During the past few months Ireland has been marking the 1916 Easter Rising Centenary. The RSC Archives contain many accounts of what was happening at the time. Here we present some ‘Snippets from the Archives’
St Vincent’s Hospital Convent – St. Stephen’s Green
During the disturbance of Easter Week the hospital, though situated in the immediate vicinity of active operations, was providentially preserved from injury or very serious privations. Although for the whole week continuous crossfire between the Shelbourne Hotel and the corner house (No. 65), passed directly in front of the windows, only one bullet entered the house; this pierced the window of the Superior’s office. Fortunately she was absent at the time. Several other bullets pitted the brick work outside.
The booming of artillery, the rattle of the machine guns, accompanied by the lurid blaze of burning buildings which illuminated the sky at night, so terrified the patients that the beds in the front wards had to be brought into the corridors. The Sisters sleeping in the front had also to retire from their rooms and spread their mattresses on the floor of the rooms occupied at the back of the house and indeed not one objected to having a companion during those sleepless nights! One of the sisters remained on night duty to help reassure the patients and to deal with possible emergencies.
Several dead and wounded were brought in during the week and the resident and medical staff did all in their power to help both within and without.
A grave difficulty arose in burying the dead. This became serious when nine or ten corpses awaited burial and even coffins were not available. At last a courageous friend volunteered to remove them in an open van. The sisters stitched them up in shrouds and they were safely conveyed to Dean’s Grange cemetery after dark.
Stella Maris Convent – Howth
In Easter Week 1916 when the Rising took place in Dublin, all communication between Howth and the City was completely cut off. Trams and trains ceased to run. Many visitors who had come to Howth for Easter Monday were unable to get home. Food supplies ran short. The Sisters went down to the village to try to get provisions for the poor. The shops were sold out of bread and flour and had no means of procuring more. Neither oatmeal nor rice nor corn flour could be had. Biscuits were the only available food. The Sisters bought and distributed these where the need was most pressing.
Father Williams motored to some of the neighbouring villages and brought back a small supply of bread to the hungry people. Mrs Cassidy, a neighbour, came to the rescue of the convent and gave some butter. Baldoyle convent sent up a loaf – a most valuable gift at the time. The stress became so great that panic threatened, but at the critical moment a boat arrived, bringing foodstuffs from Drogheda.
Besides the distress from lack of food, the people were distracted by terror of they knew not what. There were no postal deliveries or papers. Dublin could be seen enveloped in flames and the sound of guns was incessant. Rumours were afloat that the Sinn Feiners were marching out to cut the cable. The garrison was preparing to defend it. Howth itself was very quiet. The hill tram was running and the Sisters were able to go out every day to help and comfort the people. For about ten days the food difficulty continued, then a motor boat began to run from Kingstown. Communication with the inland was thus re¬established and travelers to England were able to return to the mail boat. By degrees things became normal and traffic was resumed, but a great deal of idleness and poverty followed.
Stanhope Street Convent
During the troubled week of Easter 1916 we shared in the anxiety of our people and at least added our quota by incessant prayers, public and private, and the children made the stations three times daily, recited the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, and made visits to the Blessed Sacrament. On Monday our Laundry Van was ‘held up’ in Kildare Street and made use of as a barricade. As he could not leave the horse, the van man, W. Doyle, could not return but D.G. he got shelter for himself and stabling for his horse.
Our communication with the outer world was completely cut off, and the climax of fear was reached one evening when we were all in the chapel. At ten to 8 pm a bullet came through one of the Sanctuary windows, struck and made a hole in one of the arches, knocking down an amount of plaster! D.G. no one was touched. During this time the children were very good, putting all their confidence in prayer.
Our provisions lasted well throughout the week. As we had a good stock of flour we kept the ovens going. One of our men tried to get to the Bakers and failed but suggested that women or girls could manage better, and so they did, for when the teachers and portress offered to go and seek for provisions they were aided by the Volunteers who helped them over the barricades with their sacks of supplies. When thy heard they were from the Convent, they said, ’God bless the nuns and God bless their work.’ The children began to economize and the bigger girls offered to do without lunch but Providence was kind and the sacrifice was not demanded or allowed. On the Monday, exactly a week after their ‘Hold up’, we were told that our Laundry van, driver and cart had arrived home and great was the delight of all to see them safely returned. Only a few bullet holes in the van bore evidence of the dangers encountered. Thank God, things came back to normal, and we cannot be too grateful to the kind providence of God, shown to us through the marvelous protection of the Sacred Heart during this time. We got some Masses offered in thanksgiving for our safety during the troubles.
