Bulmer Hobson a founding member of the Irish Volunteers remembers Patrick Pearse and the Easter Rising.
John Bulmer Hobson was born into a Quaker family in Belfast in 1883. Interested in Irish history and nationalism from an early age, he was sworn into the IRB (Irish Republican Brotherhood) in 1904, and also held membership of the Gaelic League and Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).
In 1905 he founded the Dungannon Clubs in Belfast with Denis McCullough, a non-sectarian nationalist organisation whose aim was to work towards Ireland’s independence. With Countess Constance Markievicz, he founded Na Fianna Éireann (the Irish National Boy Scouts) in 1909.
In addition to his many activities, he wrote newspaper articles, went on speaking tours in the United States, was instrumental in planning the Howth gun-running, and was secretary and member of the Irish Volunteers provisional council.
Bulmer Hobson became a member of the Supreme Council of the IRB, and it was he who swore in Pádraig Pearse in 1913. His membership of the Irish Republican Brotherhood changed the political allegiances of the man who had initially been a follower of John Redmond and who had welcomed the Home Rule bill,
A matter of months afterwards he was warning people that I had introduced him to in America that I wasn’t nearly revolutionary enough. Once he started to move to the left he moved with great rapidity.
Bulmer Hobson remembers Pearse as someone who was most definitely not of a practical nature,
He lived in a dream of Robert Emmet he had a lot of theories about sacrificing the necessity for having a periodic bloodbath in order to keep the spirit, the nationalist spirit, alive.
The taking up of arms was incompatible with Bulmer Hobson’s Quaker upbringing and beliefs, and so he resigned from the Society of Friends. In contrast to most of his comrades in the Volunteers, he was in favour of guerrilla warfare, and did not believe that occupation of public buildings accompanied by an insurrection would work out at all.
To his mind, the Easter Rising in 1916 only achieved a measure of success following the executions of the revolutionaries, as at the time it did not have universal support in Ireland,
If the English had not executed them, it would have been a complete fiasco. The whole people of Ireland were against anything of the sort. Actually when the men surrendered after the fighting in ’16 they had to be protected by the British troops against the Dublin mob.
How does he think this period of history will be remembered? In time the mythology surrounding people and events will begin to dissipate, he believes, and a clearer picture will emerge,
I think it takes at least 50 years before the historians can sort things out.
This episode of ‘Óglaigh na hÉireann’ was broadcast on 5 December 1963. It was the second of two programmes broadcast to commemorate the founding of the Irish Volunteers in 1913. The presenter is John O’Donoghue.