The Grand Canal, Dublin, with Mount Street Bridge in the background. Some of the heaviest fighting during the Rising took place around the bridge on Wednesday 26th April 1916, as the Sherwood Foresters, bruised and battered as they fought their way up Northumberland Road (last post), attempted to cross the canal.
The bridge was overlooked on the north side of the canal by Clanwilliam House, a three story Georgian terraced house on the street corner, where the red brick and glass office block now stands in the above photo, and where just seven men of C Company, 3rd Battalion of the Irish Volunteers, had earlier barricaded themselves in to await the British.
When the Foresters arrived, they were met by a murderous fire from Clanwilliam House (now on the right above) which cut into the leading troops, and so the battle continued as the day wore on, much as it had earlier on Northumberland Road, wave after wave of Foresters repeatedly met by volleys of Volunteer bullets.
Quite why the British continued their abortive frontal assault on the bridge and failed to use one of the others that cross the canal, such as that above, a few hundred yards away, is a mystery. The position could have been by-passed and surrounded, given that some 2,000 Sherwood Foresters were now in the vicinity, but General Lowe, commander of the British forces during the Rising, ordered his men to continue to advance to the whistle as their training had taught them, and many more men died or were wounded than surely was necessary.
Today, only a memorial to the men of the Volunteers who died here stands next to the bridge (above & below).
The seven Volunteers in Clanwilliam House prevented the British from crossing the canal for most of Wednesday 26th – at times their rifles became so hot that they had to be cooled in buckets of water – and during the battle three would be killed, including their leader George Reynolds, the remaining four managing to escape the by now burning building by way of a small basement window. All four would survive the Rising.
The British eventually succeeded in crossing the bridge through sheer force of numbers, razing Clanwilliam House, which had failed to receive reinforcements from the Volunteer garrison at Boland’s Mill, to the ground. It had taken the British nearly seven hours fighting to advance a mere 300 yards up Northumberland Road and across the bridge against a total of just seventeen Volunteers, and they had suffered what would prove to be two thirds of their entire casualties for the whole week; five officers were killed with fourteen wounded, and fourteen other ranks were killed, with approximately 200 wounded. Dead and wounded Foresters littered the streets, pavements, and the grass verges along the canal. Four of the Volunteers (the three still remembered today – although the date is incorrect – in the photo above, and Michael Malone – see last post) were killed. As a footnote, the Sherwood Foresters involved in the fighting in Northumberland Road and at Mount Street Bridge were withdrawn from the action at the end of the day, although it was men selected from their ranks who, as a ‘reward’ for their gallantry on 26th April, would form the execution squads when the time came for the leaders of the Rising to pay the ultimate price.
Next: Boland’s Mill.