The Easter Rising began on Easter Monday – April 24th – 1916. The rebel leader Pádraig Pearse agreed to an unconditional surrender on Saturday, April 29th. Dublin 2, one of two postal codes to span the River Liffey, contains many of the key locations of the Rising. The Volunteers who mainly lived south of the Liffey made up the 3rd battalion, under the command of Cmdt Éamon de Valera.
His command was involved in fighting in Dublin 2 as well as the battle of Mount Street Bridge, which was fought from positions in both Dublin 2 and Dublin 4. De Valera’s HQ was at Boland’s Bakery, on the far eastern extreme of Dublin 2, on Grand Canal Street.
The Citizen Army, under the command of Maj Michael Mallin and Countess Markievicz, took St Stephen’s Green and then retreated to the Royal College of Surgeons. Both of those sites and their surrounding areas are easily accessible to walkers.
Walking through the Green, take a look at the duck-keeper’s house standing right beside one of the lakes, just as it did in 1916. At that time Jack Kearney was the duck-keeper, and both sides stopped firing twice a day so that he could feed the ducks.
1: College Green: Trinity College Dublin Founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I, it was built on land confiscated from the Priory of All Hallows. Maj Tate, the officer in command of the college's officer training corps (OTC), was away, but on Easter Monday Capt Alton, Lieut AA Luce of the Royal Irish Rifles (a Trinity professor who was at the time on leave from France owing to the measles) and Lieut G Waterhouse were in the college and took charge of the OTC.
They ordered the gates to be shut and, with 50 men of the OTC, prepared to defend the college until troops from the Curragh arrived. The expected attack never came.
The Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army made no attempt to capture it. It was the most central and commanding position in the city, and also had many military stores, containing hundreds of rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Ultimately some 4,000 British troops were billeted on the college grounds. Brig Gen WHM Lowe made it his HQ during the Rising.
2: Dublin Castle When the Rising began the castle was nearly empty of British troops; it was a bank holiday, and many had gone to the Fairyhouse Races. (The Irish Grand National was run there on Easter Monday; it was won by All Sorts.) As the Rising continued, the castle filled up with troops and was not attacked by the rebels.
There has never been consensus on the Volunteers’ intent in attacking Dublin Castle. Many have contended that it was never the intention of the Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army to seize the castle, as they did not believe that it would be easy to capture, and it would be very difficult (if not impossible) to hold.
Irish War News reported that "the castle was attacked". Others felt that the castle could be taken but not held, and it couldn't be destroyed, as there was a Red Cross hospital there. Some people say that attempts to take the castle were intended to be part of the Rising but were unsuccessful.
A sniper in the castle’s Bermingham Tower was responsible for 53 rebel casualties before he was killed on the final day of the Rising.
3: Grand Canal Street – Boland's Bakery This was an important strategic stronghold because it covered the railway line out of the Westland Row terminus. De Valera's HQ was in a small dispensary next door, at the corner of Grand Canal Street and Great Clarence Street (now Macken Street).
The bakery site is now occupied by the Treasury Building, home of the National Asset Management Agency.
On Thursday afternoon shelling from a one-pounder gun taken from HMY Helga began from the corner of Percy Lane. De Valera ordered Capt Michael Cullen to lead a party to raise a flag on top of a tall disused water tower of the abandoned Ringsend Distillery, just north of the railway line, and this attracted the shelling.
The tower was hit, rupturing the water tank and almost drowning the defenders, but the British had been fooled, and this saved Boland’s.
Late on Friday de Valera ordered the bakery to be evacuated, but there was nowhere for the Volunteers to go, so they reoccupied it and remained in their positions until their surrender, on Sunday.
4: Harcourt Street Station This was a terminus of the Dublin and South-Eastern Railway (along with Westland Row Station). A major railway station, it was of strategic importance.
The rebels planned to occupy it and prevent British reinforcements being brought from the south to Dublin. Taken early in the Rising by a detachment of the Citizen Army under Capt Richard McCormack, it was evacuated almost immediately because it was indefensible.
5: Mount Street Bridge (over Grand Canal) Some of the heaviest fighting during the Rising took place here on Wednesday, April 26th. Among the first British troops called to Ireland were the Sherwood Foresters.
Tired, seasick and disoriented after their overnight voyage from Liverpool, the Foresters disembarked on Wednesday morning in Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire).
The Sherwoods marched from Kingstown up to Sandymount by Merrion Road, then onto Northumberland Road.
At about 12.25pm the leading platoon came under fire from the defenders of 25 Northumberland Road, Lieut Michael Malone and James Grace.
About 200 metres farther down the road other Volunteers waited in the schoolhouse and parochial hall, and about 30m farther along on the other side of the canal still more Volunteers were in Clanwilliam House, which commanded Mount Street Bridge.
The inexperienced troops and officers struggled to pinpoint the enemy positions, and a number of houses were stormed at bayonet point without success. The soldiers fell back to the opposite side of the road.
Although the British ultimately prevailed here they suffered their greatest casualties of the Rising: three officers were killed and 14 others wounded; 14 other ranks were killed and another 216 wounded.
As a “reward” for their gallantry, troops from the Sherwood Foresters were chosen to form the firing squads for the leaders of the Rising who were executed at Kilmainham Gaol.
6: St Stephen's Green Members of the Irish Citizen Army under the command of Maj Michael Mallin occupied the Green. A party of about 40 marched to the Green from Liberty Hall, but as the week wore on the strength of the garrison rose to about 140 men and women. The Green was one of the first areas occupied. When it was taken Const Michael Lahiff, of the College Street Dublin Metropolitan Police station, was on duty; he was shot for "refusing to leave his post".
It is often said that Lahiff was shot by Countess Markievicz. She was to have acted as liaison between the Green and the GPO, but when she reported to the Green, Mallin co-opted her as his second in command.
The Green, Harcourt Street Station, Hatch Street and the railway bridge on Harcourt Road commanding the South Circular Road were deemed vital positions by James Connolly, and no fewer than 11 streets led into the Green. This was both a boon and a bane for the garrison, as it provided a key position for the Citizen Army but also gave the British several access routes.
The Green was abandoned on Tuesday when it came under machine-gun fire from British forces, particularly from the Shelbourne Hotel.
7: 27-32 St Stephen's Green (north, corner of Kildare Street) – Shelbourne Hotel During the Rising more than 100 British soldiers were in the hotel, under Capt Carl Elliotson and Capt Andrews. Paddy Kelly, a Shelbourne porter, made stealthy forays to the roof to signal with flags to the rebels in St Stephen's Green, as did Eileen Costello. Doreen Carphim, an eight-year-old, was killed on Monday while she was walking past the hotel.
8: 123 St Stephen's Green (west) at York Street: Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Countess Markievicz and Maj Michael Mallin surrendered the St Stephen's Green/College of Surgeons garrison to Maj de Courcy Wheeler on nearby York Street. The college suffered little structural damage, although the pockmarked columns are evidence of the bullets that hit them. A life-size portrait of Queen Victoria was cut into fragments.
This is an edited extract from Dublin Rising 1916, published by Wordwell