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Chapters

The 1916 Easter Rising

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Connolly was not deterred. He moved out of the alley onto the footpath to survey the situation; then quickly dividing his company into two groups, he ordered twenty of them to occupy the Independent offices at the Liffey Street corner and the other ten to occupy the Lucas lamp and bicycle shop directly opposite. As the men trotted down the footpath, clinging to the buildings for whatever protection they might offer, Connolly himself stood out in the open, sending them on their way with words of encouragement. Only when he was satisfied that they had made it to their destinations did he start back toward the Post Office. He had taken no more than a step or two in the direction of the alley when a bullet hit the pavement beside him, skipped up, and shattered his left ankle. Connolly went down as if someone had knocked his legs out from under him. For a moment he was aware of nothing by the terrible pain. Then he was tempted to shout for help until he realised that shouting would only attract more Nritish bullets. Despite his terrible agony, he had to get himself back to the Post Office. A glance at his ankle indicated there was nothing left of it but a jumble of bone fragments. On his hands and one knee, he dragged himself out of the street into the alley. Almost passing out from the pain and the nausea it produced, he inched his way along the alley to Prince's Street, where he fell flat in the gutter, unable to move any further. Fortunately, he was now back in his own territory. One of his men saw him lying there, and he was soon carried into the Post Office.

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The remains of O'Rahilly's burnt out vehicle in Prince's Street - used as part of the barricade

By the time he was lifted onto a hospital table, his pain was so severe he was soaked in perspiration. Lieutenant Mahoney, the captured British army doctor who was standing by, observed the rate at which Connolly was losing blood and immediately applied a tourniquet, suggesting as he did so that one of the assistants, Dan McLoughlin, fashion a splint from a piece of wood. Mahoney could see that the bullet had smashed the bone just above Connolly's ankle. At this point, Jim Ryan, conscious of his responsibility as chief of the hospital, stepped in to take charge of the case. Mahoney watched silently while McLoughlin, who attended medical school for ten years withought approaching a degree, administered a weak

The new commanders met the threat by sending a squad of riflemen into the Coliseum theatre, which abutted the Post Office on Henry Street, and faced Moore Street. These riflemen launched such a lively traffic in bullets up Moore Street toward the barricade builders that for a time it looked as if they might discourage the project. But the British, chose this moment to figure out a worthy use for their armoured car, which had until then been so useless. They put it to work depositing sandbags for the barricade. The work was soon completed and the insurgents slackened their rifle fire. They had to accept the fact that one more street was virtually closed to them. At dusk, someone in the Post office, apparently alarmed by the artillery shells that kept dropping into the Metropole Hotel sent an order to Lieutenant Oscar Traynor to evacuate the position. Traynor gathered his men together and they scurried across Prince's Street, through

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The British barricade at the end of Moore Street

the side gate into the Post office courtyard. They had been in the Post Office only a few minutes, standing around, wondering what to do next, when Pearse spotted them. What were they doing there? Why would anyone have ordered them to evacuate the Metropole? It wasn't even on fire. It was simply absorbing a few shells. To give it up so easily would be to admit defeat, and Pearse was not ready to admit defeat. Within another few minutes, they were back at their old stand in the Metropole, shuddering at each new shell burst as they watched the fires rise on the other side of O'Connell Street. The spectacle was now so magnificent it could make them forget from moment to moment that it was also the most frightening they had ever seen. When Hoyte's oil and chemical stores at the south end of the Imperial block erupted into flame, men dropped whatever they were doing to watch the spouting rockets, the star bursts, the jets of every colour shooting out in every direction. Brennan Whitmore, at the Imperial Hotel stared in sinking melancholy as the Hoyte establishment, struch by an incendiary bomb, began to smoke, then exploded like a huge bundle of fireworks. He and his men watched the flames sweep toward them through the gray-black clouds and wondered how long it would take this final catastrophe to reach them. Young Sean MacEntee seated near a window, gazed as if hypnotised as the reflections of the fires in a hundreds of panes of glass and in every piece of metal or polished stone on the Post office side of the street. Fascinated by the inferno's awful beauty, he continued to stare at it abd even admire it until finally, overcome by weariness, he closed his smoke-reddened eyes and dropped off to sleep.