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Tuesday, 3 May 2016

3‭ ‬May‭ ‬1916‭ – ‬Padraig Pearse,‭ ‬Thomas Clarke and Thomas MacDonagh were executed at dawn  by firing squad on this day.‭ ‬They‭ ‬were shot in the stonebreakers yard [above] of Kilmainham Jail,‭ ‬Dublin on the orders of General Maxwell.‭

‭Pearse, McDonagh and Clarke were all shot minutes apart by a firing squad of British soldiers drawn from the Sherwood Foresters Regiment. They were commanded by a Major Rhodes. As far as we know all died bravely but while Pearse wished to die and Clarke reckoned execution was better than imprisonment again at the hands of the British it was a different story for McDonagh as he left a wife and young family behind him.

‭After their deaths had been confirmed the bodies were quickly transported to Arbour Hill prison where their remains were buried in quicklime. They were the first of 16 men to be executed for their part in the Rising. But their deaths rather than suppressing dissent ignited it and lit the spark that turned them from ‘Rebels’ into heroes.

Monday, 2 May 2016

2 May 1882: Charles Stewart Parnell , the Leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party was released from Kilmainham Jail in Dublin on this day. He was let go under the terms of what became known as the ‘Kilmainham Treaty’.

Parnell had been incarcerated there on the personal orders of the British Prime Minister Gladstone back in October of the previous year. The Irish Leader had vehemently opposed Gladstone in his attempts to implement the 2nd Land Act that was meant to alleviate the rent many Irish people had to pay to rapacious Landlords. Parnell felt that it did not go far enough and roused the people to resist it. Agrarian unrest spread through much of the countryside and ‘Captain Moonlight’ ruled the hours of darkness - that is by night the laws of the British ceased to operate in many of the villages and fields of Ireland.

Under the terms of the ‘The Kilmainham Treaty’ the British Prime Minister agreed that rent arrears due from some 130,000 tenants would be dropped and 150,000 leaseholders would be allowed the benefits of the 1881 Land Act. In return Parnell agreed to ‘co operate cordially for the future with the Liberal Party in forwarding Liberal principles and measures of general reform.’

It was seen as a triumph for Parnell as it made him the undisputed Leader of Nationalist Ireland and by daubing the agreement a ‘Treaty’ he gave people at home the impression that Ireland and Britain could negotiate as two recognisably separate political bodies - in other words as Nation to Nation.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

1 May 664 AD: Solar Eclipse seen in Ireland on this day. This was probably witnessed in central and northern Ireland as it was also recorded over northern England too.

Darkness on the Kalends of May at the ninth hour

Chronicum Scotorum

By working backwards from our times to then astronomers are able to accurately fix the time on that day that the eclipse was at its deepest - 16.50 hours.

Such an event would have startled and bewildered the people of that time. To them it would have been seen as an evil portent. And indeed so it proved to be as late that Summer the Plague struck in Ireland and devastated the Country.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

 30‭ ‬April‭ ‬1916:‭ ‬The Rising in Dublin fizzled out on this day

Sniping had continued overnight as the Rising came to an end.‭ ‬The captured insurgents who were held outside the Rotunda over the night were marched off to Richmond Barracks,‭ ‬Inchicore.‭ ‬Here they were screened and questioned by detectives of the DMO‭ ‘‬G‭’ ‬Division under military supervision.

In his Prison Cell Padraig Pearse wrote out a brief note reiterating his instructions of the previous day that was forwarded on to the Republican Garrisons that still held out:

In order to prevent further slaughter of the civil population and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers,‭ ‬the members of the Provisional Government present at headquarters have decided on an unconditional surrender,‭ ‬and commandants or officers commanding districts will order their commands to lay down arms.‭ ‬
P.H.‭ ‬Pearse.‭ ‬Dublin‭ ‬30th April‭ ‬1916.

This brought about the surrender of the various outlying Insurgent positions as orders were brought to them to lay down their arms.‭ However at first the various garrison Commanders refused to believe that the Rising was over and had deep suspicions that the messages brought to them were genuine. But by late afternoon it became apparent that the fighting had stopped and further confirmation arrived that the messages were indeed genuine.

By last light that day the Rising in Dublin was effectively over.

The cost had been high, some 485 people were dead and over 2,500 wounded. The centre of the City of Dublin was in ruins and the financial cost ran into the millions. It estimated that about half the casualties of Easter Week were innocent civilians. Nothing would ever be the same again after the most seminal event in modern Irish History.

