Pádraig Pearse’s letter to his Mother.

Patrick_PearseBorn in Dublin on Great Brunswick Street (now Pearse Street), he was educated by the Christian Brothers at Westland Row, before taking a scholarship to the Royal University (University College Dublin) to study law.

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He was one of only 30 people to know that the Rising would take place in the days building up to Easter 1916. Pearse, who had been secretly planning the insurrection for two years beforehand, even kept his plans hidden from the highest leaders in the Irish Republican Brotherhood, including Eoin MacNeill, the Chief of Staff of the IRB.

When the Easter Rising eventually began on Easter Monday, 24 April 1916, it was Pearse who read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic from outside the General Post Office, the headquarters of the Rising. Pearse was the person most responsible for drafting the Proclamation, and he was chosen as President of the Republic.10411373_10204883272621713_7276958758852942451_n

After six days of fighting, heavy civilian casualties and great destruction of property, Pearse issued the order to surrender.

Pearse and fourteen other leaders, including his brother Willie, were court-martialled and executed by firing squad. Thomas Clarke, Thomas MacDonagh and Pearse himself were the first of the rebels to be executed, on the morning of 3 May 1916. Pearse was 36 years old at the time of his death. Roger Casement, who had tried unsuccessfully to recruit an insurgent force among Irish-born prisoners of war from the Irish Brigade in Germany, was hanged in London the following August.

On May 1st, 2 days before his execution Pearse wrote the following letter to his Mother.

“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.

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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.surrender

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

The letter to his Mother weren’t his last written words. On the day of his execution he wrote a poem called the Wayfarer.

It reads:

The beauty of the world hath made me sad, 
This beauty that will pass; 
Sometimes my heart hath shaken with great joy 
To see a leaping squirrel in a tree 
Or a red lady-bird upon a stalk, 
Or little rabbits in a field at evening, 
Lit by a slanting sun, 
Or some green hill where shadows drifted by 
Some quiet hill where mountainy man hath sown 
And soon would reap; near to the gate of Heaven; 
Or children with bare feet upon the sands 
Of some ebbed sea, or playing on the streets 
Of little towns in Connacht, 
Things young and happy. 
And then my heart hath told me: 
These will pass, 
Will pass and change, will die and be no more, 
Things bright and green, things young and happy; 
And I have gone upon my way 
Sorrowful.

The executioner claimed that Pearse whistled as he came out of the cell.

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Punks in WWII

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Before you start thinking that this will be a blog about Punk bands like the Sex Pistols singing about WWII, you’d be wrong. In fact it has nothing to do with Punk music but more about Jazz.

I am referring to Punk as a rebellion against the establishment. During WWII there were 2 groups very similar in how they rebelled against the Nazi regime, the Swingjugend in Germany and the Zazou in France. Unlike the Punk movement in the 70’s, the Zazou and the Swingjugend could actually risk their lives or be sent to a concentration camp for their rebellion.

Swingjugend

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As the Nazi Party took power in Germany in 1933, a complete crackdown on all “subversive” elements took hold. Having dealt with his political opponents in the years prior to his rise to the chancellorship, Hitler intended to finish the job by eradicating all potential opposition.

But in the schools and out on the streets, a silent flame tingled. Teenagers were rejecting the strict militarism and code of behavior bestowed by the Nazi Party through its youth organizations―the Hitler Youth and the League of German Girls

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This proved to be unsuccessful, because instead of embracing the Hitler Youth pastimes, city girls and boys crowded the swing dance joints.[2] This seemed to be the case particularly in the town of Hamburg, where the swing scene was huge.

The Swingjugend rejected the Nazi state, above all because of its ideology and uniformity, its militarism, the ‘Führer principle’ and the leveling Volksgemeinschaft (people’s community). They experienced a massive restriction of their personal freedom. They rebelled against all this with jazz and swing, which stood for a love of life, self-determination, non-conformism, freedom, independence, liberalism, and internationalism.

 

Though they were not an organized political-opposition organization, the whole culture of the Swing Kids evolved into a non-violent refusal of the civil order and culture of National Socialism.

From a paper of the National Youth Leader:

The members of the Swing youth oppose today’s Germany and its police, the Party and its policy, the Hitlerjugend, work and military service, and are opposed, or at least indifferent, to the ongoing war. They see the mechanisms of National Socialism as a “mass obligation”. The greatest adventure of all times leaves them indifferent; much to the contrary, they long for everything that is not German, but English.

From 1941, the violent repression by the Gestapo and the Hitlerjugend shaped the political spirit of the swing youth. Also, by police order, people under 21 were forbidden to go to dance bars, which encouraged the movement to seek its survival by going underground.

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The Swing Kids of Hamburg at some point had contacts with another famous resistance movement, when three members of the White Rose (German: Weiße Rose) developed a sympathy for the Swing Kids. No formal cooperation arose, though these contacts were later used by the Volksgerichtshof (“People’s Court”) to accuse some Swing Kids of anarchist propaganda and sabotage of the armed forces. The consequent trial, death sentences and executions were averted by the end of the war.

On 18 August 1941, in a brutal police operation, over 300 Swingjugend were arrested. The measures against them ranged from cutting their hair and sending them back to school under close monitoring, to the deportation of the leaders to concentration camps. The boys went to the Moringen concentration camp while the girls were sent to Ravensbruck.[10]

This mass arrest encouraged the youth to further their political consciousness and opposition to National Socialism. They started to distribute anti-fascist propaganda. In January 1943, Günter Discher, as one of the ringleaders of the Swing Kids, was deported to the youth concentration camp of Moringen.

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On 2 January 1942, Heinrich Himmler wrote to Reinhard Heydrich calling on him to clamp down on the ringleaders of the swing movement, recommending a few years in a concentration camp with beatings and forced labor:

The crackdown soon followed: clubs were raided, and participants were hauled off to camps.

