Remembering Wexford 1798 and 1916

By Dan Walsh

Bishop Ger Nash delivered the homily for the State Commemoration Service in Arbour Hill, Dublin, today, where he prayed; “In the words of today’s Gospel, the 1916 leaders where a grain of wheat which produced a great harvest.”

“Since my boyhood experience of the 1966 commemoration, 1916 took its place in my mind. Now, many years on from 1966 I have been living and ministering in Wexford for the past eight months. It has been one of learning, but it has also been a time of reconnecting with the 1798 story in Wexford – that other significant Irish rebellion.

BISHOP OF FERNS GER NASH

“The statues of pikemen in various places function as reminders of 1798, but what strikes me more as I travel about is seeing place names that resonated in song and story throughout my own school days – Boolavogue, Vinegar Hill, The Harrow, Geneva, and so on. All of them are reminders that we have inherited a love and a yearning for freedom. And there is no doubt that Fr Murphy and the Rebels of Wexford were in many ways, inspirers of the 1916 rebels whom we remember today.

Bishop Nash said; “In the words of today’s Gospel, they were the grain of wheat which produced a great harvest. Their place in history has in ways removed them from the ranks of ordinary people. When people stand at the hinge point of a nation’s story as the 1916 leaders did, we easily forget they too had an ordinary beginning and a vision of life in their youth which did not encompass the circumstances that brought them to this place. They were the men like my elderly neighbours in Tulla, Co. Clare, but unlike them they were not allowed to grow old.

“The 1916 executions deprived your families of beloved sons, husbands, breadwinners, and dearly loved fathers. Some of the most poignant stories of the post Easter time in 1916 are the stories of the visits of children to their condemned fathers and their final goodbyes. These losses were the sacrifices that your families made as a life-giving gift to our nation,” concluded the Bishop of Ferns.

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