Easter is a lot of things to a lot of people, but to Irish Republicans it is a high holy day that has very little to do with religion. It is a day to commemorate the Easter Rising of 1916, to mourn those who have been lost during the struggle for Irish freedom, and it is a reminder that the fight for a unified Ireland is unfinished.
Commemorations take place throughout Ireland and the rest of the world, including one in my current hometown in the Bay Area. The Bay has a long history with Ireland and the commemorations happen here every Easter, but this was the first I went to. Numbers were likely impacted by the rain but still respectable and those who did come stayed all the way through the speeches and songs regardless of the weather.
We had a proper ceremony, complete with pipes and drums, flags and politicians, and steady rain. The annual activities take place at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma at the graveside of Thomas Desmond. Desmond was Irish born but living in America and he was a freedom fighter on both continents. He sailed on the Catalpa to free Irish prisoners held in Australia and upon his return, he went into local Bay Area politics and became a San Francisco sheriff. This year his grave was an especially appropriate location considering how much of the commemoration was devoted to the late Martin McGuinness – another freedom fighter who turned politician.
The main speaker was Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire, a Sinn Fein TD from Cork and a good portion of his speech honored McGuinness, as did the others. A lovely poem written by Barry McColgan about Martin’s funeral in Derry was recited near the end of the commemoration. I captured some of these moments in the video below, but fair warning – I was more concerned with recording the words than I was with the visuals.
It was a morning well spent since I couldn’t be in Ireland this year. If I have to live somewhere else I suppose this place is OK….for now. It’s not Donegal or Derry, but I could do much, much worse.