The Easter Rising Part Four – St. Stephen’s Green & the Royal College of Surgeons

A short distance south of Trinity College, Fusiliers’ Arch, the memorial to the men of the  Royal Dublin Fusiliers who died fighting for the British in South Africa at the turn of the 20th Century, marks the northern entrance to St. Stephen’s Green.

The arch was erected in 1907, and despite being labelled ‘Traitor’s Gate’ by some Irish nationalists, it is one of the few monuments from the time of British rule in Ireland not subsequently demolished.

The names of the fallen are inscribed beneath the memorial arch, and if you’d like a more detailed look, click here.

In the meantime, this is the memorial from inside the park.  Note the height of the surrounding buildings, some unchanged since the Rising, which will play an important part in the story of what happened here in April 1916.

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St. Stephen’s Green is now marked on the map I introduced last post in turquoise, and the strategic importance of Trinity College (marked in yellow), between the two rebel strongholds, can now be clearly seen, and hardly overestimated.

panel-1Since my previous visits a series of excellent information boards, such as those above & below, as good as any I have seen anywhere, have been erected in the park for the hundredth anniversary.

panel-2The United Service Club, across the road from Fusiliers’ Arch, provided the British with an excellent field of fire across the western side of the green towards the Royal College of Surgeons (out of shot away to the right in the black & white photo above).

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A British machine gun, which began firing down on the rebels in the early hours of Tuesday morning from the third floor, would cause serious problems not only for the rebels in the park and later in the Royal College of Surgeons, but for the north eastern side of Fusiliers’ Arch, as you can see above.

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Just inside the park entrance, this stone memorial remembers Irish Fenian leader and prominent member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, who was instrumental to the Rising, although he would never know it…

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…as it was at Rossa’s funeral in Galsnevin Cemetery in 1915, after his remains had been returned from New York, where Pádraig Pearse was to make his famous speech (below)…

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…which would end, “…but the fools, the fools, the fools!  They have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.”

Click here to take a look at the Republican Plot in Glasnevin Cemetery.

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St. Stephen’s Green was seized by a party of some forty men and women of the Citizen’s Army under ex-British Army officer Major Michael Mallin in the early hours of the Rising on Monday 24th April 1916.  Clearing the park of shocked and surprised citizens, the rebels began digging trenches and barricading the park entrances; at least one civilian was shot dead for attempting to dismantle the barricades, and others were driven off with rifle butts.

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On Monday night the British began positioning troops in the buildings across the street on the northern side of the park, in particular, as we have seen, in the United Services Club at the north west corner of the green, and the Shelbourne Hotel, near the north eastern corner.

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Note the British field of fire from the buildings across the street; would you fancy being a member of the Citizen’s Army down here either in a trench or behind barricades?  Me neither.  Interestingly, despite the disappointing mobilisation figures reported by the Volunteers, nearly two thirds of the Citizen’s Army turned up to fight at the start of the Rising, perhaps reflecting their greater militancy and undivided leadership.

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Above & below: One of the information boards records Mallins’ heroic attempt to rescue a Citizen Army man, Philip Clark, wounded out on the street, early on Tuesday 25th April.

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The Summer House (above & below) was here at the time, and used as a field kitchen and place to rest during the night of 24th/25th April.

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20161119_132500British troops occupied the Shelbourne Hotel (below) in the early hours of Tuesday morning, where, at four o’clock, in tandem with the guns at the United Service Club further up the street, machine guns began firing down on the rebels in the park.  Hotel residents, some of whom had already been shot as they dined, were moved to the rear of the hotel.

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It was here that Doreen Carphim, just eight years old, was shot and severely wounded on Monday while she walked past the hotel.  In total nearly forty children were killed during the week of the Rising.

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While we are at the north east corner of St. Stephen’s Green, here’s a quick look at Edward Delaney’s sculpture of the father of Irish republicanism, Wolfe Tone…

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…and Delaney’s famine memorial on the other side, inside the park.

20161119_132752This board tells us that the local hospital recorded 16 dead and 278 wounded civilians over the course of the Rising, many hit while they watched events unfolding in and around the green.

panel-17On the western side of the park, almost opposite the Royal College of Surgeons, Constable Michael Lahiff, of the College Street Dublin Metropolitan Police station, was on duty as the Citizen Army arrived to take control of the park.  Refusing to leave his post, Lahiff was shot dead, possibly, as the information board tells us, by Countess Constance Georgine Markievicz, London-born socialist, suffragette and revolutionary nationalist.  Three unarmed Dublin Metropolitan Policemen were shot dead on the first day of the Rising before their colleagues were withdrawn from the streets, presaging an outbreak of looting across the city for which, following the eventual failure of the Rising, 425 people were arrested.

panel-18Once the British had occupied the buildings to the north of the green, the Irish positions down in the park became untenable.  Mallins ordered his men to abandon their positions and make a break for the Royal College of Surgeons (below) across the road to the west of the park, which he had earlier ordered his men to capture.

