Kiss Kiss Bang Bang




From top: Patrick Pearse; The Triumph of Failure

Controversial Patrick Pearse biographer Ruth Dudley Edwards appeared on RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke this morning (presented by Keelin Shanley) to discuss Pearse’s life in the run up to the Easter Rising.

A quick tay.

Keelin Shanley: “It’s also been mentioned around Pearse, I mean he was a schoolteacher, he ran a school for young boys, but there had been questions written around the poetry he has written about young boys. Was he in love with his students? And was that also an issue that drove Pearse into revolution if you like…to suppress himself?”

Ruth Dudley Edwards: “I think he was enormously repressed. I have not yet got to understand that family [The Pearse family].  I don’t understand why there were four of them and none of them seems to have had a normal relationship of any kind sexually. Willie was in love with an eight year old girl. Now he never did anything wrong. He didn’t  She was his model…”

Shanley: “This is [Patrick’s] brother Willie [a sculptor]?”

Dudley Edwards: “She was his model. He used to buy her lots of gifts. She died at 14 of consumption or something but that was the only recorded person that he is attached to.
Patrick Pearse was unquestionably in love with his pupils, some of his pupils, and he was known to have favourites.
It has come out from letters that were hidden for a very long time from pupils just saying he used to kiss boys on the lips and ‘some of us wouldn’t and some laughed and called him Kiss me Hardy and we knew it was really Frank that he was mad about’ but there’s no evidence. I would be astounded if ever there was a moment when he did anything you could regard as abusive to a child. I really think.”

Shanley: “Was this maybe part of his death wish?”

Dudley Edwards: “I think he was tormented by desires and it’s in some of the poems. ‘Why do you torture me oh desires of my heart’. I think he was utterly tortured and confused. He was a tremendous innocent in all sorts of ways..
He was terrified of women. Tom Macdonagh who is a very attractive character in this, he had a great sense of humour. he was very good for Pearse. He was probably Pearse’s best friend. They used to pull his leg all the time. There’s one occasion when some women, some nice looking women, came up to see St Enda’s [Pearse’s school] and they’re in the library. Pearse, McDonagh and the two women. McDonagh says to one of the girls ‘come outside‘ and then he says ‘just wait, it’ll take 60 seconds…’. And after 60 seconds Pearse is out of the room, shooting down the corridor…terrified of being left alone in a room with a woman.”

Listen back here

The Triumph of Failure (Irish Academic Press)

Previously: Pearse And His Little Lad of Tricks

44 thoughts on “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

  1. The Old Boy

    I’m no fan of Dudley Edwards but that seems a fairly reasonable assessment. I thought the general consensus for some time has been that Pearse suffered from mental illness to some extent. At least at a century’s remove we can say that this doesn’t in and of itself discredit the man or his actions. There are plenty of criticisms to be made of Pearse, but this is hardly one of them.

  2. Joe Small

    I’m no idolizer of Irish martyrs and I do think Pearse was a complex, odd fellow but this woman is a complete revisionist through and through. If she was around a hundred years ago, she’d be pleading for eternal union with the crown. She has a track record of finding nothing positive in any Irish nationalist movement since time immemorial. Her characterization of Pearse is simplistic and devious, saying more about her character than it does about his.

    1. Joe Small

      I just read she’s a Sunday Indo writer who once slated the Wind that Shakes the Barley in a piece even though she hadn’t even seen the film. Enough said.

      1. Spaghetti Hoop

        Exactly. Grappling for notoriety here. At a time where her subject matter might indeed make up for her shortcomings and unfounded assumptions.

        Saying thus ‘She died at 14 of consumption or something’ doesn’t exactly portray a writer that’s fond of research.

      2. Cluster

        If you read her Daily Tel articles, you’ll see that she has given up any pretence of being a serious commentator. They are quite often racist, anti-Irish screeds.

    2. Rob_G

      I agree with your assessment of Dudley Edwards as being very sympathetic to the unionist position – but I also think her characterisation of Pearse seemed quite fair and accurate.

    3. Cluster

      Calling her a revisionist is unfair on revisionism. Foster is a revisionist, Dudley is just working through some personal issues.

  3. Clampers Outside!

    Ruth Dudley Edwards…. the film critic who doesn’t watch the fiims she criticises.

    If people don’t take you seriously and you wonder why, re-read the above line Ruth.

  4. missred

    That book cover is like something you’d borrow from an old section of a library in the mid 80s.

