There is an exciting buzz in the build-up to the centenary 1916 Easter Rising celebrations that are going on around the country at the moment. Here in Ros Muc the community is in full swing preparing for all the different events that will be held throughout the year. Known also as Ros Na gCaoireach in the literary world Ros Muc is located in the County of Galway and is part of the Connemara Gaeltacht. It is approximately forty miles away from the city and is a peninsula with a view of the Twelve Pins situated between Carna and Spiddal. The local people speak Irish and maintain a lot of their old traditions and culture while still being part of modern society. The boxer Sean Mannion is from the area and well known authors lived and worked there such as Kathleen Maude along with Patrick Pearse and Padraig Ó Conaire.
The only thatched house left in Ros Muc is Pearse’s Cottage that is facing Loch Eiliarach with Cnoc Mordán in the background. Patrick Pearse arrived here in 1903 as a Conradh Na Gaeilge inspector to test local students to become Irish teachers. This was not Pearse’s first time to Connemara. In 1898 he spent time on the Arainn Islands learning Irish from Mairtín Ó Conghaile a blind man who also taught Millington Synge. Patrick took to Ros Muc so much that he bought some land and had a summer house built on it. It is there he wrote a lot of his short stories and the beginnings of the proclamation. Many of the signatories of the uprising are said to have visited the cottage along with his brother Liam. He used to do military drill manoeuvres with Óglaigh Na hÉireann in the area. It is said that even though Pearse was usually a quiet man, his shout could be heard from a great distance during the training sessions. After his execution in 1916 Colm Ó Gaora a local activist and Na hÓglaigh continued on with the fight for freedom.
While growing up in Ros Muc I knew Patrick Pearse the writer more than the revolutionary and read his short stories at school. So, as an artist, I decided to focus on this aspect of our most famous citizen. The nine small paintings above are based on the short story Na Bóithre and specifically the route Nora took when she ran away from home. I walk this road almost every day and it has not changed that much since the time the story was written. It is the first of a three part series consisting of nine paintings in acrylics on canvas. The second part zooms in on the main characters in his other short stories An Gadaí, Bríd Na nAmhrán, Eoighanín Na nÉain, An Mháithar, An Sargart, Dearg an Daol, Íosagán, Barbra and An Bhean Chointe. They are all simplified in the chiaroscuro technique .The third part of the series I painted is a set of nine small squares with the village boundary stones of Ros Muc in the old Irish writing on them. The village names were used in Pearse’s stories and are still the same today.
My plan is to go around Connemara to the schools, day centers and Irish summer colleges during the year as a traveling exhibition called Coiscéim An Phiarseach and talk about the connection Ros Muc has with Patrick Pearse and his stories. One of the symbols that the local Gaelic Football team Na Piarsaigh has on their crest is the swallow that stands in memory for all the people who fought for our country.