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.

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

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