Archaeology of 1916 Seminar

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We’re pleased to announce a free morning seminar presenting the results of some of our research. It’s being kindly hosted by Dublin City Council at the Wood Quay Venue and it takes place on Wednesday 14 December. Places are strictly limited so to register please go to  at  www.eventbrite.ie/e/the-archaeology-of-1916-tickets-29747252834

You can click on the link above to see the poster. We hope to see as many as possible of you there!

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Bullets, Bricks and Compensation Claims: 1916 and No.25 Northumberland Road

Northumberland Road is today a quiet, leafy, residential street leading to a bridge over the Grand Canal, over which there is a direct route into the centre of the city. For a couple of days over Easter Week 1916, this street lined with terraced houses and its immediate environs saw some of the bloodiest fighting of the Rebellion.

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A photograph of No 25 Northumberland Road, in the immediate aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rebellion.

During the 1916 Easter Rebellion, it was in this peaceful suburb on Dublin’s south side, that a small group of Irish Volunteers inflicted significant losses on the Sherwood Foresters who were attempting to advance into the city. Fatefully for the British soldiers in the ensuing battle, the Irish Volunteers had occupied two superbly located sites: an end of terrace residence at No. 25 Northumberland Road and Clanwilliam House across the canal. Two less strategically located buildings, the Mission Hall and St. Stephen’s Schoolhouse were also occupied, as well as a builders’ yard to the east of the bridge closer to Company HQ at Boland’s Bakery. The story of the fighting along Northumberland Road itself and the ensuing battle of Mount Street bridge is perhaps one of the most familiar of the 1916 Rebellion (and a subject of many fine studies, in particular, see the Contested Memories: The Battle of Mount Street website here), and will be quickly summarized below. What is less well-known is the story of the destruction to property, the aftermath of the battle, and the ways that the residents of the street repaired the damage, and ultimately the physical remains that can be seen today.

In this blog post, we reflect firstly on the action at, and damage to, No. 25 Northumberland Road, and then the efforts made to repair it by its owner, Michael Cussen, in the weeks and months afterwards. Tracking the process of repairing the damage and the claims and decisions made are key to understanding what archaeological traces survive today from the Easter Rebellion at No. 25 Northumberland Road.

But, it is also a story about how a building in a middle class suburb was wrecked, and how its presumably prosperous owner used his resources, solicitors, architects and builders, to seek redress through the authorities and repair his property. In some senses then, it is a very different story to the impact and experience of the Rising in the working-class districts of the city, as described previously in this blog, and most recently here.

Northumberland Road

Aerial view of the crossroads at Northumberland Road/Haddington Road. The No 25 Northumberland Road building is at the lower centre; Haddington Street church is the grey building off to the extreme left. Northumberland Road itself extends off from lower left to upper right, up to the Grand Canal, across which is the location of the original Clanwilliam House, occupied today by the brown building at extreme upper right. (Image: Google Earth).

No. 25 Northumberland Road is today a large, handsome, three-story Victorian terraced building, located at the corner of Haddington Road. This broad crossroads has excellent views in several directions, most notably to the southeast along the road leading into the city from Kingstown.

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No 25 Northumberland Road today. In the main part of the fighting, Lieutenant Malone was firing from the bathroom of the “third floor”, to the side, while Grace was shooting from the “second floor” overlooking the street (Photo: Aidan O’Sullivan).

 

The story begins

The story of the building’s role in the battle begins on Easter Monday, 24th April 1916, when James Grace, Paddy Rowe and Michael Byrne, of C Company, 3rd Battalion Dublin Brigade of the Irish Volunteers, were sent by Lieut. Michael Malone from Mount Street Bridge to the junction of Northumberland Road and Haddington Road, with the instruction to ‘cover the gates of Beggars Bush Barracks’ (James Grace, BMH WS310).

After a tense encounter there with two local men, they were joined on Haddington Road, by Michael Malone, who then told his men to occupy 25 Northumberland Road. Grace in his witness statement  described how ‘I smashed in the yale lock with the butt of my rifle and we immediately prepared the house for a state of siege, putting up barricades, filling vessels with water and so on’. The destruction had begun.

When compiling his witness statement in October 1949, James Grace states that the house was by that time in flats but that otherwise it was ‘practically the same now as it was then, except that there is now a front entrance to the basement’ (a telling detail, given the difficulty the British troops had in attacking the house in 1916). It is clear that the house itself—in 1916 an owner-occupied residence—was empty at the time of the volunteers arrival. James Grace claims in his statement that the owner and resident, Michael Cussen, was supportive of the Volunteers, stating that ‘the Cussens who owned the house were also friendly, and having been told of events to come had sent the servants away and evacuated the house themselves’ (WS 310). In contrast, Cussen himself, in a subsequent letter written to the Under Secretary Sir Robert Chalmers,  claimed that ‘I need scarcely say that I have had no connection whatever with the rebels, and had no previous knowledge of their designs’.

But, of course, he would have said that.

Michael Cussen was a retired Customs and Excise Officer. He was registered in the Dublin City Electoral Rolls for 1914 as resident at 29 Northumberland Road (the resident of 25 was struck off the list, and presumably Cussen purchased the property thereafter).

The fighting starts

The fighting at No. 25 Northumberland Road began on the afternoon of Easter Monday, when a Company of G.Rs. – a form of local home guard – approached from the direction of Ballsbridge. The volunteers ensconced in No. 25, ‘opened fire on them and they scattered and retreated’ (BMH WS310). Although they carried arms, these were reputedly unloaded and the G.R.s retreated to Beggars Bush barracks, located just around the corner.

Through Easter Monday 24th April, and Tuesday 25th April, the Volunteers inside the house had to cope with persistent sniping ‘in particular from a house right opposite giving us a lot of trouble’. Lieut. Malone and Grace proceeded to the top of the house; Grace was asked by Malone to go to the right-hand room, to draw the snipers’ fire, and he was able to then identify that the location of the sniper was ‘… in the right-hand top window of the house opposite which was No. 28’. Malone fired a few times, and the ‘sniper crashed down, dragging with him the window blind’ (BMH WS 310, page 7).

About 2.30am, before dawn of Wednesday 26th April, Malone sent the two boys, Paddy Rowe and Michael Byrne, away on dispatch duty; in reality to get them away from impending danger. Grace prepared the building for battle setting ‘booby traps in the hall and on the stairs’ (BMH WS 310, page 8).

About noon of that day, Wednesday, they were told by Grace’s sister and Miss May Cullen that British soldiers had landed at Kingstown and were advancing on the city. The 2/7th and 2/8th Battalions of Sherwood Foresters, mostly young, inexperienced and barely trained soldiers from Nottingham and Derbyshire, were marching towards Northumberland Road. A building, Carrisbrooke House, previously occupied  by the volunteers further south along the road had now been abandoned, placing No. 25 Northumberland Road to the front of the Volunteers’ positions.

Sometime after noon Malone ‘went into the bathroom, the windows of which was on the side of the house looking towards Ballsbridge’, and spotted ‘khaki clad figures advancing’. Malone opened fire from this bathroom window, ‘which was on the third floor’. As Grace states ‘it was from this window that Micheál operated practically all the time – Malone’s window I still call it. I followed suit from another window on the second floor’ (BMH WS 310).

There were casualties immediately among the bewildered British troops, with one secondary account claiming that at least ten were killed in the first volley of shots as they were being fired on from both 25 Northumberland Road and Clanwilliam House across the canal. According to Grace, the British soldiers took control of ‘almost every house within point blank range’, and put up a terrific fire on the windows of the house, forcing Grace to move continually and take cover often.

They attempted bombing attacks at 5 o’clock and about 8.30, whereupon Grace took up position downstairs on the hall floor. Hearing movements in the ‘room on the left’, he fired through the panels and heard a rush of feet away from it. A few minutes afterwards, he heard the ‘crashing of glass and a door at the rear with steps leading into the back garden was burst open and some English troops rushed in’. After he emptied a fresh rifle clip at them, they retreated for a moment, before making a fresh rush and Grace ‘was driven down the stairs to the kitchen’ in the basement (BMH WS 310, page 10).

At this point, Grace heard Malone rushing down the stairs to his aid, calling out ‘alright Seumas, I’m coming’. Grace himself knelt at the door of the kitchen firing up at British troops that had appeared at the head of the stairs. From there he heard the crash of the volley and the shouts of the troops as Michael Malone was killed.

Emboldened by ‘desperate courage’, Grace rushed to the ‘small cellar window’ at the front of the house, and fired upon an ‘officer leading some men up the steps to the front door’, causing him to drop down the steps. His automatic was now jamming from the heat of firing, and he tried to cool it under the water tap in the scullery, after which he fired through ‘the chinks in the shutters of the kitchen window, whenever he saw an English soldier’.

James Grace continues his witness statement as this particular battle drew to an end.

‘Just then a bomb was thrown down and exploded at the kitchen door to my right. There was also a bomb hurled through the little window of the cellar from which I had been firing. I took cover behind a gas stove and after that had some room to room, firing at the English troops in the basement. The automatic still kept jamming now and again.

We had originally arranged to make a final stand at the top of the house, having left upstairs, loaded rifles with bayonets fixed, one Lee Enfield and two Howth mauser rifles, but the forcing of the glass-panelled door at the end of the rere hall corridor by the enemy separated Micheál and myself and ruined our plans.

About 10 o’clock that night a whistle below and I heard a voice shout out, “clear the streets for a bayonet charge”. I now got desperate and rushing to the basement corridor I flung aside the heavy iron garden seat which barricaded the rere kitchen door and shot back the bolts. Just as I was getting through the door I was fired on from the stairway and on returning the fire shot my way out through the back and escaped over the garden wall into Percy Lane, but I realized I was trapped within the enemy lines‘  (James Grace, BMH WS310, page 10-11).

James Grace was later captured on Saturday in a shed at the rear of 60 Haddington Road. His witness statement contains the rest of his story and the things he saw, including English troops holding Mount Street Bridge, and Clanwilliam House in flames, but the fight for the building at 25 Northumberland Road itself was over, with English soldiers dead and wounded on the streets, and the body of Lieutenant Micheál Malone within.

The battle over, and the damage starts to be assessed

If the battle was over, then Michael Cussen’s problems had just begun. There are several Property Losses (Ireland) Committee files (which can be downloaded here: PLIC_1_116; PLIC_1_2306; PLIC_1_4351) that record what Cussen and his solicitors had to do next.

His first task was to assess the damage to his property. It seems from his own statements that the military occupied his house for about 10 days after, and he only entered his house for the first time on 4th May 1916, probably with his solicitor from Arthur O’Hagan & Son, who later lists such a visit amongst his fees (PLIC_1_4351).

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First page of Michael Cussen’s solicitor’s listing of payments made and fees incurred, indicating the initial visit on 4th May 1916, and correspondance, as part of the review of damage; PLIC 1 4351 file).

He would have immediately seen that he now had to contend with a wrecked house, destroyed or damaged furniture and lost possessions, and was also facing into the uncertain legal process of seeking compensation from the local authorities, his own insurance companies and/or from the British government. By implication, in a phrase used in one of his letters dated to 1st July, he also had to worry about the further looting of the existing building, which still stood empty—presumably the army had left, and the building could now be entered by others. It is clear that things were stolen, but by whom is never clear (was it the soldiers, or opportunistic locals, or others from further afield?)

The sheer scale of the damage to 25 Northumberland Road can be seen in a document in PLIC_1_116, entitled ’25, Northumberland Road, Dublin, CLAIM of M. Cussen for damage to furniture &c.’. This document, probably prepared in early June 2016 as part of a claim to PLIC, systematically describes and lists estimated losses at 25 Northumberland Road (PLIC_1_116). The losses were clearly extensive and are ordered in the document by room, including in order of listing: damage in the hall; dining room; drawing room; sitting room (study), principal bedroom; daughter’s bedroom; workroom; dress room; stairs; general; blinds & curtains; glass and china; cutlery etc.; beds and bedding; poles for curtains; as well as a claim by Mrs Cussen, for clothes and jewellery. It is difficult to be clear which rooms listed by Michael Cussen correspond with those described by James Grace in his Witness Statement, but there are some obvious links.

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Damage listed in the hall and dining room of No. 25 Northumberland Road (Source PLIC_1_116).

In the hall (where at one point during the fighting, James Grace lay on the floor), the items destroyed included a hall stand, a flower stand and pot, copper pots, pictures, a table and table cloth (latter missing), as well as lineoleum. The list next mentions the Dining Room – possibly off the hallway, and at the front of the house – where a walnut dining table was destroyed, and a carpet and rug, side-board, chairs and sofa damaged.

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Damage listed to the ‘Drawing Room’ of No. 25 Northumberland Road (Source PLIC_1_116).

In the drawing room, which would most likely have been behind the Dining Room, we read of a carpet and rug ‘very badly damaged’, a sofa which was damaged but can be repaired’, whereas a ‘piano short grand’ was absolutely destroyed and ultimately valued at £44.17.6. In the sitting room (study), a book-case was destroyed, and books were damaged and rendered useless, as well as a safe which was destroyed and rendered useless, though there was also a cost listed for opening it.

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Damage listed to the ‘Principal Bed Room’ at No. 25 Northumberland Road (Source PLIC_1_116)

If as seems likely, the bedrooms were upstairs, then the principal bedroom’s wardrobe, and dressing table were all destroyed, earthenware was destroyed or looted, and pictures, carpets and rugs were also “badly damaged”.

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Damage listed to ‘Daughter’s Bedroom’ at No. 25 Northumberland Road (Source PLIC_1_116)

The daughter’s bedroom also has suite of furniture ‘practically destroyed’, and a long list of personal possessions looted (including a ‘Waterman’s Fountain pen, new – looted’, as well as two gold bangles), or damaged. An evening dress was rendered useless.

In the dressing room, Cussen’s own clothes including five pairs trousers, 3 vests, a dress suit, hats, an overcoat, brushes, combs, handkerchiefs, a hat case, socks, were all damaged, destroyed or looted.

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Damage listed to ‘Dressing Room’ at No. 25 Northumberland Road (Source: PLIC_1_116).

The stairs, where Lieutenant Michael Malone most likely met his death, had its ‘carpets and underfelts-All destroyed’.

Other losses in the house included wines, spirits, tea, sugar, cutlery, while beds and bedding needed to be cleaned or replaced.

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Mrs Cussen’s claim for clothes and jewellery lost is also extensive, with 22 listed items of clothing (some of them multiple) and 23 items of jewellery. Amongst the latter were her wedding ring, engagement ring, diamond and sapphire earrings, a pearl necklet, a ‘2 Jubilee coin mounted in gold (given at marriage)’, a ‘Five shilling piece (given at marriage)’, as well as rosary beads. Most likely these were looted or stolen from the house by the soldiers, or by someone else when the house was unoccupied. A summary of annexed claims puts the total losses of property and costs of removal and storage of furniture at Strahan and Co. at a total of £539.9.9.

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Claim for loss and destruction of clothes and jewellery at No. 25 Northumberland Road (Source PLIC_1_116)

A separate claim for damage to the house ’25 Northumberland Road, Dublin, Claim of M. Cussen for damage to House’ (PLIC_1_116) lists repairs of structure (lowest of three estimates) at £275.0.0, of electric wires and fixtures £15.16.10, and painting and papering at £86.15.6, which had to be combined with an architect’s fee of 20 guineas, a solicitors bill, cost then unknown, and a payment to Farmer Bros. for urgent repairs £4.4.0 (presumably for doors to secure the house?). The total estimated loss for the house was £402.16.4.

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‘Claim of M. Cussen for damage to House’ at No 25 Northumberland Road (Source PLIC_1_116)

On the 7th June 1916, Cussen’s solicitor Arthur O’Hagan sends a letter to the General Officer Commanding, Dublin Castle, making a claim for compensation  (PLIC_1_116).

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The letter sent by Arthur O’Hagan on 7th June 1916, to the General Officer Commanding, making a claim for compensation (Source: PLIC_1_116).