Temple Street Hospital – Convent
Easter Sunday 1916 ‘The Rebellion’ broke out with an awful suddenness . It was an ideal Spring day and being a bank holiday there were groups of holiday goers to be seen everywhere. Just at 12 midday some of the nurses rushed in, saying that there was trouble going on down town and that the Sinn Féiners had taken the Post Office. At first no one believed them, but by 12.30 there was no doubt left; firing could be heard and we got in the wounded. The first was a little boy, eight years old, who had been shot in the arm. Then followed an awful week of strain and terror. On Tuesday we got ready six beds in the private ward for adults and barely had them ready when the first adult was carried in – Larry Mulligan. He was a fine young fellow, nineteen years of age, and was badly shot in the leg. He was put to bed, but as he was bleeding badly, it was thought necessary to operate on him. Here a difficulty arose as there was only one Doctor resident. None of the staff dared venture out, so there was only one alternative – one of the Sisters administered the anesthetic while the house Surgeon did the operation. Poor Larry got some relief and we had great hopes that he would pull through, but a few days later gangrene set in. He had a most lovely death – received Holy Viaticum every day for the week he lived. His people came from Mullingar and for years his mother sent a donation to the Hospital in honour of St. Anthony. Surely it was more than chance that he out of the hundreds who were shot in the streets of Dublin that week should have been brought into our Hospital. His brother was a student in Maynooth. A Jesuit scholastic from Belvedere College, having got a military permit, brought him to see Larry before he died. I need scarcely mention the great consolation the poor mother got when she heard all the details of his lovely death RIP.
Another young fellow was brought in badly shot in the abdomen, but fortunately one of the doctors got in by one of the lanes to the Hospital. This poor fellow also died.
Another victim treated was a woman from Waterford Street, who on looking out of her Window received a bullet in the top of her skull. Her husband carried her on his back to Marlboro St. Church where she was anointed, as the hemorrhage was so profuse. A doctor arrested it and snitched up the wound. On admission here next morning it had to be undone as it was in a most septic state. She was able to return home in a week or two.
Father Fahey S.J., Rector of Belvedere College proved a true friend and was untiring in his efforts to help us. He and the other priests were granted faculties for hearing confession and administering Last Sacraments. This was a great blessing, as otherwise some would have died without the Sacraments. It would have been impossible to get priests from Marlboro St. at any hour of the day or night the Fathers in Belvedere were to be had and often came to attend the dying at the risk of their own Lives. One night Fr Fahey was hearing confessions. It was late when he finished and every time he opened the door to go home he was fired at. Finally, through the influence of an army director whom he knew and who sent an ambulance to convey him to Belvedere, he made his way home.
The dead were lying for days unburied. Here again Fr Fahey proved his unselfish zeal. He and a Mr Fitzsimons went around the Hospitals, collected the dead in a cart and buried them. Some of the bodies were in canvas and some in egg cases. Fr Fahey sat up with Mr Fitzsimons who drove the horse, as earlier in the day the man who was driving had been shot dead. It was then that Fr. Fahey took his place. He was fearless and never seemed to think of himself.
Seville Place Convent
Sr Catherine, a member of the Seville Place Community at the time of the Rising, had a great love of Ireland. She was a true patriot. She was a Parish Pastoral Worker and knew and loved the poor people of the Parish.
To quote the Annals of the time: “How many families were desolate, or filled with painful anxiety and suspense, hardly less difficult to bear! To each of these homes of sorrow was Sister Catherine a thrice welcome visitor. Her sympathy, sincere and true, was balm to troubled hearts, while her words of hope and cheer strengthened all to have patience and endurance for the sake of faith and Fatherland.
Many of the lads were delighted to recount that on their return to Ireland from the English Goals the best part of it all was the grand welcome from Sister Catherine. She would send for them to the Convent, get them to relate their experiences, and would be quite annoyed with any member of the Community who did not come down to welcome the ‘Heroes Home.”
