Patrick Pearse: Prison Letters to a Mother

Kilmainham Prison, 1 May, 1916

My dear Mother,

You will I know have been longing to hear from me. I do not know how much you have heard since the last note I sent you from the G.P.O.

On Friday evening the Post Office was set on fire and we had to abandon it. We dashed into Moore Street and remained in the houses in Moore St. on Saturday evening. We then found that we were surrounded by troops and that we had practically no food.

We decided in order to prevent further slaughter of the civilian population and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers, to ask the General Commanding the British Forces to discuss terms. He replied that he would receive me only if I surrendered unconditionally and this I did. I was taken to the Headquarters of the British Command in Ireland and there I wrote and signed an order to our men to lay down their arms. All this I did in accordance with the decision of our Provisional Government who were with us in Moore St. My own opinion was in favour of one more desperate sally before opening negotiations, but I yielded to the majority, and I think now the majority was right, as the sally would have resulted only in losing the lives of perhaps 50 or 100 of our men, and we should have had to surrender in the long run as we were without food.

I was brought in here on Saturday evening and later all the men with us in Moore St. were brought here. Those in the other parts of the City have, I understand, been taken to other barracks and prisons. All here are safe and well. Willie and all the St. Enda’s boys are here. I have not seen them since Saturday, but I believe they are all well and that they are not now in any danger. Our hope and belief is that the Government will spare the lives of all our followers, but we do not expect that they will spare the lives of the leaders. We are ready to die and we shall die cheerfully and proudly. Personally I do not hope or even desire to live, but I do hope and desire and believe that the lives of all our followers will be saved including the lives dear to you and me (my own excepted) and this will be a great consolation to me when dying.

You must not grieve for all this. We have preserved Ireland’s honour and our own. Our deeds of last week are the most splendid in Ireland’s history. People will say hard things of us now, but we shall be remembered by posterity and blessed by unborn generations. You too will be blessed because you were my mother.

If you feel you would like to see me, I think you will be allowed to visit me by applying to the Headquarters, Irish Command, near the Park. I shall I hope have another opportunity of writing to you.

Love to W.W., MB., Miss Byrne, . . . and your own dear self.


P.S. I understand that the German expedition which I was counting on actually set sail but was defeated by the British.


Kilmainham Prison, 3 May, 1916

My Dearest Mother,

I have been hoping up to now it would be possible to see you again, but it does not seem possible. Good-bye dear, dear, mother. Through you I say good-bye to ‘Wow Wow,’ (a sister), Mary, Brigid, Willie, Miss B. Miceal, cousin Maggine and everyone at St. Enda’s. I hope and believe Willie and the St. Enda boys will be all safe.

I have written two papers about financial affairs and one about my books which I want you to get. With them are a few poems which I want added to the poems in MS in my bookcase. You asked me to write a little poem which would seem to be said by you about me.

I have written it, and a copy is in Arbour Hill Barracks with other papers and Father Aloysius is taking care of another copy of it.

I have just received Holy Communion. I am happy, except for the great grief of parting from you. This is the death I should have asked for if God had given me the choice of all deaths – to die a soldier’s death for Ireland and for freedom. We have done right. People will say hard things of us now, but later on they will praise us. Do not grieve for all this but think of it as a sacrifice which God has asked of me and of you.

Good-bye again, dear mother. May God bless you for your great love for me and for your great faith, and may He remember all you have so bravely suffered. I hope soon to see papa, and in a little while we shall all be together again. I have not words to tell you of my love for you and how my heart yearns to you all. I will call to you in my heart at the last moment.

Your son Pat



G.P.O. is the General Post Office in Dublin.

His brother William Pearse, who Patrick hopes will be saved, is executed the following day at dawn.


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