Brian John Spencer reports on Day 7 of the Easter Rising

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 Countess Markievicz

By Sunday the rebels of the GPO and Four Courts are in British hands. The others in the five garrisons on the south side of the Liffey, with no links to rebel HQ, are getting up and getting ready to fight on.

There is rumour of surrender, many refuse to believe Pearse’s communication was genuine. They said it was probably a ruse of the military.

Most of the captured rebels spend Saturday night in the open air, sleeping on a little oval patch at the bottom of Sackville Street by the Rotunda Hospital. They are watched over by the British. From insurrection to incarceration, if they step out of line they are battered with a rifle butt. Those who have endured the suffocating heat of the immolating GPO, now endure the damp and freeze of the exposed Dublin outside. Michael Collins spends the night there, Joe Sweeney also, who remembered:

“We were kept there all night and a British officer amused himself by taking out some of the leaders. He took out poor old Tom Clarke and, with the nurses looking out of the windows of the hospital, he stripped him to the buff and made all sorts of disparaging remarks about him.”

Connolly spent that night in the hospital at Dublin Castle. Pearse was at Arbour Hill.

As the day commences, James Stephens describes the general atmosphere of the city:

“The Insurrection has not ceased. There is much rifle fire, but no sound from the machine guns or the eighteen pounders and trench mortars.”

Stephens writes that the insurrection will be over only once the flag of the Republic is pulled down. On this morning it still flies over Jacob’s Biscuit Factory and the College of Surgeons. Likewise, the rebel garrisons at Boland’s Mills, South Dublin Union and Marrowbone Lane are still entrenched and battle ready. Mrs. Hamilton Norway wrote:

“The shooting is by no means over, as many of the Sinn Fein strongholds refuse to surrender. Jacob’s biscuit factory is very strongly held.”

Dorothy Stopford Price reported:

“Went to Church. The Church of Ireland made a formal protest against this infamous rebellion which causes the people of Ireland to blush with shame. Hospital at Kingstown appealed for comforts, jam and drinks, and any necessities of life even…

Jack had an English paper, scathing indictment of Birrell, but otherwise said little about Ireland, treating it as a small thing. Great stories of the wreckage in Dublin.”

The city was freeing and opening up for civilians. “This was the first day I had been able to get even a short distance outside of my own quarter,” Stephens wrote.
Molyneux and Kelly wrote that “Civilians have been flocking in their droves to view the devastation since first light this morning.”
Miss Elizabeth O’Farrell spent the night in a bedroom above the National Bank. A British lieutenant arranged this lodging, and she was “fairly comfortable and slept well”. She described waking the next day:

“About 6 o’clock on Sunday morning I arose. On looking out of the window I saw about 300 or 400 volunteers and Miss Grenan and Miss Carny, who had left the Post Office with me, lying on the little plot of grass at Great Britain Street in front of the Rotunda Hospital, where they had spent the night in the cold and damp. All their arms and ammunition were piled up at the foot of the Parnell Statue.”

Elizabeth O’Farrell

Miss O’Farrell got dressed having been was told by Major De Courcey Wheeler of the Dublin Fusiliers to take round the order to surrender to the other Commandants.

Rebel morale remained buoyant, as Joe Sweeney said to Robert Kee of the BBC:

“The following morning we were marched through the streets, as we came down O’Connell street the flag post with the tricolour had been shot down but the flag was still hung over the portico, and we raised a great cheer.”

However the rebels weren’t popular, as Sweeney said:

“We got a very hostile reception along the way. At this stage we had very little sympathy in the country as a whole.”

The men are later marched to Richmond Barracks where they are imprisoned.

Elizabeth Wheeler was given typewritten copies of Pearse orders and was ferried around the city by Wheeler to finish the surrender.
She was taken to Grafton Street. She left the car and walked to the College of Surgeons with a white flag. The streets were empty but “bullets were whistling round St Stephen’s Green.” O’Farrell entered at the side door and asked for Commandant Mallin. He was sleeping, so she spoke with Countess Markievicz who was next in command.

 

Commandant Michael Mallin

Elizabeth O’Farrell then described what happened:

“I saw her and gave her the order-she was very much surprised and she went to discuss it with Commandant Mallin, whom I afterwards saw. I gave her a slip with the directions as to how to surrender.”

They did not actually tell O’Farrell if they would surrender though Markievicz and Mallin do surrender that afternoon. The rebels were at at first exasperated at the thought of standing down, “men and women… were now crying. ‘…We were to surrender. My God! No! It couldn’t be!” Recalled the rebel Frank Robbins. He also recorded:

“There was nothing to be ashamed of. A manly part had been taken for the vindication of our principles. We had failed in our object; others had failed before, and they had not been ashamed or afraid of the consequences. Why should we?”

Countess Markievicz is dressed in a man’s uniform and when she surrendered she took off her bandolier and kissed it and her revolver, then handed them to the officer.

After speaking with Markievicz and Mallin, O’Farrell and Wheeler went to Boland’s Mill and to Commandant de Valera. As she made her approach to the garrison she described the surroundings:

“Many people were in the streets in this dangerous area, several women standing in doorways.”

O’Farrell had a “very difficult job” in locating rebel command as the rebels were splintered around the streets and British barricades were everywhere. “I had to take my life in my hands several times” she wrote. O’Farrell eventually found out that de Valera was at the Grand Canal Street Dispensary, and entering a window she delivered the message. It is around 9 o’clock and Commandant de Valera replied:

“I will not take any orders except from my immediate superior officer, Commandant MacDonagh.”

She then when to Jacob’s to confer with Commandant-General MacDonagh. However she wrote:

“He told me he would not take orders from a prisoner, that he, himself, was next in command and he would have nothing to say to the surrender until he would confer with General Lowe.”

At a quarter to ten the last rebel output attached to the Four Courts surrenders in North Brunswick Street and fifty men are taken into custody.

Like Elizabeth O’Farrell, two Capuchin priests Father Aloysius and Father Augustine spend Sunday relaying message between the rebels and General Maxwell and Lowe, intermediaries working “for peace and the prevention of bloodshed”. Father Aloysius visited Jacob’s and wrote:

“Major McBride said that if any attempt were made to counsel surrender, he would oppose it with all the strength he could command… Thomas MacDonagh also expressed the view that they could hold out for some weeks… They had ample provisions and ammunition and were well protected.”

The clerics arranged for Commandant MacDonagh at Jacob’s to meet General Lowe at St Patrick’s Park between noon and one o’clock. General Lowe left his car and stood with MacDonagh at the railings for the some time. They then withdrew to the car to speak further, parting later. An armistice was arranged until 3 pm, allowing MacDonagh to advise his men – at Jacob’s, Boland’s South Dublin Union, and Marrowbone Lane – to surrender. He would let the General know the decision at 3 pm.

At little after 2 o’clock Commandant de Valera and Volunteers at Boland’s Mill surrender. Lillian Stokes wrote:

“At half-past two I met Mr. Commissioner Bailey, who told me that it was all over, and that the Volunteers were surrendering everywhere in the city.”

Father Aloysius accompanied MacDonagh to the South Dublin Union. After a consultation between Thomas MacDonagh and Eamonn Ceannt and the officers it was agreed that surrender was the best plan. The convoy returned to Jacob’s. They were using Lowe’s car, and Father Aloysius sat in the front holding a white flag consisting of an apron of one of Jacob’s workers tied to a brush handle. MacDonagh delivered Commandant Pearse’s orders, but the men were against surrendering. Commandant MacDonagh said to them:

“Boys, it is not my wish to surrender, but after consultation with Commandant Ceannt and other officers we think it is the best thing to do – if we don’t surrender now they will show no mercy to the leaders already prisoners.”

The rebels were then given orders to get ready to march out. At 3pm the peace convoy arrived at St Patrick’s Park and Commandant MacDonagh surrendered to Lowe, removing his belt and revolver and handing them to the military.
James Stephens wrote:

“It is half-past three o’clock, and from my window the Republican flag can still be seen flying over Jacob’s factory. There is occasional shooting, but the city as a whole is quiet.”