Our Lady’s Hospice Convent – Harold’s Cross
One of the Rebels of Easter Week was admitted. He caught cold during the Rebellion. The poor fellow was only 20 years of age, but full of faith, with wonderful devotion to Our Blessed Virgin. He was constantly saying the Rosary. Even when his father would come to see him, he would make him sit down beside the bed and say it with him. He was quite resigned and happy to die. The funeral was a sight. The crowds that attended it formed a huge procession of men and women, young and old. The green flag was wrapped around the coffin which was carried down the avenue. Trams were held up to let the funeral proceed on its way to Glasnevin. Several photographers rang up to ask if they might take a photo of the procession.
Mountjoy Street Convent
On Easter Sunday morning April 23rd 1916 our dear Novice, Sr Joseph Collette Coyne, developed measles. Sr Joseph Clare had gone to Baldoyle and Sr M. Colombiere to Glenavena (Howth) for a little rest. The two latter Sisters were unable to return home until all the trouble in the city had abated. By the 9th of May the Schools in Mountjoy Street and in Kings Inn Street were able to re-open.
One morning in this famous “Easter Week” a military lorry drove up to the door and soldiers handed in large quantities of bacon, eggs and flour. The next day the Lord Mayor called and said 800 loaves would be sent for the poor. So the Superior and the Sisters, with the aid of two men were kept busy for some days, cutting up the bacon and distributing it and the bread to poor families. A little incident here and there occurred to brighten the scene and show the intelligence of the recipients. When one member of a family had been duly supplied with food, another member of the same family would edge in with her story and get her share, so that tact proved to be desirable on both sides.
It was consoling to have been enabled to help so many poor families in distress. The Superior in Temple Street kindly sent over some bacon for the community and Mr Cleary, who had a niece in the orphanage, motored from Carlow with some beef, bacon, eggs and bread, which were most acceptable. This happened during the ‘troubles’ when no one could venture out to purchase provisions.
Basin Lane Convent
“There were dreadful experiences in Dublin during Easter week in 1916 when the rebellion broke out. Our Convent was in the middle of the firing from the opposite armies, but thank God Our Lady protected us and no damage was done to the convent and no one in it was injured and all lives were saved through the unnerving time. The chaplain, an Augustinian Father, was most courageous and kind and risked his own life to come to us every day.”
On Holy Saturday 291h April Mr Sherry went to Dublin to erect our stall for the Spring Show at Ballsbridge and took with him over £200 worth of materials. He was accompanied by one of the wareroom assistants, Peter Tynan.
On Easter Monday they went out to Ballsbridge and erected the stall, to be ready for the opening of the show on Tuesday. So busy were they that they scarcely heeded the rumours of the Sinn Féin rising in the city. Soon however there could be no doubt of it, as the incessant firing told its own tale. When they tried to get back to their hotel in Exchequer Street they found that the bridge was guarded by the military and no-one was allowed to pass. There was nothing for it but to go by Donnybrook and Leeson Street with bullets all the time whizzing past them. However they reached their destination in safety T.G.
They were unable to get out again until Thursday and then, at the risk of their lives, they managed to get to Ballsbridge, as Mr Sherry was anxious about the goods he had left unprotected. When they reached the place they found about 500 soldiers asleep around the gallery, so they could not get near the stall. Fortunately the soldiers were soon ordered out on duty, so they were able to pack up the treasures and put them in a safe corner. The return journey was again slow and dangerous, but was accomplished in safety T. G. However on the following day the military would not allow them to go beyond the hotel door.
It was not until the following Saturday that it was announced that a train would be travelling to the West on Wednesday 3rd May. Both gentlemen went to the Castle on Tuesday and got passes to travel. These passes enabled them to go through the city and see the sad wreckage. They made their way back to Ballsbridge, this time by the direct Kingstown route, and their passes were demanded of them by soldiers posted along the route. Our goods were found quite safe and still intact in the corner of the gallery. Wednesday morning found them at the Broadstone about an hour before the time for the departure of the train, yet there were about a hundred others already there before them. At 9.30 a.m. they were off with a sigh of relief and gratitude to the Lord for finding themselves free and on their way home. Of course we in Foxford were all in great anxiety about them during those ten days, as no news had reached us except wild rumours. When word was spread that there would be a train arriving from Dublin on Wednesday a large crowd went to meet it at the station and to welcome the two weary travellers. After dinner we all assembled in the parlour and Mr Sherry related everything that had taken place during those sad and never to be forgotten days.