Main Sites of Activity during the Easter Rising, 1916

National Library of Ireland

"This beauty that will pass..."
At noon on Easter Monday, Patrick Pearse, James Connolly and Joseph Plunkett led a contingent of Irish Volunteers from Liberty Hall to the General Post Office on Sackville (now O’Connell) Street in Dublin, where Tom Clarke and Seán MacDiarmada had preceded them. Elsewhere, Commandant Éamonn Ceannt led the 4th Battalion to the South Dublin Union, and Commandant Thomas MacDonagh led the 2nd Battalion to Jacob’s biscuit factory. Outside the G.P.O., Pearse proclaimed the establishment of the Irish Republic to a gaggle of curious passers-by. The 1916 Rising was underway.   While much of the action over the following week was concentrated in Dublin, the Rising was not confined to the capital city. There were pockets of fierce fighting around the country, most notably at Ashbourne in Co. Meath, Enniscorthy in Co. Wexford, and in Co. Galway.
Liberty Hall, Dublin
Most members of the Irish Citizen Army, close to 1,000 Volunteers, and a number of members of Cumann na mBan assembled outside Liberty Hall on Beresford Place in Dublin before noon on Easter Monday, 24 April 1916. They removed stocks of guns, ammunition, and home-made bombs and grenades which had been stored there. At noon, they marched off to take over the various positions they had been assigned. Liberty Hall was then empty, but the British, thinking it was an occupied stronghold, shelled it on Wednesday 26 April.

On Wednesday 26 April, Liberty Hall was shelled from the other side of the River Liffey by artillery on Tara Street, and by the gunboat Helga on the Liffey below Butt Bridge.

The interior of Liberty Hall was very badly damaged, as some of the artillery shells exploded inside the building.

The G.P.O., Dublin
The principal position to be occupied was the G.P.O. on Sackville (now O’Connell) Street, Dublin, which was designated as the headquarters of the Provisional Government. Five members of the Provisional Government were located there: Patrick Pearse, James Connolly, Tom Clarke, Seán MacDiarmada, and Joseph Plunkett. The garrison amounted to possibly 350 men and women—Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan, Irish Citizen Army and Hibernian Rifles. As commandant  general of the Dublin Brigade of what was to be the new army of the Irish Republic, James Connolly was in charge of the defense of the G.P.O. and also directed operations throughout the city until communications were cut off later in the week.

From Wednesday on, Liberty Hall, the G.P.O. and other buildings in Sackville Street came under artillery and incendiary fire, mostly from the gunboat Helga at anchor in the Liffey. Soon most buildings between the G.P.O and Clery’s department store and the Liffey were in flames.

On Thursday, James Connolly was seriously wounded. Confined to a stretcher, he continued to direct operations, but by Friday evening the G.P.O. was on fire. It was decided to evacuate the garrison.

Inside the G.P.O. - From Joseph Plunkett’s field book on Easter Monday, 1916

… a small number (described
as “about twenty”) succeeded
in advancing as far as
the G.P.O. but on our
opening fire they retired
in confusion leaving
a few casualties.
Simultaneously with our operation
positions were successfully
taken up in the front and
rear of Dublin Castle
and troops in that stronghold
prevented from coming out

Request by Patrick Pearse to the administrator at the Roman Catholic church in Marlborough Street for a priest to come to the G.P.O. and hear the confessions of members of the garrison. This request was made on Monday afternoon or evening sometime after the occupation of the G.PO.

Notes were taken by the visiting priest, Fr. John Flanagan, of messages to be sent on behalf of the Irish Volunteers to their relatives.

Dublin City Hall
On Easter Monday Captain Seán Connolly of the Irish Citizen Army and his company of approximately thirty men convened at Liberty Hall. They marched up College Green and Dame Street and occupied City Hall and adjacent buildings, including the Evening Mail premises on the corner of Parliament Street and Dame Street. The I.C.A. contingent in City Hall included Dr Kathleen Lynn and Helena Molony.   Constable James O’Brien of the Dublin Metropolitan Police was shot dead as he tried to close the gate of Dublin Castle. The guardroom was taken, and the six soldiers present were disarmed and imprisoned. Apart from sixty-five wounded service men in the hospital, there were fewer than twenty-five soldiers on duty in Dublin Castle. The City Hall and the other occupied buildings soon came under intense rifle and machine gun fire. In the course of the afternoon, Captain Seán Connolly was shot and killed by a sniper on the Bedford Tower in Dublin Castle. City Hall and the associated positions were assaulted by superior numbers later that evening. Following a number of casualties, the rebel forces surrendered that night.