Lillian (Lil) Stokes, out with a group of friends on Sunday, wrote:

“We were just in time to see 70 prisoners from Bolands march past, fine looking fellows… of course they looked shabby and dirty, they had been fighting for seven days… it made one miserable to see them. The leader in Boland’s was a fine looking man called the Mexican, he is educated and speaks like a gentleman.”

James Stephens wrote:

“At a quarter to five o’clock a heavy gun boomed once. Ten minutes later there was heavy machine gun firing and much rifle shooting. In another ten minutes the flag at Jacob’s was hauled down.”

Commandant MacDonagh went to Marrowbone Distillery to consult Commandant Ceannt. Rebels here remained unbending, as Father Aloysius wrote:

“I understood they had had some difficulty in persuading the Volunteers there to surrender. They were well fortified and had provisions to last for some time.”

After some time they agree to surrender also. It is nearing 6 o’clock. The rebel Joe Doolin said:

“Eamonn Ceannt called his men together and he told them of the surrender of the Headquarters unconditionally, the men told him and some of them were scarcely satisfied to surrender but he said: ‘I’ll say this, when Thomas Clarke that served fifteen years in British dungeons surrendered I don’t think it is any shame on us to surrender.”

Back at Jacob’s Father Aloysius heard a loud crash like bombs going off. It was looters, seemingly thy have endless appetite and stamina. The cleric then stood up to reproach the scavenging citizens:

“We mounted to the window and addressed the people, pointing out the scandalous conduct of those who were responsible for the looting. We asked the people to withdraw to their homes and allow the work of peace to go on. They listened to our appeal and withdrew. Before doing so, several gave up the articles they had pilfered – which included rounds of ammunition, revolvers and articles of clothing.”

L.G. Redmond-Howard described the surrender of Boland’s Mill in more detail:

“Two men had come out of the Poor Law Dispensary opposite, in which the Sinn Feiners were installed.

So covered with dust were they that he thought both were in khaki. One was a military cadet who had been captured by the Sinn Feiners, the other was the Sinn Fein leader De Valera. “Hullo!” cried De Valera. “Who are you?” replied Dr. Keogh.

The response was, “I am De Valera,” from one, and from the other it was: “I am a prisoner for the past five days. They want to surrender.” Dr. Keogh replied that Sir Arthur Ball, who was in the hospital, would make arrangements. Then the military came up, and after some preliminaries the Sinn Feiners were marched out of the dispensary and conveyed to Lower Mount Street. The hopelessness of the Sinn Feiners was exemplified in some remarks dropped by De Valera. “Shoot me,” he said, “if you will, but arrange for my men.” Then he added, walking up and down: “If only the people had come out with knives and forks.”

… De Valera had complained bitterly that the “English” had continuously violated the white flag and Red Cross, but we could testify to the falsity of this by our own experience, the whole staff having time after time complained that shots appeared to go right across the hospital—and, in point of fact, the right wing of “Elpis” Hospital is simply peppered with bullets—in fact, the wounded Tommies “sunning” themselves on the hospital roof of Dun’s had been deliberately fired at till they went down, though I must admit that in this case the Sinn Feiners could hardly have been able to make the distinction required of them.

Redmond-Howard also wrote:

“A short while later I saw the professor himself—a tall man, hatless and in the green uniform of the Volunteers—pass along Mount Street with a lad with a white flag, going to point out the positions of the snipers from the factory.”

Redmond-Howard also recounted the dramatic surrender around noon on Sunday of the College of Surgeons under the personal command of the celebrated Countess Markievicz:

“The green flag which had floated there throughout the week in spite of shot and shell was suddenly lowered, and one of the rebels was seen to climb on the parapet and tie a white scarf, quaintly enough, on to the arm of the central statue, which stood out against the skyline, instead of the flagstaff.

A few seconds later this formal announcement of surrender was followed by the order to “cease fire,” and a detachment of soldiers was sent to that side of Stephen’s Green.

