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, July 31, 2016

The Trials of the 1916 Press Pack - Part Five

Excerpt from the book 'The Easter Rising Press Pack' (c) Eddie Bohan

Despite the fact that by now the journalists had been issued with Military Passes by the Officer Commanding the North Wall area that would allow them to travel anywhere in the city by early Friday Wilbur Forrest had only reached the Customs House, a couple of hundred yards away from the hotel. He belied his lack of knowledge of the city when he misidentified it as the Four Courts. By early afternoon the ‘guests’ had tired of their confinement and dire warnings about the lack of security around the city. The British were trying to control what news got out. In the afternoon George Leach who had reached the hotel and Forrest evaded British sentries and rebel barricades and meandered their way to the Shelbourne Hotel on St. Stephen’s Green where they had received reports that a female rebel was involved in the fighting.

Captain Butler informed the Foreign Office on April 30th
            ‘we do not know where they are or what they are doing’
As they reached the back of the hotel on Kildare Street, the battle was still raging. The British troops on the roof of the fine building were pouring fire across the twenty two acres of the Green towards the Royal College of Surgeons where Michael Mallin and Countess Markievicz commanded the Irish Citizens army battalion who were forced to abandon their trenches in the Green for the security of a building.

Just as they entered the lobby of the hotel a British major in charge was not pleased with their presence once their identity and papers were checked.
            ‘Get the hell out of here’ he boomed
After some five futile minutes arguing their case that they should be allowed out onto the roof to report the story the two reporters departed the same way they had come in and in defeat headed back towards the North Wall.

They watched as the starving of the city followed them as they walked through the back streets and alleyways occasionally pausing to allow nearby gunfire to cease. Their civilian clothes provided them some immunity especially from any sympathetic Sinn Feiners in upper windows who fired on uniformed soldiers as they struggled to regain control of the city. In one doorway as they hid from the bullets whizzing down the street, they noticed a women huddled with her children in the hallway of a tenement block. She looked gaunt and exhausted. With tears flowing down her wrinkled face even though they guessed she was not that old, the woman cried out
            ‘No food, no food, my God when will it end’
The firing stopped and they left the family to their woes. The two men ducked from doorway to doorway make slow but steady progress. When they eventually returned to the hotel there was some good news as bread would now be served with their evening meal. On several corners they were stopped and questioned by sentries and even on occasions despite their press passes they were thoroughly searched.

Early on Friday morning, another bright sunny day in Dublin while Forrest and Leach dodged the rebel bullet and their dangerous route back to the hotel, six of the journalists were taken in an open military truck that offered them very little protection with a military escort to the British army headquarters at Parkgate Street near the Phoenix Park. This group whose military pass was signed by the British officer commanding the North Wall, Major Harold Somerville, included Berry of AP, Thomas Naylor of the Daily Chronicle, Phillips of the Daily Express, Bidwell representing the British based Press Association wire service and Baldwin Herbert, a war photographer with the Central News Agency. 

While the foreign correspondents enjoyed their meal being handed to them in the hotel dining room, they were probably unaware that two fellow journalists had been summarily executed by a British officer in Portobello Barracks on the Tuesday and the British military were intent on covering the killings up. The two men were thirty eight year old Patrick McIntyre editor of the Searchlight newspaper and thirty one year old Thomas Dickson editor of The Eye Opener magazine in Dublin. He two men had been arrested on the same day as the pacifist Francis Sheehy Skeffington.

In the dining room as if to make a point to the complaining Forrest about their unwelcome entertainment the night before, the Colonel entered with a red haired, black moustached prisoner who he claimed was the sniper who caused them so much hardship the night before. Forrest asked the rebel prisoner if he had realised he was shooting into his hotel room. He said he knew exactly what he was doing and was proud to have participated in Ireland’s bid for liberty. He only lamented that he wasn’t more accurate with his Russian made rifle. Feeling assured that night, Forrest and Berry retired to their candle lit room. They ambled about their room safe in the knowledge that they had seen the face of their adversary and now all was under control.      

The two journalists worked for a while on their respective typewriters writing their version of events, sharing their stories, Forrest having been in the thick of the action in St Stephens Green and writing about the female rebel and how she is reported to have shot a policeman dead in the early hours of the rebellion and Berry was recounting the meeting in the Vice Regal lodge. They were just about to retire to their beds when a bullet crashed through what little glass panels there was in their bedroom window and missed Forrest by just a couple of life saving inches. Immediately once again they grabbed their mattresses from the bed and settled on the floor under the window sill.

