Margaret Skinnider: ‘My disappointment at not going back to bomb The Shelbourne hotel’

Cumann na mBan member Margaret Skinnider’s account of her injury during the Rising is read on The Women’s Podcast

 

This is a 1916 account from Cumann na mBan member Margaret Skinnider which is performed byMary Moynihan of Smashing Times theatre company on the latest episode of The Women’s Podcast. To set the scene, a battalion under Commandant Mallin and Countess Markievicz march to St. Stephens Green. In spite of fire from the British snipers , the green is held until Easter Tuesday when the insurgents retreated to the College of Surgeons. On Wednesday night revoloutionary feminist Margaret Skinnider is badly wounded while on active combat:

I was upstairs studying a map of our surroundings and trying to find a way by which we could dislodge the soldiers from the roof of the Shelbourne Hotel. Commandant Malin comes in and I ask if he will let me go out with one man to throw a bomb with an eight second fuse through the hotel window. I know there is a bow-window on the side farthest from us which is not likely to be guarded. We can use our bicycles and get away before the bomb explodes – that’s if we are quick enough.

He agrees the plan is a good one but far too dangerous. I tell him it has been my speed which has saved me so far from gun fire on the hotel roof. It is not that the British are doing us any real harm in the college but it is high time to hit back, for a success would hearten the men. He finally agrees although he doesn’t want a woman running this sort of risk. I say we have the same right to risk our lives as the men; that in the constitution of the Irish Republic, women and men are equal. For the first time in history, a constitution has been written that incorporates equal suffrage.

But the commandant however tells me there is another task to be accomplished before the hotel can be bombed, to cut off the retreat of a company of British soliders who have climbed onto the flat roof of University Church and set up a machine gun there. We are being bombarded with rifle and machine gun fire and Commandant Mallin has to neutralise them. To cut off the retreat of these soldiers it is necessary to burn down two buildings. I ask the Commandant to let me help in this undertaking and he agrees. Myself and William Patridge will lead a section of men over towards the building in order to set it on fire, forcing the enemy to withdraw. Mallin gives me four men to help. I felt elated. I change once more into to my uniform, for the work of war can only be done by those who wear its dress.

We lock and load our weapons and once outside, run in short bursts along the side of the street. It takes only a few moments to reach the building we are to set on fire. In order to gain entry, Partridge smashes the glass front of the premises with the butt of his weapon. A flash follows. The rifle has accidently discharged and a volley of fire erupts from a nearby building - the flash has revealed us to the enemy. I rush forward calling out to the others to take cover as a second volley erupts and I fall. ‘It’s all over’’ I mutter as I feel myself falling. The others take cover and before another volley can be fired Patridge lifts and carries me down the street. On the sidewalk lies a dark figure in a pool of blood. It is Fred Ryan a mere lad of seventeen, he has caught the full blast of the first volley of fire. I want to help him but it is no use, he is dead.

Knowing our mission has been compromised we decide to fall back to the College of Surgeons. Once back in the college the men lay me out on a large table and cut away the coat of my fine new uniform. I cry over that. I have been shot in three places. Had I not turned as I went through the shop door to call to the others, I would have got all 3 bullets in my back and lungs and surely would have died. They have to probe several times to get the bullets out but the probing doesnt hurt as much as my disappointment at not being able to go back out and bomb the Shelbourne Hotel. They want to send me to the hospital across the green but I absolutely refuse to go. I refuse to be evacuated. So the men bring in a cot and the first-aiders bandage me. What really distresses me is the pain in my chest. When I try to keep from coughing I make a queer noise in my throat. I notice everyone around me looking frightened. ‘It’s no death rattle’ I explain and they all laugh. Except Commandant Malin who says he cannot forgive himself as long as he lives for having let me go out on that errand, but he does not live long, poor fellow! Commandant Michael Mallin is executed in Kilmainham Jail after the Rising.

This monologue will be performed during Echoes of 1916 in Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin on April 21 as part of The Woman is Present: Women’s Stories of 1916 . For more information visit smockalley.com

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