Sun’s Whitening: imagining Patrick Pearse’s final thoughts…

For the day that’s in it, Easter Sunday, 2016 – set on the eve of his death, my imagining of Patrick’s Pearse’s final thoughts…

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SUN’S WHITENING

Written by

Caroline Farrell, 2016

All Rights Reserved

Farrell.caroline@gmail.com / http://www.carolinefarrellwriter.com

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FADE IN:

DUBLIN. IRELAND: 1916 – THE AFTERMATH

INT. CELL. KILMAINHAM GOAL – NIGHT

A  PRISONER sits on the floor, a vague shadow, his shoulders stooped; he is muttering into his chest.

PRISONER

…that the slender worm gnaws thee tonight…

He lifts his head, still in shadow until an ethereal glint of blinding sun floods his eyes to the sound of gushing waves lapping over shoal and sand…

EXT. BLASKET ISLAND. SHORE – DAY

An attractive woman, EVELYN NICHOLS, 24, barefoot, her clothing wet and clinging. Skirt hitched high, her shapely legs splash in the water as she frolics flirtatiously with her companions to the sound of rambunctious young male laughter…

EXT. CONNEMARA. MAAM CROSS – DAY

Same rambunctious laughter echoes…

ON the intense gaze of schoolteacher, PATRICK PEARSE, 31. Straight-laced, purist, he disembarks from the train and calmly leads a small group of BOYS aged 14-16 – counting heads as they jostle, buoyant, aboard a hay-lined, horse-drawn cart.

PATRICK

Right, lads. It’s a good ten miles to Ros Muc – so nestle in there now and hold tight.

It is a gentle order, but an order nonetheless as Patrick, holding the animal’s reins, marches alongside the moving cart for the long, picturesque hike…

As the trek through winding country roads progresses, songs are sung, dusk falling around the lake waters…

COLLECTIVE VOICES [singing]

When laws can stop the blades of grass from growin’ as they grow

And when the leaves in summer-time their colour dare not show

Then I will change the colour too I wear in my caubeen

But till that day, please God, I’ll stick to the Wearin’ o’ the Green!

Patrick does not smile, though his eyes are alight with pride.

 

CUT TO:

INT. SAINT ENDA’S BOYS SCHOOL. DUBLIN – DAY

Empty, masculine dormitories; empty hallways; only the sound of female laughter echoes from the second floor of the Victorian mansion…

 

INT. BEDROOM. SAINT ENDA’S – DAY

WILLIAM PEARSE, 29, is thin, boyish and good-humoured. Covered in patches of sculpting clay and little else in the way of clothing, he works his fingers deftly on a foot-high sculpture of a female form.

A cigarette hangs from his lips as he concentrates on the curves of the FEMALE model draped on his single bed…

A pretty teenager, MABEL GORMAN; naked and purposefully supine.

MABEL

If only your Brother Patrick could see you now!

She breaks into a giggle as William wipes his hand through his thick unruly hair, depositing yet more of the sticky clay there.

MABEL (CONT’D)

How could you two be cut from the same cloth? The celibate and the sex maniac!

William gives her a wicked grin, abandoning the sculpture to jump on top of her, clay everywhere as she squeals with delight.

 

EXT. ROS MUC COTTAGE – DAY

Patrick takes a moment to breathe in the fresh morning air and to savour the lush view of lakes and green pastures below…

Evelyn is there, sitting in the grass, her inviting curves bridled within the fitted jacket and skirt uniform of a proud suffragette. She looks directly towards him, a coy smile as she waves her gloved hand…

The boisterous sounds from his male pupils rouse him from the moment lost as tired from their journey, they nevertheless leap excitedly from the cart and enter the quaint and freshly white-washed cottage.

 

INT. COTTAGE – DAY

The front door leads straight into the main room, bare stone floors, with a large fireplace; a table and some chairs are placed neatly against the walls.

The boys spread out excitedly into two other rooms, to the left and right, depositing their belongings on the single beds.

Patrick sees to the fire, lighting it with old rolled-up newspapers and sticks. He offers a black cast iron pot to one of the boys, JAMES, 16.

PATRICK

Fill this from the pump outside, I’ll be making my famous porridge breakfast.

