Introducing some history of this old city of Dublin can be very beneficial to a student’s learning. Finding a person or persons from the past can be more engaging to the student than an event or era. The story of Grace Gifford and Joseph Plunkett serves to engage the student, appeal to their imagination while allowing the student to feel a sense of belonging. Human stories will always enable us, as a human race, to connect.
While Grace and Joseph’s tragic love story is naturally sad – it brings the city closer to the student, feeding the curiosity and encouraging an enthusiasm for visits to places like Kilmainham Gaol and the GPO. It also allows for the student to enjoy the deeper meaning to Ireland’s literature and music by way of studying ballads like ‘Grace’ and Plunkett’s poem ‘I See His Blood Upon the Rose’.
GRACE AND JOSEPH
An Irish Love Story
Grace Gifford was born in Rathmines, Dublin in 1888. She was a talented artist, and her teacher was a famous painter called William Orpen. Grace drew cartoons and animated pictures for newspapers and magazines. She had a great interest in Irish culture and the Gaelic language.
When she was 25 years old, Grace visited a new school in Dublin that was teaching Maths, History, Geography etc in English and in Irish languages. It was a very progressive idea and supported Irish culture, history and most importantly – Irish rights and freedom from England’s control.
When Grace was visiting the school, she was introduced to a man called Joseph Plunkett. Joseph’s friend was a man called Thomas McDonagh. Thomas was married to Grace’s sister Muriel. So, Thomas was Grace’s brother-in-law.
Joseph Plunkett was born into a rich family in Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin in 1887. He was well educated. He had suffered from Tuberculosis (TB) as a young boy and spent many years in hot climates for his health. As a man, he became a journalist, a poet and an Irish Nationalist.
Grace and Joseph fell in love. They shared the same passion for Irish freedom. They loved art, literature and Catholic values. Joseph asked Grace to marry him in 1915 and of course, she said yes!
The first world war had started in 1914. Some Irish people believed that this was the best time to fight for freedom – because England was preoccupied with the war. Joseph and his Irish Nationalist friends decided to fight for Ireland’s liberation. On a sunny bank holiday Monday, 24th April 1916 Joseph and six other men signed a document called A Proclamation.
The six men were Patrick Pearse, Tom Clarke, Thomas McDonagh, Eamonn Ceantt, James Connolly, Sean McDermot.
Patrick Pearse stood outside the GPO on O’ Connell Street (it was called Sackville Street in 1916) and read The Proclamation. Fighting started and continued for 6 days. On the 29thApril, Joseph and his six friends had to surrender. They were arrested and chained to the railings of The Rotunda Hospital in Parnell Street. The city of Dublin was almost in ruin. The seven men were taken to Kilmainham Gaol (Jail).
Grace was allowed to visit Joseph. They married in the little church in Kilmainham Gaol. Seven hours later, Joseph was executed. Grace stood outside the gaol and heard the guns kill her husband. Prison officers returned to Joseph’s cell and discovered a beautiful poem written on the wall called,
‘I See His Blood Upon the Rose’
The poem was a tribute to his faith in Jesus.
Joseph’s death motivated the Irish people to continue to fight for their liberation. Grace also fought for the rights of Irish freedom and was put into Kilmainham Gaol. She painted ‘The Madonna and Child’ on the wall. A treaty was signed in December 1921 finally giving Irish people 26 counties – 6 counties remain with Great Britain.
Grace never married again. She died alone in a flat in Dublin in 1955. She is buried in Glasnevin cemetery. The song ‘Grace’ is about this very sad love story.
Checkout ‘Grace’ – Jim McCann – The original and the best’.
What are our students’ thoughts in class?
After class Mariano from Argentina said ‘It’s given me a stronger connection with Dublin, the human story makes Irish history so much more personal’.
- Edanur, from Turkey, agreed, saying, ‘I want to visit Kilmainham Gaol now.’
- Selcut, also a Turkish student, said, ‘The poem and music made the lesson about Grace and Joseph so much more interesting. These tragic heroes are so real to me now and not just names from a history book’.
- Mongolian student, Nomin, said, ‘It’s like a movie! I can just imagine it like a sad Hollywood film.’
There were a few tears. Besides the reading and discussing the circumstances around the doomed relationship set in a particularly significant moment in Irish history, the students engaged in the story in an enthusiastic manner, comparing with their own tragic heroes and identifying with the old city of Dublin on a deeper level, we invite you to participate in our History Club to learn more about Dublin.