Piaras Béaslaí may have been born in England, but that didn’t stop him from being profoundly Irish. His Irish Catholic parents emigrated to Liverpool before Piaras was born but he grew up with a strong love for his heritage. By the time he was a teenager he was fluent in Irish and obsessed with Ireland’s struggle for independence. He wrote fiery newspaper articles and rebellious poetry that highlighted the Irish Republican cause and eventually led him into the Gaelic League and the secretive Irish Republican Brotherhood. He developed close friendships and worked side by side with many prominent revolutionaries like Ned Daly, Thomas Ashe, and Michael Collins, just to name a few.
Béaslaí rose through the ranks and was heavily involved in the Easter Rising of 1916. During the fight he was the one of the deputy leaders of Dublin’s First Battalion, and he was stationed at the Four Courts garrison where he saw some of the most intense fighting in the city. At the end of the conflict, Piaras was arrested along with his commander Ned Daly and many other men and women who had fought for nearly a week. Béaslaí avoided the firing squad that took the lives of many of his friends, but spent years in prison for his role in the Rising.
After he was was released, Piaras went right back into the fight for freedom. He teamed up with Michael Collins to streamline communications for the Irish Republican Army and to edit An tOglach, the Irish Volunteer newspaper. Soon he was named the IRA’s Director of Publicity. Later he dove into politics, joined Sinn Fein, and was elected to the first Dáil Éireann.
Béaslaí was loyal to Collins, so it was no surprise when he supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921. After the treaty was ratified, he became a major-general in the Free-State Army and worked in the Press Censorship department during Ireland’s Civil War, but his friend’s assassination hit him hard. Béaslaí retired from politics and all government positions shortly after Collins was killed and returned to his literary roots. He wrote many poems, plays, and novels in both Irish and English. He also devoted his time to completing two books about his good friend Michael Collins.
Piaras Béaslaí died on this day in 1965 at the ripe old age of eighty-four. He never married and is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin. He shares a plot with Thomas Ashe and Peadar Kearney and they’re all just a stones throw away from the grave of Michael Collins. My bet is that Béaslaí would be happy with that.
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