Our friendly and excellent guides are available as Step On Guides for any visiting tour or coach operators who may like a unique, entertaining and educational tour of Irish History and the events of Easter Week 1916.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Airbrushing the Rising

Today we have all heard about photo shopping and airbrushing with these terms often associated with propaganda battles in modern war zones but in 1916 the British were already airbrushing their take on Irish history and attempting to rewrite factual narratives. The most famous incident during the 1916 Rising of this airbrushing was the attempted removal of Nurse Elizabeth O'Farrell from the surrender photograph that was posed for the newspapers featuring Padraig Pearse with General Lowe and his son. These altered photographs were printed in the newspapers eliminating any questions that women took an active role in the Rising. 

Another photograph was published and appeared in newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic. The newspaper reported that it was a photograph of 'rebel snipers taking aim at British forces'. The problem is two fold, firstly the photograph was not taken during the Rising but in 1914 and to prove it was posed in 1914, the suited gentleman at the bad of the four volunteers is seated in a relaxed pose. This man has been airbrushed out to make it look like the 'action' photograph was taken in the middle of the fight. Perhaps if we look closely at today's media very little has changed.

The Countess as seen from America

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Rebel Radio 1916

This is an editorial from the September 1916 edition of Wireless World published in the UK. There was an awareness that the rebels had used radio to announce the declaration of the Republic and it is obvious that it was of concern not only that the rebels had used radio but the future ramifications of such actions. This was still the First World War and the British use of The Defense of the Realm act to control the media.

The location of the rebel radio station had been mentioned in the same publication in June 1914 when it was reported that the School's owner PK Turner had offered that the Dublin Wireless Club founded a year earlier could meet at the School for their monthly meetings. At their first meeting in O'Connell Street in April 1914 PK Turner demonstrated his Marconi equipment using a short indoor aerial and receiving signals from Paris and from a number of ships in the Irish Sea.

(c) 1916 Easter Rising Coach Tour

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

1916 & The Propaganda War Over The Airwaves

A British Soldier protecting the Valentia Wireless station in 1916

In a paper given on December 1, 2000 by Jonathan A. Epstein 'German and English Propaganda in WW1' explained that,
     'One function of propaganda is to put forward one’s own view of the world and its history.  This was played out during the Great War by competing allegations about responsibility for the war (naturally, neither side admitted guilt in this matter), atrocities, and political superiority.  The British generally took the offensive in these matters.'

One of the first propaganda battles of the airwaves was the Easter Rising as both the rebels and The British attempted to dictate the news narrative.

Communications were heavily hampered by actions on both sides as the rebels attempted to prevent the British calling in reinforcements and the British smothering the rebels attempts to contact forces around the country and any outside agencies that maybe helping the rebellion. 

While newspapers were heavily censored in the UK due to the implementation of the Defense of the Realm Act their first reports came primarily from Irish Secretary Augustine Birrell news delivered to the House of Commons, while the mainstream press in Ireland halted due to both the battles on the streets and the declaration of martial law. 

The battle moved to the hearts and minds of those outside Ireland especially in the United States and the large Irish immigrant community who had financially assisted in the planning of the Rising. Britain were anxious to keep US public opinion on their side in the battle against Germany in World War One as the United States were still a neutral nation. 

While all reports in the UK press were copied from official Government communiques the US press were harder to control and it was done with the use of wireless on both sides of the Rising. 

Many of the US newspapers received their news from wire services. In August 1914 the British Government created the Press Bureau with the intention to gather news and telegraphic reports from the British Army and then censor it and issue the sanitized version to the press. The Bureau allowed neutral journalists (The US was still neutral in April 1916) to write their own articles after providing official communiques. This was of major importance to American journalists. This helped camouflage the source of the propaganda, making it more acceptable to the reading public.

The official communiques reprinted often without a by line, simply a 'report from London'
began to appear on Tuesday in New York and Washington with the official line from the UK Government which had been wireless telegraphed from Caernavon in Wales via the Press Bureau.

In a report in the 'Evening World' on Tuesday the GPO had been captured by rebels but had almost immediately been retaken by British forces. The 'revolution in Ireland had been planned by the German Government' slanting the view and exaggerating the influence of the Germans on the Rising. In the space of seven paragraphs the rebels were referred to as 'rebels', 'rioters','revolutionists' and 'a mob'. 

The rebels realised in planning the Rising that the British would attempt to control all communications and therefore the setting up of the rebel radio station in Reis's Chambers allowed an alternative view to be broadcast and those reports then wireless telegraphed to non partisan newspapers through the London based International News Service owned and operated by the Hearst family. Some newspapers in the US reported word for word the communiques issued by the rebels from their station in O'Connell Street on Tuesday and Wednesday of Easter Week. 

Newspapers reported that wireless messages had been received by Irish American organisations in New York from Ireland but some papers countered this by stating that was impossible as 'cipher messages out of Ireland were impossible due to a strict British ban on cipher messages'. And while many of the news reports were certainly fanciful, rumour based and displayed a vivid imagination by some Irish Americans of exactly what was happening on the streets of Dublin, we know now that the Ring brothers did telegraph news of the Rising launch from the Valentia Wireless station in the early days of the Rising before the British gained control of Valentia. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Perfect Actor for The Role

I was watching an episode of the BBC series New Tricks and David Haig played the role of a 'baddie' in the episode and he seemed very familiar. I was reminded that he played the role of the gun ho special branch detective in Rowan Atkinson's sitcom 'The Thin Blue Line' but I was doing some research today and it hit me that David would be the ideal actor to play the role of James Connolly. What do you think?

Humbled & Chuffed

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Early Shots of the Rising in Kerry

According to the Irish Times published on May 1st outside O’Sullivans Pub near Farranfore, Kerry two constables were shot and wounded. RIC Constable Michael Cleary (23) was shot in the right breast while his colleague Constable Thomas McLoughlin (23)  in right arm. The incident took place on Easter Saturday April 22nd, two days before the main outbreak. 

The two constables had been posting a martial law proclamation forbidding all meetings and assemblies. They were spotted by Jim Reardon a captain in the Firies Company of the Irish Volunteers. According to Michael Spillane's Witness Statement
"  He went over to read it and then tore it down. The two R.I.C. men thought to arrest him and tried to club him with their carbines. Jim Reardon drew his gun and shot them both."


