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Chapters

The 1916 Easter Rising

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our arms. Then we'll all be allowed to go home. ' This prediction occasioned such a loud cheer that Joseph Plunkett, his sword still jangling at his side though he had acarcely the strength to stay on his feet, went over to the men and corrected it. ' There's no way of knowing what might happen to any of you, ' he said ' but i'm sure they won't kill you. Whatever happens, remember, you fought a great fight and you should be proud. ' The first group marched off under the command of Captain Michael O'Reilly, picking up stragglers along the way, by the time they reached Nelson's Pillar at the corner of Sackville and Henery Streets, they numbered about fifty men. Encountering a British officer there, they stopped while O'Reilly asked him what they were to do. he didn't know. For some reason, neither did O'Reilly, though the British instructions had been explicit. They were to turn left and march to the Parnell Monument at the top of Sackville Street. Instead, they turned tight and marched to the O'Connell Monument at the lower end of the street. There, they began laying down their arms in an untidy pile. A British staff officer came hurrying across O'Connell Bridge from Westmoreland Street to put them straight. ' You've come to

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de Valera ( marked with an X ) marches into captivity at the head of his men.

to the wrong place ' he said ' Turn around and go the other way. ' They picked up their rifles and marched toward the upper end of the street, puzzled at the British Army for allowing them to take back their guns after laying them down, and sheepishly embarrassed because their revolution aeemed to be ending, as it had begun, on a note of comic confusion. In Moore Street, Sean MacDermott, with the aid of Joseph Plunkett and John McLoughlin lined up the main body of men in columns of fours and the orders to march. Then MacDermott, whose twisted legs could not keep pace with the marchers, fell in at the rear with Tom Clarke and Joseph Plunkett, who was sop weak he had to be assisted by Julia Grenan and Winifred Carney. Leaning on his cane, MacDermott moved at his miximum speed to keep from falling behind. Led by Willie Pearse with a white flag and by McLoughlin, the defeated men moved in a somber pocession along Moore Street and Henry Place into Henry Street, past the shell of the burned-out General Post Office into Sackville Street, then left a Nelson's Pillar and up the ride side of the wide boulevard. The sun had set and darkness was deepening. Aside from a few people who stood at the door of the Gresham Hotel the street was empty. Smoke drifted upward from the ruins of several still smoldering house. There was no sound except the clop, clop, clop of the narchers' boots and as they reached the Parnell Monument, the sharp, slaplike command to halt. A British officer called out: ' Step forward five paces and deposit all arms! ' The racket of clanging metal echoed in the stillness as they complied. After dropping their rifles and revolvers, they withdrew five paces, stood to attention and faced by a picket of bayonets, endured the barbs of their conquerors as the process of name taking began. Edward Daly and hs men from the Four Courts area had also arrived to surrender, and there were now more than 400 men lined up on both sides of the street. British officers strolled along their lines, examining them curiously, making occasional remarks about the dirty shabbiness of their appearance. Each time one of the officers spoke, his voice would echo up

and down the silent street. The prisoners left the derogatory remarks unanswered. When they spoke, which was seldom, it was to each other, and in whispers. The must complete, the headquarters battalion of the ' first army of the Irish Republic ' marched off under British comand now, to the yard in front of the Rotunda Hospital, at the very top of the street, where in cold damp misert they crowded together for the night. At nine o'clock Sunday morning the shivering, hungry, unwashed men of the rebellion formed ranks for the last time in Sackville Street, flanked on each side by platoons of British soldiers with flashing bayonets. But it was not without incident. Now that the men were disarmed there was no more politeness. One officer strode up and down amongst them, mocking, cuffing, beating them. Half-mad with rage, he picked them out one by one. ' Don't smoke! Don't stand up! Don't lie down! ' He dragged out old Tom Clarke and stripped him naked. Michael Collins shouted in protest; he too was dragged out and cuffed; a man calling himself O'Sullivan, gave his name in Irish and along with Joe O'Reilly was struck. But they were helpless. Michael Collins, who had a long memory,

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Prisoners are marched into captivity along Dublin Quay

