Piaras Béaslaí

Piaras Béaslaí
Native name

Piaras Beaslai

Percy Beasley
Born Percy Frederick Beazley
Liverpool, England
Died Dublin
Resting place Glasnevin cemetery
Occupation Irish Author, Playwriter, Biographer, Language Revivalist, Politician, Journalist, Press Censor, Revolutionary
Language English, Irish
Nationality English
Education St. Xavier’s Jesuit College, Liverpool.

Member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Member of the Dail Eireann.

Micheal Collins and the making of a new Ireland, Micheal Collins Biography

Langford Beazley (b. 1879) Frederick Beazley (b.1884) Patrick Langford Beazley (b.1855)

Nannie H Beazley (b. 1851)

Piaras Béaslaí (15 February 1881 – 22 June 1965) was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), a member of Dáil Éireann and also an Irish author, playwright, biographer and translator.[1] He was also the writer of IRA rebel newspaper An t-Óglach

Early life

Piaras Béaslaí, born Percy Frederick Beazley, was born in Liverpool, England on February 15, 1881 to Patrick Langford Beazley and Nannie Hickey. Piaras Béaslaí’s father was Patrick Langford Beazley from Curragh, County Kerry who moved to Egremont, Cumbria in England and was the editor of The Catholic Times newspaper for 40 years and his mother was Nannie Hickey from Newcastle West, County Limerick. His parents married in March 1978, in the W. Derby district in the county of Lancashire.[2] During his summer holidays in his younger years, Piaras spent time in Ireland (near Kenmare, Co. Kerry) with his paternal uncle Fr James Beazley, where he started to learn Irish, and by the time he was 17, his Irish was exceptional.[3] Béaslaí, an author, a poet, a major general, novelist and a very successful playwright, carried out his education at St. Xavier’s Jesuit College, Liverpool, where he developed a keen interest in the Irish language.[4]

Literary career

After finishing his education in St. Xavier’s Jesuit, Béaslaí was encouraged to begin Irish poetry by Tadhg Ó Donnchadha. Béaslaí followed in his father’s footsteps and began his writing career with the local Wallasey News in London, however he was not successful in his attempt.

In 1906, he moved to Dublin and, within a year, became a freelance writer for the Irish Peasant, Irish Independent, Freeman’s Journal and Express. He was offered a permanent position with Independent Newspapers, as assistant leader writer and special reporter for the Evening Telegraph (Dublin). He also became a contributor for the Freeman’s Journal where he wrote a daily half-column in Irish.[4] After his introduction into Irish poetry in his early life, he became involved in staging Irish-language amateur drama at the Oireachtas annual music festival. Béaslaí began to write both original and adaptations from other foreign languages. One of these works, “Eachtra Pheadair Schlemiel” (1909), was translated from German into Irish.[3]

Later in his life he continued to write his poetry and short stories. A selection of these come in the form of “Bealtaine” (1916) agus “Dánta Eile” (1920) and short stories such as “Earc agus Aine agus Scéalta Eile”. During the period of 1913 to 1939 he wrote multiple plays, including, “An Sgaothaire agus Cúig Drámaí Eile” (1929) and ‘An Danar’ (1929)”. His dramas include “An Bhean Chródha” 1931, “An Danar” (1929), “Cliuche Cartaí” (1920) he also wrote two novels on his comrade Michael Collins “Michael Collins: Soldier and Statesman (1937)” and ‘Michael Collins and the Making of a New Ireland, 2 vols (1926). His works revolved around the Irish language movement and the IRA, these works focused on the independence struggle for Ireland. He wrote about these topics in newspapers such as the “Standard” and the Kerryman, his most notable works during his later life in newspapers included his contribution to the Irish Independent, which published a section called ‘A Veteran Remembers’, five days a week from 16 May to June 1957 as well as a weekly section called ‘Moods and Memories’ on Wednesdays from 24 May 1961 to 16 June 1965.[3]

On the 14th of August 1928 Piaras Béaslaí won gold medal at the Tailteann Literary Awards. This was just one award he was present with throughout his extremely successful career. While in Dublin, he joined the Keating Branch of the Gaelic League because of his interest in the Irish language. After he moved to Ireland, he began using the Irish form of his name, Piaras Béaslaí, rather than Percy Beazley.[3]

Role in the 1916 Rising

Béaslaí was very heavily involved in the 1916 Rising as he was a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. In an audio, he contributed to in 1958 detailing his experience in the Rising. He recounts the rebels assembling before noon in Blackhall Street at the Battalion headquarters. After mid-day they marched out to the Four Courts erecting barricades as they did so. The Four Courts was Béaslaí’s main station. In the audio, he recalls a Green flag with a gold harp in the centre, this was the non-Sinn Féin flag at the time. There were men stationed between O’Reilly’s Hall which was the Public house, The Four Courts and finally on the Friday evening the General Post Office, Dublin. Piaras Béaslaí was in direct charge of the four courts area and at one point during the fight he ordered a complete black-out. He recalled that “things were going badly for the English soldiers” and described the whole event as “a weird experience”. Béaslaí remembers the streets being lit up with fires in the darkness as if it was bright as day. He speaks of the intensity of the fire line and then how it suddenly ceased on the Friday. Piaras remembers falling asleep and when he woke he was presented with Padraic Pearse’s order to surrender. The Irish rebels were brought to Richmond barracks where Piaras then spent a year and a quarter in the English prisons as a convict.[5]