Zazou

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In France a similar movement like Germany’s Swingjugend arose by the name Zazou.The zazous were a subculture in France during World War II. They were young people expressing their individuality by wearing big or garish clothing (similar to the zoot suit fashion in America a few years before).

On March 27 1942, France’s Vichy government issued the barbershop decree, demanding that barbers collect cut hair and donate it to the war effort to make slippers and sweaters. The rebellious Zazous refused and grew their hair long. The Zazous were directly inspired by jazz and swing music. A healthy black jazz scene had sprung up in Montmartre in the inter-war years. Their name  was inspired by a line in a song – Zah Zuh Zah – by Cab Calloway

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Vichy had started ‘Youth Worksites’ in July 1940, in what Zazous perceived as an attempt to indoctrinate French youth.  The Vichy regime was very concerned about the education, moral fibre and productivity of French youth. In 1940 a Ministry of Youth was established. They saw the Zazous as a rival and dangerous influence on youth.

In 1940, 78 anti-Zazou articles were published in the press, a further nine in 1941 and 38 in 1943.

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The Vichy papers deplored the moral turpitude and decadence that was affecting French morality. Zazous were seen as work-shy, egotistical and Judeo-Gaullist shirkers.

By 1942 the Vichy regime realised that the national revival that they hoped would be carried out by young people under their guidance was seriously affected by widespread rejection of the patriotism, work ethic, self-denial, asceticism and masculinity this called for.

Soon, round-ups began in bars and Zazous were beaten on the street. They became Enemy Number One of the fascist youth organisations, Jeunesse Populaire Française. “Scalp the Zazous!” became their slogan. Squads of young JPF fascists armed with hairclippers attacked Zazous. Many were arrested and sent to the countryside to work on the harvest.

At this point the Zazous went underground, holing up in their dance halls and basement clubs.

Though they did not suffer like their contemporaries in Germany, nevertheless, in a society of widespread complicity and acquiescence, their stand was courageous and trail-blazing.

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Sources

Queens of Vintage

Timelne

Libcom

Special thank you to Norman Stone who pointed me to the story of the Zazou.

Rum Rebellion-Happy Australia Day

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The Rum Rebellion of 1808 was the only successful armed takeover of government in Australian history. During the 19th century, it was widely referred to as the Great Rebellion.

The Governor of New South Wales, William Bligh, was deposed by the New South Wales Corps under the command of Major George Johnston, working closely with John Macarthur, on 26 January 1808, 20 years to the day after Arthur Phillip founded the first European settlement in Australia. Afterwards, the colony was ruled by the military, with the senior military officer stationed in Sydney acting as the lieutenant-governor of the colony until the arrival from Britain of Major-General Lachlan Macquarie as the new governor at the beginning of 1810.

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Brandishing bayonets and advancing to the tune of ‘The British Grenadiers’, the uniformed officers surrounded the governor’s residence. It took about two hours to find Bligh hiding inside – a political cartoon (above) from the time shows three soldiers dragging him out from under a bed.

Bligh had been appointed in 1806 to lick the colony into shape and reign in the powerful NSW Corps.

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He started by shutting down the rum trade, taking back land for public use, and listening to the concerns of poorer settlers.

Individuals like Major George Johnston, who led the NSW Corps, and the wealthy entrepreneur John Macarthur, soon felt threatened by Bligh’s moves to assert his authority.

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Rising tensions and repeated clashes between Bligh and the military elite prompted Johnston to propose an armed takeover – today known as the Rum Rebellion. in reality rum had little to do with it. Some officers made money in the rum trade, but Bligh’s treatment of property rights and prime real estate was much more concerning to them. It wasn’t called the Rum Rebellion until 50 years later.

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French troops in Co Mayo,Ireland

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One of the most extraordinary episodes in Irish history saw a French naval flotilla sail to the Northern coast of Mayo in 1798 to help Ireland in its long fight to break with Britain.

The 1789 French Revolution had been a huge source of inspiration for Irish nationalists and in the wake of the second annual celebrations of the fall of the Bastille in 1791, The United Irishmen were formed by a group of merchants and intellectuals who sought an end to British interference, parliamentary reform and Catholic emancipation. Its leader, Theobald Wolfe Tone, went to seek French support.

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On 22 August, about 1,000 French soldiers under General Humbert landed in the north-west of the country, at Kilcummin in County Mayo.

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Joined by up to 5,000 local rebels, they had some initial success, inflicting a humiliating defeat on the British in Castlebar (also known as the Castlebar races to commemorate the speed of the retreat) and setting up a short-lived “Irish Republic” with John Moore as president of one of its provinces, Connacht. This sparked some supportive risings in Longford and Westmeath which were quickly defeated, and the main force was defeated at the battle of Ballinamuck, in County Longford, on 8 September 1798. The Irish Republic had only lasted twelve days from its declaration of independence to its collapse. The French troops who surrendered were repatriated to France in exchange for British prisoners of war, but hundreds of the captured Irish rebels were executed. This episode of the 1798 Rebellion became a major event in the heritage and collective memory of the West of Ireland and was commonly known in Irish as Bliain na bhFrancach and in English as “The Year of the French”.[

On 12 October 1798, a larger French force consisting of 3,000 men, and including Wolfe Tone himself, attempted to land in County Donegal near Lough Swilly. They were intercepted by a larger Royal Navy squadron, and finally surrendered after a three-hour battle without ever landing in Ireland.

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Wolfe Tone was tried by court-martial in Dublin and found guilty. He asked for death by firing squad, but when this was refused, Wolfe Tone cheated the hangman by slitting his own throat in prison on 12 November, and died a week later.

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