    1. Spaghetti Hoop

      Either she didn’t enough pennies in the jar to afford a designer and image-licensing OR designed it herself in Word and thought ‘sGrand’.

  5. Vote Rep #1

    Well that was a lot less full on than I expected when I saw who the author was. I expected her to accuse him of being a weird hybrid of ISIS and Fr Brendan Smyth. Instead he was afraid of girls.I doubt that was that unusual for the time tbf.

  6. maybeworthchecking

    Extracts from reviews of her Pearse biography by actual real historians (admittedly copy pasted from her website but still valid):

    ‘Ruth Dudley Edwards has reissued her classic biography of Patrick Pearse; this riveting and well-written biography of the 1916 leader has stood the test of time and provides a fascinating reconstruction of the life and times of Pearse and his comrades. Unorthodox to the point of virtue, the reader will never think of Pearse or 1916 in quite the same way again; it is required reading for anyone interested in twentieth-century Irish history and politics.’
    Professor Tom Garvin

    ‘… Miss Edwards has worked wonders in restoring the personality… This splendidly written book transforms the study of Pearse by elevating it to a proper historical plane. Miss Edwards has succeeded in the daunting task of siultaneously rendering a signal service to Irish scholarship, to historical studies, and to the memory of Patrick Pearse.’
    Professor Joe Lee

    ‘There are few worthwhile biographies for [twentieth century Irish history], one glowing exception being R. Dudley Edwards’s Patrick Pearse: The Trium of Failure, which illuminates far more than its subject.’
    Professor Roy Foster

    Ruth Dudley Edwards has written a remarkable book which at a blow places her high among contemporary historical scholars.’
    Seán Ó Faoláin, The Guardian

    ‘Beautifully written and painfully objective’
    Sir Bernard Crick, History Today

  7. Chromium

    He was wildly shy of women, in a Koothrapali kind of way. He did have plenty of close women friends, though, including the ill-fated Eileen Nicholls and various of the teachers who taught in Sgoil Éanna and later Sgoil Íde.

    But Ireland was terribly militarised then; there were bunches of boys’ schools with a cult of the physical, shooting clubs, nude sea bathing, etc, etc; like other European countries, actually.

    1. Chromium

      By the way, the Ruth Dudley Edwards biography is well worth reading. Apart from the Freudian analysis popular in the 1970s, it’s a good biog.

      1. ollie

        I’ve never read her biography, but I’m happy to review it. Overall, I found it fairly banal and boring. In fact, it’s the worst book I never read.

  8. Kieran NYC

    His signature is a bit woeful.

    By the way, what’s the convention with the ‘Patrick’ v ‘Padraig’ naming? I had always heard him referred to as Padraig, but above, Patrick is used. Have the names gone in and out of fashion?

  9. rugbylane

    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.

  10. Drebbin

    It’s an excellent biography with many flaws. It’s beautifully written, but so lax on some of the basics that the first edition forgot to include his date of birth. She is rightly criticised for her pro-British extremism: she excuses the Bachelor’s Walk murders on the grounds that the soldiers responsible had been horribly taunted, and she actually criticises the government for stopping at the sixteenth execution, when a couple of hundred might have worked out better.

    BUT: she is weirdly lax on the evidence that she herself presents for Pearse’s paedophilia. She gives him the Michael Jackson defence, essentially: yes, it seems weird, but he is kind of a mystical man-child. But he wasn’t a man-child. He was a man, with pubes and erections and sexual desires, when he is insisting to a mother that she send her nine-year-old son naked into his bed, well, it should be questioned. This isn’t just poetry. This is his own account of his behaviour.

  11. Tony

    Pearse was a hero on so many levels. Not only did he believe in the maxim that a short glorious life was better than a long boring one, but he also knew the importance of sacrifice in heroism. Nowhere does he exhibit this moreso than in his overcoming of his predilection for young boys. He adored them as is clear from his poetry (they are much more profound in Irish), but he had the self-discipline never to act on it. Overcoming the self is true heroism.

    1. Caroline

      Hmm. But if he was so good at heroing, how come he’s such a contentious and ambiguous hero? It’s almost as if he was actually quite bad at heroing.

        1. Caroline

          Sorry, I don’t actually care, I’m just ribbing Tony. A little banter between fellow Republicans.

    2. rugbylane

      The dudes who blow themselves up in the middle east are also expressing their sexual frustrations. Its an old story.

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