Even though it is more than eighty years after his death, Pearse continues to exert a strong level of interest in his short life. Much has been written about Pearse's political life but there is a scarcity of work on Pearse's legacy as a social reformer and headmaster of St Enda's. Elaine Sisson, Senior Lecturer at the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, draws upon unpublished material from her PhD thesis to explore the visual and myth-making writings of national identity and masculinity, which the school so successfully promoted.
When the gates of St Enda's opened in September 1908, Patrick Pearse dreamed that the school would be 'an educational adventure' in nationalist schooling. Expectations for St Enda's were high; the week the school opened, the Gaelic League newspaper An Claidheamh Soluis, predicted that St Enda's 'will be a nursery of character, intellect, patriotism and virtue, which may eventually exert a benign influence on the private and public life of our country'. For most parents, St Enda's offered an opportunity to provide their sons with a good quality, broad-based education, a grounding in nationalist history and culture, a chance to learn Irish and Irish games and customs and a feeling that they were supporting an experiment surrounded by an aura of history.
St Edna's roll call reveals the appeal of the school to committed 'Irish-Irelanders'. The first pupils to enrol were drawn from some of the most eminent nationalist families in Ireland. Douglas Hyde, Standish O'Grady and W.B Yeats were regular visitors and lecturers. Constance Markievicz, Maud Gonne, Ella Young, Roger Casement and Sean O'Casey signalled their approval of what Pearse was trying to do. The commitment of the teaching staff to nationalist politics was well established and five of the staff, including Pearse, were executed for their part in the Rising of 1916.
St Enda's boys were a regular fixture in Dublin social and cultural life in the early years and were considered an emblem of the potential of Irish manhood. There was a sense that St Enda's represented the future of Ireland by those who watched the boys perform in plays in the Abbey Theatre, at the colourful and publicly stages pageants on mythology and history; who saw them marching through the city centre in the costumes of ancient Ireland; who admired their skills at hurling and Gaelic football, and who watched them drill in military formation in the uniforms of the Fianna Éireann.
The cultural project at St Enda's was to fashion a generation of boys who would implement and articulate a distinct social and cultural order. The promotion of national identity and the production of a male revolutionary subject was made possible by an intricately structured system which 'taught' the boys masculinity and Irishness. Pearse's Patriots: St Enda's and the Cult of Boyhood suggests that St Edna's was more than a radical experiment in schooling; it was in Pearse's own words, 'an educational adventure' which operated as an instructional training ground in national identity and masculinity.