Pearse, Connolly and Plunkett emerged through the door and stood on the steps looking out over their men. Connolly had remained in Liberty Hall all night as he had done on numerous occasions in the previous weeks refining the plans. Pearse had arrived that morning at eight thirty a.m. with his brother William having cycled from their family home in Rathfarnham. As they stood on the steps, Padraig Pearse’s sisters approached him and begged him to return home and not to be involved in such nonsense. Connolly saved Pearse the embarrassment of having to argue with his sister in front of the assembled men by barking out the order,
The men formed into column of fours. William O’Brien turned to Connolly as they moved down the steps and asked,
‘Is there any chance of success?’
‘None whatsoever’ was the quick and straight reply.
At precisely midday, with Pearse and Connolly sitting in the front and Clarke McDermott and Plunkett in the back seat of a touring car driven by The O’Rahilly, the soldiers marched off turning left into Middle Abbey Street heading towards O’Connell Street. One of those Volunteers guarding the car as they drove up Abbey Street was Denis Daly fresh from is mission to Kerry. Bringing up the rear of the marching column were two motor cyclists, Jack Plunkett, youngest brother of Plunkett family and Fergus O’Kelly. Also amongst the men was James Connolly’s son Roddy who marched off to an uncertain future but with floods of adrenalin pumping through his young body.
As Monday was a Bank Holiday in the city, the streets were deserted, the population having taken advantage of the fine day to go to the racing in Fairyhouse or headed to the various beaches around the city. As the soldiers marched up Abbey Street, they reached Malborough Street junction where ordinary Dubliners paused as they waited to cross the street watching in silence unconcerned that a group of armed men were marching on the street as this had become common sight especially since the landing of weapons from Germany at Howth and Kilcoole in 1914. Many Dubliners were indifferent to these men and their aspirations and just thought of them as grown men playing children’s games rather than a fighting force. Few of the people standing at the edge of the pavement could have suspected that this march was about to change the course of both Irish and European history forever.
The column reached O’Connell Street. Reis’s Chambers to their left, the Hibernian Bank to their right. They wheeled right crossing the wide thoroughfare before halting outside The General Post Office. The grey imposing building dominated the left side of the street. On one side of the GPO was the splendour of the Metropole Hotel and on the other Henry Street. The building was designed by Francis Johnson and built between 1814 and 1818. A portico of six ionic columns, pilasters in the Greco-Roman styles and three floors of space cost fifty thousand pounds to build. Perched on the roof of the building over looking the cobbled stone streets, Nelson’s Column, the city tram terminus and the vast expense of Sackville Street, were the three statues of Mercury, Hibernia and Fidelity. Two hundred and fifty six feet high the building had under gone major refurbishment re opening in May 1915 with a new telegraph room installed in the basement. When the rebels stormed the building some of the men headed for the Telegraph Room and ejected the operators. The leaders knew that communications were important to their cause and to stop the British communicating was just important.
The soldiers of the New Republic received their orders to line up in front of the main doors of the Post Office and awaited further commands from their leaders. According to Fergus O’Kelly
‘The Angelus was ringing in Malborough Street’ from the Roman Catholic Pro Cathedral.
Two of the eight unarmed members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police on duty that day in O’Connell Street were directly across the road outside Cleary’s Department store watching the events unfold. The two lawmen dressed in their blue uniforms, helmets, white gloves and shiny black shoes mused,
‘Those Sinn Feiners are at it again. Their mammies have let them out to play again.’
Just as he had finished that sentence across the street outside the impressive façade the order was given,
‘Charge’ boomed out and the men rushed into the G.P.O. Those patrons doing business inside seemed to be only a little discommoded by this intrusion and the order for them to evacuate the building was generally ignored. The two policemen opposite crossed over to investigate the matter further passing the one hundred and thirty five foot high stone column statue of Lord Admiral Nelson. Just as the men reached the corner of Henry Street and approached the main entrance a shot rang out fired into the ceiling inside scattering the customers who were now hurriedly making their way out passed the policemen. According to Joseph Gleeson’s WS another unarmed D.M.P. officer Edward Dunphy who was on duty inside the building was seized by the Johnny O’Connor making him the first prisoner of war. Dunphy was a forty four year old policeman originally from County Offaly. Married to Kildare born Elizabeth Dunphy lived on Sherrard Avenue just off Dorset Street near the Royal Canal. His two colleagues outside grabbed some of the fleeing citizens and having ascertained the reason for the shot made a hasty retreat along with the customers. The few Dubliners who had paid their thrupence to ascend the one hundred and sixty eight steps to the observation platform of Nelson’s Pillar also beat a rapid retreat. Once the leaders were sure that the building had been emptied they set about securing it against a British counter attack.