While Dublin was the epicentre of the Easter Rising there was some action outside the confines of the capital. Apart from Galway, Ashbourne and Enniscorthy, the Volunteers drilled and trained in Dundalk County Louth saw action as they made their way to assist their comrades in Dublin. Led by Dan Hannigan there first confrontation with the enemy as they believed was the accidental shooting a local at a rebel checkpoint when the gun belonging to Sean McEntee went off. Struggling to make any progress on foot, the company of rebels hijacked a number of cars taking punters home northwards from the race meeting at Fairyhouse. The rebels held onto the drivers as they were unable to drive themselves. Their next engagement was at Castlebellingham where they captured and made prisoners of the two local policemen. They then raided the grocery shops for provisions seizing them in the name of the new Irish Republic. While in charge of the town another policemen arrived on a bicycle but was more stubborn than his colleagues when it came to surrendering to the rebels. It was only after encouragement from his colleagues did he surrender and hand over his weapon. Just as the rebels were about to re-board the cars another car entered town with a driver and a British soldier. The soldier surrendered to the rebels only after a heated argument.

As the rebels were about to continue their journey to Dublin a shot rang out and as Sean McEntee wrote in his book he looked back at the point in the hedge where the prisoners of war were being held and saw the officer slump to the ground. It was only later at his court martial that he realised that the officer had been injured by the same shot that had killed RIC Constable Magee.

The rebels rested in the hijacked cars in a secluded field overnight and the following morning following reports of up to 5000 British troops in Dunslaughlin decided to release the drivers with the rebels conscious of doing the right thing within the new Republic gave their captives money for food and their fare home if they could get a train or bus with the rebellion in full swing.

McEntee then walked the rest of the journey into Dublin via Finglas joining up with the rebel forces in the GPO on Wednesday morning.   

Bovril & The Rising

Invented by John Lawson Johnson in 1870, Bovril operated a distribution warehouse on Eustace Street now at the heart of Dublin's Temple Bar. Due to food shortages in the aftermath of the Rising especially with the forced closure of bakeries, Bovril which was used to feed troops in many fields of battle from Crimea to The Boer War to the fields of France was distributed free to the citizens of Dublin.

Monday, September 7, 2015

1916 & The Brewers and Distillers

Beer and spirits was at the heart of events in 1916. Proclamation signatory Sean McDermott once worked as a barman in Belfast before turning his attention to more pressing matters. The rebels managed not to seize British Army barracks around the city or even the seat of The British Government in Ireland, Dublin Castle but did capture The Watkins Brewery on Ardee Street, The Jameson Distillery, Roe’s Distillery, Dublin City Distillery, and the Barmack Brewery and many public houses..

The Watkins Brewery raiding party was led by the teetotaller Con Colbert who was subsequently executed in the aftermath of the Rising. The brewery was unprotected except for a yard manager and was quickly captured by twenty rebels and the only counter attack they suffered from Monday to Wednesday was a large group of angry women, the wives and families of Irishmen serving in the British army, who demanded that the rebels go home ‘to their mammy’s and daddy’s’.

The Marrowbone Lane Distillery where Jameson whiskey was produced in great quantity was captured by Captain Seamus Murphy and his men. The military advantage of the distillery was the height of the chimneys and warehouses. 

A section from Eamonn Ceannt’s 4th Battalion seized Roe’s Distillery located at Mount Brown on James’s Street. Barmack’s Distillery on Fumbally Lane off Clanbrassil Street was seized by Captain Henderson. Despite the seizure of all these distilleries there was very little drunkenness from the rebels but much of the stock was looted by the poor of the city.

The Dublin City Distillery on Pearse Street was seized by Captain Cullen as part of Eamonn DeValera’s battalion who captured Boland’s Mill. DeValera hoisted the Irish flag, then a green flag with a gold Brian Boru harp at its centre on top of the Distillery. The British artillery and gunboat Helga shelled the distillery believing that this was the rebels’ location but DeValera was located in the bakery watching the British destroy the wrong target. 


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Saturday, September 5, 2015

2015 Blog of the Year short list

We are delighted and honoured to be recognised in the short list of the 2015 Blog of the Year.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Con Colbert - Day One & Two

Every so often I pop into the Museum at Collins Barracks and wander around the 1916 exhibit. Every time I find something new, something to peak my interest, to further expand the history of the Rising and last week to be fair was no exception on a very wet day in Dublin's summertime.

I was looking at the death certificates issued after the execution of some of the sixteen rebels and I wondered about some of the men who signed these certificates, their contribution even in a small way to the events of April/May 1916. I noticed Con Colbert's certificate and that it was signed by a Edmund Wm. Lynch. I wondered who he was, how he came to sign the certificate and what if any were his allegiances?

It was dated May 29th 1916, a full three weeks after Limerick man's execution. His qualification was listed as 'LRCPS' and his residence was listed as 'Knockeader, Bray'.

My next day off was a journey of 'near discovery'. Firstly I had no idea what the initials meant in the qualification so that was my first discovery - ' Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons', a doctor. Where was 'Knockeader'? It was a house name on the Herbert Road in Bray not far from the Ardmore Studios. A check on the 1911 census showed the house as vacant, no Lynch living there. The last resident was a man called Thomas Acton. Strange!!

Then I visited one of my favourite research haunts, the Pearse Street library. The Thom's Directory from 1916 also listed the building as vacant and no Lynch living in the area. Back to the 1911 census and only three 'Edmund Lynch's' popped up and none of them fitted the bill. Perhaps Mr. Lynch was in London at the time studying at The Royal College.

I trawled the newspaper archives for a mention of Edmund Lynch but the polite 'sorry no results found' appeared on screen. Did Doctor Lynch perform any task in relation to the death of Con Colbert?

According to John O'Callaghan's book on Colbert as part of the 16 Lives series
'Con Colbert's death certificate might have been revealing, but as army procedure dictated it is not part of his court martial. Neither are those of Ceannt, Heuston or Mallin the others shot on 8 May. In fact the death certificate of most of the executed men are missing from their trial files. The certificates are referred to in some of the records but have been removed at a later point. This may have been for administrative purposes. It seems more likely that it was done to conceal information, perhaps the execution was botched.'

