Glasnevin wall tells story of Easter Rising death by death

New Wall of Remembrance to all 488 who died in 1916 has had a mixed response

Wall of Remembrance  at Glasnavin Cemetery. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

Wall of Remembrance at Glasnavin Cemetery. Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times

 

Mary King held her smartphone close to one name, that of Timothy Spellman, on the necrology Wall of Remembrance in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, and took a photo.

A relative? “I don’t know but my name used to be Spellman,” she said. “My 92-year-old mother might know.” Ms King was born in nearby Phibsborough but has been living for many years in east Yorkshire.

Yesterday, she was but one of a steady stream of people studying the newly-installed monument, a concave wall of polished black granite on which is carved in gold letters the names of all the people – rebel combatants, civilians, police and British Army – known to have died in the 1916 Rising.

There are 488 names and since it was unveiled on Sunday, two aspects of the wall have drawn controversy.

The first, a fada placed incorrectly on the first “I” instead of the first “E” on the title inscribed on the memorial, Éirí Amach na Cásca 1916. What might be described as the dissident fada will be corrected “within two days”, explained Glasnevin historian Conor Dodd.

The second node of controversy is the fundamental idea behind the wall – that it contains the names, without distinction, of all those who died, grouped alphabetically only, and day by day as they succumbed, from April 21st, 1916 to August 4th, 1916.

Opposition

Mary King disagrees.

“It’s inclusive. I think that’s important,” she said simply, a view reflected by other members of the public viewing the wall yesterday.

For Conor Dodd it is that very inclusiveness that appeals most, and in particular the inclusion, for the first time on a 1916 memorial, of the names of the civilians killed in the conflict.

“A lot of people died for our independence,” he notes.

There’s Robert Anderson Mackenzie, a survivor of the Lusitania sinking, killed on April 27th by a stray bullet on Cavendish Row.

There’s Rosanna Heffernan, by coincidence a neighbour of WT Cosgrave, shot in crossfire, also on April 27th, near the South Dublin Union and the Royal Hospital.

The names for April 24th, the day of the start of the Rising proper, include Gerald Neilan, a Royal Dublin Fusilier shot dead on the quays as he marched from Royal (Collins) Barracks into the city to take on the rebels. They included his brother, Volunteer Arthur Neilan, who survived the Rising.

Both men now lie together in the same grave in the cemetery.

The list for April 26th includes the names of the many Sherwood Foresters killed in the Battle of Mount Street Bridge.

Rising story

And with them on that day, but dying under different circumstances, was another civilian, Margaret McGuinness, a 54-year-old woman from Pembroke Cottages. It seems appropriate that the final victim for whom a date is known, Patrick Reynolds, who died on August 4th, 1916, was a civilian.

The final names on the wall, 15 in all, are also civilians and the dates and circumstances of their deaths are unknown.

Some Éirígí supporters would like to see the wall destroyed, as they made clear on the group’s Facebook page. “Is there no man in Dublin with a sledge hammer,” wondered one, who added a winking face.