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Saturday, October 16, 2021

The Ringsend Publican Killed During The Easter Rising


One of the little known stories of the 1916 Easter Rising was the sad death of Ringsend publican Robert Woodcock. Robert and his brother Samuel were born in Mothel, Co. Kilkenny just north of Kilkenny city. After serving his apprenticeship in a public house in Dun Laoghaire, Robert purchased his first pub on Tyrconnell Road, Inchicore in 1909 on the banks of the Grand Canal known as Murrays, where the Black Horse pub traded for many years. His brother Samuel also bought his own pub on the corner of Thomas Street and Meath Street, now Baker’s Corner.


Meanwhile Carlow born Peter Clowry, who owned the pub at 16 Thorncastle Street, now known as Sally O’Brien’s (or the Shipwright), died in January 1916. The Woodcock’s, as well known publicans in the Dublin, attended the funeral but also spotted an opportunity. In February, thirty three year old Robert purchased Clowry’s from his estate for £3,200 and immediately began trading. Robert was an active member, like many of his fellow publicans in the South Dublin Union.

Two months after his arrival in Ringsend, he decided to use the Easter bank holiday weekend to travel home to Kilkenny to see his elderly farmer father, a widower. He travelled down in his motorcar on Saturday and decided to return on Monday but in his absence from Dublin, rebels from the Irish Volunteers, Cumman na mBan and the Irish Citizens Army took to the streets of the capital and seized control of a number of buildings. One of the battle sites seized mainly by members of the Citizens Army was St. Stephens Green. As word of trouble spread around the country, Robert decided to drive back to Dublin to look after his businesses. He arrived first at Tyrconnell Road and decided to drive across to Ringsend but he met a DMP policeman who asked him to give him a lift to Phibsboro.


They drove down Harcourt Street onto St. Stephens Green where they were met by rebels on the road who held them up at gunpoint. The two men were taken prisoner and removed into the green itself where they were greeted by Countess Markiewicz and Michael Mallin. Woodcocks’ car was made into a barricade at the top of York Street. Robert Woodcock was tied to a tree in the park while the policeman joined other prisoners being held in the gate house in the park. At one stage after a number of hours of being tied up, one of his captors decided to release Woodcock but another rebel recognised Woodcock and harboured ill feeling towards him as he appeared to side with the employers during the 1913 Lockout and was suspected as being anti Larkin. He remained a prisoner in the park throughout the night but by Tuesday as the British troops on the roof of the Shelbourne Hotel began to attack the rebel forces. The rebels, who had dug trenches in the park, had no answer or cover from the machine fire that was now focused on them.


The commander’s decision was to retreat from the park itself and take the College of Surgeons as their headquarters. Woodcock was taken across to the building but his exposure throughout the previous night had an immediate detrimental effect on his health.  Woodcock was seriously ill. He was taken by ambulance to nearby St Vincent’s hospital on St. Stephen’s Green, where he died twenty minutes after being admitted on April 28th of double pneumonia ‘brought on by exposure’, becoming a fatality of the Rising.


On May 16th the Evening Herald reported that on that day,

‘At the City Sessions, before the Recorder Mr. T.R. Holmes solicitor applied on behalf of Mr. Samuel Woodcock of 45 and 46 Thomas Street that he should be at liberty to carry on the licensed trading in the premises 16 Thorncastle Street, Ringsend until the Quarter Sessions. The licensee, Mr. Robert Woodcock, applicant’s brother, had been kept prisoner by the insurgents in St. Stephens Green during the recent insurrection and died subsequently from pneumonia brought on by exposure. The recorder granted the application.’

The Freeman Journal[1] reported in June that Samuel had been granted permission by the Dean’s Grange Burial Board to disinter his brother’s body and have it removed to Kilkenny. The Journal did report however that Robert had been accidentally shot during the rebellion. According to the website,

‘While the area Woodcock was buried in was being cleared 2014, a headstone with the name Robert Woodcock, it is likely the disinterment did not take place because Robert Woodcock buried with others without coffins and the bodies were decomposed to such a degree the disinterment did not take place. The new headstone was erected in 2016.’

In July, Robert’s brother Samuel applied to the courts to transfer the license into his name which was approved. The pub was sold two years later. The sadness of his passing was compounded that when the at time controversial memorial wall to the victims of the 1916 Easter Rising was unveiled at Glasnevin Cemetery, the memory of Robert Woodcock was somewhat obliterated when the engravers decided his name was ‘Richard Woodcock’. Surely this should be corrected immediately to honour both his memory and show respect to his family.

[1] Saturday June 10th 1916 Freeman’s Journal

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this excellent synopsis. Bob Woodcock was my great uncle. I was only recently able to uncover all of this with the help of your excellent research. The direct family are older and deceased and largely forgotten in time. I recently located and visited his grave with the help of this research. My visit was assisted by the exceptional John McCann of Feansgrange and the team st Glasnevin Trust. I had a pint of Guinness in Bob’s honour at Ringsend on the same day to honour the brave and hard working spirit of this wonderful young man, He was a wholly innocent young civilian focussed on protecting his livelihood when aged 33 he set off in his car from Kilkenny to Dublin that day. He was met with an excruciating death when he fell into the hands of Markievitz (Gore-Booth) and Mallon. They ordered him tied to a tree in the inclement conditions on St Stephen’s Green over the Eastertide weekend 1916 . He died of exposure pneumonia following two days at their hands. A healthy young man when he had got into his car that morning, Clearly they were not Christians or if they were, the trials and lessons of Calvary were truly lost on them..He was a young vibrant Catholic man from a decent family . He never deserved the fate he met. As a law abiding man of the time, unaware of what was going on, as a citizen and going about his business to drive to his pub in Ringsend he was stopped when flagged down by the DMP. He accommodated the policeman who had flagged him down as lawfully requested by driving him in his car. He paid the ultimate price at the hands of a group that Intervepted them and then committed a heinous crime against an innocent young man caught in the crossfire. Without judge or jury they decided his fate on the basis of partisan hearsay. He did not deserve his horrendous fate. His life and murder deserve to be recognised. It is now with great sadness and disappointment that I note the Wall of Remembrance has been removed from Glasnevin. Why can the State which has had more than 100 years to mature not find the security resources to honour all and protect their memories in the preservation of the monument. Such matters should NEVER be allowed to fail. What does it say to the excellent men and women of the Glasnevin Trust that their attempt at honour for all has been dishonoured? Would any other country allow a national monument to be defaced by the violence that persists and is accepted to this day? Where is our hope for the future? Does it rest with placating thugs? Robert and all of the victims deserve way more. God rest their souls..air dheis De go raibh a h-anam.