But Dr. Lynch would not escape me. He is listed in in 1910 Wicklow Commercial List as
LYNCH E W Newtownmountkennedy L.R.C.P.
but still the question why his name on the certificate and what was his connection to the execution?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

1916 Light Years Away

According to the website Light Years FM which attempts to calculate where in the universe a radio signal has reached, it estimates that the broadcasts of the 1916 rebels has now traveled 110 light years out into the universe.

I wonder what life (if there is life) in a far off galaxy will make of one of the earliest radio signals to emminate from the earth, those of the 1916 Easter Rising rebels. Their achievements continue to travel out 100 years after their initial achievement

Sunday, June 7, 2015


In an extract from my forthcoming book 'Rebel Radio, Broadcasting 1916' we reveal for the first time anywhere the success of the rebel broadcasts in 1916.
(Some text from this chapter has been omitted © 2013 EAB Productions “1916 Rebel Radio”)

                                                                                                                           © 2013 EAB Productions “1916 Rebel Radio”

We now know the dangers the broadcasters faced, the hurdles they overcame, the propaganda machine they faced, we have discovered who these men were, the rebel cause they were fighting for, exactly where the station was located, the leaders who created a way and genre of broadcasting and the innovation and ingenuity they displayed in putting the station together now it is time for

A Nation Speaks Onto Nation....

Former broadcaster Maurice Gorham in his book ‘Forty Years of Irish Broadcasting’ observed that,
‘This was not broadcasting as we know it, for wireless telephony was not yet available and Morse messages were all that could be sent out. But it was news by wireless, not aimed at any known receiver but sent out broadcast and that was a new idea in 1916’
His statement is inaccurate as facts show that the station in O’Connell Street was neither the first to ‘broadcast’ nor the first to deliver news via wireless telegraphy. In the years preceding World War One news bulletins were broadcast from a station located in the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France and was broadcasting news at fifteen words per minute and was not aimed at any known receiver. A station located at the broadcasting building at Nauen in Germany was broadcasting news at eighteen words per minute. In Britain a wireless station at Cleethorpes broadcast weather reports primarily for shipping.

Experiments in sound and speech broadcasting began in 1900 with the first truly successful broadcast carried out by Professor Fessenden from Brant Rock, Massachusetts a decade before the rebellion. In 1910 in California a college of Wireless Engineering was set up broadcasting speech radio with news and music. The United States recognized the growth in amateur broadcasting and began issuing licenses for these fledging stations from 1910. In the same year one of the greatest inventors and innovators in the field of broadcasting Lee De Forest broadcast the world’s first live opera. There were a number of stations broadcasting speech and music regularily in the United States. These included 6XE in San Jose California that went on air in 1907 broadcasting on 740Khz AM, 2XI broadcasting on 810khz AM in New York on air in 1915 and 8XK in Pittsburgh on 1020khz AM.

Professor Chris Morash in his published book titled A History of The Media in Ireland commented,
"It was an attempt to tell the world what was happening and was very much before its time. Here they were coming under fire from all around them but they were under strict orders to get the message out to the rest of the world"
While American sociologist Harwood Childs noted in 1965 that in the early days of radio propaganda that its purpose was ‘to win allies, to gain the support of neutrals, to build up morale at home and to engender defeatism in the ranks of the enemy’
A. Panfilov in his book ‘Broadcasting Pirates’ noted that the Germans used radio because the telegraph was controlled by other countries. Used radio extensively during WW1 to keep in touch with its agents
                                                                                                                   © 2013 EAB Productions “1916 Rebel Radio”
The success of the radio station and having reached its desired goal comes in the response of the British Government’s man in Ireland Augustine Birrell when responding to a question in the House of Commons when he said,
‘It had been necessary during the last few days that news should not reach  countries and especially our friends in America which would give a false impression of the importance of the events, important as they were.’
He added that he hoped that he strict censorship would be taken off soon. But the rebellion was front page news in the New York Times as it hit the street Tuesday morning. In Wednesday’s New York Times their report stated,
‘According to a statement of a prominent leader in Irish American affairs last night (Tuesday), the revolt in Ireland has spread to a far greater extent than has been given out by the British authorities. It was affirmed that the news had come from private sources in Ireland and received in Brooklyn.’

(Text Omitted From This Preview...)

It is possible that when the first broadcast was made at 5.30p.m. Tuesday in Dublin it was 11.30a.m in New York allowing plenty of time to make the newspapers that day in New York. The New York newspapers on the street Tuesday evening carried reports that contained the exact words of Connolly’s communiqué. In the New York Times on April 27th, it was reported that Irish Americans in New York knew of the plans to launch a radio station.
‘A letter seized in the investigation as to whether assistance was given to the Irish rebels from within the United States, (sent) to an Irishman in Brooklyn carried details of plans early in the month (April). Dublin Castle was to be seized and held as was the Post Office and several other public buildings. Irishmen loyal to the cause were to occupy cable office and wireless stations and were to flash the news to the whole world that Ireland was free.’
The Federal Bureau of Investigations had discovered documents in raids in New York on supporters of John Devoy that rebellion plans had always included the setting up of a broadcast station.

Devoy and his Clan na Gael organisation in New York had been the main fundraisers for the rebellion and much of the coded messages between the rebel leaders and Germany went through the German consulate in New York. It was these messages that had been intercepted by the British and fore warned them of the planned shipment of weapons. Plunkett and McDermott wanted to make sure that Devoy knew the rebellion started so that political pressure could be put on the American administration from the large Irish lobby group to recognise the new Government in Dublin. A message was to be sent to New York by telegram. In January 1916, Timothy Ring was brought to Dublin from his place of employment, the Valencia Wireless station. He was given a message to send when the time was ready. Early in Easter week Timothy’s brother Eugene sent a wireless message to Newfoundland to test the British detection and censorship. The message was detected but caused little suspicion as it simply asked the operator in Newfoundland if he would like to buy a bicycle. With plans for the Rising complete and expected to be launched on Easter Sunday, Timothy Ring sent a wireless telegram to Devoy’s housekeeper on Saturday morning that read ‘Tom operated on successfully today’.

