Order cancelling 1916 Rising to be auctioned in Dublin

Hand-written order valued at up to €50,000

“Volunteers completely deceived. All orders for tomorrow Sunday are completely cancelled.”

A hand-written order intended to stop the 1916 Easter Rising, valued at up to €50,000, has come to light and will be sold at auction in Dublin next month.

The countermand was issued by Eoin MacNeill, commander of the Irish Volunteers, in a last-minute attempt to cancel a mobilisation planned for Easter Sunday 1916. The document, described as of “the highest significance and rarity”, is the only known copy in private ownership.

Adam’s Auctioneers of St Stephen’s Green said the document had “changed the immediate course of Irish history to a significant degree” and, “with the exception of the Proclamation itself, it is probably the most important and influential document of the period of the Rising”.


The Irish Volunteers had been planning to hold peaceful manoeuvres but, on Easter Saturday, MacNeill discovered that a group within the organisation, led by Pádraig Pearse, had secret plans to launch an armed rebellion against British Rule.

When he discovered the deception, and after receiving news of Roger Casement's failed attempt to import arms from Germany, MacNeill tried to prevent the mobilisation.

He hand-wrote several copies of his countermanding order, on headed notepaper at his home – Woodbrook, in Rathfarnham, Co Dublin – and dispatched men to deliver copies to local commanders nationwide.

The countermand was only partly successful and caused confusion, especially outside Dublin. Consequently there was no Rising in Cork or Limerick.

The dissidents delayed their plans by 24 hours and launched the Rising on Easter Monday, April 24th, 1916.

Michael Parsons

Michael Parsons

Michael Parsons is a contributor to The Irish Times writing about fine art and antiques