By Robert A. Mosher
|TRACING THE'16 RISING: ONE MAN, ONE CAMERA, ON FOOT|
View Mallin's Column in a larger map
The Irish Citizen Army was created in 1913 -- before the Volunteers themselves -- by James Connolly and the Irish Transport and General Workers Union as a special force to protect workers during the Dublin Lockout that year. With its more political and socialist message and labor-related motivations, the ICA was never going to be a large mass movement -- but it was going to be a resolute one. They wore a uniform of similar cut to that which the Volunteers would adopt, though of a darker green cloth, and they wore a broad-brimmed slouch hat with the left brim pinned to the crown as did the Boers during Britain’s recent war in South Africa. In Dublin, this hat was called a “cronje” for Piet Cronje, one of the Boer commanders. The brim was fastened in place by a metal pin in the shape of the red hand of Ulster.
|1870/87 Vetterli-Vitali rifle|
being filmed at Liberty Hall|
Connolly orders Mallin to take his column across the River Liffey, past Trinity College, to St. Stephen’s Green. There he is to deny use of the roads surrounding the Green to the British army and to act as a link between de Valera’s battalion to Mallin’s east (at Boland’s Bakery) and Thomas McDonagh’s battalion to his west (Jacob’s Biscuit Factory). Mallin’s deputy commander in this mission is one of the most singularly striking personages of the Easter Rising -- the Anglo-Irish woman with the Polish name, Constance Markievicz. The Countess was especially striking today in her tailored ICA officer’s uniform crowned by a “cronje” cap topped with a flurry of green ostrich feathers. She also carried a .38 calibre C-96 “broom-handle” Mauser automatic pistol -- clearly she had no interest serving as a female “auxiliary” as did many women with the Irish Volunteers.
|Mauser automatic pistol|
Constant presence of rooftop snipers
At roughly 11:30 a.m., Mallin put his column in motion, turning on to Eden Quay and marching toward central Dublin. As we follow in his footsteps, we are heading along the quay into a part of Dublin that is heavily populated by tourists today as it is most days. For this march, I’m being followed by a videographer, Graham Dillon, and his crew. I wonder if the people on the Dublin streets that Easter Monday took any more notice of the Irish Citizen Army column than the modern denizens are taking of us.
Street traffic in 1916 would have been made up of mostly pedestrians, electric trams, horse-drawn vehicles of all kinds, bicyclists, and a mere handful of still rare motorized vehicles. The Easter Rising would be mostly fought with muscle power, by men and horses. (And thanks to the tourists and the racing industry in modern Ireland, you will still occasionally see horse-drawn carriages and racing sulkies moving through the streets of Dublin.)
|Mosher crossing the O’Connell Bridge. Photo by Cashel O'Toole|
Today, as we cross O’Connell Bridge, we can see to our left down the river the Customs House and tucked up against it Liberty Hall -- where Mallin formed his column and began his march. Upriver just a short way on the right, we can see the Four Courts Building and beyond that in the distance is the spire that is the Wellington Monument in Phoenix Park.
We pause on the bridge and remark at how close the various sites of the battle are to each other -- easily within rifle range. Although much of the combat over Easter Week took place at ranges at or below 100 to 200 feet, there was also the constant presence of rooftop snipers whose long range marksmanship enabled a soldier at Trinity College to pick off Volunteers in the General Post Office, or Volunteers in the Four Courts to engage army snipers at Dublin Castle or in the bell tower at Christ Church Cathedral, both across the River Liffey.
Mosher at Fusilier’s Arch, note
indentations from bullet strikes.
Photo by Cashel O'Toole
The gateway to the park here is marked by Fusiliers’ Arch, also widely known in 1916 as “Traitors’ Gate,” which commemorates the English war in South Africa against the Boers. One of the Volunteers’ commanders in this Rising, John McBride, was a veteran of that war in which he commanded an Irish Brigade that fought against the British in South Africa. In 1916, he was second in command to Thomas McDonagh at Jacobs’ Biscuit Factory to the immediate west. The arch and surrounding gateway still bear scars from the rifle and machine gun fire of the 1916 battle here.
