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Chapters

The 1916 Easter Rising

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him the Post Office would soon be evacuated. ' I want you to report to Desmond Fitzgerald ' he said. ' Do what he tells you. ' Then with a smile and a pat on the shoulder, he left the boy and went looking for Pearse. If they expected him to lead an assault force to William and Wood, it was about time to make some plans. Fitzgerald and his kitchen crew were busy distributing to the men, as per instructions from Pearse, all the food they could carry, Hams, cakes, bread, tea, bacon, cabbages, sugar, flour were piled upon the already overloaded men. In Pearse's view, they still might need several day's rations. he had also given Fitzgerald his specific assignment for the coming evacuation. Instead of standing guard over the remaining women in a concrete bunker until death, as Clarke had told him to do so, he was to help lead the women and the wounded to Jervis Street Hospital if he could manage to get them there. ' You must do your best, ' Pearse had said, ' but i think it will be in the hands of the enemy. ' Fitzgerald had swallowed hard, trying to decide whether this new assignment was any better than the one Clarke had given him. Pearse had then looked at him solemnly and said ' Incidentally, you've done an excellent job and you are hereby promoted. ' Pearse did not know that Tom Clarke had done the same thing the day before. Pearse didn't even know what rank Fitzgerald held. But then, neither had Clarke, and neither did Fitzgerald himself. Whatever it might be, he didn't expect to hold it long.

bequeathing her his entire estate, which was considerable. Although he was certain he would never see his fiancee, he thought Miss Carney might. The insurgent women were not likely to be shot. ' Would you do something for me? ' he asked her. By this time she would have been happy to do almost anything for him. Whatever she might think of his style of life, she could no longer question his courage, loyalty, or determination. She gazed sadly at his bandaged throat and his pale features and realised that even if the British did not execute him, he could scarcely live more than another few days. he gace her the envelope addressed to Grace Giffford, then took off his filigreed bangle and put it on her wrist and placed one of his large antique rings in her hand. ' Will you see to it that Grace gets these things? ' he asked. Winifred Carney nodded. Plunkett thanked her and walked away. All the wounded men except Connolly were now prepared for evacuation. When Lieutenant Mahoney approached to get Connolly ready, he waved him away. ' I'm not going out with the wounded, ' Connolly said. ' My place is here with my men. ' Both Mahoney and Jim Ryan argued with him to no avail. After giving him several reasons why he should be in a hospital, Mahoney shrugged in resignation and turned his attention to the sixteen wounded men who would be going. Desmond Fitzgeral, Father Flanagan, and Mahoney were to lead the party, which also included the hospital attendants bearing stretchers and twelve of the fifteen women left in the Post office. Three women were to remain -Winifred Carney, who

gpo interior

Inside the GPO - The charred interior

still refused to leave Connolly, and two nurses, Elizabeth O'Farrell and Julia Grenan, who were needed to take care of him and any other men that might be wounded in the flight. As the twelve girls gathers around the stretchers awaiting the order to go, men began coming to them with messages, prayer books, rosaries, pictures - whatever rememberances they might have for their people at home. Tom Clarke walked over to Leslie Price, a girl he know well because of her Cumman na mBan activities, and said to her ' If you see my wife, tell her the men fought to the . .' He tried to finish the sentence, then shook his head, turned, and walked away. At the height of the confusion around the girls, Pearse called for order. The roar of voices subsided and the men formed once more into two ranks. Pearse looking even more grave than usual, asked if each man had his ration. Then he went down the lines, picking out one man after another and drawing them aside. Because the chosen were apparently marked for some special duty, every man stood on edge, wondering if he would be taken, and those who were passed over didn't know whether to feel slighted or relieved. After Pearse had selected thirty men, he formed them into a special squad apart from the main body, then addressed to them a few special words.

' As you must know, we are preparing to evacuate the headquarters ' he said. ' But you men will not leave with the rest of us. You will move out as an advance guard under the command of The O'Rahilly. Your task will be to secure the William and Wood Factory on Parnell Street and hold it until we arrive. The assignment is difficult, but you have proven yourselves as soldiers. I am confident you will succeed. '

Then he turned, raised his voice for everyone to hear, and repeated the general plan. ' I want all of you ' he said in conclusion ' to be ready to go out and face the machine guns as if you were on parade. ' The men who had listened silently, remained silent for a minutes after Pearse finished. Then one voice sang out ' Soldiers are we . .' A moment later, more than 300 voices, singing ' The Soldiers' Song ' rose up in answer to the roaring flames and exploding bullets. Still singing, the men moved to the Henry Street exit, where they waited again for the officers to give them marching orders.

As they waited their ranks became gradually less orderly, then broke down completely, until the men were milling around each other, asking questions, exchanging rumours. In the confusion, one of the hair-triggered shotguns went off spraying out a cartridge of pellets. Charles Saurin of the Metropole garrison was hit in the palm of his had, but not seriously injured. Andy Furlong was hit in the leg, and so was the man next to him, an English-Irishman with a cockney accent. Swaying against Saurin's left shoulder, the man said ' Can't you stand away and let a fellow lie down? ' As Saurin and several others stretched him out on a pile of mail sacks, Lieutenant Oscar Traynor arrived and asked how badly he was hurt. Thhe man looked up with an expression of dignity and resignation. 'I'm dying, comrade, ' he said. Desmond Fitzgerald who came to investigate, decided the man was in a less serious condition than he thought himself to be. After administering first aid, Fitzgerald had two wounded men put on stretchers and transferred to his party. Pearse watched all this, his face tense with worry, then raised his voice in an order. ' Unload your guns, everyone, and hold your muzzles up. ' There was so much noise no one seemed to hear him at first. he kept shouting the order until they did. The O'Rahilly, with only a few minutes left before departing on his perilous mission thought again of the prisoners, to whom he had promised safe passage. He had them all brought forward and placed, still under guard, neat the Henry Street door, from which they could dash for freedom, when Pearse gave the word.