Constable James O’Brien of the Dublin Metropolitan Police was shot dead as he tried to close the gates to the Upper Yard of Dublin Castle. Constable O’Brien was unarmed, and was the first fatality of the 1916 Rising.

Captain Seán Connolly, 1882-1916, leader of the Irish Citizen Army force in Dublin’s City Hall.

Seán Connolly worked as a dispatch clerk with Eason’s stationers. A talented actor, he had trained with the Inghinidhe na hÉireann acting class and performed with the Abbey Theatre and the I.C.A. Liberty Players.

The Four Courts, Dublin
The 1st Battalion of the Dublin Brigade led by Commandant Edward (Ned) Daly occupied the Four Courts (law courts) and the adjacent streets on the north bank of the river Liffey, almost a mile to the west of the GPO. This was a strategic area as it controlled the main route between the military barracks to the west of the city and the GPO. The 1st Battalion was involved in some of the fiercest fighting of the Rising, the first skirmish occurring on Monday afternoon when Volunteers in the Four Courts got the better of a party of Lancers (cavalry) escorting lorries loaded with munitions. On Wednesday 26 April, the Volunteers captured two enemy positions in the area, the Bridewell which was held by police, and Linenhall Barracks, which was occupied by unarmed army clerks. By Thursday the area was effectively cordoned off by the South Staffordshire and Sherwood Forest regiments. Fierce fighting ensued, particularly in the North King Street area, where a number of civilians were killed by soldiers of the South Staffordshire Regiment. The fighting continued until Saturday evening, 29 April 1916, when the news of Pearse’s surrender filtered through.

Ned Daly and his 1st Battalion were assigned to hold the Four Courts (courts of law) and the surrounding area between the Liffey and North Brunswick Street.

Commandant Daly is said to have shown great concern for local civilians. He took over Monks’s bakery and arranged for the distribution of bread to the surrounding community.

Ned Daly was tried by court-martial, and executed by firing squad on Thursday 4 May.

A troop of cavalry passing through a barricade on Inns Quay near the Four Courts after the surrender.

From the front cover of the Daily Sketch on Thursday, 4 May 1916

Mendicity Institution, Dublin
Captain Seán Heuston of Commandant Daly’s 1st Battalion was deployed to occupy the Mendicity Institution as an outpost about half a mile to the west of the Four Courts on the south side of the Liffey. His mission was to control the route between the nearby Royal Barracks (later Collins Barracks, now the National Museum of Ireland) and the Four Courts for a few hours so that Daly and the remainder of the 1st Battalion would have time to settle in. Immediately on taking over the premises (a home for those down on their luck), Heuston expelled the inmates and fortified the building. Soon after, a force from the Royal Barracks attacked the building, but was repulsed.   Initially Heuston’s force consisted of thirteen Volunteers, but it was reinforced on Tuesday 25 April by another thirteen Volunteers from Swords under Captain Richard Coleman. Although required to hold the position for only a matter of hours, the force held out until noon on Wednesday. By then, the Mendicity Institution was surrounded by vastly superior forces equipped with small arms, grenades and heavy machine guns. To save the lives of his remaining men, Heuston surrendered.

Seán Heuston joined the Irish Volunteers soon after their formation in November 1913, eventually becoming a captain in Ned Daly’s 1st Battalion. He was assigned command at the Mendicity Institution on Easter Monday, to control the route between the Royal Barracks and the Four Courts for some hours, so that Commandant Ned Daly and the remainder of the 1st Battalion would have time to settle in at the Four Courts. In the event, Heuston and his force of less than 30 men held out for over two days. Surrounded and in a hopeless situation, Heuston surrendered on Wednesday to save the lives of his men.