We also have a letter written on 19th June 1916, from Cussen’s solicitor to James J. Healy Esq., 51 St Stephen’s Green E, outlining the particulars of the claims for damages to their property at No. 25 Northumberland Road, amounting to £402.16.4 for the house, £411.11.3 for the contents and £127.18.6 for Mrs Cussen’s claim in respect of the ‘destruction or loss of her clothes, jewellery etc.’.

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The letter by Michael Cussen’s solicitor, of 19th June 1916 (Source: PLIC_1_116).

A solicitor’s letter affirming that Mrs Cussen’s loss of jewellery and clothing amounted to £127.18.6 was also submitted to the General Officer Commanding on 16th June 1916 (PLIC_1_2306 ).

Michael Cussen had insured the structure of the building with the North British & Mercantile Insurance Co., for the sum of 800. He had also insured his furniture in the Alliance Insurance Company (Civil Service Branch, [he being a retired C&E officer]) in the year 1900 for £300, but since that date he had purchased a large number of valuable articles and the value of his furniture was very far in excess of the amount for which he had insured. A later note on this by his solicitor’s states that Cussen’s insurance company had denied liability (PLIC_1_4351). Enclosing a copy of the letter sent to Sir Robert Chambers, Cussen’s solicitor also states that Mr Cussen ‘is most anxious to proceed with the reconstruction of the house at once as every-day’s delay is causing more damage and he is at considerable expense living elsewhere’ (PLIC_1_116).

Cussen’s handwritten letter sent from Clarinda Park, Kingstown (another prosperous square, in today’s Dun Laoghaire) to Robert Chambers gives us a strong sense of his sense of shock of the destruction of the property, and is worth reading in full (PLIC_1_116).

“12 Clarinda Park, East,

Kingstown,

13th June, 1916

Sir,

In the recent rebellion the rebels in my absence took forcible possession of my house at 25 Northumberland Rd, Dublin. It remained in their possession until, after a few days fighting it was taken from them by the military, who then entered it and remained in occupation for about 10 days. In the fighting that took place the house was practically wrecked, and when I entered it on 4th May, the earliest date on which it was practicable for me to do so, I found the doors, windows, floors, ceilings, roof, etc. broken, the walls badly injured, and almost all my furniture etc. wholly or partly destroyed. I also found that my wifes jewellery and other valuable articles had been taken away. The losses sustained by Mrs Cussen and myself are very considerable amounting in the aggregate as I now find to over £900, and we propose to submit claims for compensation for them to the Committee appointed by the Government to enquire into such losses. We have already made claims against the County and the City of Dublin, but the cases have not yet been dealt with.

I desire to commence repairing my house as soon as possible. I have engaged the services of an Architect who has obtained the necessary estimates, and I am ready to commence the work, but I am advised not to do so pending the inspection of the premises by an official appraiser or inspr. It is most desirable that the commencement of the work should not be deferred, as owing to (the injuries to the) roof and waterpipes, every day’s delay causes further damage Besides, myself and family are living in hired appartments at considerable expense.

Under the circumstances mentioned I should deem it a favour if you would be good enough to bring my case under the immediate notice of the Committee referred to and urge them to depute an appraiser or other officer to examine my house at Northumberland Rd. The key is kept at (No 30 Northumberland Road, Dublin).

I am a retired Collector of C. & E. and prior to my retirement about 5 years ago was stationed at Belfast. I retired under the regulations having completed 40 years service, and am in receipt of the maximum pension that (was) payable to me. I need scarcely say that I have had no connection with the rebels, and had no previous knowledge of their designs.

I should be greatly obliged if you would favour me with an early reply.

I am etc.

M.Cussen.”

Cussen filled out his formal claim to the PLIC on 30th June, 2016, on the Property Losses (Ireland) Committee, 1916 blue form, listing his claim at “House and fixtures as particulars already furnished to Committee at a total of £402:16 shillings and 4 pence, with an added claim for ‘Furniture and general effects as per particulars already furnished to committee” of £539:9:9, amounting to a total claim of £942, 6 shillings, 1 pence. These figures equate to those listed in detail above.

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Michael Cussen’s formal claim on 30th June 1916 to the Property Losses (Ireland) Committee.

On 1st July 1916, Michael Cussen wrote to the Secretary of the Property Losses Committee outlining the basis for his claims, and presumably submitted his full PLIC claim form at that time. Rather than edit it down, or paraphrase it, it is simpler and clearer to offer it in full here (PLIC_1_116).

“12 Clarinda Park, East,

Kingstown,

1st July, 1916

Sir,

I beg to send you herewith my claim for compensation made out on the proper printed form. I have ordered in it the amounts in brief, as suggested to me by Mr Walter Hume, the full particulars being supplied in my original claim. I have handed the two policies of Fire Insurance to Mr Hume’s representative at his office, and I enclose the last receipt from the North British & Mercantile Company. I have not been able to find the Alliance receipt but I have applied for a certified copy, and shall forward it in due course.

I should like to submit the following observations, under the respective headings for the consideration of the committee:-

(1) Insurance on furniture etc.

The amount of this policy is only £300. This amount was sufficient at the time the insurance was effected, but since then I have purchased large quantities of furniture. tc but neglected to insure for a larger amount. There can, however, be no doubt as to the extent of my losses, and the claim should be allowed in full.

(2) Removal of furniture etc

Owing to the state of my house and to prevent further looting, it was necessary to remove my furniture and affects to a secure place and accordingly I had them removed to Messrs Strahan and Co stores, where they remain. Had this not been done, my losses would have been far greater, and the amount of my claim would be much more than it is.

(3) Architect’s Fee.

It was necessary for me to employ an architect. I could not myself prepare specifications nor see that the proper materials were used and the work properly performed. The fee demanded appears to be reasonable.

(4) Law expenses

I have made a claim against the local authorities, but it has not been dealt with by the Recorder(?). A solicitor and counsel have been emplpoyed and expenses necessarily incurred. I do not yet know the amount of the latter, but as soon as I receive the bill of costs, I shall forward it to you the Committee.

(5) Rent of apartments.

I have been paying rent for apartments at my present address since the 25th April last and this expense will be continued until my house is ready for occupation. I have made no claim in respect of rent, but if the government should modify its attitude as regards consequential damage, I shall submit a claim for it.

I have arranged to hand over to Mr Hume on Tuesday next the tenders received for repairing the house, &c together with the stamped deed of agreement between me and Messers Bolger & Doyle builders. In this agreement the dates of payment are specified. I expect the whole work will be finished by the end of September, and it is desirable that whatever amount of money I may be considered entitled to receive should be paid to me before then.

I am, Sir,

Your obedient servant,

M. Cussen

The last letter from Michael Cussen is written on 31st July 2016 (PLIC_1_4351). This is a follow up letter, explaining that he had previously mentioned his ‘law expenses’ but had not included them, as they were unknown to him at that time. He goes on

In my claim for compensation for damages in connection with my house at above address, I referred to the law expenses incurred by me, but did not state the amount under this head as it was not known to me when making out the claim. I am now in receipt of my solicitors’ bill of costs, which I enclose herewith, and I request that you will submit it to the Property Losses (Ireland) Committee and ask them to be good enough to forward it to H.M. Treasury to be considered with my claim and as forming part of it.

Before the Government had declared its intention of making a grant to cover losses caused by the revolt I had commenced an action against the local authorities to recover my losses but at the instance of the Irish Attorney General, as I understand, my case and all similar cases have been struck out by the recorder of Dublin, who would have dealt with them in the ordinary course, and there is now a Bill before Parliament (Civil Courts Procedure) which provides that no claim of the kind referred to above shall lie against the local authority for losses sustained during the rebellion.

Under these circumstances, I respectfully submit that the law costs incurred by me in this case should be allowed.

I am,

Sir,

Your obedient Servant,

M. Cussen

A small note to the bottom left of the first page notes ‘Telephone Messers Hume who dealt with Cussen’s claim. They would not admit any claim for law costs’. Initialed  9/8/2016, it would appear Cussen was unsuccessful in that particular aspect.