Friday, 29 April 2016

29‭ ‬April‭ ‬1916:‭ Padraig Pearse decided to cease fighting on this day. ‬Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell was allowed into the British lines carrying an offer to lay down arms. General Lowe offered only Unconditional Surrender and at‭ ‬3.30‭ ‬pm that afternoon Pearse agreed and handed over his sword to the General in token of the acceptance of terms.‭

It was about‭ ‬3.30‭ ‬pm when General Lowe received Commandant Pearse at the top of Moore Street,‭ ‬in Parnell Street.‭ ‬One of the officers that had been a prisoner in the GPO was asked to identify Pearse and he could not‭ ‬-‭ ‬he said he did not see him in the GPO.‭ ‬He asked Commandant Pearse was he in the GPO,‭ ‬and he said he was‭ ‬-‭ ‬the officer said:‭ '‬I did not see you there‭'‬.‭ ‬Commandant Pearse then handed his sword to General Lowe.‭"

Nurse Farrell

After meeting General Maxwell at British Army HQ at Parkgate St beside the Phoenix Park orders were sent out by Pearse to the various Republican garrisons still holding out to lay down their arms and surrender:

In order to prevent the further slaughter of Dublin citizens,‭ ‬and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers now surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered,‭ ‬members of the Provisional Government present at headquarters have agreed to an unconditional surrender,‭ ‬and the commandants of the various districts in the city and county will order their commands to lay down their arms.‭ (‬Signed‭) ‬P.H.‭ ‬Pearse,‭ ‬29‭ ‬April,‭ ‬1916,‭ ‬3.45‭ ‬pm

James Connolly also countersigned the surrender order,‭ ‬but only for men under his command in Moore Street and the St Stephen's Green area.‭

Commandant Ned Daly was allowed to lead a march of his men from the Four Courts to the surrender point at the Gresham Hotel in Upper O’Connell St.‭

One of the prisoners from Moore St recalled:

We filed out onto Moore Street and were lined up into fours and were marched up O'Connell Street and formed into two lines on each side of the street.‭ ‬We marched up to the front and left all our arms and ammunition and then went back to our original places.‭ ‬Officers with notebooks then came along and took down our names‭…


That night the Insurgents who surrendered were held under armed guard on open ground beside the Rotunda at the top of O’Connell St.

We were ordered to dump as much stuff as we could in the houses…We laid down arms between the Gresham and Parnell Monument.‭ ‬I don't remember any white flag.‭ ‬We were herded into the Rotunda Gardens,‭ ‬in a patch of grass in front.‭ ‬We were lying on top of one another.‭ ‬I was quite near Collins and Joe Plunkett.‭ ‬I remember the British officer threatening to shoot the whole lot of us,‭ ‬and Collins saying to this officer,‭ '‬This is a very sick man‭; ‬will you leave him alone‭' ‬-‭ ‬or words to that effect.‭ ‬He was,‭ ‬of course,‭ ‬referring to Joe Plunkett.

Eamon Bulfin

Pearse’s surrender that day in Dublin was by a twist of fate one that to the day matched with a far greater surrender of soldiers to their enemies. Far away on the plains of Mesopotamia a British Army under Major General Townsend was forced to surrender to the Turks after a four month siege in the town of Kut on the banks of the Tigris river. Some 13,500 British and Indian troops were taken prisoner, many of whom were to die in captivity. It was Britain’s greatest military defeat of the War.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

28‭ ‬April‭ ‬1916:‭ ‬The Insurrection continued in Dublin on this day.

General Sir John Maxwell arrived by boat from England.‭ ‬He came with orders to crush the Rising by whatever means were necessary.‭ ‬He was previously the GOC Egypt and a veteran of Britain’s Colonial Wars.‭ ‬He had recently suppressed a revolt of the Senussi People in Western Desert.‭ ‬He issued a Proclamation:

The most vigorous measures will be taken by me to stop the loss of life and damage to property which certain misguided persons are causing in their armed resistance to the law.‭ ‬If necessary I shall not hesitate to destroy any buildings within any area occupied by the rebels and I warn all persons within the area specified below,‭ ‬and now surrounded by HM troops,‭ ‬forthwith to leave such area.

By Friday morning much of the GPO was on fire and sections of the roof were collapsing.‭ ‬It was obvious to the men inside that they would have to evacuate the building sooner or later.‭ ‬One plan being considered was to tunnel through to the adjoining buildings and join up with the Four Courts garrison.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬this was not possible because of the worsening military situation.‭ ‬The British now had most of the streets around the GPO well covered with snipers and machine guns.