The message arrived early Monday morning New York time before the Rising had actually started. Devoy had called a press conference and within hours the first newspapers were on the streets of New York announcing an armed rebellion in Ireland. The newspapers were seen by the British at their consulate in New York and passed onto Washington who dispatched the news to London arriving almost immediately as the news from the temporary telegraph office in Amiens Street. For many months after the Rising the British were unable to trace the origin of the news that arrived in New York until a Irish magazine revealed that the message had come from Kerry and armed with this information they were able to trace the cablegram to Timothy Ring who along with his brother Eugene were arrested and interned in Frongach prison camp.

But while most US newspapers published the British official reports on the Rising issued through the press association offices in London, some newspapers in the US revealed the truth about their information sources.Some New York papers published a mixture of official London communiques with statements issued by the Irish-American societies in New York. As we discovered in Chapter Five the communiques issued by the rebels were very precise, utilising the morse tappers ability to broadcast a limited amount of text. The Newcastle Times newspaper published in Pennsylvania reported almost word for word the first communique broadcasts by the rebels. Perhaps their only error was referring to Padraig Pearse as 'Peter'. Few newspapers accurately reported the position of James Connolly as noted in the rebel broadcast. The Newcastle Times headlined
                                                                                                                 © 2013 EAB Productions “1916 Rebel Radio”
                                  " WIRELESS TELLS STORY OF NEW STATE "
'news of the action of the rebels in declaring Ireland independent and free of the British Government was sent out from the revolutionary headquarters in the Dublin post office by wireless'

(Text Omitted From This Preview...)
In an edition of the magazine ‘tOglach’ in an article penned by John O’Connor he spoke about the radio station and said that,
‘transmissions were commenced on Tuesday stating that an Irish republic had been declared. This message was transmitted at intervals and at a much later date evidence was found that it had been received and re-transmitted to the outside world thus countering the British propaganda version of events in Dublin.’

Over the years much has been written often based on rumours about where the broadcasts were heard. According to Johnny O’Connor’s memoirs testifying to the success of the broadcasts
‘there have been some stories that in fact it was (a success) one involving a sailor somewhere near Japan.’

In the Irish language weekly INDIU in an article in the 1940s describing the 1916 broadcast it stated that the news of the Rising reached Argentina, a country with a definite Irish population at that time. In fact the Volunteer who raised the flags of the new Republic on the roof of the GPO was Argentinian native Eamon Bulfin born of Irish parents in Buenos Aires in 1892 but from the evidence in Chapters Four and Five we can see the impossibility of this occurrence. 

Canadian media historian and commentator Marshall McLuhan, in his 1964 book Understanding Media wrote
The Irish Rebels used a ship’s radio to make, not a point-to-point message, but a diffused broadcast in hope of getting word to any ship that would relay their story to the American press. This is widely accepted as the world’s first radio broadcast.”
Desmond Fisher, in his 1978 Broadcasting in Ireland, quotes both McLuhan and Gorham and concluded that
“the world’s first radio broadcast was made from Dublin, Ireland, on Tuesday, April 25th 1916.”

So what can Radio na Oglaich be classified as? The radio station in O’Connell Street was in fact the world’s first pirate radio station. The British Government had used the Defense of the Realm Act to impose strict censorship during the World War. On August 2nd 1914 a notice appeared in the London Gazette stating
‘expedient for the public service that his Majesty’s Government should have control over the transmission of messages by wireless telegraphy.’
The following day in the same newspaper decreed that by order all wireless equipment on board merchant vessels should be dismantled immediately and ordered the closure of all experimental wireless station in Great Britain.
                                                                                                             © 2013 EAB Productions “1916 Rebel Radio”
The problem that the Governments had with the new medium of wireless was that a wireless message could be received by all stations and vessels within the radius of the transmissions and that these transmissions could contain vital information to the enemy. The United States followed a similar line to Britain and attempted to close the thousands of amateur and experimental stations. They did not censor or close telegraph communications because while a wireless message could be intercepted or heard by the enemy a telegraph message was a point to point communication that could not be intercepted the most damage that could be done was to have the telegraph line cut.

(Text Omitted From This Preview...)

Apart from the listeners aboard H.M.S Adventure, the broadcasts following the Adventure's reports were picked up by the British radio monitoring station located in Carnarvon in Wales who were monitoring all frequencies in an attempt to locate German spies and intercept broadcasts and messages being sent back to Germany. Under William Hall and James Ewing who ran what was known as ‘Room 40’ the British Admiralty set up a number of broadcast intercept stations around the British Isles known as ‘Y’ stations and these stations sole responsibility was to intercept German radio transmissions and decode them. They were aware that The German wireless operators were using lower frequencies as these had been intercepted by Amateur operators whose knowledge was then used by Room 40. The ‘Y’ stations were continually checking all frequencies for transmissions as they were now aware of the German changes and as they covered a complete frequency band scan they would have easily revealed the station broadcasting from Dublin. The British were already aware that there had been contact between the Irish rebels and the German military and the intercepted messages had led to the seizing of the Aud off Kerry and further military activity occurred during the Rising.

The Germans were also active in the monitoring business and one of the most prolific men in World War one who may have also monitored the broadcasts knowing that the wireless station was part of the rebellion plans was Wilhelm Canaris who operated in Spain using wireless to communicate with Berlin with information on shipping movements.

(Text Omitted From This Preview...)

The damage caused by both the rebels and the British attempting to stop either side from communicating with their other forces was immense. Edward Gomersall, the chief Post Office Engineer in Ireland noted that not only was the new telephone and telegraph facilities in the GPO destroyed and would have to be completely replaced but that main telephone and telegraph lines were cut in two or three places. Telegraph poles had been chopped down, wires cut, the instruments removed and smashed from offices, equipment in signal boxes along main railway lines had been damaged even underground cables had been served. During the rebellion when engineers were sent out to repair communication lines they were fired upon or intimidated. They would report to the army who would send men to protect the linesmen but the rebels would be further down the line cutting more cables.
                                                                                                              © 2013 EAB Productions “1916 Rebel Radio”
The station was imaginative and innovative especially of the period and it also set a precedent for rebellions in the future when leaders of various coup d’état place seizing the broadcasting stations as one of their main priorities.       

