The twentieth, twenty-fifth and fiftieth anniversaries of the Easter Rising, 1916 were commemorated by The Capuchin Annual in volumes 1936, 1942 and 1966. The Capuchin Annual espoused a very strong Irish nationalist and Catholic identity and its interpretation of the Rising was framed within this context. It also served to document the involvement of the Capuchin Order in the Rising and their spiritual help and ministry to the revolutionaries.
The talented Irish artist Richard King (1907-74) who worked in both stained glass and graphic design began to submit illustrations to The Capuchin Annual in 1936 and was staff artist from 1940-53. He was trained in stained glass by Harry Clarke (1889-1931) whose influence is very apparent in The Kevin Barry Memorial Window (1932-34). This work designed by King was originally in the Old Council Chamber, Earlsfort Terrace UCD and is now in UCD Charles Institute, of Dermatology, Belfield, Dublin. The 1916 panel from this window which was reproduced in The Capuchin Annual of 1936, depicts the wounded James Connolly lying in the foreground. A nurse who is kneeling is shown tending to him. The heads of the seven revolutionaries are in an inset above right. The burning General Post Office is visible in the background. Patrick Pearse and others among the revolutionaries are also seen on the left.
The 1942 edition of The Capuchin Annual focused on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Rising which occurred in 1941 and reproduced photographs of dignitaries reviewing the parade of the Defence Forces at the General Post Office on O’Connell Street in Dublin. In an article entitled Easter Week 1916/Personal Recollections, Fr Aloysius Travers OFM Cap. (1870-1957) provided an account of the role played by the Capuchin Friars in the events of the Easter Rising and in particular their ministry to Patrick Pearse, James Connolly, Thomas MacDonagh and other rebel leaders before their executions in Kilmainham Jail.
Our lead image, Richard King’s medal (The Capuchin Annual, vol. 1942, p. 197) designed to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of 1916, depicts the figure of Éire traditionally seen as a woman wearing a crown, cloak and Celtic brooch. Her uplifted arms show chains which are broken and indicate her desire for freedom. The flames which surround her at the bottom suggest the almost mystical or supernatural approach to this type of Irish iconography which was a feature of the work of King during this period. Another image by King which is untitled, is executed in scraperboard and is also reproduced in this volume. It is signed K on the bottom right which was the artist’s custom at the time. It depicts Patrick Pearse in profile with a flaming sword in the centre and his writings with their titles written in Irish are seen on left and right. This is a further indication of the romanticised interpretation of the struggle for Ireland’s liberation and independence depicted by King’s illustrations and the hagiography associated with Patrick Pearse in particular.
Among a number of other untitled illustrations by King in this volume is one which depicts the heads of the seven revolutionaries within a large flame-like shape which refers symbolically to martyrdom. A sword which is flaming is seen in the centre. 1916 is shown at the top and an inscription in Irish is visible in the centre which is in fact the first sentence of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. Indeed, the promotion of the Irish language and Gaelic script was a feature of The Capuchin Annual during this period. This image is signed K on bottom left.
There is also an untitled image by King of a Celtic warrior which is drawn from the artist’s knowledge of Irish myths and legends. This warrior is depicted holding a sword and shield and is seen against the burning General Post Office in the background. The image is signed K on top right.
The Capuchin Annual of 1966 which commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the Rising included an introductory note by the editor Fr Henry Anglin OFM Cap. (1910-1977) who reflected on the events of 1916 and their importance in securing the country’s freedom and independence. For this volume a number of articles were commissioned from those who were involved in Easter Week 1916. An article by Éilis Bean Uí Chonail entitled A Cumann na mBan recalls Easter Week recalls the involvement of women during 1916. They nursed the wounded in the Capuchin-run Father Mathew Hall in Church Street which the Irish Volunteers used as a first-aid station during the Rising. In particular, the author pays tribute to Fr Augustine Hayden OFM Cap. (1870-1954) and to Br Pacificus Ryan OFM Cap. (1876-1950) who welcomed the Volunteers and the Cumann na mBan members into the Hall and who provided spiritual and practical assistance throughout Easter Week.
Volumes of The Capuchin Annual can be consulted in the Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections.
Images from The Capuchin Annual courtesy of The Irish Capuchin Provincial Archives. We also acknowledge Kenneth King (Richard King’s eldest son) who gave permission to reproduce images of his father’s work and Dr. Brian Kirby, Provincial Archivist, Irish Capuchin Provincial Archives for his assistance.
Librarian in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture