The Easter Rising took place in April 1916 in Dublin and is one of the pivotal events in modern Irish History. At the end of the Easter Rising, fourteen men identified as leaders were executed at Kilmainham Gaol. To some, these men were traitors, to others they became heroes.
It was the first major armed uprising against the British empire in the 20th century and was marked 100 years later last year as the turning point for Irish freedom from London rule. The 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising climaxed in a grand parade past the General Post Office (GPO) in O’Connell Street, involving thousands of troops as well as 4,000 descendants of the heroes of 1916.
The 1916 Rising, organised by a diverse group of men ranging in age from 25 to 58, their occupations included: headmaster, tobacconist, poet, railway clerk, university lecturer, printer, humanitarian, water bailiff, art teacher, silk weaver, corporation clerk, farmer, trade union leader, bookkeeper, chemist’s clerk and newspaper manager, captured international headlines when it took place while Britain’s armed forces, including tens of thousands of Irishmen, were still mired in the first world war.
The uprising was planned to be nationwide in scope, but a series of mishaps led to its being confined to Dublin alone, where around 1,600 rebels seized strategic buildings within the city. One of the seized buildings was the city’s GPO.
Seven of the executed leaders of the uprising sealed their fate by signing the Proclamation of the Irish Republic shortly before the outbreak of the Rising. The document, which declared “the right of the Irish people to the ownership of Ireland” and which guaranteed “religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens”, was read aloud by Pádraig Pearse outside the GPO on Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street) shortly after noon on Easter Monday. The British had learned of the planned uprising and on 21 April arrested Irish nationalist Sir Roger Casement in Co Kerry for running arms for the rebels. Eoin MacNeill, the leader of the Irish Volunteers, therefore cancelled mobilisation orders for the insurgents, but Pearse and Clarke went ahead with about 1,560 Irish Volunteers and a 200-man contingent of the Citizen Army.
Several days of fighting between the rebels and British troops ensued. Many of the rebels were members of a nationalist group called the Irish Volunteers, or a smaller more radical group, the Irish Citizen Army. Within a week, the British had declared martial law across the country and suppressed the Rising leaving around 450 dead and more than 2,000 injured. Much of Dublin’s centre was also destroyed.
Pádraig Pearse and 14 other leaders of the uprising were court-martialled and executed by British authorities in the weeks that followed. All fourteen rebels who were executed as a result of their participation in the Easter Rising were executed in the Stonebreakers’ Yard at Kilmainham Gaol. Elsewhere, Thomas Kent faced a firing squad at Cork Detention Barracks and Roger Casement was hanged at Pentonville Prison in London on August 1916. General John Maxwell, signed the 1916 execution warrants and forbade the bodies to be given to their families.
Though the uprising itself had been unpopular with most Irish people, these executions stirred a wave of revulsion against the British authorities and turned the dead republican leaders into martyred heroes. The Easter Rising signaled the start of the republican revolution in Ireland.
With bended flowers the angels mark
For the skylark the place they lie,
From there its little family
Shall dip their wings first in the sky –Thomas Ledwidge
(10 November 1879 – 3 May 1916)
Born in Dublin on Great Brunswick Street (now Pearse Street), he was educated by the Christian Brothers at Westland Row, before taking a scholarship to the Royal University (University College Dublin) to study law.
In 1898 Pearse became a member of the Executive Committee of the Gaelic League. He graduated from the Royal University in 1901 with a degree in Arts and Law. He was later called to the bar. From his early school days he was deeply interested in Irish language and culture. He joined the Gaelic League in 1895 and became editor of its paper, An Claidheamh Soluis (Sword of light). He lectured in Irish at UCD.
To advance his ideal of a free and Gaelic Ireland Pearse set up a bilingual school for boys, St Enda’s, at Cullenswood House, Ranelagh, Dublin, in September 1908. He later moved the school to a larger location at Rathfarnham in 1910.
(1 February 1878 – 3 May 1916)
A native of Tipperary, MacDonagh trained as a priest but like his parents became a teacher, and was on the staff at St Enda’s, the school he helped to found with Padraig Pearse.
A gifted poet, writer and dramatist, in 1909 MacDonagh was a founding member of the Association of Secondary Teachers of Ireland (ASTI), and also was active in setting up the Irish Women’s Franchise League in 1911 which promoted Irish nationalism and the cultural revival. His play When the Dawn is Come was produced at the Abbey Theatre.
MacDonagh joined the Irish Volunteers in November 1913, becoming a member of the provisional committee and taking part in the Howth gun-running.
He believed Irish freedom would be achieved by what he called “zealous martyrs”, hopefully through peace but, if necessary, by war.
Thomas J. Clarke
(11 March 1858 – 3 May 1916)
Born on the Isle of Wight to Irish parents, Clarke’s father was a sergeant in the British army who was stationed there. The family moved to South Africa and later to Dungannon, Co Tyrone, where Clarke grew up from about the age of seven, attending Saint Patrick’s national school.
In 1882, he emigrated to American. During his time there he joined the republican organisation Clan na Gael and, as a proponent of violent revolution, he would serve 15 years in British jails for his role in a bombing campaign in London.
Clarke was released in 1898, and spent nine more years in America. He returned to Dublin in 1907 setting up a tobacconist’s shop on Great Britain Street (now Parnell Square), before being co-opted onto the IRB Military Council which was responsible for planning the Easter Rising.
Joseph Mary Plunkett
(21 November 1887 – 4 May 1916)
Born in Dublin, he was the son of a papal count, George Noble Plunkett.
Plunkett was educated by Jesuits at the Catholic University School, Belvedere College and Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, England.
A gifted writer, he met Thomas MacDonagh when he was tutored by him in Irish in preparation for the University College, Dublin matriculation examinations.
MacDonagh was to become a close friend, as both were interested in poetry, religion and mysticism.
Plunkett graduated from UCD in 1909 but he contracted tuberculosis as a young man and spent periods in Italy, Algeria and Egypt in the years 1910-12.
Plunkett edited the Irish Review, supported Arthur Griﬃth’s Sinn Féin and took the workers’ stand during the 1913 lock-out.
William “Willie” Pearse
(15 November 1881 – 4 May 1916)
Born in Dublin and throughout his life lived in the shadow of his brother to whom he was devoted and with whom he formed a particularly close relationship.
Willie inherited his father’s artistic abilities and became a sculptor. He was educated at the Christian Brothers School. He studied at the Metropolitan School of Art in Dublin under Oliver Sheppard. He also studied art in Paris. While attending the Kensington School of Art he gained notice for several of his artworks. Some of his sculptures are to be found in Limerick Cathedral, the Cathedral of St. Eunan and St Columba, Letterkenny and several Dublin churches. He was trained to take over his father’s stonemason business, but gave it up to help Pádraig run St. Enda’s School which he founded in 1908. He was involved in the arts and theatre at St. Enda’s and aided the overall running of the school.
Edward “Ned” Daly
(25 February 1891 – 4 May 1916)
Born at 26 Frederick Street (now O’Curry street), Limerick, Daly was the only son among the ten children born to Edward and Catherine Daly (née O’Mara). He was the younger brother of Kathleen Clarke, wife of Tom Clarke, and an active member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. His father, Edward, was a Fenian who died five months before his son’s birth at the age of forty-one. His uncle was John Daly, a prominent republican who had taken part in the Fenian Rising. It was through John Daly that Clarke had met his future wife.
He was educated by the Presentation Sisters at Sexton Street, the Congregation of Christian Brothers at Roxboro Road and at Leamy’s commercial college. He spent a short time as an apprentice baker in Glasgow, before returning to Limerick to work in Spaight’s timber yard. He later moved to Dublin where he eventually took up a position with a wholesale chemists. He lived in Fairview with Kathleen and Tom Clarke.
(17 March 1877 – 4 May 1916)
Born in New Ross, Co Wexford, he was the son of Richard O’Hanrahan and Mary Williams. His father appears to have been involved in the 1867 Fenian rising. The family moved to Carlow where Michael was educated at Carlow Christian Brothers’ School and Carlow College Academy. On leaving school he worked various jobs including a period alongside his father in the cork-cutting business. In 1898 he joined the Gaelic League and in 1899 founded the League’s first Carlow branch and became its secretary. By 1903 he was in Dublin where he was working as a proof-reader for the Gaelic League printer Cló Cumann. He published journalism under the by-lines ‘Art’ and ‘Irish Reader’ in several nationalist newspapers, including Sinn Féin and the Irish Volunteer. He was the author of two novels A Swordsman of the Brigade (1914) and When the Norman Came (published posthumously in 1918).
In 1903 he became involved in Maud Gonne and Arthur Griffith’s campaign against the visit of King Edward VII to Ireland. The encounter with Griffith led O’Hanrahan to join the newly formed Sinn Féin. He also became a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. In November 1913 he joined the Irish Volunteers. O’Hanrahan was later employed as an administrator on the Volunteers headquarters staff. He was made quartermaster general of the 2nd Battalion. He and the commandant of the 2nd Battalion Thomas MacDonagh became close friends.
Major John MacBride
(7 May 1868 – 5 May 1916)
Born at The Quay, Westport, Co Mayo, Ireland, to Patrick MacBride, a shopkeeper and trader, and the former Honoria Gill, who survived her son. A plaque marks the building on the Westport Quays where he was born (now the Helm Bar and Restaurant). He was educated at the Christian Brothers’ School, Westport, and at St. Malachy’s College, Belfast. He worked for a period in a drapery shop in Castlerea, Co Roscommon. He had studied medicine, but gave it up and began working with a chemist’s firm in Dublin.
He joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood and was associated with Michael Cusack in the early days of the Gaelic Athletic Association. He also joined the Celtic Literary Society through which he came to know Arthur Griffith who was to remain a friend and influence throughout his life. Beginning in 1893, MacBride was termed a “dangerous nationalist” by the British government. In 1896 he went to the United States on behalf of the IRB. On his return he emigrated to South Africa.
He took part in the Second Boer War, where he raised the Irish Transvaal Brigade. What became known as MacBride’s Brigade was first commanded by an Irish American, Colonel John Blake, an ex-US Cavalry Officer. MacBride recommended Blake as Commander since MacBride himself had no military experience. The Brigade was given official recognition by the Boer Government with the commissions of the Brigade’s officers signed by State Secretary F.W. Reitz. MacBride was commissioned with the rank of Major in the Boer army and given Boer citizenship.
When MacBride became a citizen of the Transvaal, the British considered that, as an Irishman and citizen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, he had given aid to the enemy. After the war he travelled to Paris where Maud Gonne lived. In 1903, he married her to the disapproval of W. B. Yeats, who considered her his muse and had previously proposed to her.
(21 September 1881 – 8 May 1916)
Born in the village of Ballymoe, Co Galway, He was the sixth of seven children and his father, James Kent was an RIC officer. Stationed in Ballymoe, in 1883 he was promoted and transferred to Ardee, Co Louth. When his father retired from the force, the family moved to Dublin. They were a very religious Catholic family and it has been said that Ceannt’s religious teaching as a child stayed with him for the rest of his life.
Two events that evoked nationalism at the end of the 19th century were the 1798 commemoration and the Boer War in South Africa. Éamonn became interested in these events. He took part in the commemoration.
In 1899, Ceannt joined the central branch of the Gaelic League. It was here where he first met many of the men who would play a major role in the rising, including; Pádraig Pearse and Eoin MacNeill. He became increasingly involved in Nationalist movements and had a strong interest in the Irish language. The main purposes of the league were to educate people on the Irish culture, revive the Irish language along with Irish music, dancing, poetry, literature and history. Ceannt was an extremely committed member to the league, he was an elected a member of the governing body and by 1905 he was teaching Irish language classes in branch offices of the league. In February 1900 Ceannt, along with Edward Martyn founded Cumann na bPíobairí (The Pipers Club). Ceannt’s musical talents earned him a gold medal at the 1906 Oireachtas and in 1905 he even put on a performance for Pope Pius X. It is said that the main language in the Pipers Club was Irish and played a role in reviving Irish music. It was through the Gaelic League where Ceannt first met his wife, Frances Mary O’Brennan who was known as Aine. She joined the League as she shared an interest in the Irish culture and heritage. They got married in June 1905. Their son, Ronan was born in June 1906.
