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The 1916 Easter Rising

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Lieutenant-Colonel A.M Bent and Major F.W Woodward. The charge was ' taking part i an armed rebellion and in the waging of war against His Majesty the King, such an act being of such a nature as to be calculated to be prejudicial to the Defence of the Realm and being done with the intention and for the purpose of assisting the enemy. ' William Pearse was the only person tried for his part in the Easter Uprising who pleaded guilty. He was tried with three other men: John Dougherty, John McGarry ad J.J Walsh who all pleaded not guilty. The 1st witness was 2nd Lieutenant S.L King ( 12th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers ) who stated: ' On Tuesday 25th April at 11am I was seized by two armed men outside Clery's shop opposite the General Post Office. John Dougherty was one of the two. He held a revolver at me and told me if i did not put my hands up he would blow my brains out. he took me to the General Post office, where i was held as a prisoner till Friday night. I was in uniform. I saw each of the other prisoners in the GPO while i was there and during that time the Post office was held against His Majesty's troops by men firing against the troops. There was another officer there, Lieutenant Charmers who was wounded, also in uniform. I know that William Pearse was an officer but i do not know his rank. I do not know what McGarry's position was. He was not in uniform. J. Walsh did not appear to be in any authoritive position but was dressed in uniform. I saw Pearse, McGarry and Walsh wearing equipment, belts and pouches. Dougherty had a revolver but no equipment. It was Dougherty who threatened to blow my brains out, not the man with him. I am quite sure that i saw McGarry with equipment on. ' John Dougherty did not call any withnessnes in his defence but made the following statement: ' I did not say that i would blow Lieutenant King's brains out. ' John McGarry did not call any witnesses in his defence but stated: I had no intention of assisting the enemy. I had no position or rank of any sort. I was employed as a messenger. I did not know of the rebellion until


Willie Pearse

until the post office was taken. I had no rifle. ' J.J. Walsh did not call any witnesses in his defence but made the following statement: During the past eighteen months i have held no official position either big or little in the Irish Volunteers or any other national movement and my whole attension was confined to business. I gave it up at the time of the split between the Redmondites and the Irish Volunteers. I mean my official position. I remained in the Volunteers as a private and on being mobilised on Monday i knew nothing whatever of the intention of the mobilisation. I fired on nobody during the time in the Post Office. I had no arms what so ever. I was told off to attend the water and sand arrangements in case of fire. ' Willie Pearse did not call any witnesses to his defence and made the following statement: ' I had no authority or say in the arrangements for the starting of the rebellion. I was throughout - only a personal attache to my brother P.H. pearse. I had no direct command. '

All four men were found guilty and sentenced to death by shooting. The sentences on Dougherty and Walsh were commuted to terms of ten years penal servitude and the sentence on McGarry was commuted to eight years penal seritude. However the sentence on William Pearse was confirmed by Maxwell. An ordinary member of the rank and file there appares to be little justification for his execution. It appears that it was his relationship to his brother that sealed his fate. On the 3rd May, Willie Pearse was granted permission to visit his brother in Kilmainham, to see him for the final time. However, while Willie was en route, his brother Patrick eas executed. Between 4 and 4.30am on the 4th May 1916, William pearse was shot in the former stonebreakers yard at Kilmainham Prison. His remains were later buried in the Arbour Lane Cemetary.

The Easter Rising.

After returning permanently from paris to Dublin in 1905 MacBride played an important part with other Irish Nationalists in preparing for an Insurrection. Because he was so well known to the British, the conspirators thought it wise to keep him outside their secret military group planning the Rising. As a result he happened to find himself in the midst of the Rising without notice. He was in Dublin early on Easter Monday morning to meet his brother Dr. Anthony MacBride who was arriving from Westport to be married on the Wednesday. The Major walked up Grafton Street and saw Thomas MacDonagh in full uniform. He offered his services to Thomas MacDonagh and was appointed second-in-command at the Jacob's factory.

