By Muriel Bristol | April 24, 2020
Joseph Mary Plunkett, a leader of the Irish Easter Rising (April 1916) and a signatory of its Proclamation, married his fiancée, Grace Evelyn Gifford, in the chapel of Kilmainham Gaol, just hours before he was executed by a British firing squad in May 1916. (All of the Proclamation’s signatories were shot). She brought the ring, they had only ten minutes together.
There would be a guard there, and you could not talk. … I was just a few moments there to get married, and then again a few minutes to say good-bye that night; and a man stood there with his watch in his hand, and said: ‘ten minutes’.
Plunkett’s companion Padraic, who in the song calls him from his post-operative sickbed, was Padraic Pearse, president of the proclaimed provisional republic. He would be shot too, as was Grace’s brother-in-law (her sister’s husband). The General Post Office (G.P.O.) was the headquarters of their weeklong rebellion. (I See His Blood Upon the Rose was a poem written by Joseph Plunkett).
During the 2016 centenary of the Easter Rising, musicians Róisin O. [O’Reilly], her brother, Danny O’Reilly, and their cousin, Aoife Scott, gave a moving rendition of this much-covered song about Grace Gifford and Joseph Plunkett, which they performed in the Kilmainham Gaol where the Plunketts had married a century earlier. (They conclude their performance by quoting the last words of consolation of another signatory, James Connelly, as spoken to his wife Lillie shortly before he was shot).
Grace was imprisoned in Kilmainham herself for some months in 1923 by the Irish Free State, during the Irish Civil War. (She was an anti-Treaty adherent).
Grace by James McCann
As we gather in the chapel, here in old Kilmainham Gaol,
I think about these past few weeks, oh, will they say we failed?
From our school days, they have told us we must yearn for liberty,
Yet all I want in this dark place is to have you here with me.
Oh, Grace, just hold me in your arms and let this moment linger,
They’ll take me out at dawn and I will die.
With all my love, I’ll place this wedding ring upon your finger,
There won’t be time to share our love, for we must say goodbye.
Now I know it’s hard for you my love to ever understand
The love I bear for these brave men, my love for this dear land,
But when Padraic called me to his side, down in the G.P.O.
I had to leave my own sick bed, to him I had to go.
Now as the dawn is breaking, my heart is breaking too
On this May morn as I walk out, my thoughts will be of you
And I’ll write some words upon the wall so everyone will know
I loved so much that I could see His Blood Upon The Rose.
Oh, there won’t be time to share our love, for we must say goodbye.
The BBC would not allow Rod Stewart to sing this song on their airwaves in October 2018.
RTÉ One. (2016, March 29). The Proclamation. Retrieved from www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERCVSDileo0
Wikipedia. (2020, March 1). Grace Gifford. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Gifford