Famous last words hold a special place in society’s culture and history. From tragedy and empathy to humor and wit, even in their death Irish people have a particular way with words.
Sometimes we empathize with others who have faced our ultimate fear: death and the unknown, like Bob Marley’s last words – “Money can’t buy life.” Other times, we enjoy the humor and wit of those who face it with gusto, like Humphrey Bogart who said, “I should never have switched from scotch to martinis.”
Then, there are the downright mundane last words of even the greatest of legends that remind us that we never know when the end will be (or else we might choose our words more wisely!). Poor Elvis Presley’s famous last words were “I’m going to the bathroom to read.”
It’s no surprise then, that some of the most memorable and heart-breakingly comedic final words have come from famous men and women of the nation famed for its poetry and humor, Ireland. Irish life insurance providers 360 Protection Choices have compiled their list of the best parting words from the Irish throughout history.
“Noli timere.” – Seamus Heaney
This beautiful Latin phrase means “Be not afraid.” This was the text of the last message the poet sent to his wife and children as he was rushed to the operating theater.
“Don’t die like I did.” – George Best
The Belfast-born football legend’s very last words have been disputed, but it is said he requested that a photograph of himself on his deathbed to be in the News of the World newspaper as a message to the public about the dangers of alcoholism.
"Forgive them. Bury me in Glasnevin with the boys.” – Michael Collins
Ireland’s revolutionary hero is famed for his way with words especially his last, uttered while he continued to fight, despite suffering a fatal wound.
Collins’ Easter Rising comrade was reported to have not spoken, but whistled, as he walked from his cell to the execution yard in Kilmainham Gaol.
"I suppose it had to come to this. Such is life” – Ned Kelly
The famous Irish bush ranger committed his legacy to Australian folklore with these supposed last words before his 1880 hanging in Melbourne Gaol.
William Butler Yeats
His last words were said to be, “If I die, bury me up there [in the churchyard at Roquebrune], and then in a year’s time, when the newspapers have forgotten me, dig me up and plant me in Sligo.”
W.B. Yeats was indeed buried in Roquebrune, but the legendary Irish poet’s dying wish came true when, in 1948, his remains were placed “Under bare Ben Bulben’s head/In Drumcliff churchyard” as he had requested in the poem he wrote shortly before his death.
“Either this wallpaper goes, or I do!" – Oscar Wilde
The acclaimed playwright’s flamboyant style in life was matched by the phrase that has lived on as his most famous final statement.
“I’m bad, I’m nineteen” – Phil Lynott
Dying tragically young in 1986 at the age of 46, the Thin Lizzy vocalist’s final words that many of his fans would have heard are sadly poignant.
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“What should I wish to live for” – Theobald Wolfe Tone
The Father of Irish Republicanism’s retort was allegedly a response to threats by his captors to re-open his throat wound if he spoke, when he was already due to be hanged for treason.
“If this is death, then I am ready for it” – Liam (Billy) Whelan
A reference to his strong Catholic faith, the tragic young Manchester United prodigy from Dublin was said to have spoken his final words as the team’s ill-fated aircraft thundered down the slush-filled runway at Munich’s Reim Airport for the third time. Whelan died in the Munich Air Disaster aged just 22.
His last words were “The day will dawn when all the people will have the desire for freedom … And it's then that we'll see the rising of the moon.”
Divisive figure Bobby Sands’ final diary entry was written in Irish. Like many of the famous Irish revolutionaries of history he is remembered as much for his poetic talents as his physical actions.
“Everything's going to be all right, old boy” – Sir Terry Wogan
The Northern Irish stalwart of BBC TV and Radio’s last words to the priest who visited him reveal he remained his cheerful self right up to the end of this life.
According to his sister Denise, the star of "Father Ted," apologized to his dinner guests for having left the room, before collapsing of a heart attack tragically at just 45.
*This article was submitted on behalf of 360protectionchoices.co.uk.
** Originally published in 2017, updated in Sept 2023.