remembered, not his own humiliation, for he never remembered such things, but the humiliation to old Tom Clarke. There would be a day of reckoning for that, and there would be no more romantic outbursts, which left them to the mercy of such treatment. It was those who gave out such treatment who would go in fear, and one fine spring morning during another war that gallant British officer would meet a most unromantic end in a quiet road in County Wexford, the bullet of Collin's men in his heart. At nine-thirty they began a slow procession through the streets of Dublin, most of them to a detainment compound at Richmond Barracks, on the southwestern edge of the city. At Richmond Barracks further insults were hurled at them by British soldiers, and cases of inhuman treatment were reported. Eventually MacDermott, Plunkett and Willie Pearse went to Kilmainham jail; near Richmond Barracks, where cells were awaiting them. Tom Clarke, well known to the British, had already been taken separately. MacDermott, whose walking stick had been yanked from his hand during the night by an irate captain, had to hobble along behind under separate guard because he could not keep pace with Plunkett, close to fainting, kept pace through will power. As the defeated and apprehensive prisoners plodded down Sackville Street, they could take token satisfaction from the fact that their beloved tricolour flag, scored and tattered though it was, had not yet fallen from its standard atop the gutted Post Office, despite the efforts of a detail of British soldiers with ropes. They could take much deeper satisfaction from the fact that their rebellion, even in defeat, had once more asserted for thir generation Ireland's perennial claim to Independence. Sean MacDermott had said ' If we can hold Dublin for one week, we shall save the soul of Ireland. ' They had held the city for almost a week. They had made their glorious gesture. Whatever might happen to them now, they were certain the people of Ireland, when they learned the full story of easter Week, would rise up and finish the job they had begun. If, however, they thought the people of Ireland might already be prepared to rise in support of them, they were to be rudely disabused when they reached Dame Street, two blocks south of the Liffey, and turned west toward the slum districts around Christ's Church. Sackville Street had been virtually deserted. In Westmoreland Street, as they crossed the bridge, a few people had looked out of the windows. Others, dressed for Sunday Mass, stopped to gape at them. But no one had broken the sullen silence. In Dame Street as the

procession approached Thomas Street, the defeated insurgents quickly learned how most Dubliners still felt about their rebellion when a raucous crowd came pouring out of the houses and out of the side streets to accost them. Here were the looters turned patriots. Waving British flags, they bore down on the advancing column of prisoners and their heavy military escort. Now they would take care of these bloody Sinn Feiners who had destroyed their city. They screamed ' Dirty bowsies! Murderers! Guttersnipes! ' The flood of insults was so fierce and vitriolic it hit the marching prisoners with an almsot physical impact. The insults of their British conquerors had been easy to take because they had been expected, but these people were irish. They were the very people for whose freedom the insurgents had been risking death. It was depressing and unsettling to see the hatred in their eyes and to realise that only the British bayonets prevented them from attacking. In Thomas Street, as the procession of prisoners passed the execution place of Robert Emmet, who died in the cause of Irish Freedom, the violence of the mob increased. Somebody threw a juicy tomato, which

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splattered off the shoulder of one of the men. It signaled the beginning of a bombardment. The mob, having brought along all the rotten fruit and vegetables obtainable, proceeded to unload the entire foul smelling collection on the marching prisoners. And those who had no produce looked around for rocks or bricks to lob in over the heads of the escorting soldiers. Shawl-covered women, shouting obscenities, tried in vain to slip through the military ranks and get at the marchers. At intervals masses of people would surge up against the flanks of the procession threatening death to the ' bloody Sinners ' but each time, the British bayonets persuaded them to retreat. Within the protective picket of bayonets, the prisoners stared out, some in sadness, some in anger, at the noisy mob. Most of the men were astonished and depressed to encounter such hatred from their fellow Irishmen. But there were those who had so much inner confidence in their cause they could laugh at it all. Though the mob hated them today, tomorrow the mob would change. And strangely enough, there were those so wrapped in their own thoughts they seemed unaware that the mob was there. One man marching beside Jim Ryan, ignored the shouting, the shoving, the rotten bombardment as if he were in some other world. He was obviously thinking not of today but of tomorrow. Turning to Ryan he said, referring to the British rather than the mob ' What do you think they plan to do with us? ' Ryan surprised to hear such a question at a moment like this, shrugged and said ' I don't know. ' The man was silent for a while. Then he turned to Ryan once more. ' Do you think they might let us go? ' he asked. Ryan glanced out at the furious fist-shaking crowd then broke into a wry Irish smile. ' Bejasus, ' he said, ' I hope not. '

Within twelve days after the Easter Rebellion, the following men were court-martialed, then executed by firing squad in the yard of Kilmainham jail:
All were taken to Arbour Hill Cemetary, where their bodies were put into a mass grave then covered in quick-lime.

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Patrick Pearse

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James Connolly

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Sean Heuston

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Thomas Clarke

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Thomas MacDonagh

 

Cornelius Colbert

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Edward Daly

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Eamonn Ceannt

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Sean MacDermott

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Michael O'Hanrahan

Thomas Kent was excuted by firing squad in Cork on the 9th May for the death of an RIC officer, whilst Sir Roger Casement was hanged on August 3rd 1916 at Pentonville Prison, London. Almost 2,000 other insurgents were either interned or imprisoned. Let us also remember all the other Irish lads whose stories we will never know about, who were killed or wounded in the fighting of Easter Week 1916.