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Chapters

The 1916 Easter Rising

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across the street, trying to find batteries and bits of equipment with which to make the receiver operate, never supposed for a moment that either the radio or the revolution would work, Ernest Nunan, who had been wounded superficially the day before and was now preparing to go out with a group of snipers to the harbor area known as the North Wall, felt that the uprising would have had a chance of success if it had begun Sunday but that as matters now stood they would be lucky to hold out for a few days. To Liam McNeive, stationed at a ground-floor corner window looking out toward Prince's Street and O'Connell Bridge, the experience was becoming a matter of frustration. They were fighting an enemy who refused to show his face, yet they seemed to have no plan to seek him out and attack him, to take advantage of his reluctance. They should not be spending their time waiting to be attacked, constantly on the alert. They couldn't get proper rest. Each time they tried to relax for a few minutes, a gun would burst somewhere and they would be on their feet again, expecting Armageddon. McNeive could see the strain beginning to tell on the men around him. Seamus Brennan, a rifleman from Tullamore who was posted as a sniper on the roof of the Tower bar directly across Henry Street from the Post Office, had misgivings about The O'Rahilly's participation in the uprising. Bennan, like many others, knew of ORahilly's role in propagating the counterman order and had not yet been able to put down his resentment against him for it. O'Rahilly had done everything he could to prevent the rebellion from becoming countrywide, and he had thereby condemned it to failure. After he had done that much damage to the cause, why was he even allowed in the Post Office, and whose idea was it to put him in a position of command? From a rifleman's point of viewpoint there were some things about this difficult to explain. But a rifleman wasn't there to explain. He was there to fight, and die if required. Brennan wished the fight would hurry up and begin.

For Seamus Robinson, Seamus Lundy, and Cormac Turner, holding the Hopkins and Hopkins jewelry store building at the O'Connell Bridge corner, the fight had already begun. British snipers from the Trinity College building across the Liffey two blocks away kept their post under such constant pressure that turner made his way to the Post Office to ask for a high-caliber rifle with which to fight back. Connolly, looking calm and cool, said in his

deliberate, slightly Scottish-Irish accent ' I'll do better than that, man. I'll send you a crack shot. ' he sent a Citizen Army man named Andy Conroy, whose accuracy from the roof of Hopkins and Hopkins soon slowed, though did not stop, the fire from Trinity. At three o'clock, Connolly heard a boom that could not fail to shake him, at least momentarily, as it shook everyone in the Post office. It was the distand boom of artillery cannon in the northern suburbs. The sound seemed to come from the Phibsborough-North Circular Road area. Connolly could scarcely believe what he heard. Artillery was the one weapon he had been certain the British would not use. He had told his fellow volunteers many times, ' No capitalist government will use artillery and destroy the property of its own capitalist class. '

He was so much a Marxist he had no doubt about it. Yet the rumbling boom, repeated now, had the sound of an eighteen-pounder. No one could deny that. Where were they using it though? Not in the centre of the city, where they would destroy the highly valuable commerical property of the wealthy capitalist. Not in the southern section of the city, where they might damage the homes of those wealthy capitalists. But in the modest Phibsborough section, where they could only destroy lower middle-class houses. They would never shell Sackville Street. Connolly remained certain of that. Wild stories was rampant throughout the Post Office now and especially in the commissary. Many of the

up the street. The looters were travelling in packs now. A gang of them would swarm into a shop, then come trailing out, one after another, with arms full. Fitzgerald said ' Is there no way we can stop all this thievery? ' ' We can shoot them, ' Pearse said, but Fitzgerald felt no conviction in his voice. A short time later, Brennan Whitmore, standing at the Earl Street corner, saw James Connolly pacing back and forth in front of the Post office. Concerned about the looters, he sent a messenger across the street to ask Connolly for permission to deal drastically with them. Though Connolly, like Pearse, had talked about shooting a few of them, he now said by return messenger ' Leave them alone unless they attack you. ' Whitmore had become exasperated with them because they had started a fire in a boot shop in the centre of the block of buildings he and his men occupied. Had it not been for the speed with which theublin firebrigade arrived to put it out, the fire might have eliminated their entire position, undoing all their fortification efforts. Constrained by Connolly;s order, Whitmore shrugged and watched the passing scene. A girl weaving toward him began to climb over the barricade he and his men had built. He rushed up to stop her but she would not be stopped. ' Are ye tellin' me i cant go home be way of Earl Street? ' she said ' All my life I've gone home be way of Earl Street. ' She resumed her perilous climb over the chairs, barrels, mattresses, and junk that formed the barricade. An old man who had donned a silk hat and wrapped aafur boa around his neck shouted an obscenity at her. She pausedlong enough to shout a few at him in return,, then resumed her climb made her way down the other side, and continued on in the direction of Amiens Street. A boy who lookedabout twelve years old came along wearing a new golf outfit, somewhat too big for him, but complete - plus fours, a cap, brogue shoes, even a bag with a set of clubs. he teed up a ball on a mound of dirt, selected a club, took a few practice swings, then stepped in and drove the ball half a block down the street. As the ball sailed into a crowd of people he turned to a bystander and said in the appropriate accent ' Bunkered, by Jove. '

Connolly could find little comfort in reports from his outposts. Hearing nothing for some time from the Citizen Army men at City Hall and the Daily Mail building, he sent Sean T. O'Kelly to find out who was in control there. O'Kelly returned by a circuitous route, with a short answer: ' The British. ' The battle was over. The British had paid a high price, more than 20 dead, but they now controlled the whole section around Dublin Castle and were cleaning out the entire area south of the river around Dame Street and Trinity College. At four o'clock the pressure became too heavy for a detachment of men Connolly had stationed at in Westmoreland Street, just south of O'Connell Bridge. They withdrew to the Post office as British soldiers made their way up to the bridge, staying, however, out of sight of the Post Office riflemen. A strong British detachment had also moved out from Amiens Street station to repair the rebel-damaged Great Northern Railroad tracks, and fierce fighting was in progress around Annesley Bridge. The sound of gunfire there could be heard at the Post office, but the outcome of that battle was still in doubt.