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Field of Fire: The Battle of Ashbourne, 1916

Paul O'Brien
New Island



Volunteers mobilised with full kit at Knocksedan, Swords, in North County Dublin. Many of the men who assembled had read the front-page notice from their commander MacNeill in the Sunday Independent that stated:

 Owing to the critical position, all orders given to the Irish Volunteers for tomorrow, Easter Sunday, are hereby rescinded and no parades, marches or other movements of the Irish Volunteers will take place. Each individual will obey this order strictly in every particular.1

 Many other Volunteers who had assembled throughout the country were ordered to 'stand down' by their officers and return home. The officers of the 5th Battalion knew of the planned Rising but no official orders had arrived from Volunteer headquarters in Dublin city.

Volunteers in the 5th Battalion had travelled from Lusk, Skerries and from St Margaret's. Each Volunteer company had an average of twenty to thirty men in its ranks. The Swords and Lusk Companies had the largest contingents with over thirty men on their rolls. Dick Coleman commanded Swords. James V Lawless commanded St Margaret's. Edward Rooney was in charge of Lusk and Joe Thornton and Jim McGuinness comm­anded Skerries.2 Like most Volunteer units of the time they were never near battalion strength. However, it was estimated that nearly every Volunteer had turned out for Sunday's parade, a total of one hundred and twenty men.

In the previous months, the battalion had undergone extensive rifle practice, drill exercise and manoeuvres.3 They had also received tactical lectures from Eimar O'Duffy, who had attended Sandhurst Military College.4