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Chapters

The 1916 Easter Rising

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indeed been free with his Marxist assurances that the capitalistic British government would never destroy the property of its capitalist subjects. When big guns boomed in Phibsborough the day before, he could point out that they were destroying not the property of capitalists but the homes of the working people. And even now, with the big guns thundering in downtown Dublin, he could point out that they had chosen as a target not a commercial building but the headquarters of Irish trade unionism. When he heard the guns and realised that Liberty Hall was the target, Connolly went to the Post Office roof to see what he could see. Because Liberty Hall was out of view, even from the roof, the most important thing he saw was the alrm of the faces of the riflemen as they listened to the explosions.
' Don't be fightened, ' he told them. When the British government starts using artillery in the city of Dublin, it shows they must be in a hurry to finsih the job. ' If he intended this to convey a notion of British desperation in the face of insurgent strength, he could quickly see that the men were not convinced. As an extra boost to their morale he added ' There are probably some forces coming up to

help us. ' They were as eager to believe this as he was, and the rumour of German support quickly began another journey from mouth to mouth through the Post office. Connolly himself wanted so desperately to believe it that he began to think even the British believed it. On his return downstairs, he explained the British use of big guns to Willie Pearse as an indication that they expected German intervention and wanted to quell the rebellion before the Germans arrived. As for the destruction of Liberty Hall, Connolly could deplore it and nostalgically regret it, but he had no need to mourn it since he had been in danger of eviction from the premises anyway. Though his Citizen Army had been recruited from the Transport and General Workers' Union of which he was acting general secretary, his policies were not universally applauded by the union rank and file. Dramatist Sean O'Casey, at that time a disgruntled member of the union and only recently resigned as secretary of the Citizen Army, represented a typical attitude toward Connolly among his fellow Marxists. O'Casey felt that Connolly had stepped from what he called ' the narrow by-ways of Irish socilaism ' to ' the crowded highway of Irish nationalism. ' In O'Casey's opinion ' the high creed of Irish nationalism ' had become Connolly's ' daily rosary ' while the ' higher creed of international humanity ' had lost him. A less impassioned critic might have said Connolly adopted the second creed without discarding the first. Though it was true he now had a much larger vision than Liberty Hall, his primary allegiance was still, was still to the working class. ' Our task will only commence ' he had told members of the Citizen Army ' when the rifle has done its work. ' he had indeed embraced irish nationalism, and he cherished it enough to offer his life for it, but he also saw it as a vehicle for social revolution. Deep in his heart was the firm belief that this hopeless-looking rebellion he had helped provoke would actually spark working-class revolutions all over the world. he could judge the success of a revolution only in proportion to the improvement it brought to the lives of the people. ' Someone must look after the interests of the workers ' he had said. ' The others can look after themselves. '

The bombardment of Liberty Hall, as if it had aroused both sides to the need of getting on with things, signaled a sharp increase in hostilities around the Post office. The sparodic sniper fire that punctuated the night now grew into angry volley's, first from one side, then the other side. Rifle and machine-gun bullets spattered Sackville from both ends as the British began tightening their ring around the rebel headquarters. They moved slowly and carefully from Great Brunswick Street, south of the river, through D'Olier Street, toward the quays. Unfortunaely for them, an insurgent sniper in Kelly's gun store commanded a cear view of D'Olier Street. With one bullet, he falttened the scout of the advancing party. The men behind him ran for shelter in the doorways, and the advance was halted. At least temporarily. In the Post office, where no British soldiers had been since the outlandish Lancer charge Monday afternoon, unshaven men, and quite afew not yet old enough to shave, peered out the windows along their gun barrels, trying to see where the shots were coming from, where the action was. The streets were deep in broken glass, soiled merchandise, cardboard boxes, bits of window frames, bashed hats, crumpled newspapers. A bullet hit a bowler hat in the gutter, bounced it into the air, and sent it rolling eccentrically along the pavement. Though it was no time for people to show themselves, there were suprisingly, a few in sight. One person after another would dart across the street, or start across, think better of it, and retreat.

