Small Portrait in a Metal Cylinder

by Blue Teapot Performing Arts School & Rab Fulton

Here is the portrait, small and faded, in a little metal cylinder, 

Of another woman who gaily took the sackcloth of oppression 

And wove from it a fine and rich apparel

Suitable for a movie star or for all the world’s teenage rebels; 

Peg Broderick, Cumann na mBan activist, intelligence officer, 

Election organiser, disruptor of the British recruitment drive 

For the slaughter house of the Great War begun

Ostensibly for the defence of small nations.


When Peg marched through Barna, the cottages of Connacht

Had not yet been lit aflame by the Black and Tans,

Nor Fr Michael Griffin’s broken body thrown 

Into the flat bird-sung marshland beyond.

The RIC were content then with using fists, boots, clubs

And the butts of their weapons.

Peg, pistol whipped and stunned, recovered to the sound

Of the RIC firing their guns overhead, 

And with her comrades hurled a volley of stones that left 

Not a window unbroken of the RIC station. 

That was when her hair was thick and fine looking,

Before the Black and Tans came.


After the electorate had declared for independence, 

The Black and Tans came to do Albion’s bidding, 

Killing and burning bodies and businesses and homes of citizens.

Peg’s brother was one of those taken, stood against the wall

Of the west’s busiest train station and shot in the head. 

Faking death he fell into the ever widening puddle of his blood

And waited for rescue. 

Then failing to burn down the Broderick house and all its inhabitants,

They took Peg and cropped her hair to the scalp with blunt scissors.


Peg, defiant as ever, had a barber tidy what hair remained,

Then commissioned a miniature portrait, which the family placed

As keepsake in the cap of one of the petrol containers

That had almost done for them.

Peg wore a fine hat while her curls regrew, and looked older

And finer, almost like Mary Poppins with that hat on her

That blocked the view of the screen and musicians

When Peg indulged in the pleasure of watching the moving pictures. 

In January 2023, students from Blue Teapot Performing Arts School joined poet and storyteller Rab Fulton for two Poetry as Commemoration workshops. The group were shown items from the Galway City Museum collection and, as a group, composed a collaborative sequence of poems. Founded in 1996, Blue Teapot is an award winning theatre company that transforms theatre practices by telling stories through the lens of disability. The students from Blue Teapot who took part in this workshop include Damien Quinn, Robert Coomber, Elizabeth Brennan, Catherine Mulkerrin, Francis Carr, Stanlin Joy Hirang, Mary Grace Best-Lydon, Aidan Thomas and Roksana Kazmierska.