It’s with O’Leary in the Grave
by Hal O’Leary

With my grandfather having been born in County Cork, Ireland, I suppose it’s only natural that I would use an opportunity like this to express my pride in being Irish. Although I am well aware that not all Irishmen are admirable, I take my pride from such great ones as John O’Leary, the great Irish Separatist. He, as I would like to think of myself, was a staunch fighter against injustice in whatever form and wherever it might exist.

At the tender age of 19, in an attempt to rescue fellow separatist from jail, O’Leary was imprisoned for a week. In 1865, and then at the age of 35, he was arrested and later tried on charges of high treason. The charge was later reduced to “treason felony” and he was sentenced to 20 years penal servitude of which five years were spent in English prisons. In 1871 he was released in exile. In his exile, he lived mainly in Paris, but he remained active in the, IRB. (Irish Republic Brotherhood). With the termination of his exile he returned to Ireland, where he and his sister Ellen O’Leary both became Important within Dublin cultural and national circles, which included the likes of W. B. Yeats.

In addition to fighting injustice, John O’Leary, like myself, attended college but never obtained a degree, and like myself he was a lover of the arts, poetry in particular. It was his great friend Yeats who immortalized him in the poem, “September 1913” with each verse ending with the line,

“Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone, it’s with O’Leary in the grave.”

IMAGE:John O’Leary” by John Butler Yeats (1904).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Hal O’Leary, now at age 90, has been published in 18 different countries He lives by a quote from his son’s play Wine To Blood, “I don’t know if there is a Utopia, but I am certain that we must act as though there can be.” Hal, a Pushcart nominee, is a recent recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from West Liberty University, the same institution from which he became a college dropout some 60 years earlier. He currently resides in Wheeling, West Virginia.

September 1913
by William Butler Yeats

What need you, being come to sense,
But fumble in a greasy till
And add the halfpence to the pence
And prayer to shivering prayer, until
You have dried the marrow from the bone;
For men were born to pray and save:
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Yet they were of a different kind,
The names that stilled your childish play,
They have gone about the world like wind,
But little time had they to pray
For whom the hangman’s rope was spun,
And what, God help us, could they save?
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Was it for this the wild geese spread
The grey wing upon every tide;
For this that all that blood was shed,
For this Edward Fitzgerald died,
And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone,
All that delirium of the brave?
Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

Yet could we turn the years again,
And call those exiles as they were
In all their loneliness and pain,
You’d cry, ‘Some woman’s yellow hair
Has maddened every mother’s son’:
They weighed so lightly what they gave.
But let them be, they’re dead and gone,
They’re with O’Leary in the grave.


William Butler Yeats
 (1865-1939) was an Irish poet and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years he served as an Irish Senator for two terms. Yeats was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival and, along with Lady Gregory, Edward Martyn, and others, founded the Abbey Theatre, where he served as its chief during its early years. In 1923 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature,  the first Irishman so honored, for what the Nobel Committee described as “inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation.” Yeats is generally considered one of the few writers who completed their greatest works after receiving the Nobel Prize. (SOURCE: