Have you looked at this photo?

Patrick Pearse surrendersing to the British, thereby ending the 1916 Easter Rising.

Patrick Pearse surrendersing to the British, thereby ending the 1916 Easter Rising.

The photo reproduced here shows Patrick Pearse surrendering to Brigadier-General William Lowe on Saturday, 29th April 1916: the effective end of the Easter Rising. The location was Moore Street.

If you look closely, it becomes apparent that there is a second set of feet behind Pearse’s. These belonger to the Elizabeth O’Farrell, a member of Cumann na mBan, who had been helping the rebels who had broken out of the GPO the day before.

Pearse and the other leaders having decided the situation was hopeless, O’Farrell was asked to go to the British and request negotiations be opened. This she did, leaving the building and going towards British troops who had barricaded the street where it met Great Britain Street (now called Parnell Street). Once she had convinced the soldiers that her errand was in earnest, Lowe, the head of the British troops, William Lowe, was summoned. O’Farrell then carried messages between Lowe and Pearse. In the end, Pearse acquiesced to Lowe’s insistence on unconditional surrender. The photo above was taken after Pearse left the building and, with O’Farrell, went to the British lines.

The very poor quality of the picture suggests it was taken quickly by an amateur photographer. That may explain why it has been touched up when reproduced. One also encounters stories to the effect that O’Farrell was (rather clumsily) airbrushed out of the photo to make a more dramatic composition with Pearse alone in defeat.

O’Farrell herself denied this, saying that she had hidden behind Pearse, not wanting to be photographed. See the article here: Nurse ‘sorry she hid’ in iconic image

The oddness of the image (very visible feet and yet no head) makes the airbrushing hypothesis seem plausible. What kind of contortion would have been necessary to leave her feet pointing forward but the rest of her body totally obscured behind Pearse? I wonder how tall she was…

On the other hand, the clinching argument against the airbrushing claims seems to be that no one has ever been able to produce an original in which you can see her properly.

You can read more about the image here: Some Notes on the Patrick Pearse 1916 Surrender Photograph (Revised)

(Bizarre trivia: the young man beside Lowe was his son, William John Muir Lowe, who later went to Hollywood and became an actor, changing his name to John Loder. He was known for playing secondary characters, usually upper-class Brits. Looking at the photo, you might say it was a case of art imitating life.).

Have you looked at this photo? by