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Voices from the Easter Rising

Ruán O’Donnell and Mícheál Ó hAodha (Ed)
Irish Academic Press
Voices from the Easter Rising


From The Seizure of the G.P.O. Dublin by the Sinn Fein Volunteers on Easter Monday, 1916.

A Few Notes by One Who Was There

Looking back on the events that happened on Easter Monday, 1916, when the Sinn Fein Volunteers rose in armed rebellion and proclaimed an Irish Republic under the portico of the G.RO., Dublin, the whole proceedings appear to have been more like a dream than reality. The dream is rudely dispelled, however, by paying a visit to Sackville Street, where the ruin and desolation caused by the gigantic fires that raged during Easter week is only too pronounced. The weather on Easter Monday was ideal for outdoor amusements, and the thought of one at least in the Instrument Room on that forenoon was that it was fortunate for the holiday makers that the sun shone so brightly. This train of thought, however, was roughly interrupted at 12 noon by the announcement from our Chief Technical Officer on duty that the majority of the lines running into the Instrument Room, including our cross-channel wires, had become stopped, due to the fact that the leading in cables in the basement had been cut. Almost simultaneous with the receipt of this information the news was brought that the Sinn Fein Volunteers had entered the public counter - the new office only recently opened to the public - had taken possession and had turned everybody else out into Sackville Street. Credence could not at first be given to this story, but the noise of breaking glass in the front of the building partly verified it, and on looking out over the top part of the window into Sackville Street it was only too evident that the story was true, as all the windows in the lower storey were being smashed from the inside, the broken glass being thickly strewn over the pavement. It was also seen that a number of the rebels guarded the entrance to the public counter with rifles and revolvers, whilst others were distributing to a crowd large poster sheets which proved to be copies of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

Since the beginning of the war we have had a military guard of a sergeant and half a dozen men to provide a sentry at each of the two entrances to the Instrument Room. About 12.30 p.m. the sergeant of the guard reported that the rebels were forcing the stairs leading up to the northern entrance. The corridor leading from the top of the Northern stairs to the Instrument Room - about 10 yards long - was then hastily filled with chairs, waste paper boxes and other portable articles that could be laid hold of in order to impede the entrance of the besiegers as long as possible in the hope that help would arrive in time to prevent them gaining possession. The sergeant and the guard could only stand inside the Instrument Room door ready to receive the attackers if they broke through the obstructions in the passage. The rebels then commenced to fire through the passage into the Instrument Room, and the noise thus made in a confined space greatly alarmed the female members of staff. When the corridor had been barricaded all the female staff were cleared down to the southern end of the room, and as matters became worse they were instructed to proceed to their Retiring Room on the southern landing and put on their outdoor apparel in case it became necessary that they should leave the building. About ten minutes to 1 o'clock a message was brought to the Superintendent from an officer of the Sinn Feiners who was stated to be on the southern landing to go out to him to make arrangements for the staff to leave the building. The Superintendent declined to go, sending word that he would not hold any parlay with the officer as he (the Superintendent) did not recognise the right of the officer to be where he was. (By this time all the females had left the Instrument Room.) A minute or two afterwards the officer in question, with a few supporters, came into the Instrument Room each being armed with a revolver and ordered everyone to clear out, at the same time ascertaining that no one was in possession of arms. This officer it was subsequently ascertained was The O'Rahilly.

By 1 o'clock the last of the male staff had left the G.RO. building. The guards were made prisoners and detained. The officer and his party had gained access to the southern corridor through the dining-room by means of a flight of stairs leading from the Sorting Office to that room, and as there was only one sentry guarding the southern corridor he was easily overpowered. About 1.20 p.m. the Lancers arrived from Marlboro' Barracks and rode down the street from the Rotunda. About a dozen of them had passed the Nelson Pillar Monument towards Clery's shop when the fusillade was opened on them from the windows of the G.P.O. Several saddles were emptied and the horses stampeded, some of the later being badly wounded, two ultimately died, and their carcasses lay in the streets for some days. I was subsequently informed that four of the Lancers were killed and some wounded. The rest of the party retired down the side streets to shelter. When the firing had ceased several street urchins rushed out from where they had been sheltering in the adjoining houses, and helped to capture the riderless horses and led them away. One of these horses was badly wounded in the shoulder, and as it limped along a barefooted urchin managed to withdraw the trooper's carbine from its case and at once made all speed with it to the G.P.O. building and thrust it through one of the barricaded windows to a member of the garrison. It showed in a small way that the invaders of the G.P.O. had some sympathisers amongst the crowd outside.

All the windows of the G.P.O. in each storey were broken by the rebels and then barricaded with mail bags, tables, chairs and such like, in order that they could fire out at any relieving force that might make its appearance. A machine gun was subsequently erected by rebels on the roof of the G.P.O., and another on Clery's roof on opposite side of street. I think it was on Friday in Easter week that the G.P.O. was burned. The rebel garrison sought to make their escape through Moor Lane - opposite the Henry Street entrance to the G.P.O. - but were met by military machine guns and very few got away. The O'Rahilly was killed in this way. He was of gentlemanly appearance and good manner, and it must be said that he behaved most courteously in the matter of clearing out the staff in the Instrument Room.

It would appear that the rebels had prepared postage stamps for use under the Republic. They had seized a lot of British stamps in the public office and used them for sticking up on the walls near the G.RO. the notices or proclamations of the Irish Republic.