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

St. Stephens Green Park, scene of serious fighting during the first days of the Easter Rising. 

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 Park.  I have visited the park a few times now, and my recent visit a couple of weeks ago allowed me to fill in most of the gaps left from previous trips, and thus this is a brand new post, using both old and many new photos, which supersedes the original post published in November 2016.

Fusiliers’ 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, two of which, in particular, will play an important part in the story of what happened here in April 1916.

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St. Stephen’s Green is marked on the map 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.

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A series of excellent information boards, as good as any I have seen anywhere, were erected in the park prior to the hundredth anniversary,…

…and some of the boards have even been updated since I first encountered them a few years back,…

…so we might as well use the map to trace our tour of the park.  We shall follow the path (the numbers denote these information boards) clockwise around the park’s perimeter, with a brief diversion into the centre at number 13, and we shall even leave the park briefly a couple of times.  Numbers 1 & 2 have, of course, been obliterated on the above map by thousands of index fingers, but the red arrow points to where we start, at the very northern tip of the green.

The United Service Club, across the road from Fusiliers’ Arch and one of the two buildings I mentioned which would become crucial to the outcome of the fighting here, 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 on the board).

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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 face 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.

Back in the park, this guy seemed to know each pigeon by sight.

And why not, but I’m sorry, my little friend, you can’t stay there all day – you’re not exactly helping me on the photography front, I’m afraid.

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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 (all of which is explained on later information boards, as you will see).

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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 (above), in particular, as we have seen, in the United Services Club at the north west corner of the green, and in the Shelbourne Hotel, near the Green’s eastern corner, which we shall see shortly.

The park’s defenders, meanwhile, were still digging and barricading.

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Above & below: The fourth information board records Mallin’s heroic attempt to rescue a Citizen Army man, Philip Clark, wounded out on the street, early on Tuesday 25th April.

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This Summer House was here during the Rising, and was used as a field kitchen and place to rest during the night of 24th/25th April.  Unfortunately, on my previous visits, there had been little point in taking any photos inside,…

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…for obvious reasons…

…but on returning in March 2018,…

…a soon-to-be totally empty Summer House reveals itself.

Inside, looking due west towards the centre of the park,…

…north east, towards the buildings across the road from where the British could look, and fire, down on the park’s defenders,…

…east, towards the Shelbourne Hotel,…

…and finally south east.

Difficult to imagine now what it must have been like, isn’t it,…

…with British bullets spattering the ground all around.

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Returning to the perimeter path,…

…we find board six.

Across the road at the eastern corner of the Green,…

…British troops occupied the Shelbourne Hotel 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.

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The Shelbourne looks no different whatsoever today,…

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…its strategic importance to the British obvious.

Hotel residents, some of whom had already been shot by bullets from, I presume, the park’s defenders as they dined, were moved to the rear of the hotel once the British arrived.

It’s strange to look up and imagine a machine gun doing its deadly work…

…from somewhere up there.

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While we are at the eastern 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.

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Returning to the fate of civilians caught up in the fighting,…

…this board tells us that the local hospital recorded 16 dead and 278 wounded civilians during the week of the Rising, many hit while they watched events unfolding in and around the park (of the 485 people killed during the Rising over 50% were civilians).

The park’s staff continued to feed the ducks…

…as trenches were dug around them.

And so here we are at half distance, as the red arrow above tells us, at the southern tip of the park.

The role of women during the Rising, the memorial within the park, and which we shall see later, to the most famous, or perhaps notorious, on the far right.

The machine gun manned by men of the Royal Irish Regiment mentioned on this board was clearly instrumental in ensuring that the garrison of the Royal College of Surgeons remained inside the building throughout the remainder of the week.

The bandstand, in the background, was used as a First Aid Station…

…and looks virtually no different today.

Despite flying a Red Cross flag the exposed position, hardly surprisingly, soon became untenable, the medical unit moving initially to the Superintendent’s Lodge, which we shall see later.

If we now head towards the people in the right background, there are a number of memorials in the centre of the park we should visit,…

…including this one to the poet Thomas M. Kettle,…

…killed at Guinchy on the Somme in September 1916,…

…and this rather flattering one of Countess Constance Georgine Markievicz, London-born socialist, suffragette and revolutionary nationalist…

…and major in the Irish Citizen Army.

Nearby there is also this memorial to Na Fianna Éireann,…

…the Irish republican youth organisation founded by Markievicz in 1909 and still going strong.

Across the lake…

…the Summer House, and once again note the British field of fire from those buildings across the street; would you fancy being a member of the Citizen’s Army down here either in a trench or behind a barricade?  Me neither.

Okay, returning south back past the bandstand,…

…we find ourselves at the perimeter path once more, where our walk continues north east towards Fusiliers’ Arch, the next board telling us the story of Harcourt Street,…

…where the station had seen previous mayhem, as this photograph on the wall of the hotel we stayed in, of an accident in 1900, shows.  Note the buffers beneath the locomotive.  What do you think the ‘War War’ poster in the background is all about – something to do with South Africa, maybe?

Harcourt Street is little changed today, although the station is long gone, and some of the buildings are suffering,…

…such as this section, with what appears to be a minor subsidence problem!

Back in the park, this is the Superintendent’s lodge, in the western corner of the Green, the start of Harcourt Street just visible in the left background.

The lodge was another position that became untenable by the afternoon of the second day of the Rising, the majority of the occupants, including presumably the medical team who had earlier moved here from the bandstand, withdrawing to the Royal College of Surgeons.

Moving on we find board sixteen,…

…and the fate of the four prisoners-of-war (including the brother of Thomas Kettle, if you read the text) taken by the Volunteers.

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 Markievicz herself.

Lahiff was the second unarmed Dublin Metropolitan Policeman killed on the first day of the Rising (the other, Constable James O’Brien, was the Rising’s first fatality, shot dead by Seán Connolly at Dublin Castle) 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.

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

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.

At which point we shall leave the park once more, through the same gate, and past the same memorial of Lord Ardiluan (or Sir Arthur Edward Guinness, if you prefer),…

…as these Volunteers are depicted as doing on Tuesday 25th April 1916,…

 

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…to take a look at the Royal College of Surgeons across the road,…

…where the damage inflicted by the British machine gunners,…

…including the same gunners whose handiwork is still spattered across the north east face of Fusilier’s Arch,…

…is still in evidence.

The Royal College of Surgeons garrison held out for six days before surrendering, on the morning of Sunday, 30th April 1916, after Mallin 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.

Right, back to the park,…

…where the penultimate information board,…

…tells us about Michael Mallin, commander of the Citizen’s Army in the park.

All of which finds us back where we started at Fusilier’s Arch, the memorial to Rossa in the right background,…

…with another map (below) in the background in this shot.

Whenever I am here I cannot help but take a couple of photos of the bullet holes on the north east face of Fusilier’s Arch,…

…I suppose because, like those on the pillars at the G.P.O., and those we have just seen on the facade of the Royal College of Surgeons,…

…they bring home so graphically that once, over a hundred years ago now, death was but a heartbeat away if you had been standing here.

The final information board…

…beneath the pigeon-poop, tells the story of Countess Markievicz.

Before we finish, this map shows all the memorials within the park, three more of which are pictured below:

Robert Emmet (1776-1803).

James Clarence Mangan (1803-1849).

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941).

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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, including a major 2018 update: The Royal Hospital, Kilmainham.

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