Dear Sinead, When you read this, I may be walking to the firing ground, soon to be dead. We are all to be executed. I hear Pearse and Connolly are already gone. Love to the children. Don’t fear for me. You can do nothing. Your loving…
My hands stop on my typewriter. What am I saying? What am I doing? How do I tell a loving wife that the husband she adores shall soon be dead and for what? A simple plot in a rebellion that went wrong. Now here we are. Separated by concrete walls, nothing but the thoughts of the touch of one another’s bodies, and yet did I ever think about her when I walked with Vivion, my eldest son, to the numerous streets, to help plan this rebellion? No. No. I grasped his hand tight, a hawk on its prey, and ploughed through the people and the streets. I see them now. Sackville Street - GPO, St Stephen’s Green, the Royal College of Surgeons. He asks me not to grip so tight but I am excited, ecstatic. Soon I will fight for the freedom of Irish people. Portlach na hEireann as the proclamation will say. And then we reach my zone, the place where I will be commander. Here they are before me. Upper Mount Street, Northumberland Road, Grand Canal Street! And then here it is, my fortress, my protector, Boland’s Mill, the infrastructure where I shall take my stand against the oppressive forces that deny my sovereignty and my rights! Did I think of her then? No. I thought of my blood sacrifice for my country. Maybe, I could heroically argue that if I had died in battle, if I die now, that it was all for the future of my children, so that they could live safe and free from British forces, but that is a lie. I thought only for myself. I didn’t think about the poverty I would inflict on her with no man holding a wage and children to feed. Part of me now still doesn’t think of her, as I rejoice in what I have done and only wished we could have kept our arms longer. I crumple up my letter - Sinead can wait - and throw myself on the itching prison bed. Look at me, a fool of a maths tutor turned a leader of the 1916 rising. If I survive, they think I’d have elevated status, yet they believe me mad. Eamon de Valera - lunatic, who almost got shot at the rising. I close my eyes and rest…
BANG! A bullet ricochets near my head and I know in my dream what date it is, 25th April 1916 - the recurring memory of my fight. Bodies of my men line the ground, splattered in the red sea of martyrdom and I need to check our supplies. Like a spooked horse, I have leapt from battlement to battlement trying to get news. I grab my M1871 Mauser and dodge through the firing of Lee Enfields from the Beggar’s Bush Barracks. I need to know what is going on - where are our ‘allies’? A hand grabs me from behind, thrusting me on the ground as an RIC traitor throws a grenade. It clatters along the flagstones, edging nearer and nearer to where my remains would have laid if I hadn’t been prevented.
“Jesus, Dev. What the hell do ye think yer playing at? Running round in the bloody cross-fire like an eejit. Go take a lie down.”
I begin to move away again but the man blocks my way.
“Ah now, let me alone. Let me alone!”
His grip tightens. I strive to struggle past him. All I hear are gunshots and a bird. The little bird in the distance that sits on our ammunition chirping to me, telling me to give this all up. He won’t let me go.
I ignore him, trying to move him out of my way. The songbird’s song continues. I grasp my head and collapse to the floor. Shut up and leave me alone, you poxy bird before I shoot ye! The thudding of the Lewis guns in the background mirror my heartbeat as I sprawl on the floor with this man shouting over me.
“Dev! Eamon! Dev! Jesus! Ye haven’t slept, eaten. Just running, talking to yerself. Ye look like a madman and the lads are concerned. Take a break before ye get yerself shot and then what use are ye?”
He snatches my M1871 off me (probably so he can take my ammo) and thrusts his C96 in my hand, before taking me into the mill. The shots are throwing the dust off into my face and thudding slowly, as my breathing becomes more shallow. I am exhausted and yet desire to continue my fight. He lies me down, as I close my eyes before shouting....
“WE MUST BLOW UP THE RAILWAY!” I am not there now, but where I closed my eyes - that fight ended weeks ago. I grasp beside me to feel Sinead. She is not there. Instead, my hand scrapes across sharp edges of the wall and I cry out, trapped in my incarcerated cell. So this was my fight for independence, a signed death warrant for the firing squad in Kilmainham Gaol. I want Sinead. I want to cry in her arms like an infant and feel her cool fingertips on my neck, telling me it will be alright. Sinead, I’m sorry. I never meant to leave you like this. The British will exterminate me soon, but know that I die cherishing you forever. I rush to my typewriter as the guilt seeps in, I must reject those feelings that make me deny how much I adore her.
Dear Sinead, I love you. Your loving husband, Dev xxxxx
I crumple up the note and put my head in my hands, waiting to die. The songbird keeps singing.