Rising ‘mugshots’ for sale

Rare police mugshots of Easter Rising rebels to be auctioned in London - but who is the 12th man?

Top row: (left-to-right): 1 P.E. Sweeney; 2 J.J. Walsh; 3 T Hunter; 4 W Tobin.  Middle Row: 5 J Byrne; 6 P Beazley; 7 D O’Callaghan; 8 J Bevan.  Bottom row: 9 P.C. Doyle;  10 J Melinn; 11 J.J. Hughes; 12 “unknown”.

Top row: (left-to-right): 1 P.E. Sweeney; 2 J.J. Walsh; 3 T Hunter; 4 W Tobin. Middle Row: 5 J Byrne; 6 P Beazley; 7 D O’Callaghan; 8 J Bevan. Bottom row: 9 P.C. Doyle; 10 J Melinn; 11 J.J. Hughes; 12 “unknown”.

 

To the British authorities in 1916 Dublin they were a “dirty dozen” of criminals; to Irish nationalists “twelve good men and true”.

A portfolio of 12 very rare police “mugshots” of Irish Volunteers arrested between May 5th and May 11th, 1916, after the Easter Rising, will be auctioned in London on Wednesday.

International auctioneers Bonhams said the set of gelatine silver prints shows each of the “suspects face-on and in profile” along with their arrest dates.

Officials at the National Archives of Ireland and the Military Archives in Dublin said they had not been aware that such photographs existed and that “others could be out there”, raising the possibility that a major cache of similar photographs remains to be discovered including, of course, images of the leaders of the Rising who were executed.

Over 3,000 people were arrested following the Rising. It was likely that the other people arrested must also have been photographed.

Brian Donovan, CEO of Irish genealogical research company Eneclann, said it would be “very exciting” if the rest of the collection exists and could be found.

It is not known how many 1916 rebels’ “mugshots” were taken nor if the other photographs have survived. They may have been destroyed or could have been taken back to England when the British left in 1922 and may be lost or mislaid.

Bonhams said that this set of photographs had been inherited by a descendant of “Patrick Smith, a Dublin police sergeant in 1916”, and were acquired by an unnamed collector in London 18 years ago who has now decided to sell them. It is not known why Smith decided to keep this particular set of images.

The photographs were taken at Richmond Barracks in Dublin – a British army facility in Inchicore where most of the rebels were taken after the Rising. It is believed that the photographs were taken by the Dublin Metropolitan Police, who were called in to assist the military in processing the detainees.

Some of the men are dressed in uniform, others are wearing civilian clothing. Each pair of images is captioned with the man’s name, date of arrest and a serial number suggesting that all the other detainees may have been similarly photographed.

Bonhams said the name of the 12th man was “indistinct” and has not yet been deciphered. The auctioneers hoped that somebody in Ireland would recognise the image.

Bonhams said the photographs would go under the hammer on Wednesday, June 15th, at its saleroom in Knightsbridge with a top estimate £4,000 (€5,200).

Some of the men photographed were court-martialed and sentenced to be executed but had their sentences commuted.

Most of the rebels [and possibly all of those in these photographs] were sent to jails in England and then the Frongoch internment camp in Wales until released under the terms of an amnesty by the British government a year later.

Some of the men in the photographs later became well-known public figures in Ireland.

JJ Walsh (photo No 2), who had fought with GPO garrison and was sentenced to death by court-martial but had his sentence commuted, became a Cumann na nGaedheal TD and a minister for posts and telegraphs in WT Cosgrave’s government.

He retired from Dáil Éireann in 192,7 and died in 1948.

William (Liam) Tobin (photo No 4), of the Four Courts garrison and whose death sentence was also commuted, later joined “The Squad”, an IRA unit established by Michael Collins to assassinate British spies in Dublin during the War of Independence, and lived until 1963.

P Beazely (photo No 6) was born Percy Frederick Beazley but is now known by the Irish version of his name: Piaras Béaslaí. He was sentenced to penal servitude for three years for his role in the Rising and sent to jail in England. He later supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty and during the Civil War backed Collins. He published his acclaimed biography Michael Collins and the Making of a New Ireland in 1926, and lived until 1965.

Richmond Barracks, where the men were detained and photographed, was taken over by the Irish Free State in 1922 when the British Army left Ireland and renamed Keogh barracks. It closed down soon afterwards.

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