On the top floor of the Post office, Desmond Fitzgerald encountered The O'Rahilly for the first time since the night beforee and said ' Still here are we? I thought we were to be wiped out yesterday for sure. ' O'Rahilly laughed and shook his head in wonder at the fact that they were still there. he hadn't much time to talk. If the British were preparing at last to make their charge, he had to be sure the men at the windows and on the roof were ready, depsite their desperate need of sleep. The word was circulating that martial law had been declared in Dublin the night before. Most of the men greeted this news with indifference. Some seemed uncertain as to what martial law meant. One man, apparently still indignant at the looting, exclaimed ' Wouldn't you say it's about time? We've had no law at all around here for the last two days. ' There was less confusion than usual in the Post Office, this morning, partly because the men were so tired they didn't feel like moving around, but also because, after two days, organisation had begun to be asserted. The Army of the Republic had even begun to develop a few security measures. People could no longer walk in and out of the Post office like curious tourists. On Monday and Tuesday, the sentries had passed anyone who looked as if he might be friendly. Today it took a good story to get past the guards. One man whose story wasn't good enough, because he had blended it with too much alcohol, was turned away from the side gate by Sean Gallogly and went reeling toward O'Connell Bridge. he was killed at the corner of Abbey Street by a stray bullet. Gallogly, horrified at the sight of the man's body on the pavement turned to Patrick pearse, who was standing nearby, and asked if he should have let the man into the building. Pearse said simply, ' You did the right thing. ' Four men who took it upon themselves to leave the building in quest of a secret ammunition cache were at first barred from reentry when they returned. It was only because they actually had the ammunition to offer that the guard admitted them. They took their final haul to Sean MacDermott, who was beginning to look haggard but remained jocular. When he heard about their difficulties reentering the building, he remarked that this was the kind of war a man had to fight his way into. he told them they shouldn't be going out without passes - then he sent one of them out again because the four had not quite been able to carry all the ammunition they had found. ' And if you run into His Lordship the Viceroy, give him me regards. '

MacDermott, who was famous for the stories he told often lapsedinto dialect. When he was in Mountjoy Prison in 1915, for making a purposely seditious speech, he helped celebrate the impending release of a fellow prisoner by giving ' one of his inimitable dialogues entitles, ' yself and the Guv'nor! ' In the Metropole Hotel, just across Prince's Street from the Post Office, Lieutenant Oscar Traynor and his men, battlehardened by their engagement with the British in Fairview the day before, were now enjoying the luxury of first-class accomodations, though without room service. Aside from the snipers posted at the Abbey Street corner of the Metropole block of buildings, most of the men had comparatively little to do. They exchanged pleasantries with the men in the windows of the Post Office, and they applaudedthe bullet-dodging runs between the various outposts on the other side of Sackville Street. A few of them even ventured out themselves in the hope of furthering the revolution. One eager young Volunteer for instance, brought in a proper, dignified man in mufti and marched him, at gunpoint to Lieutenant Traynor. ' I've caught a spy, ' the Volunteer announced proudly. The prisoner sputtered in fury. Traynor said ' What makes you think he's a spy? ' The Volunteer said ' He's a British officer. ' How do you know? ' asked Traynor. ' Because when i said ' Quick march ' he started off on the left foot. ' Gradually the man's indignation subsided enough to let him identify himself. He was in the habit of starting off on his left foot because he was a master at a Dublin military academy.

In Hopkins and Hopkins at the northeast corner of O'Connell Bridge, Volunteer Cormac Turner finally got around to eating breakfast after the gunboat stopped shelling Liberty Hall. It was not a conventional breakfast. It was the first meal Turner had ever eated laying flat on the floor. He and his companions, Seamus Robinson and Seamus Lundy, were somewhat inconvenienced by a British machine gun in the tower of the Tara Street fire station across the Liffey and by a sniper's rifle at McBirney's furniture store, also across the river. Though they were unable to deal effectively with the machine gun, they did manage, after breakfast, to impress the sniper. Through a pair of good binoculars borrowed from the stock of Hopkins and Hopkins, they located him definitely at a central top window. They signalled this information across Sackville Street to Kelly's gun store, where the Citizen Army's crack rifleman, Andy Conroy, was now stationed with the only rifle in either of the outposts. Though the rest of the men had nothing but shotguns, everyone took aim at the offensive McBirney window except the binocular man in Hopkins and Hopkins. When he saw the sniper's outline appear in the window, he shouted ' Fire! ' All the guns erupted at once, and for some time thereafter, nothing was heard from the McBirney sniper. Having acomplished this much, the three-man Hopkins and Hopkins garrison returned to the job that had occupied them, off and on, for two days - tunneling through the walls of building after building up Sackville Street toward Abbey Street. They soon reached the Dublin Bread Company building, where they found a party of their comrades using the high, domed tower as a sniping post. In the Post office, breakfast was more comfortable, if not sumptuous. As the two girls in charge of the kitchen, Louise Gavan Duffy and Peggy Downey, got their system developed, the service and even the food began to improve. It was now good enough to become a slight matter of concern to desmond Fitzgerald, the commisar of the commissary, whose job it was to make the rations stretch. At first the food had been such that the men didn't want any more of it than they had to have. Now they were beginning to eat for pleasure. Each time he limited their intake, his already waning popularity received another blow.