The Solicitor’s Costs (PLIC_1_4351) themselves make very interesting reading. The list of payments and costs lists visits to 25 Northumberland Road itself, to the engagement of counsel, to attendance at a Magistrate and Police Courts, and to the writing of various letters, including the engagement of an architect, Mr Sheridan. It is obvious that solicitors and civil servants were kept busy in the weeks and months after the 1916 Easter Rebellion.

Finally, a fateful and poignant note is also to be found in the solicitor’s list of fees, stating that “during the period of disturbances and riots the body of a man was buried in the garden near the conservatory” and requesting of the Head Constable Police Barracks Irishtown to take “the neccessary steps to have the body removed”. Similar letters were sent to the General Officer Commanding, and to Mr Joshua C. Manly, Executive Sanitary Officer Pembroke Urban District; the body was removed before 13th May 2016, according to a later note in the solicitors’ fees.

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Michael Cussen’s solicitors costs of payments and fees, mentioning a letter sent to Head Constable Police Barracks Irishtown requesting that a body buried in the garden be “removed” (Source: PLIC_1_4351).

This was the body of Volunteer, Lieutenant Michael Malone, who was killed inside the house and had presumably been hastily buried in the back garden by British soldiers. As James Grace’s Witness Statement informs us (BMH WS 3010), his body was later removed to Glasnevin cemetery where upon it being re-opened for identification, James Grace had a

‘last glimpse of my leader and comrade in his blood-stained olive green uniform. Micheál and Seán Cullen of Boland’s Garrison and myself fired three volleys over his grave in salute of one of Ireland’s most faithful sons – a loyal comrade, a gallant leader, a brave and fearless soldier. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam’.

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The monument to Lieut. Michael Malone C Company, 3rd Battalion, “killed in action”..”in this house” on the modern facade of No. 25 Northumberland Road. (Photo: Aidan O’Sullivan).

25 Northumberland Road today

So, what is Northumberland Road like today, or more specifically, can we see traces on the street of the events of 1916?

Lieutenant Michael Malone is prominently commemorated in a plaque on the front wall, looking out into the street. The building itself was also photographed after 1916 (see image at the top of this post), and although taken from a distance, it appears to show broken windows, particularly the two side windows of the hall looking out over Haddington Road, where there is also a suggestion of damage to the bricks. The small window at the back, on the third floor level, would seem to be the bathroom window where Malone was stationed and again the window glass is smashed.  The front of the house is in shadow in the photograph, where James Grace was shooting from, so nothing at all can be made out there. Otherwise, the quality of the photograph is too poor to make much more else out.

We don’t know, as yet, how much repair was done externally to 25 Northumberland Road. On balance, given the scale and meticulousness of the financial claims submitted, and the engagement of an architect Mr Sheridan, we would have to conclude that Michael Cussen would have hardly left badly damaged brick in place, or the walls unplastered or repaired where it was possible to repair it. The bricks could have been chased out and the side wall of the house replastered.

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A view of the south side of No. 25 Northumberland Road today. The very small windows are more recent insertions. We assume—we could be wrong—that the bathroom that Lieut Malone was shooting from was either located at the window over the porch, or at the windows off to the extreme left (Photo: Aidan O’Sullivan).

Having said that, there are both possible traces and probable traces of bullet strikes at the corner of the building.

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General view of holes and infilled repair on plaster of side wall, which may of course long-postdate the 1916 Rising, and importantly a possible bullet strike high up, on the granite quoin, five blocks from the roof, at the upper right corner of this photograph (Aidan O’Sullivan).

Firstly, there are some various general marks and imperfections on the plaster over the main side window on the gable end (see below). In the contemporary photograph, there is ivy in this location, and hints of damage there. The marks visible today may not be significant, they could be very recent repair, or they could be repair over bullet marks if the original wall was not wholly plastered or the underlying wall was weakened here.

However there are also some probable bullet strikes on the granite quoins. It is impossible to prove that these are the result of the 1916 fighting, but these marks are certainly very like other definite bullet strikes that can be seen elsewhere in granite around Dublin City centre; most notably at the Fusiliers’ Arch on the corner of St. Stephen’s Green; on the granite façade and window surrounds of the Royal College of Surgeons, overlooking St Stephen’s Green; and furthermore on the granite facades of the Four Courts building on the River Liffey, where there is definite battle damage from 1916 and the fighting at the start of 1922 Civil War.

On balance then, the 25 Northumberland Road marks compare very closely with bullet marks on those granite facades. We can take it as a probability that these marks be are bullet strikes from the 1916 fighting. It is unlikely in any case that an entire granite quoin would be replaced, whereas brick might easily be.

The bullet strikes at 25 Northumberland Road are most clearly visible at three locations at the corner of the building. Firstly, there is a bullet strike high up on the southern Haddington Street, side wall, fifth stone from the top, and secondly, there is probable bullet mark on the very same stone, but on the Northumberland Road street frontage side).

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Probable bullet strike on granite quoin, fifth from roof, on both this and the Northumberland Road side (Photo: Aidan O’Sullivan).

Thirdly, there is a dramatic bullet strike in the granite quoin on the corner of the front wall just above the level of the porch or hall roof (see below). This latter would appear to be a direct strike from a building directly across the street, possibly shot from a similar height.

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Probable bullet strike in the granite quoin at the corner of No. 25 Northumberland Road (Photo: Aidan O’Sullivan)

There are also possible bullet marks around some of the bricks on the Haddington Street side wall, but this remains unconfirmed.

These bullet marks are few enough, probably testifying to Michael Cussen’s repair of his property. They are hardly as dramatic as others we have seen elsewhere around Dublin City, but although faint, they may be echoes of the fierce and bloody battle for No. 25 Northumberland Road that took place a century ago.

But of course, while Northumberland Road had been taken, with grievous casualties amongst the British Sherwood Foresters, the Battle of Mount Street was not yet over…

‘Like French Revolution Furies’: Jacob’s, Fumbally Lane and the Other Women of 1916

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Blackpitts c.1900. The roof of the City of Dublin Maltings can be seen in the background (Image: NLI ROY 7891).

During the Rising some of the most significant mobilisations of working class women in the city, were not undertaken as part of the Rising, but rather as protests against the Volunteers. The witness statements collected by the Bureau of Military History are peppered with accounts of women, many of them soldiers’ wives, physically confronting Volunteers across the city. Their activities were concentrated in the southwest and northeast areas of the inner city, some of the most deprived areas of Dublin. This post considers the physical remains associated with the short-lived Jacob’s outpost in Fumbally lane and the role the women of the Liberties had in shaping the activities of the 2nd Battalion in the area.

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Map showing places where Separation Women are mentioned as active in the BMH witness statements.

The garrison of the 2nd Battalion at Jacob’s biscuit factory saw little action during Easter Week. For much of the Rising, the c.170 women and men in the vast building busied themselves sniping at British soldiers, building internal barricades and waiting for an assault from the British Army that never came. Jacob’s was ostensibly selected on account of the broad vistas afforded by the factory’s towers, as well as providing a useful store of food (WS733, 32). The Volunteers’ initial plan was to take over Jacob’s, with outposts in Fumbally Lane and Camden Street, to link up with the Citizen Army at Portobello (WS263, 14). This plan was only partially successful. While the outposts in Camden Street endured until Thursday, the Fumbally Lane outpost lasted less than seven hours, before being forced to retreat by local people opposed to the Volunteers.

The 2nd Battalion of Volunteers mustered at the Harcourt Street side of Saint Stephen’s Green on Easter Monday (WS0397, 4). At about 12 o’clock the Volunteers, and half a dozen women from Cumann na mBan, arrived at Jacobs (WS0263, 16-7). Once inside, the group commenced barricading the windows with bags of flour, and breaking out the glass where necessary. Battalion commander Thomas MacDonagh made his HQ on the ‘main floor’ of the factory (WS0263, 17). Another section of about 50 men under the command of Tom Hunter marched down Kevin Street and New Street and  into Fumbally Lane. Half of the company occupied the City of Dublin Maltings (called Barmack’s in the Witness Statements), while the other half took over adjacent houses (WS0716).

