Biographical Information on “Yeats’ Men”

Notes by Olivia Highwood

Patrick Pearse

An Irish teacher, barrister, poet, writer, nationalist and political activist who was one of the leaders of the Easter Rising in 1916. Following the collapse of the Rising and the execution of Pearse, along with his brother and fourteen other leaders, Pearse came to be seen by many as the embodiment of the rebellion. Yeats mentions Pearse in ‘Easter 1916’ because he died in the uprising.


–           Easter 1916 –  ‘This man had kept a school and rode a winged horse’



Thomas MacDonagh


An Irish nationalist, poet, playwright, and leader of the 1916 Easter Rising. He formed a very strong friendship with Patrick Pearse, and was a late addition to the Easter Rising group. He was executed by firing squad on 3 May 1916.


–          Easter 1916 – ‘This other helper and friend was coming into his force’



John MacBride


Major John MacBride was an Irish republican executed for his participation in the 1916 Easter Rising. He married Maud Gonne in 1903, which horrified Yeats, who was in love with her. The marriage failed after their son was born, and they divorced with Yeats as Maud’s advisor. He played an important role in the Easter Rising MacBride was executed by a firing squad, and refused to be blind folded because he claimed he had looked down many gun barrels. However Yeats still chooses to put him in the eulogy in the poem because he was one of the members that died.


Easter 1916

–          ‘This other man I had dreamed a drunken, vain-glorious lout. He had done

most bitter wrong to some who are near my heart’

–          ‘Yet I number him in the song; he, too, has resigned his part in the casual comedy’



James Connolly


An Irish republican and socialist leader. He became one of the leading Marxist theorists of his day and took a role in Scottish and American politics. He was executed by a British firing squad because of his leadership role in the Easter Rising of 1916.


–          Easter 1916 – ‘ And Connolly and Pearse now and in time to be, wherever green is worn, are changed, changed utterly’


Robert Gregory


The son of Yeats’ good friend Lady Gregory. In 1915, he joined the war effort and became a member of the 4th Connaught Rangers. He finally became Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur in 1917 and earned a Military Cross ‘for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.’ He died aged thirty-seven when an Italian pilot mistakenly shot him down. Gregory is mentioned in ‘An Irish Airman Forsees his Death’, ‘In Memory of Major Robert Gregory’, ‘Shepherd and Goatherd’, and ‘Reprisals’.


–          An Irish Airman Forsees his Death:

‘I know that I shall meet my fate somewhere among the clouds above’

‘No law, nor duty bade me fight’

‘A lonely impulse of delight’

‘A waste of breath these years behind in balance with this life, this death’



John O’Leary


O’Leary was an Irish separatist and a leading Fenian (organisation dedicated to Irish independence). He studied law and medicine but did not take a degree. For his involvement in the Irish Republican Brotherhood he was imprisoned in England during the nineteenth century and died in March 1907. He was the financial manager of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and later became the joint editor of the IRB paper ‘The Irish People’. He was meant to be sentenced to death for treason, but in the end was exiled and lived in Paris while remaining active in the IRB.


September 1913 – ‘Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone; it’s with O’Leary in the grave.’



4 thoughts on “Biographical Information on “Yeats’ Men”

  1. Hate to be that sideman who points this out (but unfortunately I usually am), but there were a few mistakes here and there. For example, which wasteman forgot to mention Michael Yeats!!!! Its basically the main thing that The Stolen Child is about. Please re-do properly

      • English is’nt my first language. Allow me plz I’m begging you

    • You should really do your research before you make comments because you tend look like quite the fool. I do hope you endeavor to revise more so that you don’t fail your english exam. That would be terrible!!!

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