Easter Rising: Glasnevin researchers reach definitive death toll

Civilian deaths accounted for over half of 485 casualties in 1916 events

It has taken almost 100 years, but it appears that finally we have a figure for the number of people killed in the Easter Rising. It is 485, according to Glasnevin Cemetery, which has spent three years trying to reach a definitive figure.

The research was started by the late Shane Mac Thomáis and carried on by Glasnevin Cemetery historians Conor Dodd and Jack Kavanagh. Since being made public a few weeks ago, it has been studied by historians and other interested parties. Thus far, nobody has come forward to contradict the research.

The number of volunteers, policemen and British army personnel killed has long been established, and each of these men (they were all men) has a grave. The problem has been with the number of civilians, of whom 262, or 54 per cent of the total, were killed in the Rising.

Among the late additions to the list was Abalone Scherzinger, a German-born clockmaker. He was shot in Percy Place, near his home in Haddington Road, on April 28th, 1916. “He wasn’t recorded in published accounts of the period. He was one of those whose name was lost over the course of time,” Mr Dodd said.


Another civilian to die was 15-year-old Bridget McKane, from Henry Place, near Henry Street. As the rebels fled the GPO, they shot the lock off her home. Unfortunately, the bullet went through the door and hit her in the chest. "A lot of the narrative surrounds the combatants, and civilians like her were forgotten about,"said Mr Dodd.

The number of civilians, he added, was a “great surprise. It was the great unknown. It gives you a great insight into what was happening on a day-to-day basis.”

Mr Dodd said the horrific death toll among civilians adds to our understanding of why Pádraig Pearse decided to call off the rebellion. As the week dragged on, civilians took more risks in their attempts to go about their daily business. About 45 were killed on the last day of the Rising, the highest number of the week.

It also explains the furious reaction to the rebellion among Dublin civilians in the immediate aftermath of surrender.

Glasnevin Trust chief executive George McCullough said the inspiration for the research project was a mass burial plot in the St Paul’s section of the cemetery, where the remains of 230 people killed in the Rising are buried. Only the 17 volunteers are remembered.

“All of the others were ordinary men and women of Dublin. There’s a huge monument to the 17 volunteers who perished, erected in 1966, but there’s nothing for the others. They didn’t matter,” he said. “Those men gave their lives for Ireland. The civilians gave their lives for nothing.”

Civilian bodies

Many of the civilian bodies lay in City Hall for several days after the Rising, but they were never claimed because their relatives lacked the financial means to bury them. “These were the poorest or the poor,” said Mr McCullough.

Glasnevin Cemetery plans to lay the foundation for a new chapel on site, which will commemorate all the civilians who died in the Rising. In addition, the names of all those who died in the revolutionary years between 1916 and 1923 will be remembered in chronological order on a memorial wall at the entrance to the cemetery.

All the names will be published in a book, entitled The 1916 Necrology, to be published next year.

Glasnevin Cemetery is looking for more information on those who died in the Rising. Log on to www.glasnevintrust.ie to read more and, if desired, to contribute.

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy

Ronan McGreevy is a news reporter with The Irish Times