The Chess Piece

by Blue Teapot Performing Arts School & Rab Fulton

The photographs in the museum do Liam Mellows little justice:

The dapper suit and fine white hat with the dark band

And his serious scowl of a handsome face,

Seem as lacking in life as a wax work figure.


There is no hint of the comedy of the man, 

The Odysseus trickster, the shapeshifter,

The stoker, the New York bar brawler, the pillow fighter.

The meticulous planner and attender to detail.

Nor any suggestion of the loyal, considerate, 

Passionate and patient comrade-in-arms,

Who one day would war against the very State

Irish blood and ballots brought into being.


In jail the anti-Treaty prisoners sang songs,

Played tunes to entertain themselves.

Liam took on the task of making a chess set.

He began with a pawn; scratching, cutting, sticking

Small pieces of wood together. Pensive he focused on

Creating this little object, as small as the top of his thumb,

Yet in form echoing the shape and appalling

Weight of a monumental grave marker

On its granite plinth. He never finished it. 


In our safe keeping now, we need to forgive them,

All of them.

And accept they tried, all of them tried

To reach some form of compromise while ever-watching Albion

Declared no change would be allow to the Treaty new signed –

Not a province, not a port, not a thieving crown, 

Not a sentence, not a letter, not even a semi-colon could be omitted, 

Removed or simply ignored.


Instead, the wronged rightness of two realisations

Of the same once seemingly unrealisable dream

Grew further apart, until the gap between each 

Was as wide and terrible

As some monstrous maw that hungered 

For blood, limbs and awfulness.


War came then, with one side defying the democratic vote 

That accepted the Treaty,

The other denying that newly given democracy with

The Public Safety Bill allowing military tribunals, 

Free of mawkishness or any other considerations, 

To execute any citizen in rebellion.


Liam Mellows was executed as reprisal and solemn warning.

Liam Mellows, as fine and loving as the men who shot him.

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.