The Maltings lay on the south side of Fumbally Lane, amid the maze of narrow streets and tenement houses of Dublin Liberties, one of the city’s most deprived areas. Its four-story malt house provided a good vantage point over Blackpitts, covering the approach of British soldiers from Wellington Barracks on the South Circular Road, and overlooking a large open space to its west. The Maltings survive almost entirely, and have been converted into offices. The east range of the complex dates to before 1864, but most of it was constructed between c.1864 and c.1907. A letterhead on the City of Dublin Malting’s PLIC claim depicts the Maltings c.1916.

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Above: Image of the City of Dublin Maltings from a letterhead in the PLIC files (PLIC/1/4044). Below: An image of the buildings today from Google Maps.

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An extract of the 1907 25-inch map with surviving buildings shaded red.

The Volunteers occupied the top floor of the west range of the Maltings, immediately putting the building into a state of defence. They smashed and barricaded the windows.  Francis J. Ussher of the City of Dublin Maltings outlined the damage done in his application to the Property Losses (Ireland) Committee (PLIC):

All the glass in malt house windows were broken out of top loft. Also some sashes for the purpose of giving clean vision at the enemy and the anticipated battle 25th or 25th in the open space opposite as stated to the writer by a Sinn Fein officer same evening while in occupation of premises (NAI PLIC/1/4044).

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The junction of Fumbally Lane and Blackpitts today.

Outside the Maltings, barricades were erected at either end of Fumbally Lane and Malpas Street (on Blackpitts and in Clanbrassil Street). A coachbuilders’ yard in Blackpitts was forced open, and the lumber taken to form barricades, along with shutters from shops, and delivery carts from the surrounding dairy yards (WS0312, 5, WS0822, 4; WS0397, 4; WS0139, 4; WS0716, 6). Tenement houses in both Malpas Street and Fumbally Lane were occupied, knocked through, and loop-holed. In Fumbally Lane, a block of four houses covering the approach of British soldiers coming down Clanbrassil Street from Wellington Barracks was taken over (WS0716, 6), while at least two tenement houses in Malpas Street were occupied and loop-holed (WS0423; WS0267, 10; WS0716, 6).

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Map showing the outposts of Jacob’s Factory.

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The junction of Fumbally Lane and Blackpitts c.1900. The buildings on the left of the image have since been demolished. They were likely to have been occupied by Volunteers in 1916. Image: NLI L ROY 07886.

The substantial redevelopment of the streets around the City of Dublin Maltings, and the widening of New Street, has swept away most of the houses occupied by Volunteers on both Fumbally Lane and Malpas Street. A block of six contemporary houses survives at the southeast end of Fumbally Lane. Very few PLIC claims were filed in the area, and consequently we don’t know if any of the dwellings were occupied by Volunteers. A single claim was made for Malpas Street, for No. 10, a since-demolished tenement building. Its proprietor Mrs Dora Canavan with an address in Rathmines, filed for damages to the walls and window of the building by ‘disorderly men and boys on the day of the rebellion breakout’ (NAI PLIC/1/86).

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Looking west along Fumbally Lane today. The houses on the left of the picture are shown on the 1907 OS map. Some of them may have been occupied by Volunteers.

The outpost at Fumbally Lane did not last long. On Monday night the Volunteers retreated back to Jacob’s, largely due to the hostile reaction of local people in the Liberties. As Thomas Slater recalled in his witness statement, ‘they [the Volunteers] were in a dangerous position and no useful purpose was being served; they were attacked on all sides by civilians’ (WS0263, 18). From the outset the inhabitants of the area greeted the Volunteers with opposition, attempting to tear down the barricades, pelting them with stones, and shouting abuse of them. Chief among the protesters were women from the tenements whose husbands were fighting on the Continent with the British Army. The Separation Women, as they were known, were in receipt of an army separation allowance that was key to their survival in the precarious world of Dublin’s overcrowded tenements.

The Separation Women figure prominently in all the witness statements of Volunteers who were stationed at the Maltings outpost. Fianna member Seamus Pounch, who was in Malpas street, recalled, ‘some of the people were very antagonistic towards us, partly from the fact of being put out of their homes and mostly because they were of a pro-British type, soldiers’ wives and relatives’ (WS0267, 11). Volunteer Vincent Byrne remembered ‘when we came out on the street, a lot of soldiers’ wives and, I expect, imperialistic people – men and women – came around us. They jeered and shouted at us’ (WS0423, 2). Similarly, William Stapleton noted, ‘this was a very hostile area. We were boohed and frequently pelted with various articles throughout the day. We were openly insulted, particularly by the wives of British soldiers who were drawing separation allowance and who referred to their sons and husbands fighting for freedom in France’ (WS0822, 5). Thomas Pugh had particularly harsh words for the women describing them as ‘like French revolution furies’ (WS0397, 5).

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The Liberties was home to some of Dublin’s worst tenements. Many women from these communities were soldiers’ wives reliant on the Separation Allowance for survival. Image on the left shows a tenement family c.1901 (Image: dublintenementexperience.wordpress.com). Image on the right shows the inside of a tenement in the Coombe c.1913 (Image: RSAI).

The stern resistance shown by the residents of the Liberties made the Volunteers’ position untenable. Physical confrontations broke out at the barricades when locals attempted to tear them down. Ugly scenes ensured as the Volunteers tried to stand their ground, firing shots to keep the crowd at bay (WS0397, 5). The standoff culminated in the killing of at least three civilians by the Volunteers, including 15 year old Eleanor Warbrook from Malpas Terrace, who was shot in the face, and later died in Mercer’s Hospital [1]. Eleanor’s death is not mentioned in the Witness Statements, but the death of a man, who physically tackled the Volunteers was. Vincent Byrne recalled the incident:

‘One man in the crowd was very aggressive. He tried to take the rifle off one of our party. Lieutenant Billy Byrne told him to keep off or he would be sorry. The man, however, made a grab at the rifle. I heard a shot ring out and saw him falling at the wall’ (WS0423, 2).

Volunteer Michael Walker remembered the man being ‘shot and bayonetted’ (WS0139, 4).

Another man, suspected to be an undercover policeman was shot at the eastern side of Fumbally Lane. The incident was recalled by William Stapleton:

In the evening at Crosskevin St. end a man, who appeared to be a plain-clothes policeman, was ordered to move on. He had been observing our positions and taking notes. He refused to do so, and instructions were given that he was to be fired on. It so happened that one of our best shots was at the barricade and he opened fire and shot the man dead (WS0822, 5).

Return to Jacobs

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Jacob’s Biscuit Factory (Image: Dublin City Libraries).

The local opposition to the Volunteers’ actions must only have been compounded by the civilian deaths. On Monday evening they were forced to return to Jacob’s followed by an angry crowd. William Stapleton recalled the events:

As dusk was falling, about 7 or 8 o’clock, we retreated from the barricades to our headquarters at Jacob’s factory … and while waiting to be admitted at one of the large gates we were submitted to all sorts of indignities by some of the local people. It was difficult to preserve control due to the treatment. We suffered from these people. We were actually struck, and those in uniforms had their uniform caps knocked off, yet nothing of and those in uniforms had their uniform caps knocked off, yet nothing of an untold nature took place by way of retaliation … We were eventually admitted into Jacob’s factory and dispersed throughout the building … No sooner had we barricaded the entrance when the mob tried to burst the gate in. They kicked and barged it with some heavy implements, but seeing that that was of little effect they tried to set fire to it with old sacking which had been soaked in paraffin and pushed under the door and ignited … MacDonagh ordered me to remove the shot from my shotgun cartridges and fire a couple of blanks through the iron grid at the top of the gates in the direction of the mob in the hope of frightening them off. I did this and they dispersed after a short time (WS0822, 6).

The protests from local residents at Jacob’s continued throughout the week. During one incident Volunteers were prevented from removing a wooden access ladder from the back of the building. The men started breaking the ladder with sledgehammers when, ‘some of the immediate residents, hearing the noise, came to their windows and started a. wordy battle, they being of different opinions as to our actions, so that the work had to be stopped, uncompleted’ (WS0734, 26-7).

