Over the last few years interest in the roles that women played throughout Irish history has finally picked up. We now know that there were far more women who took part in the Easter Rising than previously thought. Estimates have put their numbers anywhere from seventy-seven to several hundred and many are finally getting the recognition that they have deserved for so long. Sorcha MacMahon was one of those women and without her, the 1916 uprising may have been very different indeed.
Scotland the Brave? Only about 45% of them. Proud? Not so much. Unless you count the 55% of them full of British pride and the subset of them who were enjoying the violence as they attacked anyone wearing blue or carrying a Scottish flag. Or maybe we’re speaking of the people who stormed a park in Glasgow while smugly displaying nazi salutes, singing God Save the Queen and waving a Union Jack. It was like the 12th of July all over again…except that it was September and seemed like it would go on forever. This fascist “victory” behavior, along with the fear-mongering and condescension of the Better Together bullshit campaign leaves a sour taste and a confused “what the hell just happened in Scotland?” question rolling around in my head.
When I visited Kilmainham Gaol in December, it was a bit like a pilgrimage for me. I knew that I would be walking through the notorious place I had been reading about for 20 years and that my Irish history knowledge would only be improved by going…but I didn’t really want to. I knew it’d be hard for me as I am a sensitive girl and I left my traveling companions elsewhere in order to do it alone. I was highly emotional, particularly when I visited “Last Words“, the exhibit on the top floor of the prison.
As I left the gaol, I really needed to collect myself. My makeup was runny from tears I had barely held back in the exhibit and my head was full of things I wanted to remember and write down. Most of all, I wanted a cigarette. I crossed the street to have one and to not fall apart in front of a major tourist attraction and found myself surrounded by humanoid, creepy bronze statues whose chests were full of bullet holes. In the split second it took me to put two and two together, I realized 2 things. These were the creepiest statues I had ever seen and I had come to the wrong place to collect myself, as it made me even more emotional and teary.
I don’t know if I like Rowan Gillespie or not. On one hand I believe he’s a genius. On the other, his work hits me in a visceral way that makes me uncomfortable. This is Proclamation, another place I had to add to the Atlas Obscura. It’s getting quite full of Irish places these days….