In 1907 Ceannt joined the Dublin central branch of Sinn Féin and over the following years he became increasingly determined to see an Independent Ireland. In 1912 he was sworn to the Irish Republican Brotherhood by Sean MacDiarmada. This movement was pledged to achieve Irish independence and to do so by using physical force if necessary.
(1 December 1874 – 8 May 1916)
Born in Dublin, the eldest of nine children of John Mallin, a carpenter and his wife Sarah née Dowling. The family lived in a tenement in the Liberties neighbourhood. He received his early education at the National School at Denmark Street. When he was 15 he visited his uncle James Dowling, who was a member of the British Army as a pay sergeant, and was persuaded to enlist in the army as a drummer.
Mallin enrolled as a member of the 21st Royal Scots Fusiliers on 21 October 1889. During the early years of his service he was stationed in Great Britian and Ireland. In 1896 his regiment was sent to India where he served out the remainder of his almost fourteen year career. It was during Mallin’s time in India that he became radicalised. In 1897, when asked to donate to the memorial fund for Queen Victoria’s jubilee year he refused because ‘he could not subscribe as the English monarch had taken an oath to uphold the Protestant faith’. Though his anti-British leaning kept him from being promoted any higher than a drummer he was awarded the India Medal of 1895 with the Punjab Frontier and Tirah clasps 1897-98.
On Mallin’s return to Ireland he became a silk weaver’s apprentice under his Uncle James, who had retired from the British Army. He progressed to become a leading official in the silk weavers’ union. During the 1913 Lock-out, Mallin lead a strike of silk workers at the Hanbury Lane factory. The strike lasted for thirteen weeks with Mallin an effective negotiator on behalf of the strikers. Mallin was appointed second in command and chief training officer of the Irish Citizen Army (ICA), which was formed to protect workers from the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) and from employer-funded gangs of strike-breakers and co-founder with Francis Sheehy-Skeffington of the Irish Socialist Party. Under the tutelage of Mallin and James Connolly, the ICA became an effective military force.
(21 February 1891 – 8 May 1916)
Born in Dublin and educated by the Christian Brothers, he worked as a railway clerk in Limerick and while there took an active part in Fianna Éireann, of which he was an officer. Seán Heuston arranged for members who could not afford to buy their uniforms to do so by paying small weekly sums. Under his guidance the Fianna in Limerick had a course which encompass not only drilling, which was made up of signalling, scout training and weapons training but also lectures on Irish history and Irish classes.
In 1913 Heuston was transferred to Dublin Fianna, and was appointed to the Emmet Sluagh. He went on to join the ranks of the Irish Volunteers and played a prominent part in the Easter Rising.
Cornelius “Con” Colbert
(19 October 1888 – 8 May 1916)
Born in Moanleana, Castlemahon, Co Limerick he was the fourth youngest of thirteen children. The family moved to the village of Athea when Con was three years old. He was educated at the local national school. He left Athea at the age of sixteen and went to live with his sister Catherine in Ranelagh Co Dublin. Con continued his education at a Christian Brothers school in North Richmond street. Colbert was employed as a clerk in the offices of Kennedy’s Bakery in Dublin. Colbert was a deeply religious Catholic, and refrained from smoking or drinking.
Con became a drill instructor at St. Enda’s School, founded by Pádraig Pearse, while a member of Fianna Éireann. In 1913 he was an early member of the Irish Volunteers. He also joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood.
(29 August 1865 – 9 May 1916)
Part of a prominent nationalist family who lived at Bawnard House, Castlelyons, Co Cork. They were prepared to take part in the Easter Rising, but when the mobilisation order was countermanded, they stayed at home. The rising nevertheless went ahead in Dublin, and the RIC was sent to arrest well-known sympathisers throughout the country including, but not limited to, known members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, Sinn Féin, and the Irish Volunteers. When the Kent residence was raided they were met with resistance from Thomas and his brothers Richard, David and William. A gunfight lasted for four hours, in which an RIC officer, Head Constable William Rowe, was killed and David Kent was seriously wounded. Eventually the Kents were forced to surrender, although Richard made a last-minute dash for freedom and was fatally wounded.