Friday, June 5, 2015

1916 Sea Battle

Much has been made of a naval and Zeppelin airship attack launched on the East coast of England as a diversionary tactic employed by the Germans to assist the Rebels in Ireland but just fifty miles off the West Coast of Ireland the German navy were in action. The ‘Carmanian’ was a Norwegian registered vessel that left the Argentinian port of Buenos Aires in February 1916 bound for Queenstown with a cargo of wheat. 

Fifty miles from the coast of Ireland on Tuesday April 25th 1916, on the second day of the Rising, she was attacked by a German submarine U19 and sunk. The crew abandoned ship in two boats, one of which capsized, drowning all aboard. The other, containing the master and nine men, reached the Dingle peninsula at Ballinabuck and the men were rescued by cliff ladders. Some of the rescuers were later commended by the King of Norway. The Times newspaper reported that a piece of plate was awarded by the King of Norway to the Rev.Thomas Jones, of Ballyferriter, Co.Kerry, and £3 each was given by the King to Patrick Connor, Patrick Lynch and Patrick James Connor, all for their assistance in the rescue of the crew of the Carmanian.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The 1916 Rising and The Public House

The Irish are synonymous with the consumption of alcohol and having a good time in our pubs and bars but have you ever wondered about the connection between beer and spirits and the foundation of the State. Alcohol, the production, the service or the consumption of alcohol has played a key role in Irish affairs since the iconic and momentous events of The Easter Rising in 1916. Public houses were at the heart of the action unfolding on the streets of Dublin.

As the rebels secured their headquarters in the GPO a detachment on men were sent to seize buildings in Abbey Street. They attempted to gain entry to Mooney’s pub but the manager slammed the door in their faces and not even a shot at the lock could gain entry. They instead seized The Ship Tavern which they had been familiar with as it had been a magnet for nationalists. But the attitude of the rebels towards drink is best served by William Daly,
“In passing, I wish to record with pride that a few of the men I was In company with, although hardened drinkers, were stationed in the Ship Tavern, and had the taking of anything that was there, not touch anything and refused the offerings of the barmen”
As a consequence of the British bombardment during Easter Week, the Ship was completely destroyed.

A group of rebels seized J.T. Davy’s pub at Portobello Bridge. Their mission was to delay reinforcements from the Rathmines Barracks. Once they were in control the next couple of hours were taken up with securing the premises and setting up sniping positions. They used whatever they could to barricade the windows including most of Davy’s family furniture.

The British sent some soldiers in the direction of Portobello Bridge three hundred yards from the gates of the barracks but as soon as they got close the rebels opened fire pinning them down in the gardens and the doorways along Rathmines Road. The soldiers eventually made their way to the small wall on the opposite side of the Grand Canal. The police arrived and attempted to keep curious onlookers out of harms way and the firing continued intermittently caused even lock keeper Joseph Parsons to peer out his window and watch the commotion. Against the odds Superintendant Kiernan and Sergeant Crosbie of the Dublin Metropolitan Police kept the ever increasing crowd back from the frontline action.

Most of the rebels were based on the second floor as the third floor view was obstructed by advertising hoarding along the canal. Gunfire was indiscriminate with the gas lamps on the bridge taking a number of direct hits. Late on Monday evening the Army crouched down in strict military fashion behind the canal walls on the southern side, the first line lying on their stomachs, the second kneeling behind with their commander standing tall behind them directing their fire. A machine gun was wheeled up from the barracks and positioned on the bridge and began almost immediately to pepper the building continuing for nearly two hours.

Hundreds of rounds were fired at the pub until a ceasefire was ordered as soon as the British realised that there was no returning fire coming from the pub. Perhaps they were all wounded or dead. The order was given to enter the building breaking through the glass plate windows on the ground floor. When they entered neither rebel nor corpse was found. With their intimate knowledge of the pub the rebels had broken through the cellar walls into the adjoining buildings and eventually into a nearby lane making good their escape long before the British had opened fire on the building. Their mission had been a success as they held up the British long enough to allow the rebels in the centre city to reinforce their defences and barricades.

On Monday night rebels seized Delahunt’s Pub at 42 Camden Street. The raiding party was led by Lieutenant Shiels with the aid of George Heuston of E Company 2nd Battalion who was a barman in Delahunt’s. He was one of the lucky rebels not to be captured in the aftermath of the Rising. When the British troops attacked the position Richard O’Carroll was fatally wounded. He had been travelling along Camden Street when he was pulled from his motor cycle by a British officer Captain Bowen-Colthurst and shot. He died nine days later in the Portobello Hospital.

Further down the street opposite Jacobs Factory was the Swan Pub and it too was seized.
“Orders were also given that we were to burrow through from Jacob's to a public house at the corner facing Aungier Street. We had two masons in our party and the burrowing was made easy. Strict instructions were given that no Volunteer was to take any drink from the public house. And although I am not a drinking man myself I must say that this order was strictly obeyed.”
Michael Molloy Witness Statement

Around the corner on Cuffe Street beside the College of Surgeons which had been captured by Michael Mallin, Phillip Little’s pub was seized at 8pm on that Easter Monday by Sergeant James Kelly and some of the retreating forces from Davy’s Pub and Harcourt Street Railway station. Laurence Nugent’s Witness Statement
“They also evacuated Davy's on Richmond St. and Harcourt St. station as these two posts were attacked from Portobello Barracks and there were only a few men to defend them. The early evacuation of Little's public house at the corner Cuffe St. seemed strange as if it were attacked there was a good line of retreat to the College of Surgeons. The Citizen Army men who occupied these posts were by Wednesday confined to the College of Surgeons.”

