Hilary Murphy examines some correspondence between Pádraic Pearse and the American father of one of his pupils in relation to his attendance at Pearse’s all-Irish school, Scoil Eanna
Pádraic Pearse is historically remembered, not only as the leader of the 1916 rebellion, but as the founder of the Irish speaking secondary school for boys, called Coláiste Éanna (St Enda’s College).
It was first located in Cullenswood House in Ranelagh, then a suburb of Dublin. Such was its success from the beginning that Pearse decided to move the school to The Hermitage in Rathfarnham, which is said to “have caught his imagination as perfect for the idyllic image of what he had hoped to achieve”.
The school attracted a large number of students eager to learn, and be able to converse in their native tongue, virtually lost under imposed anglicisation. One of these students was an American boy named Eugene Cronin from Brooklyn, who accompanied him on the voyage from New York to begin his studies in St Enda’s.
All was going well until the experiment ran into financial difficulty forcing Pearse to travel to America on a fundraising mission in 1914, as outlined in the following letter to an unnamed friend:
157 WEST 144TH STREET
New York, N.Y.
I have to come to the United States with the object of raising £2,000 (10,000 dollars) urgently required in order to ensure the future of St. Enda’s College. The facts are set forth in the printed circular which I enclose. The whole experiment of “Irishing” education in Ireland must stand or fall with St. Enda’s, and, as far as I can see, the future of St Enda’s depends upon the result of my present visit to America. In these circumstances I feel confident that I shall have your support.
I frankly ask you for your own subscription, and would also beg of you to collect any subscriptions you can from your friends and to move in your society either for a donation from the society funds or for a collection among members.