The Separation Women have an uncomfortable place in the narrative of 1916. They represent the largest mobilisation of working class Dublin women during the Rising, and were a significant presence on the streets in the northeast and southwest areas of the inner city. The Volunteers oscillated between dismissing them in distinctively class-conscious language, and rationalising their actions as dupes of the British State, who did not understand the Republican cause. In a rare contemporary diary, Seosamh de Brún vented his frustration:

Are these the people we are trying to free? Are they worth fighting for? The dregs of the population. They don’t understand. Patience! They are the product of misrule. If fighting for them improves their condition that alone consoles. Maintenance money has changed them [2].

Recent work has taken a more nuanced approach to the Separation Women, attempting to understand their actions in the context of the precarious world of Dublins’s tenements. As Narianna Kretschmer has put it:

Ultimately, separation women’s reactions must be understood as the result of a complex, interwoven relationship between emotional, political, social and economic influences. No one facet alone can fully explain why separation women jeered at the defeated rebels and looted abandoned Dublin shops. However, when all factors are viewed together, a picture emerges of women who every day faced the threat of homeless and starvation, and who had absolutely no recourse through which to voice their complaints [3].

[1] Joe Duffy’s list of Children Killed in 1916 Rising [http://static.rasset.ie/documents/radio1/joe-duffys-list-of-children-killed-in-1916-rising.pdf].

[2]The diary of an Irish rebel fighting in the 1916 Rising [http://www.irishcentral.com/roots/history/The-diary-of-an-Irish-rebel-fighting-in-the-1916-Rising-PHOTOS.html]

[3] Narianna Kretschmer, ‘The Female Dregs of Dublin”: Political Repression, Socioeconomic Deprivation and the Separation Women of Easter 1916’, B. A. Thesis

Moore Street: the Final Act of Surrender

It’s time we spoke about Moore Street. Moore Street is where the 1916 Rebellion ended and this project began.

At the beginning of Easter Week 1916, when reading the Proclamation a bemused Dubliner asked if it was a play. By the Friday the play was almost at an end. The theatre was Moore Street, the backdrop darkened disheveled rooms, cobbled laneways and empty barricaded shops. The actors terrified civilians, panicked Volunteers and British soldiers. The sounds were the roar of burning buildings on Henry Street and occasional gunfire. The drama of the week was reaching its climax.

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Moore Street today. Image: Alva Mac Gowan

In November 2011, I found myself sitting in a room on the first floor of an abandoned house on Moore Street with a planning board on my knee. Fellow archaeologist, Franc Myles was calling out measurements. I was drawing an elevation of a connecting wall between two terraced houses that had once had a large hole punched through. We had removed the plaster to find where the hole had been repaired and filled in.

This was the most recent archaeological investigation I had worked on and the first battlefield survey I had carried out; this timeline is often referred to in theoretical archaeological literature as the “contemporary past”. I never imagined 1916 could be investigated by archaeologists. I assumed it to be the terrain of historians, but the history books only went so far. What was even more unusual was that we were investigating the physical evidence of a chain of events that occurred during a 24 hour period from Friday the 28th to Saturday the 29th of April 1916, using the descriptions of the people involved to guide us.

‘… the walls were quite thin, and there was no bother breaking them. We reached as far as Price’s [Nos 22-23] or O’Hanlon’s [Nos 20-21] which was a fish shop. I remember the smells there. We spent Friday night barricading all the houses that we occupied by throwing down all the furniture from the rooms – clearing all the rooms – down the stairways into the halls, blocking up the doorways.’ BMS WS 899 (Oscar Traynor)

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A repaired opening on Moore Street. Image: Franc Myles

The aim was to illustrate the experience of the fighting on Moore Street whilst also taking into account the lives of Dubliners caught up in the conflict. More traditionally, much of the received narrative has been centered around the GPO. After its evacuation on Easter Friday, the terrace of shops and tenement dwellings on the east side of Moore Street became the final HQ Garrison of the leaders of the Rising and over 250 Volunteers, this was where the surrender was agreed upon.

On exiting the GPO The O’Rahilly led a charge of men towards the British barricade at the top of Moore Street; this move was to prove fatal. Shot down after ducking into a doorway The Ó’Rahilly spent his final hours lying on Sackville Lane, dying in a pool of blood. The British were aware of him being still alive, but chose to leave him there.

One of the few artefacts retrieved from Moore Street is a farewell note addressed to his wife, found in his jacket pocket:

“Written after I was shot – Darling Nancy I was shot leading a rush up Moore Street took refuge in a doorway. While I was there I heard the men pointing out where I was + I made a bolt  for the lane I am in now. I got more than one bullet I think, Tons and tons of love dearie to you + the boys + to Nell + Anna. It was a good fight anyhow. Please deliver this to Nannie O’Rahilly, 40 Herbert Park, Dublin  Good bye darling”

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The Ó’Rahilly note. Source: National Library of Ireland.

Once in the houses, the Volunteers quietly tunneled through the party walls throughout the night. At this point the men were completely exhausted:

“We were using a very large crowbar, and each man would take his turn at the bar for a few minutes and then stop to rest, a fresh man taking his place”. BMH WS 156 (Seamus Robinson).

Then men dispersed themselves among the houses keeping an open communication through the freshly hewn openings through houses 8-10 and 9-25 Moore Street.

Too bone weary to climb, many had to be carried through. At this point Connolly’s wounds were so bad he had to be passed through the openings on a stretcher; he thanked the Volunteers as they strained to carry him in a doomed last ditch attempt to lay low whilst formulating their next move to Ned Daly and his troops at the Four Courts.

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No.17 Moore Street today. Image: Franc Myles

Very few people realise that for the last 24 hours of the Rebellion the leaders and their exhausted men were huddled in small tenements, surrounded by British soldiers and terrified civilians. These images conjure up a far less glorious yet equally dramatic piece of theatre than if it were to have taken place in a burning GPO.

While we were working in the empty upper floors, the familiar cries of the Moore Street vendors wafted in through the broken windows and decaying walls; these women, their mothers and grandmothers have been selling produce from their market stalls for generations. It struck me how little the sounds on this street had changed since the men had passed through these walls. As I read the witness statements collected from the Volunteers involved in the street’s occupation, the sounds outside began to change.

On the Saturday morning, a Volunteer named James Kavanagh (BMH WS 388) described overhearing a five-year old girl who had stood outside a shop on the street below my window crying to her mother who was too terrified to come out,” Mammy, Mammy my grandad is dead”, her repeated cries rang in his ears. What made it all the more poignant is that he been haunted by the unanswered  pleas of the dying man the night before for a glass of water. Despite being warned not to go outside the man went out onto the street to seek safer accommodation for his family due to the unsettling presence of the Volunteers. The Volunteers first came across him just hours before huddled in a room in No.12 Moore Street, with his daughter and her children.

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A reconstruction of the British Army barricade at the top of Moore Street, staged shortly after the Rising (contemporary postcard).

The reason the civilian casualties were particularly bad on Moore Street was because a shoot-to-kill policy was being enforced by the British, killing anyone they saw in a attempt to finish the Rebellion on the basis that some of the Volunteers were dressed in civilian clothes. Their barricade on the junction of Moore Street and Parnell Street was heavily manned with two machine guns and no shortage of rifles. Outside and in the laneways confusion was rife, there were reports of Volunteers shooting their own men by mistake and a 16 year old girl, Brigid McKane, was shot in the head by a stray bullet as Volunteers attempted to break a lock on a door she was standing behind. The priest who came to bless the body broke into tears as soon as he saw her remains.

“I felt very sorry for the people who lived in these houses”, James Kavanagh reflects in his witness statement. “By going into them we were bringing death and destruction … mostly we would find we had burst from a hall or landing into a living or bedroom where frightened people were huddled together”. BMH WS 388

With five in total, the civilian deaths were rising rapidly and the Volunteers were becoming despondent as their leaders were unsure of what to do next; it gradually dawned on them that they were surrounded. It is said that Pearse finally decided to surrender after looking down at the civilian casualties on Moore Street, which included an elderly man whose body was seemingly wrapped in a white sheet as though it were a shroud. He had used it as a flag of truce which was ignored, despite him being unarmed.