Thomas and William were tried by court-martial on the charge of armed rebellion. William was acquitted, but Thomas was sentenced to death and executed by firing squad in Cork on 9 May 1916. David Kent was brought to Dublin where he was charged with the same offence, found guilty and sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted and he was sentenced to five years penal servitude. Apart from the singular case of Roger Casement, Thomas Kent was the only person outside of Dublin to be executed for his role in the events surrounding Easter Week. He was buried in the grounds of Cork Prison, formerly the Military Detention Barracks at the rear Collins Barracks, Cork (formerly Victoria Barracks). The former army married quarters to the rear of Collins Barracks are named in his honour.
(5 June 1868 – 12 May 1916)
Born in Edinburgh to Irish immigrant parents, Connolly was one of the seven signatories of the Proclamation and one of three to sign the surrender. Raised in poverty, his interest in Irish nationalism is said to have stemmed from a Fenian uncle, while his socialist spark came from an impoverished working-class childhood combined with his readings of Karl Marx and others.
Connolly first came to Ireland as a member of the British Army. Age 14, he forged documents to enlist to escape poverty and was posted to Cork, Dublin and later the Curragh in Kildare.
In Dublin he met Lillie Reynolds and they married in 1890. Despite returning to Scotland, the Irish diaspora in Edinburgh stimulated Connolly’s growing interest in Irish politics in the mid 1890s, leading to his emigration to Dublin in 1896. Here, he founded the Irish Socialist Republican Party.
Seán Mac Diarmada
(27 January 1883 – 12 May 1916)
Born in Leitrim, he emigrated to Glasgow in 1900 where he worked as a tram conductor, and from there came back to Belfast in 1902. A member of the Gaelic League, Mac Diarmada was sworn into the IRB by Denis McCullough, and transferred to Dublin in 1908 where he managed the IRB newspaper Irish Freedom in 1910.
Although afflicted with polio in 1911 and needing a walking stick, together with Tom Clarke, McCullough and Bulmer Hobson, Mac Diarmada is credited with revitalising the IRB and becoming a popular leader.
Roger David Casement
(1 September 1864 – 3 August 1916)
Born in Dublin, Casement was a British consul in Portuguese East Africa, Angola, Congo Free State, and Brazil. He gained international fame for revealing atrocious cruelty in the exploitation of native labour by white traders in the Congo and the Putumayo River region, Peru; his Congo report (published 1904) led to a major reorganisation of Belgian rule in the Congo (1908), and his Putumayo report (1912) earned him a knighthood.
Ill health forced Casement to retire to Ireland in 1912. Although he came from an Ulster Protestant family, he had always sympathised with the predominantly Roman Catholic Irish nationalists. Late in 1913 he helped form the Irish National Volunteers, and in July 1914 he travelled to New York City to seek American aid for that anti-British force. After World War I broke out in August, Casement hoped that Germany might assist the Irish independence movement as a blow against Great Britain. On arriving in Berlin in November 1914, he found that the German government was unwilling to risk an expedition to Ireland and that most Irish prisoners of war would refuse to join a brigade that he intended to recruit for service against England.
Later, Casement failed to obtain the loan of German army officers to lead the Irish rising planned for Easter 1916. In a vain effort to prevent the revolt, he sailed for Ireland on 12 April in a German submarine. Put ashore near Tralee, Co Kerry, he was arrested on 24 April and taken to London, where, on 29 June, he was convicted of treason and sentenced to death. An appeal was dismissed, and he was hanged at Pentonville Prison despite attempts by influential men to secure a reprieve in view of his past services to the British government. During this time, diaries reputedly written by Casement and containing detailed descriptions of homosexual practices were circulated privately among British officials. After years of dispute over their authenticity, the diaries were made available to scholars by the British home secretary in July 1959. It was generally considered that the passages in question were in Casement’s handwriting.
In 1965 Casement’s remains were returned to Ireland and, after a state funeral, reinterred in Dublin.
The seven signatories by Declan Kerr – Irish Artist