Trial and Execution

In a memorandum sent by General John Maxwell to the British prime Minister Herbert Asquith, the following description was provided for John MacBride: ' This man fought on the side of the Boers in the South African War of 1899 and held the rank of Major in that army, being in command of a body known as the Irish Brigade. He was always one of the most active advocates of the anti-enlistment propaganda and the Irish Volunteer movement. He was appointed to the rank of Commandant in the rebel army, and papers found in his possession showing that he was in close touch with the other rebel leaders and was issuing and receiving despatches from rebels in various parts of the city. He voluntarily stated at his trial that he had been appointed second-in-command of portion of the rebel forces and considered it his duty to accept that position. he was accompanied by over 100 men at the time of surrender. He had great influences over the younger men in the associations with which he was connected. ' The members of the court present were Brigadier-General C.G Blackader ( President ) Lieutenant-Colonel G. German and Lieutenant-Colonel W.J. Kent. The first witness was Major J.A Armstrong who stated:

' I was present at St. Patrick's Park on the 30th April. The British troops were fired upon and there were several casualties. The fire came from the neighbourhood of Jacob's factory. I was present when the prisoners from Jacob's factory surrendered at 5pm. I recognise the accused as one of them. He gave his rank as an officer. I had a list of the unarmed men made before the party was disarmed and the accused does not appear on that list. I was present when a Summary of Evidence was taken and i gave the same evidence as i have given now to the best of my belief. The accused didn't cross-examine me but he was in uniform. '

When cross-examined by John MacBride, Armstrong confirmed that the accused was a member of the party that surrendered but that Armstrong did not produce a with MacBride's name on it. The 2nd witness was 2nd Lieutenant S.H Jackson ( 3rd Royal Irish regiment ) who stated: ' I recognise the accused as John MacBride. He gave his name as Major John MacBride. I was in charge of the searching party in the gymnasium. The accused handed his note book to me there, the date being 1st May 1916. ' John MacBride declined to cross-examine this witness. The only witness called by MacBride in his defence was Mrs Allan ( 8 Spencer Villas, Glenaquary ) who stated:

' I have known the accused for 25 years. I remember you leaving my house last Easter Monday morning dressed in civilian clothes. I remember receiving a letter from the accused's brother Dr. MacBride saying that he was coming up from Castle Bar and asking the accused to meet him at the Wicklow Hotel in Dublin. I remember the accused saying that he was going to lunch with his brother and would be back about 5pm. I remember that Dr. MacBride was to be married the following Wednesday and that the accused was to be best man. I have never seen him in uniform nor has he got such a thing so far as i know. '

John MacBride made the following statement: ' On the morning of easter Monday i left my home at Glengeary with the intention of going to meet my brother who was coming to Dublin to get married. In waiting round town i went up as far as St. Stephen's Green and there i saw a band of Irish Volunteers. I knew some of the members personally and the Commandant told me that an Irish Republic was virtually proclaimed. As he knew my rather advanced opinions and although i had no previous connection with the Irish Volunteers i considered it my duty to join them. I knew there was no chance of success and i never advised or influenced any other person to join. I did not even know the positions they were about to take up. I marched with them to Jacob's Factory. After being a few hours there i was appointed second-in-command and i felt it my duty to occupy that position. I could have escaped from Jacob's Factory before the surrender had i desired but considered it a dishonourable thing to do. I do not say this with the idea of mitigating any penalty they may impose but in order to make clear my position in the matter. '

John MacBride was found guilty and entenced to death by shooting. This sentence was conformed by general Maxwell. At 3.47 am on the 5th May 1916 John MacBride was shot in the former Stonebreakers yard at Kilmainham Prison. He remains were later buried in Arbour Lane Cemetery.