Nearby Bowe’s pub on William Street was seized by the rebels and used as a sniping position but was abruptly abandoned leaving the valuable weapons behind and it was left to member of Cumman NaBan to retrieve them. Annie O’Brien takes up the story,
“Word came in from a sniping post, a publichouse called Bowe's at the corner of William St. and Coppinger Row and that the two snipers at that post had evacuated it, leaving their arms behind them, and they sent word to Dawson St. to have their arms collected and put into safe keeping. The two of us went to the post and found the house locked up. We went to the house next door where we found a friendly man who showed us up to the skylight which we got through and on to the roof of the publichouse. Its skylight was a bit small and only my sister, who was small, was able to get through. She went down and opened the door of the publichouse for the rest of us. We had to search the whole of the house for the arms and at last we found the two loaded rifles in an office” 

Once the rebel garrison had secured their headquarters at the GPO on O’Connell Street, the poor of the city slums on the Northside of the city began to riot and loot. Padraig Pearse attempted to stop this and sent out a patrol to expel the looters. Two men crossed onto North Earl Street and ‘banished’ a number of troublemakers but as they made their way back towards their HQ they heard noises from inside Meagher’s pub. They looked in but initially saw the premises as deserted. As they were walking out they could hear roaring and shouting coming from the direction of the cellar. The went behind the counter and noticed the trap door to the cellar open and candle light coming from the cellar. One of the Volunteers took the first steps down into the cellar and saw three women known as ‘shawlies’ drunk out of their heads. They were drinking the wine from saucers. He roared at them ‘in the name of the Irish Republic you need to leave this pub and go home to your families’. There was a moment of silence followed by a barrage of verbal abuse and a shower of bottles. The rattled rebel scarpered back up the steps and he and his colleague returned to the safety of the GPO. They reported the events to Pearse who asked them why they had not followed orders and ejected the women,
            ‘We would rather fight the British guns than tackle those three auld ones’.

On the Northside of the city O’Reilly’s now The Tap pub on North King Street was seized by the rebels to slow the progress of the British troops from the Royal Barracks. There was an intensive battle for the building with the British sustaining many casualties.

The British Army seized Egan’s public house in Smithfield which they used as a firing position to attack Church Street and North King Street massacre. The soldiers spent considerable time breaking through the wall of the houses and by the time they reached the rebel’s position the rebels had gone. In their frustration at not catching the rebels the soldiers turned their anger on the residents of North King Street. Fifteen men and boys were either shot or bayoneted to death. Included amongst the fatalities was Patrick Bealen, who had been employed as manager at Mary O'Rourke's licensed house, 177 North King street, Dublin, and James Healy employed at the nearby Jameson's Distillery. Their bullet riddled bodies had both been disinterred on 10th May in the cellar of O’Rourke’s pub at 177 North King Street by the sanitary authorities.

Lambe’s public house on Richmond Road now Meagher’s of Ballybough was seized by rebels attempting to halt the advance of British troops from a training camp on Bull Island towards the centre of the city. They held the pub until they were ordered to fall back to the GPO.

One of the few battles outside Dublin was Enniscorthy which was seized by the Rebels. The Athenaeum theatre was made the Republicans’ headquarters, over which they flew the green, white and orange tricolour. All the public houses in the town were closed down and as Father Patrick Murphy, a priest who publicly blessed the rebels, recalled,
“During the four days of Republican rule, not a single person was under the influence of drink”.

According to Volunteer Thomas Doyle of Enniscorthy
“There was an order given that no publicans were to supply anyone with drink. That evening two men were caught in Loftus Porter's publichouse in Templeshannon. Mike Murphy (Toby) and Bernard Neill were arrested and the keys of the publichouse taken from the owner. His shop was locked up and the keys brought to headquarters.

Some of the pubs completely destroyed or severely damaged as a result of fire from both sides included Mooney’s, McGreevy’s and Moore’s on Eden Quay, J Humphrey’s and Fee’s on Moore Street, Farrell’s of Malboro Street, on Ushers Kavanagh’s and on Lower Bridgefoot Street the famous Brazen Head
“Smart and others used home-made grenades to set the public house on fire, in the hope that this would end this activity, which it apparently did. The pub was burnt out, with the Dublin Fire Brigade arriving too late to do anything about it.”
The Oval on Abbey Street was destroyed by the end of the week. The pub had been purchased in 1902 by John Egan and after a major refurbishment reopened in 1903. It was very popular with both the local journalists and with rebels in the lead up to the Rising. The pub remained closed for six years.

Today there are other Rising sites that have been turned into pubs including the Schoolhouse on Mount Street which was at the heart of the battle of the nearby Bridge and a battlefield that saw the largest British casualties and The Grand Central on O’Connell Street which was the location of the rebels radio station during the Rising.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The 1916 Rising and The Barman

The contribution of grocer’s assistants to the Easter Rising should not be underestimated. Like so many other professions they fought, died and were imprisoned for their actions. Their places of employment were at the heart of the action unfolding on the streets of Dublin in 1916.

Today a grocer’s assistant is better known as a bartender and their places of employment the public house. In the run up to April 1916 barmen, like many other professions felt the need to be part of the Volunteer movement. Due to their unsociable hours and work commitments barmen were unable to train with regular units of the Volunteers and so D Company of the 2nd Battalion of the Volunteers was formed and became known as ‘the Grocers Company’. They trained and drilled at Father Matthew Park under the leadership of Seamus Kavanagh and his adjutant Paddy Moran an employee in Doyle’s Bar, Phibsboro. At its height their were 200-300 members but after the Remondite Split within the National Volunteers, the Irish Volunteers who would plan for the Easter Rising maintained a company of 45 men. 

Michael O’Dea from Tulla in County Clare takes up the story in his Witness Statement,
“In Dublin, where I arrived in 1912, my employer was Con McCormack who owned a public house at 26, Moore St. He ran in conjunction with this a bookmaker's business, most of the transactions in connection with which were illegal. I joined the Irish Volunteers in Dublin on their formation towards the end of 1913 and in the spring of the following year I linked up with the "Grocers" Company which had been specially formed to suit the barmen in the city. I remained a member of the "Grocers" Company until the Redmondite split in the autumn of l9l4 when the vast majority of that unit went over to the National Volunteers. I remained with the Irish Volunteers after the split.”

Barmen were crucial to the planning as not only were they able to monitor movements of the British forces but they used their premises to purchase and hide weapons. Secret meetings were held in back rooms and snugs of bars while coded messages were passed from barman to rebel. Seamus Walsh who worked in Mooney’s of Parnell Street even managed to purchase a rifle from a drinking British soldier which was later used in the GPO against the British.

When rebels under Michael Mallin seized the Stephens Green/ College of Surgeons area seventeen year old barman James Fox was killed in action on the Tuesday of the Rising. From the Thomas Street area of the city, Fox was shot dead by British forces who had taken up sniping positions on the roof of the Shelbourne Hotel.

