The Irish have a way with words, even in the most trying of times. From Ned Kelly to Oscar Wilde to President Kennedy, these Irish men had some very poignant last words, some more famous than others. All of them are worthy of being remembered.
“Take a step forward lads. It's easier that way.”
- Erskine Childers, Irish nationalist, to the firing squad ready to execute him.
- “Be not afraid,” Seamus Heaney's last text to his wife and children as he was rushed to the operating theater. He died soon after.
“One of us has to go.”
- Oscar Wilde looking at the cheap wallpaper in his seedy Paris apartment.
“I told you I was sick.”
- Spike Milligan, comedian extraordinaire, who also has those words on his gravestone.
“Don’t die like I did.”
- Soccer legend George Best laid low by alcoholism at a young age.
“ When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph be written. I have done.”
- Robert Emmet, leader of the 1803 rebellion against British rule. He was charged with treason and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.
“I surely can’t.”
- John F. Kennedy right before the assassin's bullet shot him in response to a comment by Nellie Connally, wife of the Texas governor, saying he could no longer think Texans did not love him given the rapturous reception he was getting.
“If I die, bury me up there [in the churchyard at Roquebrune in France) And then in a year’s time, when the newspapers have forgotten me, dig me up and plant me in Sligo.”
- W.B. Yeats, the great Irish poet and playwright. After dying in 1939, he was quietly laid to rest in Roquebrune, as he wished, but his body was not re-interred in Sligo until 1948 in the church graveyard at Drumcliff, under an epitaph taken from one of his last poems: “Cast a cold Eye / On Life, on Death. / Horseman, pass by!”
Patrick Pearse whistled as he walked from his cell to the execution yard.
- Testimony by British Sergeant Samuel Henry Lomas, who had been sent to Ireland in the lead-up to the Easter Rising and took part as the senior noncommissioned officer in the rebellion’s first executions – Pádraig Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh and Tom Clarke – in Kilmainham Gaol.
"I suppose it had to come to this. Such is life." (As the hangman adjusted the hood to cover his face.)
- Ned Kelly, the famous Australian outlaw with Irish roots.