Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa Funeral Souvenir Programme, 1st August 1915 The funeral of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa was held on August 1st 1915 and a souvenir booklet was published. This was a remarkable and noteworthy publication. It featured many patriotic and inspiring articles from the most prominent republican and nationalist figures of the day.
Patrick Pearse wrote a dedication to Rossa entitled ‘A Character Study’; Arthur Griffith penned an article on ‘The Influence of Fenianism’; A fascinating account called ‘Rossa – Arch Rebel’ was contributed by William O’Leary Curtis; James Connolly wrote about ‘Why the Citizen Army Honours Rossa’ and Thomas MacDonagh delivered a rousing account of ‘The Irish Volunteer in 1915’. However of particular interest was the wonderfully descriptive commentary on the establishment, background and objectives of Na Fianna Eireann by one of the principle initiators of the National Boy Scout organisation, and original committee member, Sean McGarry.
It read as follows: “Someone has said that every Irishman is born a rebel; this assertion may seem rather sweeping, but it is undoubtedly a fact that nearly every Irish boy is instinctively a rebel. All over the country, even in districts untouched by Fenianism, and in which are no traditions of the sacrifices and struggles of local Fenians, we find Tone, Emmet, Dwyer, Rossa, and men of their stamp figuring as heroes in the conversations and confidences of the boys, who may have no knowledge of the particular deed or deeds of any of them, little or no conception of their aspirations or their hopes, but one thing always is clear to the youthful mind all of their heroes fought for Ireland and against England. This National instinct in the boys of Ireland is truly wonderful; it guides them unerringly and without apparent reason; their knowledge of the men whose names are linked together in their imaginations being, in most cases, gleaned from fragments of conversations overheard, from snatches of ballads sung willy-nilly by their elders, or mayhap now and then from the lips of a forlorn ballad singer; the latter not being nearly so common now as was the case a dozen years ago. It is unfortunate that until quite recently no very serious attempt was made to guard and guide our young rebels through their school days, and through that period of transition between boyhood and manhood, that period during which so many dreams are forgotten, so many illusions shattered; during which one might almost say the man of the future is made. There were many endeavours to capture the young minds for the nation by the establishment of language and history classes, by the format on of juvenile football and hurley clubs, they all met with some success, but in the main the boys tired of the routine, and were lost in the tide of anglicisation.
About five years ago Na Fianna Éireann was started, in a very modest way, in Dublin, and since then the organisation has spread in a wonderful manner throughout the whole country. The boys of the Fianna have solved the difficulties which attended previous effort in this direction, they have done this by combining work and play, by completely controlling the organisation themselves, thus making each individual by feel that he himself is more or less responsible for the success of their work. The boys make their own laws, elect their officers, smooth over their difficulties and settle their differences with surprising tact and diplomacy; so each one feels that he himself is the organisation. The effects of the training in the Fianna on the boys who will form the next generation of the men of Ireland cannot be over-estimated. The discipline of camp, parade and drill-hall will remain throughout their lives; the independence of thought, action and initiative acquired in the conducting of the routine work of the different corps will result in manliness and self-reliance, and lastly, the physical training and outdoor life will give them what some English chronicler said were possessed by their forefathers “strong bodies” as well as a healthy outlook. It is not, however, in the camp and on the march that the most important work of the Fianna is accomplished, for from the National aspect it is much more important that the spirit of the Fenians should be kept alive, that the national instincts of the children should be transformed into national convictions before they reach the age of manhood, and it is here the Fianna have triumphed. Their history classes give them mote intimate knowledge of the men who figured as heroes in their childish imaginations; they learn with undiluted joy of the glorious deeds of Owen Roe and Hugh O’Neill, of the supreme heroism of the men of ‘98, and the men of ‘67, who gloried in the service of Ireland and their language classes bring them into closer touch with the spirit of the Gael – the spirit of the Fianna of Fionn, of Cuchullan and Fergus, whose deeds are recounted with enthusiasm, and whose lives stand forth as models of perfection for Irishmen. And if the effect of the training of the Fianna is such on the individual who shall estimate the effect on the nation, when the hundreds of boys who are how in the different corps come to take their places in the National fight? Imbued with a belief in the righteousness of their cause, fired with a love for Ireland implanted in their hearts from childhood; with the example of great lives and great endeavours before them; we can look forward with confidence to that day which is surely coming; when the final struggle the consummation of the hopes of Rossa and the others will take place. We know that the boys of the Fianna will be in the forefront of the fight, and we know that the boys of another generation will recount their deeds with the same prides the boys of to-day recount the deeds of the Fianna of Fionn.” Signed by “Sean Mac Gadhra” *It is interesting to note that of the illustrious ‘O’Donovan Rossa Funeral Committee‘, five members were also members of Na Fianna Eireann. They were Bulmer Hobson, Padraig O’Riain, Countess Markievicz, Eamon Martin and Con Colbert.
The full funeral souvenir booklet can be downloaded from here: http://source.southdublinlibraries.ie/bitstream/10599/9030/4/ODonovanRossa.pdf