William “Willie” Pearse (Liam Mac Piarais) (November 15, 1881 – May 4, 1916) was an Irish republican executed for his part in the Easter Rising. He was a younger brother of Patrick Pearse, a leader of the rising.
Willie Pearse was born in Dublin and throughout his life lived in the shadow of his brother to whom he was devoted and with whom he formed a particularly close relationship.
Willie inherited his father’s artistic abilities and became a sculptor. He was educated at the Christian Brothers School. He studied at the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin under Oliver Sheppard. He also studied art in Paris. While attending the Kensington School of Art he gained notice for several of his artworks. Some of his sculptures are to be found in Limerick Cathedral, St. Eunan’s Cathedral, Letterkenny and several Dublin churches. He was trained to take over his father’s stonemason business, but gave it up to help Patrick run St. Enda’s School which he founded in 1908. He was involved in the arts and theatre at St. Enda’s and aided the overall running of the school.
The Easter Rising:
He followed his brother into the Irish Volunteers and the Republican movement. He took part in the Easter Rising in 1916, constantly staying by his brother’s side at the General Post Office. Following the surrender he was court-martialed and sentenced to be shot. It has been said that as he was only a minor player in the struggle it was his surname that condemned him. However, at his court martial he rather trumpeted his involvement, exaggerating it even, and perhaps condemned himself.
On May 3, Willie Pearse was granted permission to visit his brother in Kilmainham Jail, to see him for the final time. However, while Willie was en route, Patrick Pearse was executed. Willie was executed the following day.
In 1966, Dublin’s Westland Row railway station was renamed Pearse Station to honour Willie and his brother.