“Patrick Pearse, The O’Rahilly… appeared… as if receiving a special blessing from God”

Now for the turning point in my life. I was not yet 21 years of age and was never out of London (except on a holiday) in my life. My mother was born in Kerry and had never seen Ireland since she was 4 years of age. My father (who died before I was 14 years old) was born in London of Irish parents, and I was born in Dockhead, a rough and ready quarter of London. I knew nothing of Ireland except in a hazy kind of a way until I joined the Gaelic League. So, in a sense, I adopted Ireland as my own country until it adopted me at Easter 1916….

Around about this time, things with regard to the activities of the Irish Volunteers were being viewed by the British authorities as becoming serious, and on St. Patrick’s Day 1916, I witnessed and took part in the most impressive event, I think, in modern Irish affairs, namely the church parade and march past in College Green…

We received orders drawing us to attention, were filed into SS. Michael and John’s to attend the special Mass held for the benefit of the Irish Volunteers. The Rev. Father Nevin, I believe, officiated and the scene had a profound effect on me which will never leave my mind. A guard of honour in full uniform had been drawn up around the altar and the chapel packed to utmost capacity with Volunteers. At the elevation the guard of honour drew their swords to the Salute while the bugles rang out with a clarity that was astounding owing to the backed condition of the chapel; in the immediate silence that took place the priest on the altar, with the guard in the attitude of salute, looked, like a vision from another world and in the faces of those near me was the appearance that they also were looking into something wonderful. Patrick Pearse, The O’Rahilly, Sean McDermott and the executive who were in close attendance near the altar, appeared to look in their uniforms as if receiving a special blessing from God, and undoubtedly every man attending that Mass received such a blessing. Suddenly a rich baritone voice burst
into the hymn to our Patron Saint “Hail Glorious St. Patrick” and it was taken up by the whole congregation in such a fervent manner that a lump rose in my throat and I wanted to burst out crying or to do something to prove that I was worthy of being in their company.

Bureau of Miliary History testimony of William Daly, Member of Irish Volunteers London. 1913-1916.

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