Easter Rising leader Thomas Ashe was ‘a man ahead of his time’

Easter Rising leader Thomas Ashe was described yesterday as “a man ahead of his time” by two young pupils from the school where he once taught.

Easter Rising leader Thomas Ashe was ‘a man ahead of his time’

Sinéad Rafferty and Rachel Finnegan from Corduff National School in Lusk, Co Dublin, joined the invited dignitaries to remember Kerry-born Ashe at a State ceremony in Glasnevin Cemetary in Dublin.

Sinéad, who is in third class, said they are proud of what Ashe achieved in the 1916 Easter Rising, but they also think it is important to speak about how he was a teacher ahead of his time.

Eileen Quinn, niece of Thomas Ashe, in Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin, during the state commemoration for the centenary of the funeral of 1916 Rising leader.
Eileen Quinn, niece of Thomas Ashe, in Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin, during the state commemoration for the centenary of the funeral of 1916 Rising leader.

“He was incredibly popular with the children of Corduff,” she said. “They said he had a way of teaching that helped them to learn easily. He did not believe in using the rod.”

Ashe, who was born in Kinard East, Lispole, Co Kerry, trained as a teacher in De La Salle College, Waterford. He taught at Minard Castle National School in Kerry for nine months before his appointment as principal of Corduff National School.

Rachel, who is in sixth class, said Ashe was a great teacher who became a great leader.

“He is someone I should look up to,” she said. “He reminds me to stand up for what I believe in, to never give up, to be the best I can and be proud of my country.”

Thomas Ashe
Thomas Ashe

The ceremony, attended only by invited guests, took place at Ashe’s grave which is near that of O’Donovan Rossa and Fenian founder James Stephens.

Minister for Culture, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys, laid a wreath at Ashe’s grave on behalf of the Government. She described Ashe as a member of “that revolutionary generation” that laid the foundations of the modern Irish State. She said the State, together with members of Ashe’s family, wanted to mark his life and legacy with a sensitive and fitting commemoration that reflected his great love of his country and his heritage.

A floral wreath was laid by Ashe’s niece, Eileen Quinn, her son, Gregory, and her grandson, also called Gregory.

Chairman of the Glasnevin Trust, John Green, who also laid a wreath, said that, as they reflected on the short life of Thomas Ashe, it was extraordinary how much he achieved.

“From the Gaelic League to the Gaelic fields; from his school to his community; from the Irish Volunteers to the Irish Republic Brotherhood; he was a leader,” he said. “His tragic death sometimes overshadows his many talents and achievements.”

A member of the Black Raven pipe band plays at Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin, for the commemoration for the centenary of the funeral of 1916 Rising leader Thomas Ashe.
A member of the Black Raven pipe band plays at Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin, for the commemoration for the centenary of the funeral of 1916 Rising leader Thomas Ashe.

After the Rising, Ashe escaped execution and was interned. He was released in June 1917 under the general amnesty given to Republican prisoners.

In August 1917 he was arrested after a speech in Ballinalee, Longford, where Michael Collins was also speaking. When he was taken to Mountjoy Prison, Ashe and another Irish revolutionary and politician, Austin Stack, demanded to be treated as prisoners of war.

On September 25, 1917, Ashe died from pneumonia, which was caused by force-feeding by the prison authorities. He was 32 years old.

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