In January 1916 Piaras Béaslaí served as the courier for Sean MacDiarmada (Irish Political activist and revolutionary leader) and by the time the Easter Rising of 1916 Béaslaí was appointed deputy commanding officer of the 1st Dublin Battalion. Following the failure of the Rising, Béaslaí served his first spell in prison serving three years for penal servitude divided between a stringent Portland prison and a more lenient Lewes prison. He was then imprisoned two times within four months during 1919, both ending in celebrated escapes.[4]

After his final prison release prior to the rising Michael Collins approached Béaslaí to edit ‘An tOglach’ (The Irish Volunteer Paper) which saw communication between GHQ and local volunteers drastically improved. By 1918 Béaslaí was elected as the East Kerry TD and was later re-elected in the Kerry-West Limerick constituency in 1921. Béaslaí was also noted for his translation of the democratic programme of the first Dáil which he read aloud at the inaugural sitting in January 1919. In 1922 Béaslaí went to America to explain the Anglo-Irish Treaty to Sinn Feins Irish American Supporters.[4]

Political career

Later Béaslaí became director of publicity for the Irish Republican Army, and at the 1918 general election he was elected to the First Dáil Éireann as Sinn Féin MP for Kerry East.[6] In January 1919, Sinn Féin MPs who had been elected in the Westminster elections of 1918 refused to recognise the Parliament of the United Kingdom and instead assembled at the Mansion House in Dublin as a revolutionary parliament called Dáil Éireann.[7]

Over a course of five years he was a member of the Sinn Féin party. Between 1919 – 1921 he was part of the Kerry East constituency in the first Dáil. Then between 1921 – 1922 he moved constituency to Kerry –Limerick West in the second Dáil. At the 1921 general election he was returned unopposed to the 2nd Dáil as a Sinn Féin Teachta Dála (TD) for Kerry–Limerick West He was re-elected unopposed at the 1922 election as a pro-Treaty Sinn Féin candidate. Finally, from 1922 – 1923 he remained in the Kerry – Limerick constituency as a member of the 3rd Dáil which was Pro-Treaty at this stage. He did not contest in the 1923 election.[8]

He and Con Collins share a distinction in that they were elected in three Irish general elections unopposed by any other candidates.[9][10]

Gaelic League

During Béaslaí’s time in London, he gave a lot of his time to the Gaelic League. It was in the Keating branch of the league, in Ireland, where Béaslaí developed an interest in the IRB. Branch member, Cathal Brugha, asked him to join the IRB. The Keating branch was where Béaslaí met Michael Collins. Béaslaí was also instrumental in establishing “An Fainne”, an Irish-speaking league whose members vowed to speak solely Irish amongst themselves and wore a membership badge. This coincided with his involvement in the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Béaslaí’s love of the Irish language gave him an opportunity to delve into his other hobbies. He wrote for “Banba”, an Irish Journal published by the Gaelic League. He was also able to express his love for theatre, in the Gaelic League. He formed a group of men from the League; called “Na hAisteoirí”.[11]

Later life

Piaras Béaslaí will be remembered primarily as an author because of his success in the profession particularly in his later life. However, his audience would not have been so broad had he not played such a big part in the growth and promotion of the Irish Free State. Béaslaí was remembered so fondly by his peers and the people of Ireland that he was "rumoured to succeed Douglas Hyde as President".[4] However he chose to concentrate on literature. Even though Béaslaí was born in Liverpool, England, he will be remembered as one of the most passionate promoters of the native language of Ireland; Gaelic. Béaslaí will also be remembered as the last standing TD for Kerry East(1918-1921) as the constituency was abolished after that period. Béaslaí's gravestone reads "Irish author, playwright, biographer and translator. born in Liverpool(England). Fought in the Easter Rising ; later director of publicity for IRA before dedicating himself to literature"[12] ”. Piaras Béaslaí died, unmarried, on 22 June 1965 age 84 in a nursing home in Dublin. He was buried in a plot in Glasnevin Cemetery after a Requiem Mass in St Columbia’s Church, Iona Road, Glasnevin.[13]

The gravestone of Thomas Ashe, Peadar Kearney and Piaras Béaslaí at Glasnevin Cemetery.


  1. Coogan, Tim Pat (1991). Michael Collins. Arrow Books. pp. 98–99. ISBN 0-09-968580-9.
  2. "FreeBMD District Info". Freebmd.org.uk. 2016. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "Dictionary Of Irish Biography". Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 "Piaras Béaslaí Papers" (PDF). National Library of Ireland. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  5. "The Fiercest Fighting 1916". RTE Archives. 1956. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  6. "Mr. Piaras Béaslaí". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 6 June 2009.
  7. "Roll call of the first sitting of the First Dáil". Dáil Éireann Historical Debates (in Irish). 21 January 1919. Retrieved 6 June 2009.
  8. "Directory of Members - 1919 - 2016 - Houses of the Oireachtas - Tithe an Oireachtais". Oireachtas.ie. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  9. "Piaras Béaslaí". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 6 June 2009.
  10. "Con Collins". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 6 June 2009.
  11. "BÉASLAÍ, Piaras (1881–1965)". Ainm.ie. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  12. "Piaras Beaslai". Find A Grave. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  13. "Funeral Maj.-Gen. Piaras Beaslai". Retrieved 15 November 2016.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Timothy O'Sullivan
Sinn Féin Member of Parliament for Kerry East
Succeeded by
Constituency abolished
New constituency Sinn Féin Teachta Dála for Kerry East
Succeeded by
Constituency abolished
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