As they approached, the Countess, who was dressed in a complete outfit of the green uniform of the Irish Volunteers, including green boots and green cock’s feathers, something like those on the Italian bersaglieri, emerged from the central doorway. She was closely followed by an attendant carrying a white flag and some sixty to eighty of the defenders.

Solemnly they advanced towards the English officer, and then the Countess, taking off her bandolier and sword, was seen to kiss them reverently and hand them over in the most touching manner—not a little to the perplexity of the young officer.”

Mrs. Hamilton Norway wrote that the rebels remained utterly dogged and unbroken despite defeat:

“People who saw them marched down Grafton Street said they held themselves erect, and looked absolutely defiant!”

Redmond-Howard also described the rebels and their mood, opposite that of the defeated, as he explained:

“Weak, poor, ragged—some cripples; one, his whole face a mass of bandages—I never saw a more reckless or determined body of men in my life, and they contrasted strangely with the placid demeanour of their conquerors. Each marched with a certain lightness of tread—greybeards who no doubt remembered the days of the Famine and boys born since the Boer War; and as they stood there, their hands aloft, between the lines of khaki, not one face flinched. Here and there, however, one could see the older men shaking hands with the younger, muttering, “It isn’t the first time we’ve suffered. But it’s all for dear old Ireland,” or wishing each other good-bye. That was pathetic to a degree that, I know for a fact, moved some of the English officers themselves.

Suddenly a car came dashing up at full speed. Some turned their heads instinctively, and as they did so noticed that in addition to four khaki uniforms there were two green figures with eyes bandaged.

In an instant the captives had recognized their leaders, themselves also going—God only knew to what punishment, and at once such a cheer went up that the whole street echoed again.

It only needed “God save Ireland” to have completed the drama, but they knew they would be stopped if they began, and, instead, one of them cried out “Are we downhearted?” and immediately every voice, clear and resonant, answered in one ringing “No!”

“If it had not been for the women and children, we should be fighting you still,” was the reply of one Sinn Feiner to a soldier; and when asked why they were fighting, another man answered, “We have our orders as well as you—we’re both soldiers and fight when our country demands”; while yet a third ventured defiantly, “You’ve won this time, but next time when you’re fighting, our children will win.”

Redmond-Howard also described the situation generally:

“Dramatic was no word for the situation, and as I gazed at them there—now no more than a dread convict roll—I pictured the wretched tenements from which most must have come—the worst slums in Europe, by common consent of all Commissions—and asked myself the question what chance or reason they had ever had in life to love either their country or the Empire; and then the picture of the long years of penal servitude, such as John Mitchel had endured for Ireland, arose before my mind, but I consoled myself with the thought, “At least England will understand what caused these men to turn despairingly to revolution,” and the words of Mr. Asquith consoled me as I thought of the terrible wholesale vengeance a Prussian officer would take—for had he not said that England had sent the General in whose discretion she had more complete confidence than any other?—but I stopped thinking: it was all too sad: after all, England was surely not going to treat them like the Huns would.

There is mutual respect between the two opposing regular troops, but not between the officer-class, as Redmond-Howard wrote:

“I heard one young Lancashire Tommy say: “The poor beggars! They only obeyed the word of command, and they fought like heroes,” but he was cut short by an English officer with an Oxford drawl: “Damn sympathizing with the swine! I’d shoot all these Irish rebels down like rats—every one of them—if I had my way.”

The words struck me forcibly at the time, for I knew that it only needed this to make martyrs of every one of them.

James Stephens wrote:

“Passing home about two minutes after Proclamation hour [19.30] I was pursued for the whole of Fitzwilliam Square by bullets.”

Stephens also explained that shooting went on for the rest of the day:

“During the remainder of the night sniping and military replies were incessant, particularly in my street.”

While the leaders and great mass of the volunteers have disbanded, “isolated bands” keep on fighting.
The fighting, save for a last few holdouts, is no more. Dublin is like a burned city in France. Now Britain will have to decide the fate of the captured rebels.

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Brian is a writer, artist and law graduate.

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