Tuesday, November 1, 2011
INTO BATTLE WENT THE MEN OF THE NEW REPUBLIC
On April 8th 1916, a notice placed in the Irish Independent newspaper it stated;
‘Following the success of last year, every unit of the Irish Volunteers will hold manoeuvres during the Easter holidays. The object of the manoeuvres is to test mobilization with equipment.’
On Holy Saturday, Captain George Plunkett informed the men at Larkfield that any of the men who wished to attend mass or take confession should do so that night at the nearby Mount Argus Church. They were nervous, their date with destiny was quickly approaching, their stomachs sat uneasily and their minds and their concentration was far from the sermon being delivered by the priest that night.
Sunday morning dawned and after the rain of the past couple of days, the spring morning was dry and calm. The arrival of the Sunday Independent left the men bemused and confused. The previous Thursday, Eoin McNeill leader of the Irish Volunteers discovered the full extent of the secret plans for a rebellion hatched by an inner cabinet of the Volunteers members who were also in the Irish republican Brotherhood.. Initially McNeill had been reluctantly in favour of the plans but upon hearing the news of the capture of Roger Casement and the sinking of the Aud be ordered the plans be cancelled. Pearse and company refused to call off the rebellion and so McNeill took matters in his own hand believing that a rebellion was at that time doomed to yet another failure no matter how heroic and placed the newspaper add. As the men at Kimmage read the notice they speculated that it
may be a special branch trick to divide and then conquer. The men waited in the courtyard most of the morning waiting for the confusion to be cleared. Eventually Captain Plunkett told the men to stand down. The men spent the rest of the afternoon digesting a number of cakes and sweets delivered to the garrison to celebrate Easter by Cumman na mBan. The men sat around in small groups discussing the runners and riders in the Easter Monday Grand National horse race at Fairyhouse. Many of the men picked out the aptly named ‘Civil War’ as their favourite. A couple of the men mused that they maybe allowed to go out in the afternoon to Croydon Avenue to watch the soccer match between Shamrock Rovers and Strandville but this was a military barracks and as far as the commanders were concerned all leave was cancelled. Some of men played cards, twenty five, trumps and poker nut as George Plunkett meandered through the men he found it hard to lift their spirits and moral.
Bank Holiday Monday, April 24th 1916, just after ten a.m., a despatch arrived at Larkfield delivered by Sean McLoughlin and immediately Captain Plunkett approached his men who were just gathering themselves together after the disappointment of the previous day. He began to read the message but before he could complete it, the men had scattered to put on what ever uniform they had and to retrieve their weapons, if they had one. The despatch ordered the Kimmage Garrison to attend immediately for parade at Beresford Place, in front of the Irish Citizens Headquarters at Liberty Hall on the Liffey Quays. The men marched off to an unknown destiny down towards Harold’s Cross past Mount Argus Church. A Dublin Tramway Company tram trundled along in the men’s direction also heading into the city centre. One of the cups of Bovril advertised on the side of the tram would have been gratefully accepted by some of the men to settle their nerves. Captain Plunkett hailed the tram and clambered aboard.
‘Fifty seven tuppenny tickets please’ said Plunkett eager to do the right thing when it would have been easier to commandeer the tram at gunpoint but he did not wish to set the wrong impression of the new Irish army. Plunkett produced two ten bob notes and moved towards the rest of the men who had taken up the unoccupied seats on board. Volunteer John Brennan prodded the driver with the barrel of his Howth Mauser,
‘and don’t stop ‘till we get to O’Connell Street.’
Fergus F. O’Kelly recounted his journey to the GPO revealing
‘I was put on a three and a half horse power Triumph (motor bike), shown how to start and stop it and sent off. I reached Beresford Place without any serious mishap and in good time.’
On the upper deck of the opened topped tram, Johnny O’Connor entertained his fellow volunteers and pedestrians below alike by playing his tin whistle with a number of traditional rousing Irish airs and a rendition of the ‘Gallant Men of 98’ written about those who fought in the 1798 Wolfe Tone led United Irishmen rebellion. He followed that with ‘The Heather Glen’ which had been used as a password at the Kimmage Garrison.
‘Good on ye Blimey!’ they roared.