One of the first acts by the Irish Citizen Army in the Rising was to occupy St Stephen’s Green. However, with so many large buildings overlooking the Green (including the Shelbourne Hotel) and not enough men to occupy a useful number of them, the rebels’ position rapidly become untenable. British forces, particularly from the Shelbourne, swept the Green with gunfire, and the rebels were forced to withdraw to the College of Surgeons.
Nevertheless, things weren’t so bad for the park’s feathered inhabitants. The Times History of the War recorded that St Stephen’s Green “was well stocked with waterfowl, and the keeper, who remained inside all the time, reported that his charges were well looked after and fed by him, and were very little perturbed by the bullets flying over their heads”.
The park-keeper’s name was James Kearney – every day he would enter the Green to feed the ducks, and every day the opposing sides would cease firing to allow him to do so.
There is a pargraph in the “Rebels: The Irish Rising of 1916” on page 324. It is under Tuesday (of the Rising). It tells of Countess Markiewicz, who is on the roof of the Shelbourne Hotel, when she sees a man holding a brown bag above his head and she stops the shooting. It is James Kearney, the parks keeper, who feeds the ducks. They did this twice each day of the Rising. It is a little levity during a time of war.