November 1, 2015

Eibhlín Nic Niocaill — obituary by Pádraig Pearse

From An Claidheamh Soluis agus Fáinne an Lae, 21 August 1909:

There are times when journalists and public men experience a trial more cruel than others can easily imagine. It is when they are called upon in the course of their duty to write or speak in public of things that touch the innermost fibres of their own hearts, things that to them are intimate and sacred, entwined, it may be, with their dearest friendships and affections, awakening to vibrations old chords of joy or sorrow. The present is such an occasion for the writer of these paragraphs, and this must be his excuse if he does not pay to Eibhlín Nic Niocaill such tribute as readers of An Claidheamh Soluis will expect. It is not in human nature to write a glib newspaper article on a dead friend. One dare not utter all that is in one’s heart and in the effort of self-restraint one is apt to pen only cold and formal things. Therefore we will discharge as briefly as may be the duty that falls upon us.

First we would voice the sorrow of our organisation for the death of one of its most brilliant and heroic members. We have often spoken in the name of the Gaelic League, but never have we felt ourselves peculiarly at one with it as thus making ourselves the mouthpiece of its tribute to Eibhlín Nic Niocaill. We knew her well, and she was the most nobly planned of all the women we have known. The newspapers have truly spoken of her as the most distinguished student of her time. Gaelic Leaguers will remember her as an incomparably strenuous worker during her brief but crowded career of active service. But it is neither as a student or as a League worker that her friends will think of her. Her grand dower of intellect, her gracious gift of charm and sympathy, her capacity for affairs, were known to all, but those who knew her best know that all of these were the least of her endowments. What will stand out clear and radiant in their mental picture of her is the loftiness of her soul, the inner sanctity of her life.

The close of that life had been worthy of it. If she had been asked to choose the manner of her death she would surely have chosen it thus. She died to save another, and that as a young Irish-speaking girl. Greater love than this no man hath than he give his life for his friend. To Eibhlín Nic Niocaill high heroism was native. Her life was consecrated to the service of high things. And without seeking reward she found rich reward in the enthusiastic love of hundreds. She gave much love and received much love. Not many have been carried with such passion of grief and affection as that which thrilled in the keenings of the Kerry women as the curraghs forming her funeral procession moved across the sound:

“Mo ghroidhn tú, a Eibhlín,
“Mo ghroidhn do mháthair,
“Mo ghroidhn go bráth í!”
they said. In Dublin her comrades’, and fellow-students’, grief was not articulate, but no one who witnessed it could doubt its poignancy. Our second duty is to offer respectfully the sympathy of her and our co-workers to her father and mother and brothers. The memory of her life and death will be the greatest treasure in the years that are to come. And for them the treasure will be none the less though many thousands of her people claim a share in it also.

I bhfochair an Uain go raibh a hanam ar feadh na sforaíochta!

—P.H. Pearse