Today in Irish History: Curated by Conor Cunneen IrishmanSpeaks
1916: Easter Rising: The Surrender
After six days that reduced much of central Dublin to ruin, British forces numbering close to 20,000 troops (many of them Irish) finally force a rebel force of 1.500 men and women to surrender.
At 12.45pm, Elizabeth O’Farrell, one of three women in the GPO during the Rising walks towards British troops with a white flag. The British insist on unconditional surrender and at 3.30 Patrick Pearse surrenders his troops. (1916 rebels Brid Thornton and Joseph Sweeney on the surrender) Over the following hours, the garrisons at Boland’s Mills, Jacobs Factory and other locations lay down their arms.
“I waved a small white flag,” O’Farrell later recalled “which I carried and the military ceased firing and called me up to the barrier…I saw, at the corner of Sackville Lane, The O’Rahilly’s hat and a revolver lying on the ground. (The fatally wounded Michael (The) O’Rahilly, managed to write a note to his wife : ‘Written after I was shot. Darling Nancy I was shot leading a rush up Moore Street and took refuge in a doorway. While I was there I heard the men pointing out where I was and made a bolt for the laneway I am in now. I got more [than] one bullet I think. Tons and tons of love dearie to you and the boys and to Nell and Anna. It was a good fight anyhow. Please deliver this to Nannie O’ Rahilly, 40 Herbert Park, Dublin. Goodbye Darling.’
O’Farrell spoke to a senior British officer:
“The commandant of the Irish Republican Army wishes to treat with the commandant of the British forces in Ireland.”
“The Irish Republican Army? – the Sinn Féiners, you mean,” he replied.
“No, the Irish Republican Army they call themselves and I think that is a very good name too.”
The Rising had not been popular amongst Dubliners who saw the futility of it (as did all Rebel leaders), the destruction it brought to Dublin and the deaths of many of their neighbors, shot by both sides. As rebel prisoners were being marched off, they were subject to abuse and jeering by many Dubliners; emotions that would change dramatically within a few weeks.
The prisoners were rounded up into one encampment and not exactly treated kindly. Proclamation signatory Tom Clarke was stripped naked and “all sorts of disparaging remarks made about him.”
Casualties of the Rising.
Total Casualties were about 450 killed, most of whom were civilians. Sources differ even about the number of British casualties, but it seems to have been about 110 killed and over 350 wounded.
Over 60 Irish rebels died during the insurrection. A further 15 would be executed betweem May 3-12.
The total number of civilian deaths was in excess of 250, some of whom died in incidents like the North King Street massacre and others shot accidently or otherwise by the insurrectionists. 15 year old Martin Walton (who looked much older) describes what happens as he tried to join the rebels at Jacob’s Factory to the derision of other Dubliners. ” There was a big, very, very big tall woman with something very heavy in her hand and she came across and lifted up her hand to make a bang at me. One of the Volunteers upstairs saw this and fired and I just remember seeing her face and head disappear as she went down like a sack.”
Brother against Brother
It was not unusual for Irish to join the British Army. Nationalist leader John Redmond encouraged Irishmen to join when the war began, believing it would help the introduction of Home Rule. At the time of the Rising, Tom Barry who would prove to be one of the most effective Irish guerrilla leaders during the War of Independence was in the British Army although he had no involvement 1916. Barry later wrote “I went to the war for no other reason than that I wanted to see what war was like, to get a gun, to see new countries and to feel a grown man. Above all I went because I knew no Irish history and had no national consciousness.”
1916 survivor Joseph Sweeney and later senior officer in the Irish army recounted ” One of the officers just looked at one of our fellows and without asking him anything wrote down his name and then walked on. After he had gone a certain distance, somebody asked this fellow, ‘Does that officer know you?’ ‘That’s my brother,’ he said.”
One of the more poignant deaths on April 24th was that of Roscommon born English officer, Lieutenant Gerald Aloysius Neilan whose younger brother Anthony fought on the rebel side. Anthony was detained in Knutsford Barracks after the Rising, but as with other prisoners released by British authorities within months.
Other Irish born (Dublin Fusiliers) soldiers in the British army who died during the Rising:
•BRENNAN 25244 Private Francis A. 10th Battalion. Born Dublin.
•BYRNE 18259 Private James. Depot Battalion Born Dublin Enlisted Dublin
•HARE 6745 Sergeant Henry. 5th Battalion died 26 April 1916. Born Dublin
•HUMPHREYS 19222 Corporal John William Humfrey 5th Battalion “A” Coy. died 25 April 1916. Born at Clonmel.
•THOMPSON 24923 Private John A., 10th Battalion, killed on 24th April 1916. Born Drumany, Macken, Co.Fermanagh. Thompson was apparently home on leave from France when recalled to Dublin.
•WATCHORN 25026 Private Abraham . Co. Carlow.
The Easter Rising of 1916 was an abject military failure. Had British authorities not reacted in such a ham-fisted (although legally correct) manner, the Rising of 1916 might have been just another footnote in Irish history. The executions of the leaders in the following weeks would ignite a firestorm that Britain would not quell.
Perspective on 1916 Rising
OTHER EVENTS ON THIS DAY IN IRISH HISTORY
1956: Sporting legend Kevin Moran is born in Dublin. Moran was one of the finest defenders to play for Dublin before he made the unheard of transition to play soccer with Manchester United. He will be forever remembered as the first player to be send off in an English FA Cup Final, an unfortunate distinction that overshadows his bravery as a defender. Moran played 71 times for Ireland.
1957: Daniel Day Lewis, son of Irish born Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis is born in London. He is a two time Academy Award winner.
Below is illustration of Daniel Day-Lewis in For the Love of Being Irish, an A-Z of Irish history featuring history and humor via limericks and lyrical prose. Buy copy signed by author Conor Cunneen at My Irish Gift Store.
Want to learn more about Ireland? See these images and more in the acclaimed For the Love of Being Irish
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