1916: What the People Saw by Mick O’Farrell


Description: When the rebellion of 1916 had ended, more than 400 people were dead and over 2,000 wounded. More than half of these were civilians, but even for those civilians who were not direct casualties, the rising was one of the most momentous experiences of their lives. The accounts that Mick O’Farrell has collected come from letters, diaries, extracts from otherwise unrelated biographies, and contemporary magazine and newspaper articles.

Some common themes are present in the accounts. For instance, a fear of going hungry, which resulted in constant, and dangerous, attempts to stock up with supplies. There was also a grim realisation (despite two years of World War) that war had arrived on their doorstep: ‘We know a bit what War is like now’. For some, there was even an undeniable element of excitement – one witness writes that ‘now that it’s over, none of us would’ve missed it for the world’. After watching a woman shot in the street, another witness notes that he ‘saw a man rush out and take a snapshot’. Elsewhere, there are ‘crowds looking on as if at a sham battle’. For most, however, it was the kind of excitement they could do without:

Complimenting the many historical accounts of the rising and statements from the participants, this book gives a real flavour of what it was like to live through history in the making.

Author: Mick O’Farrell was born in Dublin in 1966, the year of the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising. He has been studying the history and locations of the Rising for some years.He is the author of ’50 Things You Didn’t know about 1916′ and ‘A Walk Through Rebel Dublin 1916’.

Apart from some small actions, the 1916 Rising lasted seven days, from Easter Monday to the following Sunday.

Easter Monday, 24 April 1916: Beginning of rebellion. Main body of rebels muster outside Liberty Hall – conflicting orders result in a turnout much smaller than hoped for. From about midday on, the following locations are occupied by rebels:

• GPO and other buildings in O’Connell Street area;
• Four Courts, Mendicity Institution;
• St Stephen’s Green, College of Surgeons;
• Boland’s Mills and surrounding area, including Mount Street Bridge and nearby houses;
• City Hall and several buildings overlooking Dublin Castle;
• Jacob’s biscuit factory, Davy’s pub by Portobello Bridge;
• South Dublin Union and James’s Street area;
• Magazine Fort in Phoenix Park.

Proclamation of Republic read by Pearse outside GPO. Lancers charge down O’Connell Street. Looting starts. That afternoon the British counterattacks begin.

Tuesday, 25 April 1916: City Hall retaken by military. Shelbourne Hotel occupied by soldiers and machine-gun fire forces rebels to retreat from St Stephen’s Green to the College of Surgeons. British reinforcements, including artillery, arrive. Martial Law proclaimed.

Wednesday, 26 April 1916: Liberty Hall shelled by Helga, backed by field guns. Artillery put into action against buildings on O’Connell Street. Kelly’s Fort evacuated. Metropole Hotel occupied by rebels. Troops marching from Dun Laoghaire halted by rebels at Mount Street Bridge. After many hours of intense fighting and terrible casualties, the military gain control of the area. Clanwilliam House burns to the ground. Mendicity Institution retaken by the British.

Thursday, 27 April 1916: Military shelling of O’Connell Street intensifies. Fires on O’Connell Street begin to rage out of control. Hopkins & Hopkins and Imperial Hotel evacuated because of the inferno.

Friday, 28 April 1916: General Sir John Maxwell arrives in Dublin. Metropole Hotel evacuated. Rebels evacuate GPO. New HQ established in Moore Street.

Saturday, 29 April 1916: Non-combatants murdered in North King Street. Rebel leaders in Moore Street decide to surrender. Four Courts garrison surrenders.

Sunday, 30 April 1916: Rebels in remaining outposts surrender – College of Surgeons, Boland’s, Jacob’s and the South Dublin Union. Deportation of prisoners.

Wednesday, 3 May – Friday, 12 May: Fifteen rebels, including the seven signatories of the Proclamation of the Republic, are executed by firing squad.

History from the bottom up is always to be preferred over traditional recording methods and you won’t get closer to the truth of the impact of the Easter Uprising than from the letters etc from the people there at the time, trying to survive, feed their families, and stave off impending viruses and stray bullets.

Take a wander through, it is interesting and supplements a FutureLearn course I took a few months ago.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s