One day after the Proclamation of the Irish Republic is read by Pádraig Pearse on Easter Monday and a day of limited activity, British authorities start to take action. By the end of the day, 7,000 troops will be moved into Dublin from Belfast and the Curragh. Those British forces stationed in Ireland that were the first to be ordered to act against the Rising were predominantly Irish-born, and many of them were volunteers who had signed up to fight against Germany. Despite being at home, these Irishmen were involved in the fighting in Dublin during Easter week, and many paid the ultimate price. Forty-one of the military deaths in Easter week were Irish-born men.
Martial law is declared by Lord Lieutenant Lord Wimborne and power is handed over to military authorities. Despite its iconic status in history, occupiers of the General Post Office see little direct action, apart from incoming British artillery. Martial law remained in effect through the Fall of 1916.
The Rising was not popular with Dublin’s population.
Irish rebel prisoners were booed and harried by Dubliners after the surrender. Fifteen year old Martin Walton joined the rebellion on Tuesday at Jacob’s factory and describes Dubliners negative reaction to the rebels. “When I arrived then at Jacob’s the place was surrounded by a howling mob roaring at the Volunteers inside, ‘Come out to France and fight, you lot of so-and-so slackers’. And then I remember the first blood I ever saw shed. There was a big, very, very big tall woman with something very heavy in her hand and she came across and lifted up her hand to make a bang at me. One of the Volunteers upstairs saw this and fired and I just remember seeing her face and head disappear as she went down like a sack. That was my baptism of fire, and I remember my knees nearly going out from under me. I would have sold my mother and father and the Pope just to get out of that bloody place.”
British authorities reacted in a generally restrained manner during the early days of the Rising. Exceptions included Captain J.C. Bowen-Colthurst, invalided back from the war in Europe who summarily executed a totally innocent 17-year-old JJ Coade on Tuesday evening. That was the start of his madness. Bowen-Colthurst was a native of Dripsey, Co Cork, born to an Anglo-Irish Protestant ascendancy family in 1880. He arrested two journalists and pacifist Frances Sheehy Skeffington, all of whom would be arbitrarily shot the following day at Bowen-Colthurst’s orders. Bowen-Colthurst would be court-martialled for his actions. He was found guilty but insane, spent a short period in a mental institution and moved to Canada where he died in 1966.
Photo: British soldiers inspect one the many barricades constructed throughout Dublin by the Irish Revolutionaries, Photo by 1916 Easter Revolution in Colour