Thanks to a very kind (and deliberately slow) taxi driver, I managed to get some shots of Boland’s Mill as we passed by (this one taken as the mill receded into the distance).
At the start of the Rising the mill and the surrounding buildings were occupied by about 150 men (some sources suggest less) of Éamon de Valera’s 3rd Volunteer Battalion, its position on Grand Canal Dock making it a key location as it overlooked not only the canal, but the railway line between the city and Kingstown, where British reinforcements would doubtless be arriving (and indeed, by Wednesday, as we have seen, they did).
Boland’s Mill would serve as de Valera’s battalion headquarters during the Rising, his men establishing other positions outside Beggars Bush Barracks, at Mount Street Bridge, and elsewhere among the slum tenements and middle-class residences in the vicinity.
Despite the intense fighting a few hundred yards south west at Mount Street Bridge, there were no direct assaults on Boland’s Mill itself until Thursday 27th April, when the British began shelling the building with a one-pounder gun taken from the HMY Helga that had shelled Liberty Hall the previous day, and later with artillery brought from Trinity College.
De Valera sent Captain Michael Cullen and a group of men to raise a flag on top of a tall water tower standing nearby, in order to attract the British gunners; the ruse worked, nearly too well, as the tower was hit, rupturing the water tank and nearly drowning the rebel defenders, but Boland’s Mill itself was safe for the moment.
Conditions for the Volunteers in the mill, as the days went by, became worse and worse, one Volunteer going berserk, killing one of his officers before being shot dead himself. The garrison held out until Sunday 30th, when Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell brought news of Pearse’s surrender.
After the Rising, questions were asked in rebel circles about de Valera’s command of the Boland’s Mill garrison. As we saw last post, he failed to send reinforcements to help the men fighting the Sherwood Foresters at Clanwilliam House and he was accused of issuing contradictory and indeed bizarre orders during the final days of the Rising – including evacuating the mill, except there was nowhere else to go, and the men who had left soon had no choice but to return.
Not far from the mill, this is Beggars Bush Barracks, built in 1827, and a missed opportunity for de Valera’s men on the first day of the Rising.
Although he sent men to watch the barracks, as mentioned earlier, and some of his men had encountered a large group of Volunteer Training Corps* making their way to the barracks, killing four of them, had he known the exact compliment of the troops within, he might have considered a bolder move.
*The Volunteer Training Corps was a voluntary home defence militia in the United Kingdom during the Great War, and this was the only instance that they actually saw action. They were ambushed close to the barracks, the remainder finding their way inside, spending the rest of the week assisting the garrison to hold the barracks, for which the garrison were, I’m sure, eternally grateful. In total five members of the battalion were killed, and seven wounded, during the week of the Rising.
Because on that Monday, the barracks were defended by the Army Catering Staff, with just seventeen rifles between them. As I said, another missed opportunity, although the Volunteers did manage to keep the barracks’ defenders pinned down within its walls for the duration of the week.
The pub was here at the time, and I’m glad it still is. I believe that until it was renovated in 1988, holes from stray bullets from the Northumberland Road fighting just down the street were still visible on one of the walls.
Enough chatting. Time for a pint. After that: Moore Street.