By Saturday morning the British noose around the rebels was tightening and the rebellion was crumbling. Later that evening the first of the rebel prisoners following Patrick Pearse’s surrender were marched down the North Wall passed the journalists hotel. They were to be transported in cattle ships to England and Wales for internment. Forrest reported
‘They were the rank and file of the succession movement. Here some of the low brow of the slums of Dublin indiscriminately mixed with their leaders. But standing out like brilliant lights in the slow moving columns were idealist type, the intellectual, the College professor, the patriot and the martyr glorying in his captivity.’

Percival Phillips described the prisoner movement
‘the people in the street watched the prisoners pass without any demonstration save an old woman spat at them and called them dirty dogs’
(Despatches from the World)

That morning a group of them were taken by motorcar through the disturbed streets of the city via the North Circular Road into the Phoenix Park arriving at the Vice Regal lodge and a press briefing from the King’s representative in Ireland the Viceroy Ivor Guest, Lord Wimbourne. Included in that group was Berry from AP and the INS correspondent Sidney Cave.
Following the meeting in the Vice Regal Lodge with the press pack Captain Butler reported that
            ‘the US journalists heckled poor Birrell and the Lord Lieutenant with alarming acrimony.’


So how did they report it to the press Stateside? Robert Berry of AP, whose piece was carried by the Bismarck Daily Tribune of Dakota on April 30th 1916 reported

‘Dublin, April 29.—-Baron Wimbourne, lord lieutenant, of Ireland, expressed to the Associated Press at the Vice Regal lodge today, the assurance that, the seditions movement, would be suppressed in the course of a few days. The Viceroy was full of praise for the loyalty displayed by the great majority of private people and consid­ers the momentary success gained and the damage done by the rebels as small, when viewed in connection with the surprise of the outbreak and the evident preparation made for it. The country outside of Dublin, ex­cept for a few isolated places, has, he declared, remained peaceful.

Baron Wimbourne, when requested to give an account of what had happened, since the Irish rebels had pro­claimed an Irish republic last Mon­day afternoon, said:
"The outbreak began Monday morn­ing at about 11:30 o'clock. About that time information was received that Dublin had been attacked, St. Steven's green occupied and the post office seized by the rebels. Telephon­ic communication with the Curragh camp was immediately obtained by the authorities, and the reserve troops there were brought into Dublin that night and the following morning.

Sniping Operations
"On Tuesday morning all the re­inforcements we had called for from Curragh had reached Dublin, and since that moment the rebels have not attempted anything except snip­ing from certain houses and locali­ties. It is so easy for them to aban­don houses by back doors and away to other advantageous positions. The military cannot distinguish the rebels from other citizens. Some­ times they reach the houses after hid­ing their rifles and cartridges and mingle with the ordinary inhabitants. As a matter of fact, the general run of people do not sympathize with them. In the early stages of the revolt, the Sinn-Feiners fired on the mem­bers of the fire brigade, but later we cleared the area around the fires and the fires and the firemen were able to extinguish the flames. Regarding the situation in the provinces on the whole, it is very good.

No German Supplies.
"As to the landing of Sir Roger Casement.'' said Baron Wimbourne, "that, was arranged in Germany with the connivance of the Sinn-Feiners. On the night of his arrest, a motor car upset in the river and the occu­pants who were drowned both wore Sinn-Feiner badges. The Germans do not seem to have supplied the rebels with arms which are of all descriptions, including fouling pieces. A proclamation issued by the rebels announcing the foundation of the Irish republic, was signed by seven persons, including Clark. Connolly, Pearce and Mac Dermott."

Post office Burned.
Field Marshal Viscount' French, commander of the Home forces, re­ports that the general post office at Dublin, which has been the principal stronghold of the Sinn-Feiners, has been burned down. Connolly, one of the leaders of the rebels, is reported to have been killed. Many of the rebels have been tak­en prisoners and the move in Dublin is on the verge of collapse. In the rest of Ireland, the situation is gen­erally satisfactory.

The newspaper added though under a piece titled ‘Rebellion Not Quelled.’

‘Official statements were lacking during the day, regarding the situ­ation in Dublin. New dispatches re­ported the military gaining the ascend­ency, but with the rebels still in pos­session of important points, all of which, however, were declared to be commanded by the regulars. Fires of a serious nature have broken out, according to the current telegrams, and street fighting is continuing.’

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