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Chapters

The 1916 Easter Rising

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happened to be pointing at the driver, the tram moved aling rapidly, despite complaints from the other passengers. One commodious middle-aged lady was especially upset because she was being jostled and butted by the rifle of a man who was trying to sit down beside her without removong any of his equipment ' I demand you put these men off the tram ' she said to the conductor ' Perhaps you wouldn't mind foing that for me ma'am ' he said. When they alighted at O'Connell Bridge and marched to the muster of a trade union building called Liberty Hall, a few blocks down the quay, the fifty-six men didn't yet know where they were going. And now, many of those who were in the company moving up Sackville Street ( more than half had been deployed elsewhere ) still believed they were on a routine maneuver. So did the grinning British officers who stood in front of the Metropole Hotel watching them pass. One of the officers said to another ' Will these bloody fools never tire of marching up and down the streets? ' It was an understandable question. For more than two years the teo groups represented by these marchin men - the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army -- had been drilling openly and threatening

sackville street dublin

The General Post Office ( GPO ) Sackville Street, Dublin

revolution against the Crown without ever firing a shot. It was difficult to take them seriously. At the head of the column approaching the General Post Officer were three men in green officers' uniform complete with Sam Browne belts and ceremonial swords. All three were commandant generals, having achieved the rank at a secret meeting the previous day. In the centre, striding belligerently, was Commandant General James Connolly, a stocky, bandy-legged man with a square open face, and a shaggy mustache. Though he now found himself in charge of the Dublin operations of the ' first Army of the Irish Republic ' he was a labor leader by profession. He was a dedicated Marxist as well as a nationalist by persuasion. His vision of tis revoltion encompassed much more than Ireland's emancipation from England. He was a man of whom it might be said he was born in the wrong country, and one year ahead of his time. To Connolly's left was Commandant General Joseph Mary Plunkett, a poet, military strategist, distantly

realted to Blessed Oliver Plunkett, and son of Papal Count George Noble Plunkett. Joesph Plunkett was thin to the point of emaciation, with a slender, pale face, a sloping nose, rimless glasses, and a surgical bandage on his throat. His step was uncertain, and he looked as if he were sick unto death. An invalid since childhood, he was, in fact, dying of tuberculosis. yet he had planned to marry, theprevious day, a lovely young girl named Grace Gifford, who had cut herself from her Protestant family by her engagement to him and conversion to Catholiicism. The marriage plans had been postponed because of the press of revolutionary events. And this morning, though he had needed help to get out of bed, he had arrived in time for the muster at Liberty Hall and unsheathed his saber with a flourish when he took position at the front of the column. To Connolly's right march Commandant General Patrick Pearse, like Plunkett, a poet, though more mystical and messianic; also a playwright, a lawyer, an educator ( founder of two highly regarded schools ) and the most effective Irish orator of his day. Though he left the field leadership of the troops and the front-and-centre position on the march to Dublin Commander Connolly, he was himself Commander in Chief of the ' Army of the Irish republic ' and although it had not yet been announced, already ' the first president of the Irish republic ' having been duly elected the previous day by the other six members of the provisional Republican government. Two of these members were Connolly and Plunkett. The others were Thomas Clarke, Sean MacDermott ( neither of whom had taken military titles ) Thomas MacDonagh, and Eamonn Ceannt. The latter two at this moment were commanding units of the Republican army eleswhere in Dublin. Pearse was a medium-size man with a solid stride. His face was handsome, it was gravely serious. He had suffered, during the Liberty Hall muster, what to a less serious man might have been a deep embarrassment. Just as he was about to take his place at the front of the column, one of his four sisters had run up to him, grabbed his sleeve and pleaded ' Come home Patrick. Forget all this foolishness ' He seemed not to notice her, as if, since he could not conceive of her doing such a thing to him, she were therefore not doing it. Connolly embarrassed for him, had called the men to attention and quickly marched them off.

Walking along the pavement slightly behind the slow moving troops were Clarke and MacDermott. Though Clarke was a man in late middle ag, small and thin, with deep-set eyes, which for fifteen years had stared at the dark gray walls of a British prsion cell, he walked rigidly, erect and helped support the younger MacDermott, who crippled by polio, walked laboriously with a cane. Driving the Ford at the rear was Michael O' Rahilly, the head of his clan and known as ' The O'Rahilly ' a sandy-haired, handlebar-mustached, laughing man, whom none of the leaders had expected to show up today. On Holy Saturday night he had driven this same car through several Irish counties, telling people they should not, under any circumstances take part in the event that was now in progress. Then he had hurried back to Dublin, and here he was, taking a most active part in it himself. No one yet knew what to make of that. As the overburdened accumulation of troops neared the General