Eason’s account of Rising made public for first time

Staff turned out of stationery and book store by rebels and premises ‘destroyed’ by shelling

The 1916 rebels took over the Eason building on  Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street) and smashed the upstairs windows. Photograph: Dave Meehan

The 1916 rebels took over the Eason building on Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street) and smashed the upstairs windows. Photograph: Dave Meehan

 

As a businessman Charles Eason suffered worse than most during Easter Week 1916.

His flagship store on Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street) was completely destroyed by shelling.

An account of the Rising from the memberof the famous retail family has been made public for the first time to mark the Easter Rising centenary.

Eason was enjoying his Monday bank holiday weekend when news came through of the rebellion.

On Tuesday of Easter Week he recounted that the rebels turned the staff of Eason out of the premises in Sackville Street and on to Abbey Street “but said they would not do any injury unless firing took place”. The rebels took over the Eason building and smashed the upstairs windows.

Despite everything Eason arranged for an advertisement to be put in The Irish Times, itself just a street away and in the firing line of British guns, asking that staff report themselves to another premises so that their wages could be paid on Thursday.

Eason wrote about the “wild rumours of outbreaks but no reliable reports ... the soldiers are reported to be shooting men who surrender.”

He was determined to pay his staff come what may. On Friday of Easter Week he got money from the National Bank in Rathmines and other sources and paid the wages of any staff who came to him from the rear of an Eason premises at 29/30 Kenilworth Square.

Eason struggled to get a permit to go and visit Sackville Street. Even on the last day of the Rising, he had no idea that it had been razed to the ground.

It was not until Monday, May 1st, two days after the rebellion ended that he saw the destruction. “Premises totally destroyed,” he wrote matter-of-factly.

At no stage in his 19 page account does Eason utter a word of condemnation of the rebels. “Charles Eason I (his father) had a sympathy for the nationalists in Ireland and his son would appear to have done so too,” said Brendan Corbett, Eason head of marketing.

Some of Eason’s employees fought on the rebel side, but were reemployed by Eason afterwards. Eason put in a claim with the British Government for compensation worth £68,000 for the destruction of his premises, but received only £55,000. It cost him £77,000 to rebuild the store in the location where it is today.

For a time Eason was accommodated in, of all places, Jacob Biscuit Factory, a rebel stronghold during Easter Week, but one that saw very little fighting. Its proprietor William Jacob wrote to Eason that they had emerged from the Rising “with very little loss and the least we might do would be to accommodate those who had suffered in the way which fell to your lot.”

In December 1916, Eason wrote to his staff addressing them as “dear friends” and thanked them for bearing with the company “in the disaster which has fallen upon the business. It has been a great source of comfort to me and to the other members of the firm to see the readiness and zeal with which you have carried out the work under such very adverse circumstances.”

On Tuesday night Eason is holding an Eason and Son commemorating 1916 event authors Joe Duffy, Sinead McCoole, Mick O’Farrell and John D Ruddy and featuring the Willow Publishing collection of the photographs of TW Murphy and the papers of Markievicz.