Seán MacDermott’s appeal brought order to borderline mutiny on Moore Street, as he explained how many more civilians would perish if they fought on. He told them they’d fought a gallant fight and that their remaining duty now was to survive. The leaders huddled together in a back room in No. 16. Today the empty room is dark and damp, its walls are covered in a distressed blue paint and the corner fire place is empty. It felt eerie, standing there on the boards where Connolly, Pearse and Plunkett discussed the surrender.

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The back room in No.16 Moore Street, where it is said that a wounded Connolly lay and a surrender was first discussed by Pearse and the other leaders. Image: Franc Myles

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Patrick Pearse and Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell (to his right) deliver the unconditional surrender to the British on Parnell Street, Saturday 29th of April 1916. Image: http://www.liveauctioneers.com

The unexpected heroine was Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell whose statements bring more life to the drama. Her bravery and survival instincts led her on her own up Moore Street, passing the O’Rahilly’s hat lying on the ground, to face the British barricade with the offer of surrender which wasn’t accepted on account of her sex. Her womanhood and nurse’s attire are what had saved her from death but let her down when she needed to be taken seriously as a representative of the leaders of the Rebellion. She had to fetch Pearse to formally admit to an unconditional surrender.

Her brave composure is also what carried the despairing news to the other outposts around the city. Time and again she had to to look them in the eye and tell exhausted men, who had spent the week feeding off an intoxicating cocktail of hope and glory, that it was all over.

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The National Monument at Moore Street today. Image: Franc Myles

When we had completed our battlefield investigation and pulled the door shut behind us, our time in the Moore Street houses became another chapter in the history of the street. The survey had been commissioned by a private developer supporting a planning application to build a retail development, where some of the buildings were scheduled for demolition (where Nos. 14-17 had been declared a National Monument in 2007). Little did we know that the discoveries we made would provide the necessary evidence to halt this development in an unprecedented High Court Ruling in April of 2016.

How this particular urban battlefield will be remembered is currently being considered. Due to its neglected state of repair we were able to peel back the render to reveal the repaired openings. It is likely the work would never have been undertaken had the site not been on the cusp of redevelopment. Like in 1916, the street has once again been involved in a strange turn of events.

Boland’s Bakery and 1916

Using the railway line as a vital artery, Eamon de Valera and 120 men of the 3rd Battalion thinly spread themselves across various outposts in the area surrounding Grand Canal Dock and Ringsend including the gas works, a dispensary, Boland’s Mills, Boland’s Bakery, a railway workshop, the Dublin Distillery and the Guinness Granary stores opposite the bakery. The intention was to prevent the advance of any enemy force which might come from the direction of Ringsend to Sandymount or from the River Liffey. Further down the line they seized Westland Row Station, damaging tracks and signalling equipment to ensure British Troops landing at Dun Laoghaire harbour could not travel into the city, sentries were also posted on each of the railway bridges in this area.

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View from the railway, of the former site of Boland’s Bakery and the Dispensary 1916 H.Q. on Grand Canal Street

Due to modern redevelopment, probably more so than any of the other locations around the city that were formerly occupied by the Volunteers, this part of the city has changed significantly since 1916. Using the witness statements and the railway line, we managed to peel back the contemporary city to reveal what remains of the 1916 battlefield at Grand Canal Dock and Ringsend.

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Grand Canal Street entrance to Boland’s Bakery. Taken in the 1940s by the Air Corps. The railway yard can be seen in the distance. Image: bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie

One of the myths of the Rebellion is that Eamon de Valera and his men used  Boland’s Mills, as their headquarters during the occupation of Ringsend. In 1916, the mill building would’ve commanded a forceful position over looking the Victoria Bridge draw-bridge on the Ringsend Road and Grand Canal Dock, towering over its contemporaries as an impressive landmark evoking images of De Valera and his men inside plotting, planning and firing from. Today, the mills are dwarfed by modern developments as the area is gradually succumbing to high rise progress.

The thing is, during Easter Week De Valera never set foot in the building. His headquarters were actually in a since demolished Dispensary on the corner of Grand Canal Street next to Boland’s Bakery (above), a complex of low buildings nestled into an embankment near the railway. Physically the bakery wasn’t as commanding in appearance, this was completely intentional as its unassuming and discreet demeanor and strategic location next to the railway made it ideal.

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The front of Boland’s Bakery in the 1940s, the railway yard and track, Guinness Stores on Grand Canal Street, the distillery where the flag was hoisted can be seen in the distance. Image: bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie

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Caption on rear of above photograph. Source: bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie

A make-shift green flag with a gold harp was even hoisted on a pike on the water tank of the tall nearby Irish Distillery building as a decoy to encourage the British to shell the building, thereby making it useless as a covering position for themselves. The ploy worked, and the first shell to hit the flag was from the H.M.Y. Helga gun boat in the Liffey, it was logged to have fired 14 rounds at the distillery. Lieutenant Joseph O’Byrne and a small group of volunteers from the local Ringsend Company occupying the upper loft in Boland’s Mills counted as over 75 shots were fired at the national emblem. Whether both accounts are true or not, the damage was done.

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1907 25″ Historic Ordnance Survey Map of Boland’s Bakery Site on Grand Canal Street.

The dispensary and bakery site is now occupied by the Treasury Building, home of the National Asset Management Agency. The bakery that was there in 1916 was built in 1888 and demolished in the late 1940s, in 1951 it was replaced by a 5-storey building in 1951 which was re-clad and modernised in 1991. During a recent site inspection we found the northern boundary wall which separated the bakery from the railway yard and the western boundary wall which formed part of the stables have been retained and incorporated into a covered car park.

Referring to the 1907 Historic 25″ Ordnance Survey Map, which clearly depicts the bakery’s location in relation to the railway line. The Macken Street (formerly Great Clarence Street) entrance to the bakery was bricked up, however the gate posts can still be seen today in this boundary wall. The stables were in the gate to the left. Layers of plaster, air vents and brick work that are still evident today on the eastern face of this wall helped us identify the separate stalls for the horses.

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The Great Clarence Street (now Macken Street) entrance to Boland’s Bakery in the 1940s.  Source: bureauofmilitaryhistory.ie

 

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The former (Great Clarence Street, now Macken Street) entrance to Boland’s Bakery, which is now bricked up with a yellow brick. The original gate posts are still evident. The former Guinness Stores building can be seen in the distance to the left.The covered car park is now on the other side of this wall. Image: Alva Mac Gowan

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East facing wall of Boland’s Bakery Stable Block, the plaster scars show exactly where the troughs and air vents were for each stable. Image: Alva Mac Gowan

Evidence from the Witness Statements

An engineer broke a hole into the railway wall into a horse stall in the bakery yard to serve as a line of communication between the bakery and the railway which was now occupied from Westland Row to Landsdown Road. After knocking it open a gangway had to be built from bakery level to railway level.

“…the route from the bakery to the railway was through a hole very high in a horse’s stall. You walked or crawled up a gangway through the hole and out on to the railway, which was much higher than the bakery.” BMH.WS1768

The first casualty at Boland’s was Volunteer Radigan.
“He was crossing over the wall separating the bakery from the railway when his strap caught in the trigger of his rifle and the shot wounded him in the leg. He had to be carried down a long stable roof into the bakery.” BMH.WS1768

“We put “Kaiser” and “Mack” into two of the best stalls we could find in the bakery stables and made sure they had plenty to eat.” BMH.WS0198

“Kaiser” was a donkey and “Mack” a pony. The animals were lent by the Walsh’s, a family of green grocers from Great Brunswick Street (now Pearse Street), their sons’ Thomas and James Walsh were members of the “B” Company in the 5th Battalion that occupied the bakery. The two animals helped carry all the company’s equipment on any route marches which included a trek to Pine Forest in the Dublin mountains, so they were well used to military activity.

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Volunteer brothers, Thomas and James Walsh. Taken in 1914. Source: National Museum of Ireland.