Seán Heuston was tried by court-martial and sentenced to death. He was executed on 8 May 1916. He was the youngest of those executed after the Easter Rising.

Seán Heuston was once described as a low-sized stocky figure with heavy dark eyebrows drawn down in a perpetual frown, ‘which gave him a somewhat forbidding appearance which was quickly dissipated when the rare smile lit up his face with a clear boyish gaiety’.

The South Dublin Union
The 4th Battalion consisting on the day of approximately 120 Volunteers under Commandant Éamonn Ceannt occupied the South Dublin Union, located to the south of the Liffey, two miles to the west of the GPO. The Union was built as a workhouse in the middle of the nineteenth century. In 1916 it housed about 3,200 poor and elderly, and a large staff of doctors, nurses and ancillary workers. Three outposts were also occupied with about twenty men in each: Captain Seamus Murphy at Jameson’s Distillery in Marrowbone Lane to the south east; Con Colbert at Watkins’ brewery in Ardee Street to the east; and Captain Thomas McCarthy at Roe’s Distillery in Mount Brown. The most intense fighting was on Monday and Tuesday, but by Thursday, Brigadier-General Lowe had decided to concentrate his attention on the G.P.O. and the Four Courts. News of the general surrender order did not reach Ceannt until Sunday.

The South Dublin Union was in a strategic position as it overlooked Kingsbridge (now Heuston) railway station to the north and controlled the route from Richmond Barracks and the Royal Hospital (military headquarters) leading to the city centre. The main cluster of buildings opened onto James’s Street. Éamonn Ceannt established his headquarters in the night nurses’ home.

Éamonn Ceannt, Commandant of the 4th Battalion, who occupied the South Dublin Union.

Jameson's Distillery, Dublin
Éamonn Ceannt decided that the South Dublin Union should have three outposts. Jameson’s Distillery in Marrowbone Lane a few hundred yards to the south east of the South Dublin Union was allocated to Captain Séamus Murphy. Captain Thomas McCarthy took over Roe’s Distillery in Mount Brown, and Captain Con Colbert and his company occupied Watkins’ brewery in Ardee Street to the east of the South Dublin Union.

By Tuesday evening it was clear that neither Watkins’ brewery nor Roe’s distillery had much strategic significance. As a result, Captain Colbert took his company to join Captain Séamus Murphy in Jameson’s Distillery. Captain McCarthy abandoned Roe’s distillery and some members of the company joined the garrison at Jameson’s instead. The original number of twenty-one had expanded considerably with the addition of the two companies from the other outposts, members of Cumann na mBan, and men who were late in arriving.

The Jameson’s garrison had sight of certain positions within the South Dublin Union and made some small contribution to the action. The garrison also incommoded military traffic to some extent, but played little part in determining the outcome of the Rising.

Elizabeth (Lily) O’Brennan, 1878-1948

Lily O’Brennan, sister-in-law of Éamonn Ceannt, was one of a number of Cumann na mBan members who joined the garrison at Marrowbone Lane on Easter Monday.

Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, Dublin
The 2nd Battalion under Commandant Thomas MacDonagh occupied Jacob’s biscuit factory on Bishop Street, almost a mile to the south of the GPO. Jacob’s biscuit factory was difficult to assault because it was surrounded by a labyrinth of streets and small houses which would hinder the use of artillery. It had two tall towers which provided a view over much of the city. MacDonagh had approximately 130-150 men, supplemented by some Fianna Éireann and Cumann na mBan. He posted men in buildings in Camden Street, Wexford Street, Aungier Street and other streets in the area, making Jacob’s all the more difficult a target for the military.   News of the surrender did not reach Jacob’s until Sunday, 30 April 1916. Thomas MacDonagh and the garrison surrendered reluctantly. The three most senior officers, MacDonagh, MacBride and O’Hanrahan, were executed.

The main action for the Jacob’s garrison was sniping at Portobello Barracks and other military positions which were overlooked by the two towers. Jacob’s was by-passed by the main action as Brigadier-General Lowe decided to concentrate on the G.P.O. and the Four Courts which he considered the more strategically important of the positions held by the insurgents.