Some of the barmen who saw action during that week included seventeen year old Thomas McEvoy. He lived at East Wall Road, in Dublin. He was employed as a grocer’s assistant when in February 1916 when he joined ‘G’ Company, 1st Battalion, Dublin Brigade, of the Irish Volunteers. During Easter Week Thomas saw active service in the G.P.O., Royal College of Surgeons and the Four Courts area of Dublin.

Jim Humphreys worked for his uncle Michael at Humphreys, 2 Moore Street. Limerick born in 1879, Jim was one of the prisoners moved from Richmond Barracks to Wandsworth on May 8th 1916. Perhaps to add insult to injury the pub where he worked was listed as being completely destroyed in the aftermath of the conflict

James Joyce was a barman in J.T. Davy’s at Portobello Bridge. Joyce joined the James Connolly led Irish Citizen’s Army but because training manoeuvres took place on Sunday’s, Davy refused to give the thirty five year old barman who worked twelve hours a day seven days a week time off to go training. Often Joyce would pretend to be ill or simply fail to turn up for work.

At noon on bank holiday Easter Monday, Joyce joined the rest of the rebels at Liberty Hall and set off with his battalion through the deserted city. Led by Sergeant John Doyle, Joyce was joined by fourteen other rebels as they marched up Grafton Street and onto St. Stephen’s Green. It was here that another detachment under Countess Markiewicz had seized the Royal College of Surgeons and began to dig trenches in the Green itself. Sergeant Doyle, Joyce and seven other rebels continued up Harcourt Street and narrowly avoiding capture when they met a group of mounted soldiers. As soon as the mounted patrol had turned a corner the Sergeant gave the order
            ‘At the double men’ as they headed for their outpost

It was because of his knowledge of the area and Davy’s Pub that Joyce was chosen to be part of this mission. The public house was to be seized because of its vantage point to pin down British troops leaving the Rathmines Barracks or troops using the Canal as other avenues into the city were sealed off by rebel forces.  Joyce entered the premises first, the handle of his gun slippery with the sweat of excitement in his shaking hands. He made his way to the dark wooden counter and confronted Davy. Davy is reported to have said
            ‘You have missed one too many Sunday’s. You can take it that you are on a weeks notice.’
To which Joyce replied
            ‘You can take it from me that you have one minute to get out. This premises is being seized in the name of the Irish Republic.’

Meanwhile as the Rising engulfed the city of Dublin, the police were raiding country pubs for serving afterhours. In midst of the rebellion John Sullivan of Dingle was charged with serving after hours at 1.35am and was fined £1 with the customers found on the premises fined 5s each.

One of the unforeseen consequences in the aftermath of the Easter Rising was the sudden lack of bar staff. Over 150 barmen, known also as wine porters and grocers assistants, were arrested and deported by the British to camps in England and Wales. Dublin publicans complained to British authorities but they fell on deaf ears and business continued. One newspaper advertisement for a ‘grocer’s assistant’ specified for prospectice candidates that ‘salary was no object’. Publicans were a strong lobby in Ireland, they had successfully resisted attempt to curtail trading hours which had been introduced in Britain during World War One. Unusually with the declaration of martial law in Dublin, public houses were allowed to stay open from 2pm to 5pm during the Rising.

These were difficult times for barmen as they saw their employers making ever larger profits during time of war as stocks ran low and prices wholesale and to the customer increased. Publicans were making as much profit on one barrel of porter in 1916 as they were on six before the outbreak of World War One. There was a glut of licensed premises in the country leading to complaints that in Ireland there were 17,000 pubs serving four million people, while in Scotland there were 7,000 pubs for five million of a population.

Barmen’s hours were long, often only a half day off per week. A senior man was paid between £20 and £24 depending on the length of his service and a meeting before the outbreak on April 21st 1916 in Kells there was a demand for shorter working hours. Industrial action was murmured at the meeting.

When the bulk of the barmen/prisoners were released in mid and late 1917 there was anger and ill tempered feelings as the publicans had replaced their errant staff especially in Dublin. Irish National Aid Association was launched in August 1916 to get jobs for Grocers Assistants who had not been reinstated. There was a mini riot in Dorset Street on Christmas Eve 1917 when a group of out of work barman attacked a number of pubs and their customers in that area. This can be compared with the reaction in Tralee, County Kerry when on June 20th 1917 thirty six Tralee publicans charged with displaying republican flags celebrating the release of Republican prisoners. They all got off on a technicality. 

To reinforce the notion that alcohol played a major part in one way or another in the Easter Rising, when the rebel prisoners were transferred to the Frongoch Internment camp in Wales they quickly realised the irony that the camp now being used as a prisoner of war camp was a former distillery.

Sympathetic publicans also assisted in the facilitation of Rising planning with publicans such as Sean O’Farrell who owned a bar at the corner of St Stephens Green and South King Street and thirty six year old Eamon Morkan who with his brother Michael ran a bar on Queen Street was a Captain in the Volunteers while future leader of the Free State W.T. Cosgrave was a publicans son from James Street who fought in the nearby South Dublin Union one of the last outposts to surrender.   

One of the few battles outside Dublin during Easter Week was Enniscorthy, Co Wexford which was seized by the Rebels. The Athenaeum theatre was made the Republicans’ headquarters, over which they flew the green, white and orange tricolour. All the public houses in the town were closed down and as Father Patrick Murphy, a priest who publicly blessed the rebels, recalled,
“During the four days of Republican rule, not a single person was under the influence of drink”.

Alcohol, the production, the service or the consumption thereof has played a key role in Irish affairs since the iconic and momentous events of The Easter Rising in 1916 to the end of the War of Independence and the creation of the Irish Free State.

Beer and spirits was at the heart of events in 1916. Proclamation signatory Sean McDermott once worked as a barman in Belfast before turning his attention to more pressing matters. The rebels failed to seize British Army barracks around the city or even the seat of The British Government in Ireland, Dublin Castle but they did capture The Watkins Brewery on Ardee Street, The Jameson Distillery, Roe’s Distillery, Dublin City Distillery, and the Barmack Brewery and many public houses..

