Dublin 1916

 

Skeleton_of_the_Metropole_Hotel_(5987127804)

Ruins of the Metropole Hotel, Sackville Street (Courtesy of National Library of Ireland)

This year being the centenary anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, there has been more than the usual effort put into relating and remembering events that led to Ireland becoming an independent nation. Here, we don’t have a particular date for an Independence Day – as does America with the 4th of July – but it was with the Rising that Ireland declared its independence from Britain. As I think of those fateful events that took place one hundred years ago I am reminded of a family member who was in Dublin city at the time.

My husband’s grandfather, Christopher, tried to join the British army when he was 13 years old; his older brother, Michael, was already fighting in France with the 8th Battalion of The Dublin Fusiliers. He never said much about the Rising, yet he lived in one of the tenement buildings of inner city Dublin and probably heard the gunfire from his home, but I do remember him speak proudly of Michael. There was a glint in his eye as he recounted how his brother had given him his army cap to wear as they walked through the streets of Dublin, when he was home on leave.

Were they just a couple of young lads who wanted to be soldiers? Or did Michael join up because he was influenced by John Redmond, Irish nationalist politician and MP in the British House of Commons? Over 100,000 Irishmen volunteered to join the British Army, many of them hoping that Ireland would be given home rule in return for their support, as John Redmond had proclaimed having finally managed to get the Home Rule bill passed in the House of Commons. This, however, was put on hold because of the war with Germany.

Sackville_Street_(Dublin)_after_the_1916_Easter_Rising

Sackville Street, now known as O’Connell Street. (1)

What must it have been like for an Irish soldier serving in the British army, dug into a trench in Flanders, to hear of an Irish Republic being proclaimed back home? Michael was part of 16th (Irish) Division that suffered horribly in a gas attack launched by the Germans on the 27th of April 1916 at Hulluch. There were 2,128 Irish casualties, many of whom died in agony. The survivors suffered chronic lung and breathing conditions for the rest of their lives. This is how the Chaplain to the Dublin Fusiliers described the scenes after the attack in a letter home to his father:

“Many men died before I could reach them and were gone before I could pass back. There they lay, scores of them (we lost 800, nearly all from gas) in the bottom of the trench, in every conceivable posture of human agony; the cloths torn off their bodies in a vain effort to breathe while from end to end of that valley of death came one long unceasing moan from the lips of brave men fighting and struggling for life.” (2)

Hearing the news of an uprising taking place near his family home, did Michael worry about the safety of his younger brother, Christopher, so eager to be a soldier? Or that of his older sister, Eileen, who had looked after the family since the recent loss of their mother? How did his father feel when members of the Dublin Fusiliers, his son’s regiment, were shot by fellow Irishmen in the streets of Dublin?

Michael didn’t worry for too long about his family back home, he was among those who died in that gas attack on April 27th 1916. He was 20 years old.

If you would like to experience a virtual guided tour of Dublin during the 1916 Rising, including old photographs and film footage, this link will bring you there Dublin Rising 1916-2016.

Source (1) Miller, James Martin & H.S. Canfield.“The People’s War Book and Pictorial Atlas of the World.” USA & Canada, 1920, p. 132.

Source (2) Dublin Fusiliers – Hulluch

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About Jean Reinhardt

Author of 'A Pocket Full of Shells' an Amazon International best seller, Jean writes young adult and historical fiction. She has been known to shed a tear over Little House on the Prairie.
This entry was posted in History, Ireland, society and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Dublin 1916

  1. Dan Antion says:

    I’ve seen bits and pieces of a PBS (public television here) series on Irish Independence. I’m embarrassed to say that, at first, I didn’t understand the significance of the timing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jan says:

    So tragic. My grandfather was also gassed in WWI Suffered his whole life. Thanks for this interesting bit of Irish history. I didn’t know!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Dublin 1916 | Jean Reinhardt | First Night History

  4. facetfully says:

    Interesting and sad little history lesson here. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a heartbreaking and heartrending story. Hopefully remembrances like this will help us all to stop anything like these things happening ever again…

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s why it’s really important to pass on these memories to the next generation but I don’t think man’s hunger for power/revenge/position will change drastically enough to make the difference. Still, it’s good to hope.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. jazzfeathers says:

    I think it is odd, but also in a way – I don’t know – kind of awakening, tha we are now trying to remember so hard things that happened 100 yers ago. I’m Italian, I’m following the Rising centennial because I’ve lived in Dublin for a while and I’ve always be interested in Irish history. But it’s the centennial of the Great War too for a few years still.

    Wars are horrible. One would never want to know what human beings are able to do to other uman beings. And still I think it’s right and just to remember. Because even in the atrocity of war there are good things to be learned – together with bad things we should always strive to remember, in the hope we won’t repeate them again.

    I think remembering is our duty. And our right.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Really hard to imagine and just too sad. To think, there are boys going off to war at 13 and 14 all over the world. The colonists enlisted boys that way in the American Revolution. Precious post.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Kash Pals says:

    Sad history. War is really bad but we must learn from it and not repeat it again.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. inesephoto says:

    Thank you for sharing the story. In the times of trouble and turmoil, young people mature faster. My uncle went to war and got killed way before his 20th birthday.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Comcast, our cable provider, has a PBS show on this topic with three episodes. The first one is this Thursday. My husband and I are planning to watch the series.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. marianallen says:

    Doesn’t really seem right to “like” this post, but it was wonderful. Thank you for it. If you haven’t read Edward Rutherfurd‘s The Princes of Ireland and The Rebels of Ireland, I highly recommend them.

    Liked by 1 person

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