Máire Nic Shiubhlaigh, 1883-1958, actress and republican.

The actress Máire Ní Shiubhlaigh, was a senior Cumann na mBan activist, and had established a local branch in Glasthule, Co. Dublin. Máire was in charge of the Cumann na mBan volunteers in Jacob's biscuit factory during the Easter Rising.

St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin
Commandant Michael Mallin and his second in command, Constance Markievicz, were assigned to St. Stephen’s Green, a rectangular park, approximately twenty acres in size located a mile south of the General Post Office and close to Jacob’s. It is estimated that 200-250 of the Irish Citizen Army turned out during the Rising, most of them serving with Mallin in the St. Stephen’s Green area. Mallin proceeded to fortify his position, posting men in some of the houses overlooking the Green and setting men to work digging trenches to cover the entrances. He dispatched parties to take over Harcourt Street railway station, J. & T. Davy’s (now ‘Portobello’) public house at the junction of South Richmond Street and Charlemont Mall, and houses at Leeson Street bridge. It soon transpired that St. Stephen’s Green was a vulnerable position, as it was overlooked by the Shelbourne Hotel and some other tall buildings that had not been occupied by Mallin’s forces. The British directed machine gun fire from the Shelbourne onto the Green late on Monday, as a result of which Mallin abandoned most of it on Tuesday. The majority of the I.C.A. forces then garrisoned the Royal College of Surgeons immediately to the west of the Green. As Brigadier-General Lowe concentrated on the G.P.O. and the Four Courts, the College of Surgeons garrison was involved in little action until the order for surrender came  on Sunday, 30 April 1916.

Feverish coverage of the Easter Rising on the front cover of the Daily Sketch on Thursday, 4 May 1916, included this photograph of the "rebel trenches in St. Stephen's Green".

J. & T. Davy’s public house at the junction of South Richmond Street and Charlemont Mall.

Michael Mallin sent a small party of Irish Citizen Army under Sergeant Joe Doyle to occupy and delay the advance of troops from Portobello Barracks (now Cathal Brugha Barracks) some hundreds of yards across the Grand Canal to the south. Doyle and his men were dislodged later that day.

Boland's Bakery, Dublin
The 3rd Battalion under Commandant Eamon de Valera occupied Boland’s Bakery and flour mills, a mile to the south-east of the G.P.O. The battalion was in a crucial location as it controlled the railway line and the main road from Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) to the city centre, Kingstown being the port through which British reinforcements would arrive. The plan was to hold a large area stretching along the railway line from Sandymount to Westland Row railway station, which they also took over.   Headquarters were located in Boland’s Bakery on Grand Canal Street Lower, the Volunteers having given the bakers a holiday. Outposts were set up at positions covering the entrance to Beggar’s Bush Barracks on Haddington Road, around Mount Street Bridge on the main road from Kingstown to the city centre, and at Westland Row railway station. The Volunteers ripped up the railway tracks leading to Kingstown to prevent troop trains getting too close. Apart from minor skirmishes and the major action at Mount Street Bridge on Wednesday, there were no direct assaults on the Boland’s Bakery positions until Thursday. The British shelled the complex from the gunship Helga on the Liffey, and also with a naval gun taken ashore from the Helga and set up in Percy Place close to the complex. Commandant de Valera neutralised the danger, however, by having a flag flown from a nearby distillery which attracted most of the subsequent shelling. As Lowe was now focusing mainly on the G.P.O. and the Four Courts, there was no further concerted assault on the Boland’s Bakery area. The garrison held out until Sunday, 30 April 1916, when Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell brought the news of the general surrender. Commandant de Valera was sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life.

Note from de Valera expressing concern about the "some ninety van horses" still in Boland's Mills, asking the officer to "communicate with the manager of the mill & give him permission to get them food & drink. It would be a pity that so many animals should necessarily be destroyed".

The 3rd Battalion of Irish Volunteers following their surrender from Boland's Bakery and Flour Mills at Grand Canal Street Lower.

A white "X" has been marked above the head of Eamon De Valera.

