William Pearse

(15/11/1881 - 04/05/1916)

William James Pearse (1881–1916) was an Irish republican who played a significant role in the Easter Rising and was executed for his involvement. He was the younger brother of Patrick Pearse, a prominent leader of the rebellion.

Willie Pearse, born in Dublin, had a close and devoted relationship with his brother Patrick throughout his life. He inherited his father’s artistic talents and pursued a career as a sculptor. He received his education at the Christian Brothers School in Westland Row and further honed his skills at the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin under the tutelage of Oliver Sheppard. He also studied art in Paris and even attended the Kensington School of Art in London. Some of his sculptures can be seen in various churches in Limerick, Letterkenny, and Dublin.

Despite being trained to take over the family’s stonemason business, Willie decided to support Patrick in running St. Enda’s School, which Patrick had established in 1908. His involvement extended to the arts and theatre at the school, contributing to its overall management.

During the Easter Rising of 1916, Willie Pearse joined the Irish Volunteers and participated alongside his brother at the General Post Office. Following the rebels’ surrender, he was court-martialed and sentenced to death. Some have suggested that his prominent surname was a factor in his execution, but during his court martial, Willie emphasised his involvement in the rebellion.

Tragically, on May 3, 1916, Willie was granted permission to visit his brother Patrick in Kilmainham Gaol, but Patrick was executed before Willie could reach him. Willie Pearse was executed on May 4, 1916. Notably, he and his brother Patrick were the only siblings to be executed after the Easter Rising.

In commemoration of his sacrifice, Willie Pearse’s memory has been honoured through various means, though fewer public commemorations exist in comparison to his brother Patrick. Notable recognitions include the renaming of Dublin’s Westland Row railway station to Pearse Station in 1966, in honour of both Willie and Patrick. Several streets and roads in Ireland bear the name Pearse, while the bridge over the Dodder river on the Rathfarnham Road, between Terenure and Rathfarnham, carries a plaque depicting the brothers. Willie Pearse Park in Crumlin, opened in 1949, is named after him, paying homage to his significant role in the country’s history.

Willie Pearse’s life and sacrifice have not been forgotten, and he is remembered as an integral part of Ireland’s struggle for independence.

Person Photo
Connection with area: Irish republican whom Willie Pearse Park is named after.