 ' I was at St. Patrick's Park on the 30th April 1916. The British troops were fired on, the fire came form the neighbourhood of Jacb's Factory. Several casualties occured. I was under fire. I was present about 5pm when the party from Jacob's Factory surrendered. I directed an officer to make a list of the unarmed men. The accused surrendered as one of the party and was at the head of it, his name was not on the unarmed list. There was an armed list made and his name appears at the head and from information he gave he is described as Commandant. I asked him to give orders and he did so, they were obeyed. '

When cross-examined by the accused. Major Atmstrong confirmed that the two lists of men, armed and unarmed were made after the groups of men were disarmed. Armstrong stated that the accused did not have a rifle but a revolver or automatic pistol which he removed from a pocket and placed on the ground. Eamonn Ceannt called three witnesses in his defence: John McBridge, Richard Davy's and Patrick Sweeney. One of the other witnesses due to be called was Thomas MacDonagh, but he was executed by firing squad during the early morning of 3rd May 1916. The 1st Witness called by Eamonn Ceannt in his defence was John MacBride who stated:

' I know the accused intimately. I should be in no doubt as to his identity. I remember Sunday 30th April 1916 and proceding days. I was in Jacob's Factory. I left it on Sunday afternoon between 4 and 5pm. The accused was not in my company before i left. It was impossible for the accused to be in Jacob's factory without my knowledge, he had no connection with the party that occupied Jacob's factory. '

When John MacBride was cross-examined he stated that he saw the accused in the area of St. Patrick's Park when the group under his command surrendered, and that he did not see the accused at any time between Easter Monday and Sunday 30th April 1916. He laso confirmed that he did not have any knowledge that the accused was the Commandant of the 4th Battalion. Both Richard Davys and Patrick Sweeney confirmed that they had not seen the accused in Jacob's Factory, however Richard Davys stated that he saw the accused in the area of St. Patrick's Park. Following his last witness Eamonn Ceannt made the following statement:

' Three witness who were in Jacob's factory from Monday 24th April 1916 to about 5pm on Sunday 30th April have sworn that i was not in Jacob's factory during any of that period and was not one of a party which surrendered from Jacob's factory on Sunday 30th April. Another witness who was not available, Thomas MacDonagh would have been able to corroborate these three. The evidence makes it quite clear that i can't have had anything to do with the firing from the neighbourhood of Jacobs which resulted in casualties to the British troops at St. patrick's Park as referred to. I don't accuse Major Armstrong of endeavouring to mislead the court but it's clear that he was deceived in thinking that i was attached in any way to the Jacobs party which as deposed fired on British troops in the neighbourhood of St. Patrick's Park. He had admitted that his plan of making a list of armed men was by a process of elimination of the unarmed men from the whole list on parade and from recollection. He had admitted that the list of armed men was compiled after all men had been disarmed. I submit that this evidence is not conclusive except in so far as it concerned the unarmed men and is not evidence as to the men who were armed. I claim at least that there is reasonable doubt and the benefit of the doubt should be given to the accused. In regard to my carrying arms there is no positive or direct evidence except that Major Armstrong believes i carried a revolver or automatic pistol which he says i took from my pocket and laid upon the ground. As to my having surrendered to the military authorities this is sufficiently proved by my presence at Richmond Barracks and is hereby freely admitted. As to the accusation that i did an act...with the intention and for the purpose of assisting the enemy i content myself with a simple denial. The Crown did not even tender evidence in this regard. I gave away mu automatic pistol. The Volunteer uniform more often than not, does not indicate the rank of the wearer. The witness i intended to call and could not be found from the description i gave the police would have proven that i did not come from the neighbourhood of Jacob's factory. I came at the head of two bodies of men but was only connected with one body. '

Eamonn Ceant was found guilty of the charge and sentenced to death by shooting. The sentence was confirmed by General Maxwell. Between 3.45 and 4.05am on the 8th May 1916 Eamonn Ceannt was taken out to the old Stonebreakers yard at Kilmainham prison. Father Augustine who attended to him before his execution gace him crucifix to hold during his execution to edify him, and described Eamonn as ' the poor, sweet gentle soul, the dying saint, who died with forgiveness on his lips. ' Eamonn Ceannt was executed sitting on a soap box and reported to have still been alive after the volley of gun fire when the coup de grace ( revolver shot to the head ) was given by the commanding officer. His body was later buried at Arbour Lane cemetery. The British Prosecution Council William Whylie writing 20 years later described Eamonn Ceannt as ' a brave man who showed no sign whatever of nervousness before the court, stating ' I would say in fact, that he was the most dignified of any of the accused. '