The subject of this episode of 'Self Portrait' is nationalist and educator Louise Gavan Duffy, daughter of Sir Charles Gavan Duffy.
Louise's brother Geroge Gavan Duffy defended Roger Casement and was one of the plenipotentiaries sent to negotiate with the British Government in 1921, and one of the five signatories of the Anglo-Irish Treaty.
Louise Gavan Duffy was born and raised in France and came to Dublin in her late teens to study. She played her part in the 1916 rising working in the kitchens at the GPO. In 1917 she opened the All-Irish language school for girls Scoil Bríde dedicating her life to educating Irish children in line with the ideals of her friend Padraig Pearse. Louise Gavan Duffy was a member of the Central Branch of Cumann na mBan.
In this excerpt from 'Self Portrait', Louise Gavan Duffy remembers the week of Easter 1916 and the part she played in the Rising. Louise describes first hearing about the rising breaking out while working on her MA thesis at her digs on Haddington Road.
On Monday, news rushed about. Volunteers had taken the GPO. They were in possession of several other places in the city. I determined to go and find out for myself.
Louise made her way to the GPO and demanded to speak to Padraig Pearse.
I was brought to Pearse and had the temerity to tell him that I thought the rebellion was very wrong as it would certainly fail, but that I wished do be there if there was going to be anything doing.
Louise spent Easter week serving meals and washing up in the kitchen on the top floor of the GPO, under the supervision of Desmond Fitzgerald, who she describes as
A man entirely without fear, physical or moral, and also without self-pity. His humour and gaiety never deserted us through that week.
Having spent the week on her feet in the kitchen, Louise was a little lame and rumours incorrectly abound that she had been wounded in the leg.
Louise describes the events at the GPO throughout the week including the burning of the GPO and her evacuation to Jervis Street hospital where she and the other women in the group were allowed to sleep on the floor while the injured were tended to. It was the next day before they heard news of the surrender and Louise returned to her lodgings on Haddington Road.
This episode of 'Self Portrait' was broadcast on 20 March 1962.
'Self Portrait' was a series of intimate studio monologues with distinguished Irish men and women. It proved a unique opportunity to hear and see significant individuals presenting themselves in their own words and voices, enriching their presentations with personal stories. Portraits in the series included Patrick Kavanagh, Sylvia Beach, John B Keane, Kate O'Brien, Sir Tyrone Guthrie, Harry O'Donovan and Sam Thompson.
For more on Easter Week 1916 visit www.rte.ie/1916.