Mount Street Bridge, Dublin
To hamper British reinforcements on their way from the port of Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) to the city centre, Commandant de Valera posted small parties of men in buildings overlooking Northumberland Road, one of the likely routes. The buildings designated were St Stephen’s School, the parochial hall, and No. 25 Northumberland Road, all at the Kingstown side of Mount Street Bridge. The most important post, however, was Clanwilliam House, at the city side of the bridge, in a position commanding Northumberland Road. It was garrisoned by a party of seven men led by the section commander, George Reynolds.   On Monday afternoon, the Volunteers fired on columns of the elderly Home Defence Force styled Georgius Rex (King George) and nicknamed ‘Gorgeous Wrecks’ by Dubliners, killing or injuring a number of them. The members of the Home Defence Force were on their way home from manoeuvres; they were in uniform and carried rifles but had no ammunition, so in effect they were unarmed. There was a violent public reaction when the news spread that the Volunteers had shot these unarmed elderly men. Pearse issued an order prohibiting his forces from firing on anybody who was unarmed, whether in uniform or not. The area was generally quiet until noon on Wednesday when a large force of military tried to force its way down Northumberland Road towards the city centre. Lieutenant Michael Malone, Volunteer James Grace and two others in No. 25 temporarily halted their progress before they were overcome by vastly superior numbers, Malone being killed in the course of the engagement. The military also cleared the school and parochial hall, but were held up by fire from Clanwilliam House at the far side of Mount Street Bridge. As there was little or no cover, successive waves of soldiers failed to make it across the bridge until eventually Clanwilliam House was set on fire.

British soldiers inspecting a car on Mount Street Bridge in May 1916.

Mount Street Bridge was one of the major engagements of the Easter Rising. Over two hundred British soldiers and officers were killed or injured, as successive waves of soldiers failed to make it across the bridge under fire from members of the Irish Volunteers in Clanwilliam House overlooking the bridge.

"Reynolds and Others, Mount St. Rising" was etched into this glass plate negative. George Reynolds was based in Clanwilliam House overlooking Mount Street Bridge, and was killed on Wednesday, 26 April 1916.

The shell of Clanwilliam House, which overlooked Mount Street Bridge, after the Easter Rising.

Ashbourne, Co. Meath
Commandant Thomas Ashe and Volunteers of the small 5th Battalion of the Dublin Brigade were active in north county Dublin throughout the Easter Rising. Partly on the advice of his second in command Richard Mulcahy, a member of a Dublin city battalion who had only just transferred to the 5th battalion, Ashe adopted guerilla tactics, damaging railway lines and capturing some small Royal Irish Constabulary barracks, the aim being to hamper enemy movements, take pressure off their comrades in Dublin city, and procure arms. On Tuesday of Easter Week, Ashe ordered twenty men to the GPO, some of whom were sent on to the Mendicity Institution. On the Friday morning, Ashe’s force of fifty Volunteers surrounded the R.I.C. barracks at Ashbourne, across the border in Co. Meath. The garrison of sixteen men and a district inspector was about to surrender when a force of approximately sixty R.I.C. men and two senior officers arrived on the scene in motor cars. Following a lengthy engagement along the dykes, drains and ditches, the Volunteers forced the R.I.C., both those in the open and those in the barracks, to surrender. Joseph Lawless, a Volunteer who participated in the action, reported the casualties as two Volunteers killed and five wounded, and eight R.I.C. men killed and fifteen wounded. From the Volunteers’ point of view this was by far the most successful action of the Rising, the element of surprise probably being a major factor. Ashbourne and the guerilla warfare tactics adopted by Ashe and Mulcahy provided a role model for those involved in the War of Independence in the following years.

Thomas Ashe, 1885-1917

Born in Lispole, Co. Kerry, Thomas Ashe qualified as a teacher and was principal of Corduff National School, Lusk, Co. Dublin. Ashe was a member of the IRB and the Irish Volunteers, becoming brigade commandant shortly before the Rising. Following the general surrender, he was tried by court-martial and sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life.

Thomas Ashe died in the Mater Hospital on 25 September 1917, as a result of forcible feeding while on hunger strike in Mountjoy Prison, where he was serving a sentence for sedition.