James makes a face of mock horror, to which Patrick raises an eyebrow. James responds with a soldier’s stance and salute.

JAMES

Yes, Master Pearse!

In good humour, James runs outside to the water pump as Patrick empties his rucksack onto the table; an assortment of books, pens, paper and a holy bible.

EVELYN (V.O)

Holy books can’t keep you warm at night, my love.

Patrick frowns.

LATER

Gathered around the half-light of the open fire, the boys huddle in blankets as Patrick regales them…

PATRICK

What story shall I tell you tonight, boys?

JAMES

Diarmuid and Grainne, Sir. Love that one!

An enthusiastic murmur abounds from the testosterone-fuelled adolescents.

PATRICK

Ah yes. Grainne, the very beautiful, and wilful daughter of Cormac, King of Tara.

JAMES

Wilful – and gorgeous!

As the boys snort through their laughter, Patrick ignores the comment.

PATRICK

She was a temptress who seduced the warrior Diarmuid, despite her having just married Fionn.

JAMES

Ah yeah, Sir, but Fionn was an auld fellah by then, and Grainne was ripe-

Patrick suddenly leaps to his feet, and yet, as the collectively shocked intake of breath at James’s cheeky comment fills the space, Patrick doesn’t seem to have heard it; his vision is suddenly overtaken by Evelyn…

Thrashing on the choppy sea waters… She is DROWNING…

Patrick suddenly runs from the cottage, retching as he exits. The boys all look to James, who shrugs his shoulders.

CUT TO:

INT. COLLEGE HALL. DUBLIN – DAY

Patrick addresses a large crowd.

PATRICK

We must accustom ourselves to the thought of arms, to the use of arms.

We may make mistakes in the beginning – but bloodshed is a cleansing and a sanctifying thing.

And a nation which regards it as the final horror has lost its manhood!

 

As the words spill, he is distracted by the vision of Evelyn… there in the front row, wearing her Pankhurst portrait badge. Hanging on his every word; oozing with sorrow.

PATRICK (CONT’D)

There are many things more horrible than bloodshed; and slavery is one of them.

As he falters on his own words, she fades before him. Patrick wipes the sweat from his brow as he sits down, a glazed look in his eyes…

 

EXT. PARK – DAY

Patrick and Evelyn walk together, a civilized distance between them, though he can barely take his eyes off her.

EVELYN

You are so right, Paddy. It hurts my heart to think of the cane striking tender young skin in the name of education.

How can one be expected to learn anything when one is too frightened to be wrong?

PATRICK

Will you marry me, Evelyn? Will you?

EVELYN

Dear heart, we’ve been over this before, please don’t spoil our perfect time together.

 

A dark mood flushes over him.

PATRICK

You break my heart, Miss Nichols. And for what, to end up a lonely spinster?!

 

Evelyn stops, wounded by such insensitivity.

EVELYN

Paddy! How cruel?

Contrite, he kneels before her.

 

PATRICK

Can’t you see, it is one thing to be a champion of feminist rights, and how I adore you for that.

And it is another noble disposition to maintain such focus on feminist education-

 

Evelyn cuts him off.

EVELYN

It has nothing to do with being noble – it is my right!

Feminist education is the root of all education, of all improvement .

And who, above men should know this better than the man before me now?

 

She places her hand on his chest, and he holds it there, over his heart.

 

PATRICK

Yes, yes of course, but-

 

EVELYN

You, Paddy Pearse – surrounded and nurtured by the most matronly and wise feminist intellects-

 

He trembles with frustration.

PATRICK

And even they have their place!

 

Fire lights up in Evelyn’s eyes. She pulls her hand away.

 

EVELYN

Shackled to a homestead and endless childbirths? Forbidden to work, to possess, to debate, to contribute?!

Is that what you want for me? Paddy, is it?

 

PATRICK

There is grace in motherhood. And there is duty to family. That is nobility in its purist-

 

Stunned, Evelyn bites back tears.

 

EVELYN

Purist! You bloody hypocrite!

How do I love such a man who praises my hungry mind and yet preaches nothing but slavery for me?!

 

She turns on her heels so he cannot see her fight tears.

 

EVELYN (CONT’D)

I will give you my heart, and my body, Mister Pearse.