Fitzgerald was also bedeviled by one of his prisoners. The British lieutenant who was drunk Monday had managed by some miracle of supply, to remain drunk Wednesday, in addition to which he was now becoming nervous. ' You shouldn't keep us up here, ' he complained. ' Look at te windows. If we're shelled from this side, we'll have no chance. ' Fitzgerald walked away. A few minutes later, another prisoner, an enlisted man, called to him ' I want to be put in another room, ' he said. ' Why what's your problem? ' The man glanced at the sodden lieutenant. ' When i look at him i do be ashamed to be a man at all. ' The O'Rahilly came down to the prisoners' room from the top floor and the lieutenant offered him a variety of complaints - none of which moved him. He was there to question the third officer prisoner the insurgents had taken, Lieutenant George Mahoney, the British Army doctor home on convalescent leave from duty in India. Mahoney a fair-skinned man, slight of build. was entirely Irish, having been raised in

Cork and educated in Dublin. It was useless to interrogate him, because he was not attached to any military garrison in Ireland and could not have divulged any information about British strength or strategy even if he had been willing to do so. It was, however, a friendly interrogation except at the beginning, when Mahoney asked: ' What do you plan to do with us? Shoot us? ' O'Rahilly whose conduct was so proper that on Monday he had assigned a prisoner to watch the Post Office safe and bear witness to the fact that it was untouched, flared up now in anger at the suggestion that the insurgents might commit an atrocity. ' Good God! ' he said, ' don't you know you're all prisoners of war? 'Then, perhaps deciding that Mahoney and not been serious, he regained his sense of humour and they began talking about books. When Mahoney asked if there was anything in the building to read, he said, ' I noticed a copy of The Hunchback of Notre Dame upstairs. I'll send it down to you. ' After O'Rahilly left, Mahoney played cards for a while with the drinking lieutenant and the third officer-prisoner, the man who had been captured when he ventured too close to the Post Office the day before. The card game did not last long because the drinking lieutenant couldn't keep his mind on it. He expected to be bombed, shelled, burned, or shot at any moment, and he wanted to be sure his protests were heard before the event.

Once again he shouted for Desmond Fitxgerald. He want liquor. When that was refused him, he demanded to be put in a safer place. It was inhuman to make him sit there, helpless, while his own comrades, God bless them, lobbed shells at him. And the fact that they hadn't yet done so didn't mean they wouldn't. When the full force of His Majesty's army descended, these bloody potato eaters would all wish they had never heard the word ' revolution. ' Lieutenant Mahoney, listening to him, winked at Fitzgerald and smiled, but Fitzgerald was becoming to annoyed to laugh. ' All right, I'll take you to the cellar, '

telephone box

The telephone box in which one of the British prisoners was kept during the early stages of the uprising.

he said to the lieutenant. ' See how you like it. ' Surprisingly, the lieutenant said ' Better than here, i'm sure. ' Fitzgerald turned to mahoney and shrugged ' If that's what he wants...How about you? ' Mahoney said ' What kind of an army are you running here? If the prisoner gets to choose their own accommodation, take me to the Shelbourne. ' ' I wish i could, but since i can't, come along and see what you think of the cellar. ' Having learned the night before that mahoney was a doctor, Fitzgerald had been looking for a casual opportunity to talk to him alone. He wanted to show him their meager, doctorless infirmary, and try to enlist his medical aid. He was Irish, after all, even if he did belong to the British Army. What a revolution this would be if all the 200,000 Irishmen in the British forces were on the Rebublican side. As the three men descended into the dark, cold damp, and musty cellar, Fitzgerald said nothing, waiting for the lieutenant to realise how loathsome it would be to have to stay there. The lieutenant however said ' I'd rather be here than up there under the guns, ' Mahoney said ' It's not fit don here for human habitation. ' The lieutenant said ' I'll stay. ' They left him, and on their way back to the second floor, Fitzgerald made sure they passed the infirmary, so Mahoney would see the wounded.