News from Meath reached the G.P.O. and was recorded by Joseph Plunkett in his field notebook, 26 April 1916.

3rd Day
Garriston [Garristown] Police Barracks
taken. No Guns or arms!
PO [Post Office] wrecked. 40 IRA
under Commandant Ashe (5th Brigade [i.e. Battalion])
moving on Railway N[orth] of
Finglas. News from N[avan]
says 200 IRA moving
on Dublin.

Report in the Daily Mail, 3 May 1916, on the action in Ashbourne, Co. Meath.

Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford
In Co. Wexford, due to the conflicting messages emanating from Dublin, there was considerable confusion as to whether the Rising was to take place or not. Eventually, early on Easter Monday Mrs Jennie Wyse-Power, a member of Cumann na mBan, relayed a message from Pearse that the Rising would indeed take place that day. That night, news arrived that the Rising was in progress. On Wednesday, 26 April 1916, a message arrived from James Connolly requesting that the Enniscorthy Volunteers hold the railway line from Rosslare to prevent British reinforcements reaching Dublin. On Thursday, the Enniscorthy Volunteers together with contingents from other areas took over Enniscorthy, establishing headquarters in the Athenaeum, a strong position beside the castle. The Volunteers were supplemented by members of Fianna Éireann and Cumann na mBan. Brigade Commandant Robert Brennan was the officer in charge. The Volunteers took over the town and blocked the roads and the railway line. They surrounded the Royal Irish Constabulary barracks and exchanged fire with the police. They did not, however, attempt to capture the barracks, believing that in time the R.I.C. would surrender. Meanwhile, a force under Captain Paul Galligan occupied the town of Ferns and some of the northern part of the county.

This postcard honoured Captain James (Seamus) Rafter, Captain Robert Brennan, and Captain John (Seán) R. Etchingham, leaders of the Easter Rising in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, 1916.

On Saturday, news of the general surrender in Dublin reached Enniscorthy. The Volunteers required that the surrender be confirmed. The following day the British escorted Captain Seamus Doyle and Captain Seán R. Etchingham to Dublin to consult Pearse in Arbor Hill. On Monday, 1 May 1916, the Enniscorthy Volunteers surrendered unconditionally. While a number of the officers were sentenced to death, all had their sentences commuted.

This photograph was taken before the surrender in Wexford, on Monday, 1 May 1916.

When news of the Rising reached Galway on Easter Monday, 24 April 1916, Liam Mellows managed to mobilize a large force. On Tuesday a force of Volunteers had an initial success at Oranmore when they captured six members of the Royal Irish Constabulary, but were then routed by a large force with superior fire-power. They proceeded to Athenry where they took over the agricultural station. On Wednesday a large force of RIC attempted to drive them out, but were repulsed. The same day, two companies of Volunteers routed a military detachment en route from Galway to Athenry. The vast majority of the Volunteers in the field were intent on continuing the campaign in the West, a stance endorsed by the large number of members of Cumann na mBan also present. Accordingly, it was proposed to march southwards into Co. Clare. On Friday, however, news arrived that the GPO and other Volunteer strongholds in Dublin had been shelled by artillery and that the Rising was on the point of collapse. Moreover, the remainder of the country had not participated in the Rising. In addition, a force of several hundred marines was approaching. The Volunteers would be no match for such a force, considering their inferiority in terms of arms and equipment. Early on Saturday it was decided to disperse. 

Liam Mellows, 1892-1922, leader of the Irish Volunteers in Co. Galway

Liam Mellows was born in England and reared by his grandparents in Co. Wexford. Socialist and radical in outlook, he joined Fianna Éireann and the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and was a member of the provisional committee of the Irish Volunteers. He contributed greatly to the development of both Fianna Éireann and the Irish Volunteers in areas outside of the capital.

Front page of the Connacht Tribune, with a report on the Rising in Co. Galway.

The Connact Tribune newspaper reported “strange, serious and portentious [sic] happenings in Dublin”, and on the initially successful attack by a force of Irish Volunteers at Oranmore on Tuesday, 25 April 1916, where they captured six members of the Royal Irish Constabulary, but were then routed by a large force with superior fire power.

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