At around‭ ‬8‭ ‬pm Padraig Pearse decided to evacuate the GPO,‭ ‬which was aflame and under constant bombardment.[above] ‬He decided‭ ‬to try to escape via Henry Street and establish a new headquarters somewhere near there.‭ ‬The narrow streets around Henry Street and Moore Street were filled with smoke from the burning buildings.‭ ‬There was a great deal of confusion.‭ ‬In addition,‭ ‬nobody was quite sure exactly what the exact locations of the British Army were.‭ ‬Several groups of garrison tried to make their way down Henry Street but came under heavy fire.‭ ‬One of the casualties was The O’Rahilly who had come to Liberty Hall on Easter Monday to join the Rising even though he had initially tried to stop it going ahead.‭

Elizabeth O'Farrell,‭ ‬had been one of only three women‭ (‬all members of Cumann na mBan‭) ‬left in the GPO after Pearse had ordered the others to leave that morning.‭ ‬She recalled‭

We left in three sections,‭ ‬I being in the last.‭ ‬Commandant Pearse was the last to leave the building.‭ ‬He went round to see that no one was left behind.‭ ‬We immediately preceded him,‭ ‬bullets raining from all quarters as we rushed to Moore Lane.

Eventually Pearse,‭ ‬Connolly,‭ ‬Plunkett,‭ ‬Clarke and MacDermott halted in a house at‭  ‬Moore Street,‭ ‬number‭ ‬16,‭ ‬where they planed to make their way through back streets to the Four Courts for a last stand.

However the British were not much the wiser of their opponents movements and continued to attack the GPO even after it was evacuated.

British troops killed up to a dozen innocent civilians on North King St in heavy fighting.‭ ‬At least some of these were killed in cold blood.‭ ‬But here only a handful of fighters remained and the British effectively controlled the area by nightfall.

In the north of County Dublin a Volunteer column under Thomas Ashe ambushed a convoy of RIC men.‭ ‬A running battle between members of the RIC and the insurgents took place,‭ ‬lasting‭ ‬five hours.‭ ‬The police casualties were heavy:‭ ‬the Meath‭ ‬County and District Inspectors,‭ ‬two sergeants and four‭ ‬constables were killed,‭ ‬and‭ ‬16‭ ‬constables wounded.‭ ‬Ashbourne barracks was captured but‭ ‬Volunteers Thomas Rafferty and John Crennigan lost their lives.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

27 April 1916:  Irish soldiers gassed at Hulluch on this day. As fighting raged in Dublin troops from Ireland serving in the British Army suffered terrible casualties at a place called Hulluch in northern France. The little village is situated just north of the town of Lens in northern France in the pas de Calais region.

The troops were part of the 16th (Irish) Division of the British Army who were targeted by the II (Bavarian) Corps of the German Army to be subjected to a Gas attack. The Irish knew an attack was imminent but the question was when? Early in the morning of the 27th the Germans struck and the deadly concoction of Chlorine & Phosgene was released from over 3,000 gas cylinders hidden along the German front lines. This caused soldiers to choke to death or to be so incapacitated that they could not resist an enemy attack. For whatever reason, faulty respirators, or just being caught off guard the men of the 8th Royal Dublin Fusiliers suffered particularly badly that day. In two days the 8th Battalion lost 368 men from all causes out of 946 recorded as present at the battle.

An officer of the 7th Leinster regiment, Lieutenant Lyon, had the terrible task of gathering the dead. ‘They were in all sorts of tragic attitudes, some of them holding hands like children in the dark.’ He and his men found themselves pestered for the next few days by ‘half-poisoned rats by the hundred.’

The Chaplain to the Dublin Fusiliers (Father Willie Doyle) described the scenes after the attack in a letter home to his father:

Many men died before I could reach them and were gone before I could pass back. There they lay, scores of them (we lost 800, nearly all from gas) in the bottom of the trench, in every conceivable posture of human agony; the cloths torn off their bodies in a vain effort to breathe while from end to end of that valley of death came one long unceasing moan from the lips of brave men fighting and struggling for life.

Two days later the Germans struck again and this time the 7th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were the main target and they also suffered huge casualties. Out of 647 present they lost 263 most of them gassed. Ironically the wind then turned and the deadly cloud drifted back on the German lines and inflicted similar punishment on their own men.

The Official History of the War quotes casualties for this attack for 27th and 29th April, as 570 killed (232 from shelling, 338 from gas) and 1,410 wounded (488 from shelling, 922 from gas).