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Dublin City Tram c 1916

Like most rebellious outbreaks the Dublin streets emptied of its citizens and normal day to day life was suspended in April 1916. Apart from the real and present danger of getting shot by either side, transports throughout the city was severely affected. Transport consisted mainly of the extensive tram system of William Murphy's Dublin Tram Company or jarvey's, taxis as they would be known today. Transport in and out of the capital was by train into the three main stations Amiens Street, Kingsbridge and Westland Row. All were hampered by the rebellion.

Trams aided the rebels as a number of them were seized either at gunpoint or in Andrew McDonnell's case on Pearse Street at the point of a six foot pike. He stood his ground in front of the oncoming tram, leveled his pike and hoped that the driver would stop. He shook nervously as the forty ton tram bore down on him. Once the tram halted he ordered all the passengers off and his volunteer comrades stepped on board and headed for the action of the city centre.
A cartoon on William Murphy's Tram Company who was at the centre of the 1913 Lockout
Captain George Plunkett and the Volunteers from the Kimmage Garrison seized two trams and demanded that the driver not stop until he reached O'Connell Bridge. Wishing to be seen to do the right thing as he alighted from the tram Plunkett handed an IOU to the conductor for the tickets they had used.  Frank DeBurca's number 17 tram that had been commandeered in Rathfarnham made it as far as Dame Street before the intensifying sound of gunfire saw the driver flee and abandoned the tram on the tracks. A line of abandoned trams snaked around College Green.

By 2pm on the first day of the Rising all trams had either been abandoned on the streets of the city or had returned with haste to their garages. The electrified transport system would not operate again until May 3rd offering a limited service with a full schedule resuming on Sunday May 13th. The limited service was due to a number of factors, the damage to tracks and overhead wires and extensive on certain routes especially through the Rathmines/Portobello area, the lack of staff as many had been arrested in the aftermath, the lack of electrical supply and military martial law.
From the Freeman's Journal
The headquarters of the company on O'Connell Street (Sackville Street) was lucky to survive. Fire almost reached the building and only for the insistence of the office manager that there were no Sinn Fein snipers in the building the British military held their cannon fire from the building.

The company lost three trams completely, destroyed during the Rising. One was burnt out at the foot of Lower Bridge Street and Usher's Quay and used as a barricade to supplement the defenses of the Volunteers at the Mendicity. The second Tram 308 was overturned on St Stephens Green by Michael Mallin's ICA forces and a third was eventually overturned on North Earl Street. This tram had been seized by the rebels and attempts to speed it off the rails at the Talbot Street turn failed. Homemade explosives under the tram also failed to fell the vehicle and when a hand grenade also failed to explode, Joesph Plunkett arrived from the GPO and using his Mauser weapon fired a number of shots at the grenade which exploded turning the tram on its side. Later in the week children were seen playing in the tram, ringing the bell and dancing on the leather seats.
The Burnt out remain of the Tram at Bridgefoot Street
The rebels were not the only one to seize trams, the British army also seized a tram to take troops to secure the port at Howth and the area around Portmarnock. William Murphy in his 1917 report on events a year earlier stated that the losses to the company were three cars and £15,000 lost revenue.

After the surrender of the rebels on May 1st, the authorities commandeered some of the trams to travel the safer parts of the city to collect some of the corpses and take them to the city morgue.

The only transport throughout the entire week in and out of the city was the Dublin to Lucan Electric Railway which operated from Parkgate Street to the suburban village. Many of the city's more affluent citizens used this system to retire to the relative safety and comfort of the Spa Hotel where they watching the fiery glow of the burning city later in Easter week.

The railway system was also greatly affected. Rebels seized two main railway stations Westland Row (now Pearse Street) and Harcourt Street with the intention of preventing the British using the stations to bring in reinforcements from the Curragh and Dun Laoghaire. Although Amiens Street remained in the hands of the Crown forces the last trains out of the station was the 2pm to Dundalk and the 2.45pm to Howth. Two excursions from Belfast arrived back at 3.30pm with military permission and protection. The station was utilised as a replacement for the telegraph services in the GPO to keep in touch with the war office in London.
Kingsbridge Station now known as Heuston Station
The rebels cut telegraph lines, dug up points and blew up railway tracks to prevent the rail system being used. Part of the line including railway bridges were used by the rebels as elevated vantage points to snipe on their enemy. Outside Dublin the rebels had seized Enniscorthy railway station in Wexford and had severely damaged the rail infrastructure in and around Galway.

The British did dispatch troops to Dublin from the Curragh but the trains stopped in the middle of nowhere ten miles from the city forcing the heavy laden troops to march the rest of the way. All rail services into and out of the city were suspended from April 24th to May 3rd.        

Losses for the railway companies were fair higher than for the tram company. The Dublin and South Eastern Railway company claimed £2000 in damages and £14,000 in lost revenue. The Midland and Great Western had £700 in damages and £20,000 in losses and according to its chairman Sir Joshua Goulding in 1917, the Great Southern railway company had revenue losses of £21,000.
Mullingar Railway Station

Some of the problems encountered by passengers was the suspension of services late on Easter Monday to get revellers back from the beaches, the sporting matches and the races in Fairyhouse. Another by product of Easter Rising was a refugee crisis at Mullingar Railway Station. With the cancellation of train services into the city or trains commandeered by the Military, hundreds were stranded at Mullingar station. The hotel beds in the town filled quickly and the numbers on the platform began to steadily increase. Included were a number of honeymoon couples making their way to Dublin or Dublin Port. The local clergy did their best to provide food and blankets for the stranded.

When services resumed passengers complained of the intrusive security both entering and again exiting railway stations throughout the country as the British searched for escaped and fleeing rebels. In the aftermath of the Rising and the round up of Volunteers and sympathizers many railway clerks, porters, guards, linesmen and telegraph operators were arrested and imprisoned. Nearly all of them upon release found that their jobs had been filled and were now unemployed. 

Jarvey's or taximen as they would be known today also stayed off the road, often declining large sums of cash fearing for their lives should they venture onto the streets of Dublin
The Irish Jarvey

The only traffic crossing the Irish Sea were transport ships bring military reinforcements from Holyhead and Liverpool.  

Once the railway system was operating again after the rebellion it was actually used by the British military to transport rebel prisoners from the country to Dublin to be transported across the Irish Sea to places like Frongoch prison camp in Wales
Transport Today on board the 1916 Easter Rising Coach Tour