1916 Easter Rising: The Surrender and Eye-Witness Accounts at Today in Irish History

April 29: TODAY in Irish History:

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Snippets of Irish History by Conor Cunneen IrishmanSpeaks 

Conor is a Chicago based Motivational Humorous Business Speaker, Author and History buff.

WATCH: A Short History of Ireland





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. 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.


Elizabeth O'Farrell 1916

Elizabeth O’Farrell


O’Farrell later recalled “I waved a small white flag 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.’


The O'Rahilly

The O’Rahilly 1875-1916

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.”


Pearse surrenders. To his right (obscured) is Elizabeth O’Farrell.


The Rising had not been popular among Dubliners who believed it to have little chance of success (as did the 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.”


Interviews with 1916 Rebels


Casualties of the Rising.

Total Casualties were about 450 killed, the majority of them, 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 men to join the British Army. Nationalist leader John Redmond encouraged Irish men 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 in the events of 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 a senior officer in the Irish army recounted an incident that occurred after the surrender. ” 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.


READ: Royal Dublin Fusiliers in 1916 Rising


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





1956: Kevin Moran Dublin and Manchester United Legend

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.

Kevin Moran with Manchester United




1957: Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis, son of Irish born Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis is born in London. He is a three 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.

Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York




Want to learn more about Ireland? See these images and more in the acclaimed For the Love of Being Irish

Irish gift ideas. Best selling Irish booksRonnie Drew and Luke Kelly - Musical Irish Gifts to the worldJoyce Image in For the Love of Being IrishMichael Collins: Image from For the Love of Being Irish


This history is written by Irish author, business keynote speaker and award winning humorist IrishmanSpeaks – Conor Cunneen. If you spot any inaccuracies or wish to make a comment, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the comment button.

Visit Conor’s YouTube channel IrishmanSpeaks to Laugh and Learn.

Tags: Best Irish Gift, Creative Irish Gift, Unique Irish Gifts, Irish Books, Irish Authors, Today in Irish History TODAY IN IRISH HISTORY (published by IrishmanSpeaks)


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