
Of the soft red mouth;
I will not condemn anyone 
For a sin not understood.

Raise your comely head
Till I kiss your mouth;
If either of us is the better of that
I am the better of it.

There is a fragrance in your kiss
That I have not found yet
In the kisses of women
Or in the honey of their bodies.

Lad of the grey eyes,
That flush in thy cheek
Would be white with dread of me
Could you read my secrets.

He who has my secrets
Is not fit to touch you;
Is not that a pitiful thing,
Little lad of the tricks. 

I notice from the Internet that the suggestion that Pearse was a boy lover has been angered some "Republicans".

They say that the boy in the poem represents IRELAND and that he was saying that his love for Ireland surpassed any love for women. 

But generally Ireland, when talked about in a poetic way has been referred to as a woman - "My Dark Rosaleen" or "Kathleen Ni Houlihan". 

Some have claimed that Pearse was a repressed homosexual.

Ruth Dudley Edwards has written:

The second objectionable aspect was that I pointed out the bleeding obvious - that Pearse, although almost certainly chaste, was turned on exclusively by young male beauty. That - like his legacy to Ireland - is still today a hot topic, argued over inter alia by academic followers of fashion.
Elaine Sisson is an academic, and her otherwise readable style is occasionally marred by litcrit buzzwords (no, dammit, "gender" and "privilege" are not verbs; worse, there's a "may" on page one where there should have been a "might"), but hers is a well-researched, honest and thoughtful exploration of Pearse and his school within their historical and intellectual context from which I learned a great deal.
Pearse wanted the St Enda's boy to be a macaomh - a word literally translated as "youth" but which for him was imbued with imagery of Celtic scholars and pagan warriors. Drawing on inspiration from sources as various as Belgian educationalists, British public schools, Richard Wagner and Norse sagas, Pearse - who saw himself as the boys' fosterer - set about fashioning the ideal, nationalist boy with the help of Gaelic games, literature, mythology, drama, pageantry and, increasingly, militarism. He was a wonderful teacher, not least because - like so many other great pedagogues - he was in love with his boys. Emotionally and sexually stunted, he wanted to be a boy.

Personally I am not a fan of Ruth Dudley Edwards.

And as far as I know there has never been any suggestion that he ever acted out any sexual fantasy with a minor.

Its just an interesting topic that has arisen in the course of the 1916 commemorations. 

I would be interested in the views of the Blog readers on this topic - which I suppose you could say is controversial. However this Blog does not shy away from controversy. Controversy makes life interesting.

As Martin Luther King Jn said:

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy"


  1. Pat that poem by Pearse "The boy of the tricks" has been public knowledge ever since it was written. The original was in Gaelic. It is very difficult to draw final conclusions on a persons sexuality from reading mystical poetry. In another poem "Fornacht a chonaic tu" Pearse talks of his attraction to the body of a beautiful woman and how he foregoes the pleasures of the flesh to die in a noble cause ie Irish freedom. There may be other evidence to point us in one direction or the other but his poetry is by its very nature very nebulous in this field. There are those who claim Shakespeare was homosexual purely from reading his magnificent sonnets. Others say this is nonsence. Others draw conclusions from looking at Michelangelos young male nudes. One could go on and on. I believe Pearse was single and celibate. He offered everything up to the cause of Irish liberty including I believe his sexuality whether he was gay or straight. With Roger Casement we have absolute certainty but with Pearse we are very much in the dark. At least that is my take.
    Iggy O Donovan.

    1. Thank Iggy. I am perfectly open to all that you say.

  2. Boys and youth clubs, scouts and scoutmasters. Flies tend to flock to honey and it would be a rare man these days (and brave as well),who could imitate Pearse or Baden-Powell without fear of any form of innuendo or gossip.

    1. That is true. And it is also a pity because there are perfectly blameless people who like to or who feel called to work with children and youth.

      I think that we need a less hysterical approach to all these topics.

  3. It is an interesting poem. I presume there is no record of Pearse harming anyone in a sexual way as pointed out above-If he was homosexual would he be any less a patriot? Some tend to "deify" people like Pearse Bottom line is he was just as much human as any of the rest of us

  4. The poem speaks for itself. Its overtones of paedophilic eroticism are undeniable...except to the most diehard Irish patriot. What grown man who is not a paedophile or ephebophile would write in such an explicitly sensuous way about
    boys? Pearse's so-called "detractors" are wrong: he wasn't a repressed homosexual, but a repressed pederast. Why are the Irish so slow to accept such uncomfortable truths about those they regard as heroes?

    Grow up. And welcome to the human all its horrible diversity.

    1. Pope Leo X, contemporary of Martin Luther, used to entertain his guests at lavish parties by having a huge cake brought in out of which would leap (have you guessed?) little naked boys.

      If Pope Francis were doing the same thing today, it would hardly be ignored,
      either by the Press or by you and me.

      Powerful or revered people got away literally with murder in the past. Pearse,
      revered by many Irish, got away with dressing up his obvious sexual
      proclivity in the form of poetry, by which he simultaneously declared and hid it. Clever old Pearse. Even today he's left some people wondering. Some...but not all.

  5. Frankly, as far as I can tell Pearse was a standard issue very repressed Catholic of the late 19th and early 20th century, who grew up in a Victorian sensibility augmented by the quite deliberate bowdlerisation of Irish/Gaelic culture by the Nationalist and Gaelic project (cleaning the language of its swear words and profanities for example) and turning Irish dancers into little more than animated clothes-pegs.

    Trying to reach conclusions about his sexuality based on very very scant evidence is a pointless exercise. He could have been gay, he may have been straight, he may have been asexual ... there is no way to know, certainly no solid evidence one way or another (a contrast with Casement.)

    A big difference inter alia with Casement (and indeed Cecil Rhodes) is that everyone knew him to be a "confirmed bachelor" just as they knew the same about Rhodes. The catch was that it was in the interest of the state to reveal Casements sexuality, and not Rhodes. Does anyone reasonably think that if Pearse was actively gay the British would not have used this fact at the time?