November 30th, 2015


The O'Rahilly

The O'Rahilly wore the tips of his big moustache twisted up and waxed- in a style that now looks ridiculous. He was a rich man with a taste for sports cars (the natty little de Dion Bouton he drove into Dublin in Apreil 1916 got incorporated into a barricade and burned.) The title he adopted- putting a "The" before his name to identify himself as  a clan chieftain- was an affectation that must have made people smile behind his back. He was a bit of a fantasist- but then most of the rebel leaders were- imagining themselves as heroes in order to act as such.  As Conor Cruise O'Brien said of Pearse- "He saw the Rising as a passion play with real blood."

When the rebels broke out of the Post Office, The O'Rahilly found himself leading a charge against a barricade. He took a hit;  then in dodging across the street to the shelter of a shop doorway- got himself stitched neatly from shoulder to hip with machine gun bullets. He took many hours to die and used some of that time to write a gallant, even bouncy, letter of farewell to his wife. According to Yeats he also wrote "Here died the O'Rahlly, RIP" on the shop door in his own blood but this appears to be apochryphal. No doubt he'd have done it if he'd thought of it.

Last night on TV a lineal descandant of his- a young man called Mangan- stood on the street a few yards from where the O'Rahilly died and talked about the folly of nationalism...

Yeatsian Trivia

I've spent much of the day noodling around the world of W.B. Yeats. It's hard to separate the man from the poet. I don't suppose any writer ever did such a thoroughgoing job of mythologising himself, his times and the people he knew.

One treasures small deflating incidents- like the time Yeat's father smacked him round the back of the head with a framed picture- breaking the glass- after an argument about Ruskin.

It's hard to find a picture of him that's not been posed- but that's true, I suppose, of anyone of his generation. There are occasional snapshots- in which he wears a social smile or gets caught between poses- most of them taken on the lawns of country houses.

Talking about photos I've learned- for what it's worth- that Maud Gonne- supposedly a person of statuesque beauty- looked a lot like Cherie Blair and that Yeats's wife- Georgie Hyde-Lees (who I find more attractive than Gonne)- looked a lot like Yoko Ono.