Shot dead -- 28-year-old constable Michael Lahiff
St. Stephen’s Green takes its name from St. Stephen’s Church and Leper Hospital that stood on Mercer Street, just to the west, from the 13th to the 17th centuries. In 1916, that site is occupied by Mercer Hospital, built in 1734, and still active today. In 1916, it would treat numerous casualties from all sides. The rectangular Green covers 22 acres (89,000 sq. meters) and has a series of connected ponds running along its longest northeastern side. The Green has a gate at each of its four corners.
St. Stephen's Green monument to
Photo by Robert A. Mosher
Mallin’s column entered the Green in face of little opposition, save that the attempt of a single unarmed constable, 28-year-old Michael Lahiff, from the Dublin Metropolitan Police, to physically block the column at the Fusilier’s Arch. While accounts disagree and are in some cases possibly overly lurid, he was reportedly shot down by Markiewicz with her Mauser automatic. Ironically, both Lahiff and the Countess would be interred at Glasnevin Cemetery.
The C-96 Mauser pistols were widely used in 1916 and would continue to play a role throughout the War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. Nicknamed “Peter the Painter,” perhaps because of the paint-brush like rounded handgrip, their rate of fire and large magazines made them excellent weapons for urban warfare. It is suspected that in some instances, their rapid rate of fire persuaded British soldiers that the Irish had machine guns at some points around Dublin, when in fact the only possible machine guns would have been the 10 guns sent by the Germans, which, by Easter Monday, were rusting on the sea bottom near Queenstown.
The Shelbourne Hotel, occupied by the British and used
to serious advantage as their four machine guns and
almost 100 rifles dominated the Green.
Photo by Robert A. Mosher
The management of today’s Shelbourne was quite responsive to our interest in the role played by the hotel in the 1916 Rising and subsequent history of Ireland, within the limits allowed of not disturbing their guests -- the hotel being fully booked meant that we would not be able to see that view from the 4th floor windows. However, we were given a guided tour of the small museum in the hotel, with the guest register dating from the beginning of the Rising. (The army took full control of the hotel as soon as they arrived -- but tried not to disturb the guests already there!)
Morning tea at the Shelbourne
The Shelbourne staff told of tea being served in the hotel as planned, only to be disturbed by rifle fire from the Volunteers on the Green shooting back at the British army. The only casualty among the guests was the hat worn by one very English young lady who reportedly took the whole thing calmly and with regret only for the damage to her bonnet. Nevertheless, the full service of tea was reportedly suspended until after the Rising ended.
marks on façade of Royal College of Surgeons.|
Photo by Cashel O'Toole
Not being under fire, our small band walked more casually around the perimeter of the Green to face the two-story Royal College of Surgeons building. Our vantage point suffered only from the fact that a modern LUAS tram station was between us and the sanctuary sought back in 1916 by the ICA column. Graham did his best with the video camera, as modern Dublin commuters ignored us and the tourists looked to see if any of us were famous. We had, in fact, pretty much reached the end of the St. Stephen’s Green story. Mallin, the Countess, and company holed up in the Royal College of Surgeons building until word came on Sunday, April 30, that Padraig Pearse had surrendered on behalf of what was now called the Irish Republican Army.
Present day Dublin at peace, the Ha Penny Bridge.
Photo by Cashel O'Toole
By way of interesting coincidence, the building that was “Davy’s Pub” in 1916 is up for sale, according to an advertisement in The Irish Independent of May 2, 2012. The ad reads in part “The Portobello Hotel, 33 South Richmond Street, Dublin 2; Landmark City Hotel, Bar and Nightclub Business. Prominent corner trading position overlooking the Grand Canal at Portobello Bridge.” WG