“On Friday the 28th of April 1916, the 1st Battalion of the Irish Volunteers held North King Street, a congested area of the city, penetrated by infinite passages and alleys, more closely resembling a rabbit warren rather than a battlefield.” (1916 In Focus. Crossfire- The Battle for the Four Courts by Paul O’Brien)
This morning we walked around North King Street and the surrounding area consulting the 1912 25 inch Ordnance Survey map, contemporary images taken just after the Rising from the Bureau of Military History and the extensive collection of eye witness statements from the Military Archives, in an effort to re-imagine the urban landscape in this area in 1916.
Much has changed in this part of the city in the last 100 years – buildings have been demolished and replaced, streets widened and house numbers changed. However, we still managed to find some traces of scars from the Rising that survive in the buildings that have remained.
Casualties were brought to the Richmond Hospital on North Brunswick Street throughout Easter week. Nearby is Saint John’s Convent that served as the headquarters of the 1st Battalion at the start of Easter Week.
Frank Shouldice (1st Lieut. F/Coy. 1st Bn.) gave the following account to the Bureau of Military History:
Battalion Headquarters was at first situated at St. John’s Convent in Nth. Brunswick St. and later in the Four Courts Building. The latter was made H.Q. when it was considered no longer feasible to retire to the country via North County Dublin as was, I understood, originally intended (WS0162, p. 5).
The nuns also helped the Volunteers by providing them with food as Sean Cody (G Company, 1st Battalion) attested in his BMH statement:
During the week’s fighting there was little time available to prepare food due to our small numbers and the many posts to be manned both by night and day, and sincere appreciation was felt by all the Volunteers in the Church St. and North Brunswick St. area for the nuns of Saint Vincent de Paul at Saint John’s Convent who prepared food for as many men as could find time to eat it and this appreciation extends also to the Master of the North Dublin Workhouse who by night and day carried the food prepared by the nuns to the men on the barricades and in house positions (WS1035, p. 15).
At Coleraine Street, behind the Carmichael Centre we found the remains of the north wall of the Linen Hall Barracks.
There were barricades all over the North King Street area. This account by Frank Shouldice describes an incident that happened on a barricade on Beresford Street.
Saturday morning at dawn on our barricade facing Bolton Street. The attacking party numbering 12 or 15 meeting with a hot reception from this barricade rushed into Beresford. St. about 50 yards up Nth. King St. on our right from the crossing. This was a veritable death trap as there was another barricade unmanned about 10 or 15 yards in but covered by our men who were holding the partly built cottages backing on to Beresford St. and Stirrup Lane. This part Ct Beresford St. was also covered by our snipers in the Malthouse and between their fire and the fire of the men in the cottages the military party was practically wiped out. This was an opportunity to get some badly needed rifles and ammunition for our men which was promptly taken advantage of and about a dozen Lee Enfield Rifles and about a hundred rounds of ammunition fell into our hands. The most of the rifles were found to have been shattered by the Volunteers’ fire and were consequently useless. Frank Shouldice (WS0162, p. 7).
We finished up the day by looking at the Four Courts. A major problem with interpreting damage to the Four Courts is the fact that it was attacked in 1916 and again in 1922.
The Medical Mission on Chancery Lane, where survivors of the ill-fated British Army Lancer column took refuge after being attacked while escorting an ammunition train along the quays on horse back. These troops were used to fighting in open battle, the dynamics of urban conflict was completely different and unfortunately this was a lesson which cost them a number of casualties.
Despite the death of their commander, low ammunition and very few supplies, they took refuge here on Monday 24th of April and held out until they were picked up by an improvised armored car which had to be reversed right into the door way, as the building was located next to the Four Courts which were occupied by the Irish Volunteers.
All images by Alva MacGowan.