Pearse, generally known as a leader of the 1916 Easter Rising, has long been critical of the educational system in Ireland, which he believes teaches Irish children to be good Englishmen. He has for years been committed to the preservation of the Irish language, mostly through the Gaelic League, and is dearly concerned about the language’s future. A trip abroad to Belgium and his observations of bi-lingual education there inspires him to attempt a similar experiment at home.
Pearse is not a practical businessman, but he is never one to let lack of finances get in the way of his plans. With promises from prominent nationalists as proponents of Irish heritage that they will give him whatever limited financial support they can, and, when applicable, will enroll their children in his school, Pearse establishes his school, which officially opens on September 8, 1908, in Cullenswood House, Ranelagh, a suburb of Dublin.
The school proves a successful experiment, but is never to fully escape the shadow of looming financial woes. In fact, the school would not have survived the crucial first few years without the devoted aid of his good friend and assistant headmaster Thomas MacDonagh, and the solid dedication of Pearse’s brother Willie.
St. Enda’s teaches many of the classes in Irish, and particularly stresses the arts and dramatics. Everything is given an Irish approach. After two years the school is doing quite well. Thrilled with his creation, and concerned that Cullenswood House is not a location that does St. Enda’s justice, Pearse moves the school to the Hermitage in Rathfarnham, substantially further from Dublin than Cullenswood House. In 1910 St. Enda’s opens its doors at the Hermitage but proves to be a financial disaster. With bankruptcy looming Pearse is forced to look to the United States for further funding which only keeps the school barely in solvency.
Pearse is a person who shows extreme dedication to a project once it catches his interest, but this leaves him unable to fully devote himself to multiple tasks. His involvement in the Irish Volunteers in 1913, and his active participation in the Irish Republican Brotherhood shortly thereafter, leaves St. Enda’s with a less devoted master than it had previously.
Following the execution of the Pearse brothers after the rising, their mother reopens St. Enda’s back at Cullenwood House. The school then returns to the Hermitage in 1919. The international fame the Easter Rising gives Pearse and his martyrdom makes raising funds easier than before and Margaret Pearse raises enough money to buy the property Pearse could never afford in his lifetime. However, without the leadership of either of the Pearse brothers, St. Enda’s could not last, and it eventually closes its doors for good in 1935. Today the Hermitage stands as the Pearse Museum, dedicated to the memory of the school’s founder.
(Pictured: The Pearse Museum in Rathfarnham)