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And that is where they stayed, pinned down by the British machine guns on the other side of St. Stephen’s Green, which ensured that the garrison would spend the remainder of the week cold (the heating was inoperative), hungry, and effectively unable to influence events unfolding elsewhere in the city.

The damage inflicted by the British machine gunners is still evident on the facade of the Royal College of Surgeons to this day (above & following photos).

The Royal College of Surgeons garrison held out for six days before surrendering, on the morning of Sunday, 30th April 1916, after Mallins received a copy of Pearse’s surrender order, some say from the British.

Today, a small plaque on the wall remembers the Irish Citizen Army who fought here during Easter week 1916.

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November in Dublin.  The Royal College of Surgeons, lit up at night.  The unfortunate Constable Lahiff was shot a few yards behind us, just over one hundred years ago.  The college would have been one of the last sights he would ever see.  Just as with the men who died for their country out in Flanders & France, never forget.

Next: The Royal Hospital, Kilmainham.

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4 Responses to The Easter Rising Part Four – St. Stephen’s Green & the Royal College of Surgeons

  1. Sid from Down Under says:

    Another impressive, informative and interesting series thank you MJS. Splendidly researched and photographed. Just as a “by-the-way” ….. the Irish Citizen Army slouch hats caught my eye

  2. Sid from Down Under says:

    The good old slouch hat (had one during my time in the Aussie Army) – slouch hat history is a story in itself. 36-year-old Pearse – what a sad wasteful end.

    I had noted your earlier mentioning Australians but moreover, I knew I could rely on you, my friend, for greater insight – thank you so very much for the most informative link. You likely knew it would open a can of worms for my fertile mind. Australians have a close affinity with the Irish. It is said, about one third of our population have an Irish connection. Unfortunately, diluting since so-called “multi-culturalism” became government de rigueur but we won’t go there for fear of upsetting the PC brigade even though Brexit, Trump and Pauline Hanson seem to be changing that attitude.

    The article mentioned: “Chronic sectarianism in Australia had become quite acute in the pre-war years, …… Catholics and Protestants put aside their difference and united behind the war effort. That truce lasts about 20 months, until the Easter Rising.”

    I well understand the sentiment. My maternal grandmother, a staunch Protestant born in Mallow (Cork) Eire, as both religions did back then, fiercely instilled strong religious sectarianism into her Western Australian descendants. Thankfully, decades ago that sentiment changed throughout our community with many close friends being of the Roman Catholic faith. We all look back on that our childhood era with amusement.

    Speaking amusement, one can only but imagine Grandmother’s feelings when her only son married a Catholic! Then following her death, the RC church purchased her home, opposite the local Catholic church, using it as a Retreat. She must have turned in her grave!

    Anzac Day commemorations (mentioned in the linked March 2016 article Anzacs and the Easter Rising 1916: Australia’s role in Ireland’s past) is yet another basis of contention. Anzac Day, 25th April, has become Australia’s most sacred day of the year hence various places lay claim to theirs being “the first”.

    However, the Anzac Day Dawn Service is most famous and solemn. It has grown to enormous proportions with typically 40,000 plus attendees at each main service around Australia. All arriving in the dark awaiting dawn – in silence. Western Australia’s service is often the largest.
    http://www.news.com.au/national/anzac-day/west-australians-pay-anzac-day-respects/story-fnmewwpe-1226895571703

    Albany on our state’s south coast and from where the first Gallipoli bound convoy left Australia in 1914, is credited with being the birthplace of the Dawn Service in 1930. Below is pasted an interesting record from http://anzacalbany.com.au/discover-ww1-albany/albany-convoy-departure/

    Birthplace of the Australian Dawn Service Tradition
    Arthur Ernest White served as an army chaplain with the 44th Battalion, enlisting in 1916. It is understood that in February 1918 Padre White celebrated a private Requiem Mass for the battle dead at St John’s Anglican Church in Albany.

    At 6am on 25th April 1930, it is recorded in the church service register that Padre White celebrated a dawn Eucharist commemorating ANZAC Day. After wreaths were laid at the nearby war memorial it is believed that Padre White, with some of the congregation, proceeded up a bush track to the top of Mt Clarence where an observance took place of a boatman laying a wreath in King George’s Sound.

    The notation alongside the service entry in the church register reads “Procession to memorial, wreaths laid. Collection for the Distressed Soldier Fund” and “First Dawn Service held in Australia”. It is written in Arthur White’s hand.

    It is the recorded events of this day which mark the birth of the first dawn service tradition in Albany.
    Unfortunately I’m unable to paste the journal entry here

    While there are differing accounts of the date of the first Australian dawn service, it is certain that Padre White contributed to this Anzac tradition and Albany lays claim to the location to hold the first Australian Dawn Service on 25 April 1930.

    So there you have it Magicfingers, as they so aptly say in Ireland with their wonderful lilt, “sure isn’t it something to talk about”

    • Magicfingers says:

      Too much to respond to in detail Sid, but thanks for the whole wonderful comment. Excellent stuff. Knew that article would get your interest. Thanks so much.

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