A Touching Reminiscence of Dr George Petrie

An extract from "Life of Petrie" by Dr William Stokes

From The Cabinet of Irish Literature, Volume 4, edited by T. P. O'Connor

After the execution of Emmet he (Petrie's father) was requested to paint a portrait of him from memory, with the aid of such studies of the head and face as he had by him. It is needless to say from whom the order came. When the work was finished the artist wrote to Miss Curran requesting her to come and see it; he was out when she called, but she entered his study notwithstanding. Petrie, then a little boy, was sitting in a corner of the room when he saw a lady, thickly veiled, enter and walk straight up to the easel on which the work rested. She did not notice the child, and thought herself alone with the picture of her buried love. She lifted her veil, stood long and in unbroken stillness gazing at the face, then suddenly turning she moved with an unsteady step to another corner of the room, and bending forward pressed her forehead against the wall, heaving deep sobs, her whole frame shaken with a storm of passionate grief. How long this agony lasted the boy could not tell, it appeared to him to be an hour, and then with a sudden effort she controlled herself, pulled down her veil, and as quickly and silently left the room as she had come into it. She was unaware of his presence, unconscious of the depths of silent sympathy she had awakened in the heart of the child, whose sensitive and delicate nature kept him from intruding on her grief.

And so he continued through life a rare example of purity and gentleness of character, almost feminine, although when called upon he could exhibit the greatest energy, firmness, and determination.

See also Dr George Petrie's Last Visit to Clare  and George Petrie (from The Dublin University Magazine, 1839)