Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Revamped Pearse Museum

Photo from Wikipedia.
I visited the revamped Pearse Museum in Rathfarnham today. It has been closed for over two years for new building work, so this was my first visit to see the new facilities. A modern new entrance greets you on entry - from the outside it looks very new and out of place beside such a historic building. Inside, access is improved, there is a new elevator and stairs, which do make getting around much easier.

The main part of the museum is similar to what it was before - lots of material from the St Enda's School. Best for me was the Study Room where Patrick Pearse has his main desk - imagine him working at this desk before he hopped on his bicycle during Easter 1916 to revolution and death.The big hall is now open - I had not seen this or the adjoining chapel before. I'm sure it was a hive of activity when the school had plenty of pupils before it closed in 1935.

Photo from Encyclopaedia Britannica.
As an educator, Patrick Pearse was perhaps ahead of his time and a bit too idealistic. Setting up a school was no doubt a huge gamble - the museum has much evidence to show that the school was in a shaky financial position from the start. He has to be admired for trying to build an education system where corporal punishment was rare, and the boys were encouraged in all types of activities from sports, to drama, to science, and of course Irish. Little wonder that many of the past pupils and teachers stood beside Pearse in the GPO during the Easter Rising in 1916.

The update to the museum is a fitting tribute to a true Irish patriot. I have tremendous admiration for what he did in his short life (he was just 37 when he was shot in Kilmainham Gaol on 3rd May, 1916). He is not tainted by Civil War politics, and when you pass through the corridors and rooms of St Enda's School, you get an appreciation of what he tried to do to make Ireland more Irish. He possibly would be regarded as being on the lunatic fringe today, but though his idealism and patriotism ultimately led him to his death - he remains an icon of Irish history today. I would love to have met him, and had a discussion about education. Yes - we would have talked about the 1916 Rising, but I think most of our conversation would have been about learning and teaching.

Congrats to the OPW for keeping this museum alive - it helps us all think a bit more about where as a nation we came from. Pearse would not have been happy with the state of the nation today - perhaps we need a bit more of his type of idealism, and put Ireland before any personal gain.

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