The Property Losses (Ireland) Committee
The Property Losses (Ireland) Committee (PLIC) was established in June 1916 to assess claims for damages to buildings and property which occurred as a direct result of the 1916 Rising. The PLIC operated as a three man committee that was established in May 1916 by business interests and property owners, the Property Losses Association, who exerted pressure on the Irish Parliamentary Party and the British government to compensate those who had lost their business or property and to provide for the associated costs of rebuilding in the wake of the Rising.
Last week, the National Archives published the first series of claims PLIC/1 which consists of 6,567 digitised files. This invaluable source adds a whole new dimension to the research being undertaken for the Archaeology of 1916 project.
The Nurses’ Home
In our last blog post about the South Dublin Union we explored the damage to the Nurses’ Home, bringing to light the repair work that is evident in the fabric of the structure today; the repair work is just as important as the damage it is covering up. However, now the PLIC files identify actual claims detailing what damage was incurred and what the repairs involved.
We chose to focus upon the Nurses’ Home as the only fully surviving building occupied in the South Dublin Union which was additionally the Volunteers’ Headquarters. The witness statements implied that it was the building in the SDU that suffered the most damage. Many other buildings at the SDU are listed among the claims, including a ‘Suphur Store’ which had to be completely rebuilt. The location of this structure is presently unknown however it is possibly one of the stores which once stood between the Nurses’ Home and No. 1 Auxillary Hospital, the gable end of which still stands.
“We then proceeded with the other volunteers through a small yard to the rear and north of the kitchen, then through a hole in a wall into a yard to the west of the large dormitory building lying to the west of the bakehouse …” (BMH WS0504, James Coughlan).
The claims from the S.D.U are divided under the following headings:
- Electrical fittings
- Personal property
At a cost of 385 Shillings and 60 pence, 93 window lights had to be replaced from the Nurses’ Home alone; this is the largest amount of glass that needed replacement in any of the buildings at the SDU after the Rising. The second largest quantity was for 30 lights from No. 2 Auxillary Hospital, the one storey block of buildings that are attached to the southern gable of the Nurses’ Home. This block was infiltrated by British troops who at one point entered the Nurses’ Home through a hole they’d broken in the party wall..
The hall stairs and landing were re-fitted with 132 yards of linoleum. Most windows needed their blinds replaced. Furniture repairs were claimed mostly from the bedrooms on the upper floors (Nos 1, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 10, 11, 12, 13) and these included wardrobes, chest of drawers, pictures, a wash stand, a wicker arm chair and mirrors. Other rooms occupied on the ground floor were the hall (2 chairs) and the kitchen. Here a ‘press’ or cupboard needed repairing and doors required replacing; the dining room had a walnut sideboard, a dining room table, cabinet and five dining room chairs which hall needed repair where a set of fire irons needed to be replaced. One bathroom is mentioned which was damaged.
Many pieces were presumably used as barricades in the windows and doors. Today, the items would be replaced, in 1916 they were repaired.
£4.11 shillings were spent on repairing electrical fittings in the Nurses’ Home. Reports of plaster falling off the walls and light fittings been blown off by fire would no doubt have occasioned this damage.
The nurses’ ‘boxes’, presumably storage chests for personal belongings, were emptied and filled with clay to make barricades. The clay was taken from flower beds outside the Nurses’ Home.
The Damage Done
There was a sustained frontal attack from the ward opposite that was occupied by British Soldiers, one or more holes had been bored into its southern wall when the soldiers attempted to take hold of the position, grenades and “bombs” were thrown into its porch and hallway creating a thick cloud of dust.
“In addition to securing the entrance door, boards were nailed across the frame work of the porch doors, which were closed and nailed up, and the space between boards and doors filled with rubble. This formed a second barricade – almost a wall – a couple of yards behind the front entrance.” (BMH WS504, James Coughlan).
A 6 ft barricade had been built by Éamonn Caeannt in the internal porch, blocking the front door, and another was set up on the first landing where six men fired through the banistairs and out through the porch fanlight and sidelights. For most of the week landings and stairwell were under machine gunfire that was coming from the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham.
The rear of the building appears to have been worst hit.
Volunteer James Coughlan was positioned at the back of the Nurses’ Home and recalled noticing …
” … a well directed and concentrated fire maintained against the all windows at the back of the building. Many of the bullets split diagonally the brickwork at the sides of the windows and, coming from many angles effectively prevented us from replying to the fire.” (BMH WS 504, James Coughlan).
The list is interesting and correlates with many of the witness accounts of the various activities that took place in the Home. It also confirms that the roof was damaged (30 bullet holes), and that the brick piers on the rear elevation were extensively repaired, this confirms that the brick pilasters and arches are definitely pre and not post 1916, as we had previously thought.
Repair to Doors ground Floor ‘of with New locks etc
1 pair screen door 7′ x 6′
Frame and ‘Fan (?) Sash
Repair Floor and Skirting
Build up 2 Openings 10 ft
Repairs to brick piers at back
Scaffold to same
60 ft eave gutters
80 ft of down pipe
Repair 30 Holes in Roof and general repairs to Roof