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Chapters

The 1916 Easter Rising

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in the past when he had thought or spoken or written about giving his life for Ireland and this present moment, when he was faced with the absolute likelihood that he would soon have to do so. In a play he had written called ' The Singer ' a foreboding play about the course of his and Ireland's destiny - he had made the protagonist say to the girl he loved: ' Once i wanted life. You and i to be together in one place always; that is what i wanted. But now i see that we shall be together for a little time only; that i have to do a hard, sweet thing, and that i must do it alone. ' Even surrounded by followers whom he had influenced to fight and die for the cause he loved, Pearse was inescapably alone. As they finished their short conversation, Conolly looked beyond Pearse toward little Sean T. O'Kelly, who was standing idly behind Winifred Carney in the centre of the room. ' Are you busy, Sean? ' ' Not at all ' he replied. It would have been difficult for O'Kelly to pretend otherwise. ' Go back to Liberty Hall, then. There's a package of flags i want you to bring me. ' O'Kelly knew which flags he meant. Was it possible that they had set out to proclaim a new republic and had forgotten to bring along the bright beutifly new ensigns that would bear witness to its birth? O'Kelly hurried the few blocks to Liberty Hall, found the flags in a brown paper parcel, where Connolly said they would be and brought them back to him. It was now about twenty-five minutes after noon - time for the proclamation ceremony to begin. Connolly gave two flags to a Volunteer officer with instructions to raise them in place of the British flags on the roof, at

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Members of the ' Irish Citizen Army ' muster outside Liberty Hall Dublin

opposite sides of the building. The Post Office secured and an uneasy order established inside, Pearse and Connolly emerged from the front door preceded by a company of men carrying printed broadsides. In the street about 400 people stood talking to each other in dazed wonder as they awaited the next slapstick scene in this knockabout comedy that had just opened. A curious murmur arose when Pearse and Connolly appeared then a few sporting hostile remarks. ' Takin over the city, are ye? Well, yer not takin' me over. ' and ' Bloody little they'll take over when the military arrives. ' There were no cheers. Most of the people present could not even identify these insane Sinn Feiners in their silly generals' uniforms, complete with rattling sabres, who thought they could lead a pack of rabble into the General Post Office and settle down as if they owened the place. ( In the minds of most Dubliners, the Volunteers, the Citizen Army, and the vaguely known Irish Republican Brotherhood were all lumped together as Sinn Feiners - a reference to a less militant nationalist group that had a more militant reputation ) These boyos could have their fun for an hour or so. As soon as the troops showed up, they would all disappear fast enogh. Breaking the windows like that, pushing respectable citizens around, they could be had up for defacing public property, creating a nuisance, disturbing the peace, and a fine selection of other charges. Near Lelson's Pillar, in the centre of Sackville Street, just fifty feet from the Henry Street corner of the Post Office, a policeman, with his hands behind his back, stood watching the course

of events. Another policeman came up to him and asked him what was happening. The first policeman said ' The Sinn Feiners have collared the Post Office ' The second policeman glancing at the armed men around Pearse and Connolly said, ' Bejabers, that's queer work ' and sauntered on his way. Someone spoke a few words to Connolly, and he strode out from the building to where he could look up toward the roof. There, on the poles at opposite corners, protecting the Grevian statues of Hibernia, Mercury, and Fidelity and rising above the hated, weather-beaten Royal Arms of England that had been set into the centered tympanum, were the two new flags of Ireland, waving proudly in a brisk breeze. To the left at Prince's Street corner, was a banner with a golden harp in the centre of a green field, across which, in Gaelic lettering, gold and white, were the words 'IRISH REPUBLIC ' To the right, at the Henry Street corner, was the Irish tricolour. Connolly beamed with pride and turned to his secretary, Miss Carney, who had follwed him. ' Isn't it grand? ' he said, then hurried back to stand beside Pearse in front of the building. Pearse, after looking around solemnly and perhaps sadly at the unenthusiastic gathering, riased his voice and began reading the carefuly, eloquent words he had written with

the Post Office and O'Connell Bridge. He sent orders now that the men at these posts were to erect a barricade across Lower Abbey Street to help protect the GPO headquarters from the direction of Amiens Street railroad station if the British were to dispatch reinforcements from the north, they would arrive through Amiens Street. Under the direction of

fortification continued. O'Rahilly, besides discharging his duties as munitions officer, took command of the top floor, perhaps because he was still too angry at the other leaders to wish to be near them. Downstairs, Joseph Punkett's aid Brennan Whitmore, afet making the rounds of the windows, reported to Plunkett and Pearse that few of them were properly loopholed. It seemed to him that depsite their months of training, the men were appallingly ignorant of the elementary principles of fortifications. They thought it was enough to break the the glass of the window, put a book or two up on the sill, sit down behind it and wait. There were too few officers to tell them otherwise. Pearse, with Connolly's concurrence, ordered Whitmore and Michael Collins to go from window to window, making sure each rifleman protected himself as well as possible. Whitmore, glancing out a window on the south side, saw British officers still watching from the Metropole Hotel across the narrow street. They now looked puzzled and concerened. They were no longer laughing. Whitmore, gathering up pile of books, records, and mailbags, loopholed one of the windows, then stood by while each of the three men stationed in the corner room did another. He found it difficult to make

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