But I will not give you my youth and freedom while you recklessly sacrifice yours. I will not give in to your prudish double standards!

 

She waits for his reply, but none is forthcoming. Evelyn marches away.

Patrick lets her go as sunlight glints strongly to blur his retreating vision of her until she fades from his sight

 

INT. CELL. KILMAINHAM GOAL – NIGHT

Patrick sits on the floor, shoulders stooped, muttering to his chest.

 

PATRICK

Reality returns with the sun’s whitening

 

EXT. COURTYARD. KILMAINHAM GOAL – DAY

Patrick stands tall, his back to a blood-spattered, bullet- riddled wall. As the blindfold closes in, he sees Evelyn there, moving closer, her hands reaching out, close enough to touch…

FADE TO BLACK.

Sun’s Whitening is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used in a fictitious manner for the purposes of drama.

Of terrible and splendid things…

In 2016, the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising will take place in Ireland. A rebellion that raged swiftly and momentarily in an era when the First World War was raging on (a war that, under British rule, many Irish men had already signed up for and were fighting in…and dying for) and when ordinary citizens of the time frowned upon, and indeed spat upon the rebels on their capture and surrender.

Only after the execution of so many of those young leaders, Patrick Pearse, Joseph Plunkett and Thomas McDonagh amongst them; teachers, poets and artists, did the general public take heed of what WB Yeats described as the terrible beauty born…and the quest for independence raged on through the youth of the Irish Volunteers…

Through the medium of film and cinematic exploration, there has been little made in the telling of the stories of the male and female insurgents of 1916, Michael Collins being the exception. Interned at the age of 25 in Frongoch in Wales, for his part in the Easter Rising, upon his release, Collins went on to mastermind the guerilla war against British Rule, which resulted in a truce that enabled him to lead a delegation to London to sign the Treaty in December, 1921…a move that divided a nation and culminated in the Civil War of 1922. In August of that year, Collins was dead, and Ireland was changed, changed utterly.

Now, with the centenary beckoning to offer us all a time to reflect on how far we have come as a nation,  it is no surprise, that in the writing world, a plethora of ideas for novels and scripts are circulating already. So, it was interesting for me to go along to an event recently organised by the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, and co-hosted by the Irish Film Board,  to see the five finalists of the UNTITLED Screenwriting Award pitch their film projects.

All exploring some aspect or theme of that historic year, the award to the winning project, a first draft development loan from the Irish Film Board, would be €12,000 for a single writer applicant, and €16,000 for a team, ie, writer and director. In my humble opinion, all five shortlisted pitches, each presented to an audience and in front of an industry judging panel, had potential for support towards further development.

Anne Marie Casey pitched a biopic she is writing with her partner, author Joseph O’Connor…Grace 1916: The story of Grace Gifford, woman, artist and icon of a revolution…the only project to look with any real depth at a compelling aspect of a woman’s life during the period, and one I would definitely want to see!

Hugh Travers gave a very entertaining pitch with his project, The PlayersA black comedy about ex-IRA members who join an amateur drama group to commemorate the centenary of the 1916 Rising. Jasmina Kallay presented her drama Das Irland: A tale of what if.  What if promised German help had materialised in 1916? and Virginia Gilbert pitched her drama The Boys: Everybody remembers a great teacher but how many are willing to die for one?

The winning pitch came from Jamie Hannigan and Michael Kinirons with their noir thriller Come Monday, We Kill Them All April 1916:  A down on his luck smuggler reluctantly agrees to help a wealthy politician find his missing daughter only to become embroiled in murder, conspiracy and rebellion…potentially fascinating…trench coats and tribly hats at the ready!

Each project was very different, and as alluded to earlier, there is a wealth of varied ideas out there that have the potential to create exciting, dramatic insights into the lives of not just the key characters of the rebellion, but also, to be a window into the lives and struggles of the ordinary people who lived through those turbulent times in Dublin, 1916.

Which begs the question…if they could see now what they fought for, what they suffered for, and what they died for, what would those men and women of 1916 think of Ireland, one hundred years on?

Featured Image: The Women of 1916, Cumann Na Mban, sourced from http://saoirse.21.forumer.com/a/