Essay Example on Modern Irish history will forever remember the legacy left by Thomas Clarke









Modern Irish history will forever remember the legacy left by Thomas Clarke and everything he did for the freedom of Ireland Historian Desmond Ryan once said that in a sense Thomas Clarke is a man of one small book a few letters and his signature in the 1916 Proclamation He was often referred to as the Old Fenian Clarke was aided by a young generation of Republicans whom he galvanised towards one of the most important events in Irish history Clarke was a man of a reserved nature someone who worked diligently behind the scenes As a result he was often overshadowed in the Easter Rising by the other leaders but the work he produced was highly influential and did not necessarily get the credit it warranted Thomas Clarke was amongst the seven signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic and the oldest of the executed leaders of the Easter Rising He was born at the British Army barracks at Hurst Castle Isle of Wight on 11 March 1858 Clarke did not receive a great formal education yet he found supreme comfort and solace in the literary arts particularly writing Clarke attended national school in the town where he was later appointed a monitor a specific role given to older pupils who showed leadership qualities Even at a tender age Clarke showed promise it can be said this was the start of Clarke s legacy 

Although Clarke unlike many of the other leaders of the 1916 Rising was not an academic he devoted his life to a Gaelic Ireland and supported many of the literary and cultural movements of the late 1800s and the early 1900s It was clear from a young age Clarke understood the importance of literature certainly from a cultural point of view He had a keen interest in literature that coupled with the dramatic arts providing a platform from which he and others could create a sense of nationalism amongst the greater Irish population Thomas Clarke didn t write collections of poetry nor did he compose plays yet his understanding of the importance of literature and writing lead to informing mass amounts of people on the nationalist ideologies This is highlighted in his affiliation with the Irish Republican Brotherhood As a child growing up Thomas often witnessed the inequality and discrimination carried out by the British He believed that British rule was destroying Gaelic Ireland and must be cast off Clarke had contrasting views to that of his father James an ex British soldier In Dungannon Tyrone Clarke first engaged with radical nationalist politics In 1878 IRB organiser John Daly who later played a prominent role in Clarke s life visited the town Clarke was in awe of what Daly had to say and the well known Fenian swore him into the IRB After joining Clarke was promptly appointed First District Secretary of the Dungannon IRB Circle Here he thrived improving on his literature in the hopes of a changing Irish culture and society 

William Kelly a fellow classmate of Clarke s at the national school in Dungannon was initiated into the IRB two years after him in 1880 At this point Kelly noted that Clarke was at the centre of the IRB circle in Dungannon which consisted of twenty three members The greatest insight into the mind of Thomas Clarke comes in the form of the letters sent back and forth between his wife Kathleen and himself as seen in her memoirs These letters are pivotal to not only understanding Thomas Clarke but give a greater understanding of the Rising as well As historian Michael Foy notes in Kathleen Clarke found a perfect soulmate whose ferocious political commitment matched his own who worshipped him and gave him the support that sustained him for the rest of his life His nationalist ideologies and beliefs coupled with the support of his fellow associates who shared the same passion for a free and liberal Ireland changed not only Irish history but world history What is meant by this is simply that nothing would remain the same after Clarke and his fellow signatories struck the first significant blow for Freedom Letter writing cannot be underestimated in comprehending Irish cultural nationalism and in turn the Rising The letters from Clarke Pearse Connolly and the other leaders provide a clear insight by which the readers have not only the opportunity but the responsibility to read analyse and try to understand Irish nationalism 

This would be the first time in history that British forces faced resistance within their own empire and subsequently paved the way for other oppressed states under British rule such as India to rise as one for liberty On June 14th 1883 Clarke along with three other Fenians were found guilty of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment He was first held at Millbank Prison before being transferred to Chatham Prison in December 1883 Here Clarke experienced the Victorian prison regime where prisoners were subjected to particularly harsh conditions especially those convicted of treason He later wrote about his experience in his memoir Glimpses of an Irish Felon's Prison Life which recounted the relentless monotony of the system of silence and separation Had anyone told me before the prison doors closed upon me that it was possible for any human being to endure what the Irish prisoners have endured in Chatham Prison and come out of it alive and sane I would not have believed him yet some have done so and it has been a source of perpetual surprise to me that I was able to get through it all

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