During the lead up to the Rebellion like all the volunteers, “The Brothers Walsh” had to buy their uniforms in installments. In their witness statements they give a vivid account of the various goings on at the Bakery including a Fr McMahon from Westland Row who was using a bread van as a Confessional, after his confession was heard Thomas Walsh recalled saying his penance with his brother Jim… ” in a nook in a huge stack of flour bags”  BMH.WS0198

The two brothers were then transferred to an outpost around the corner at Clanwilliam House which was heavily involved in the shooting of Sherwood Foresters crossing Mount Street Bridge.

Eamon de  Valera let all the horses loose from the stables at Boland’s Bakery … his concern for animals didn’t stop there. There was a cats and dogs home north of the railway, since there was no one to feed them De Valera famously asked that they be set free, after this they were often seen wandering on the railway and streets below. One wonders what happened to all of these animals after the Rebellion.

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The northern boundary wall between the former stables and railway, it is now rendered with concrete, in 1916 a hole was pierced through with a gang plank to gain access to the railway. Image: Alva Mac Gowan

In 1916 land marks at Grand Canal Dock such as the Gas Works, Boland’s Mills and the Distillery Building were all considered to be obvious outposts and therefore targets, they were lightly manned and used as decoys. The Gas Works were dismantled to plunge the city into darkness and confuse the enemy, then left empty due to lack of men. Boland’s mills were occupied by a skeleton of Volunteers who were rumored to have looted the flour and brought it home to their families who lived locally. The tall distillery was used as a decoy by raising a green flag on its roof which drained the enemy of ammunition and prevented them from occupying the strategic location themselves.

To the British the docklands with its many empty warehouses, dead ends and darkened bridges could have had a sniper covering every corner. But the location was an important one as regards access to the city. It was a tricky one to man, since so few volunteers turned up and De Valera famously sent home all underage (under 18) Volunteers on the Tuesday and also refused any aid from Cumann na mBan, which meant perfectly good foot soldiers had to undertake their duties including feeding the troops and attending casualties.

The continued presence of some the structures associated with the site’s occupation in 1916 helps in giving legs to the witness statements. Street names have changed, vistas blocked and others opened up. It is however, comforting to know that some of the dockland’s original fabric has been woven into the modern metropolis of Grand Canal Dock.

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Grand Canal Dock DART station. Image: Alva Mac Gowan

 

 

 

 

 

Compensation: 1916 and the South Dublin Union Part 2

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PLIC leterhead (National Archives of Ireland).

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).

1913 SDU map.jpgThe claims from the S.D.U are divided under the following headings:

  • Glazing
  • Furniture
  • Electrical fittings
  • Clothing
  • Personal property

Glazing

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..

Furniture

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.

Electrical fittings

£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.

Personal property

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.

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A list of clothing belonging to the nurses in the Nurses’ Home that needed to be replaced. (National Archives of Ireland).

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View from the hall of the porch inside the entrance to the Nurses’ Home, c. 1950 (Bureau of Military History).

 

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Same view today, porch has been removed (Alva Mac Gowan).

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.

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Rear elevation of Nurses’ Home looking northeast (ALva Mac Gowan).

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.

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List of repairs to Nurses’ Home, (National Archives of Ireland)

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

New Hearth

 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

Painting

Sundry items

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List of repairs to the Nurses’ Home (National Archives of Ireland)

 

 

 

Kelly’s Fort, Sackville Street

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View of O’Connell Street after the Rising. M. Kelly and Son fishing tackle and gunpowder store is shown on the left hand side of the quays. Image: NLI INDH 22b.

The archaeology 1916 is as much about repair and rebuilding as it is about damage and destruction. The material legacy of the Rising extends beyond bullet strikes and broken party walls to quietly restored facades and new buildings emerging from gutted ruins. Nowhere is this more evident that on O’Connell Street.

On Easter Wednesday morning, as the Helga glided up the Liffey, the first shells began to fall on the iconic street. Volunteer outposts were soon under sustained fire from British Army posts at Trinity and at Independent House, D’Olier Street. On Thursday, the Imperial Hotel was shelled, and fires broke out on the eastern side of the street; Hopkins, the Dublin Bread Company, and the rest of the block as far as Middle Abbey Street was set ablaze and the fire soon spread to Wynne’s Hotel and the Royal Hibernian Academy. Hoyte’s Drug Hall, near the Imperial Hotel on Lower O’Connell Street, ignited dramatically in a ball of flames; the highly flammable oils and chemical creating a deadly spectacle [5].

The western side of the street suffered less. The block between Middle Abbey Street and the Quays (Nos 45-56) remains largely intact, although a number of the buildings have been subsequently redeveloped. At the end of this row, overlooking the Liffey, is the site of Kelly’s Fort, No. 56 O’Connell Street Lower. Kelly’s was one of a pair of Volunteers outposts commanding O’Connell Bridge and the quays, the other being (the now destroyed) Hopkins and Hopkins Jewellers on the southeast corner of the street. The outposts faced College Green and TCD, the likely direction of a British offensive on the GPO garrison [1].

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O’Connell [Sackville] Street c.1900. The site of Kelly’s Fort is shown on the left hand side of the photograph at the corner of O’Connell Street and Bachelor’s Walk. Image: Library of Congress.

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The site of Kelly’s Fort marked on the 25-inch 1907 OS map.

Kelly’s Fort got its name from M. Kelly and Son fishing tackle and gunpowder office, the business based in the building in 1916. The building itself dates to between the 1790s-1810s, when much of Sackville Street lower was constructed [2]. During the Rising, Kelly’s Fort was occupied by Volunteers under the command of Captain Peadar Bracken from Kimmage.  At 12 noon on Easter Monday, Bracken and five men from the Kimmage Garrison occupied Kelly’s. Bracken recalled their actions in his BMH statement:

After I inspected the position, we barricaded the ground floor and occupied the first storey. From there I got each house linked up by boring through the walls (with crowbars got on the south side of the Bridge from a Corporation man), zigzagging in each room to save us from an enfilade tire if any house was occupied by the enemy (BMH WS361, 8).

Arthur Agnew, also in Kelly’s, recounted the same events:

We proceeded to barricade Kelly’s with furniture, sewing machines, etc. – in fact, anything we could lay our hands on. We bored into the next house, Chancellor’s the Photographers – and from there we kept boring until we finally arrived at Elvery’s (BMH WS152, 4).

Monday was quiet. The men busied themselves intercepting looters from the windows of Kelly’s and filling up vessels with water in case the water was cut off (WS361, 8). On Tuesday the outpost was reinforced by five men from the Fingal Battalion, and welcome supplies of grenades and ammunition came from the GPO (WS361, 8). Agnew remembered that ‘We got some sandwiches from the G.P.O. that day and in the evening some girls from the G.P.O. brought us more sandwiches and cakes’ (WS152, 4).Gunfire was exchanged with sniper at Trinity College, and the men continued the work of boring through the party walls of the houses, reaching Middle Abbey Street (WS361, 8).

Action intensified on Wednesday with the arrival of the British naval vessel, the Helga. Taking advantage of their clear view, Bracken and his men took shots at the Helga’s crew:

I opened fire on members of the crew who were exposing themselves on her decks, which had the effect of making them take cover. Later on, the Helga pulled in at the Custom House and some men dashed out of her for the building. They also came under my fire which scattered them (WS361, 9).

The Volunteers in Kelly’s noticed that the Independent House, in D’Olier Street, had been occupied by the military, and they began sniping at the soldiers. As Bracken recounted:

One [solider] exposed himself a little at a side door whom I pointed out to my comrades. I told them not to move a trigger until he came outside and to leave him to me. He came out on the path and I dropped him. Another showed up and I allowed him to pull in the casualty. In a few seconds he reached out with his rifle to fish in the one on the path. While doing so, he exposed his arm and side, and I let him have one which caused his cap to bound out to the street (BMH WS361, 9).

Kelly’s came under constant machine-gun fire from Independent house, and in the afternoon, a ‘big gun’ at TCD began to shell the position. The third storey of Kelly’s was hit by a shell, which as Bracken recalled ‘cleared our cook from the third storey and enveloped him in dust, but he was nothing the worse otherwise. Shells were bursting all round us’ (BMH WS361, 10).

Bracken sent a dispatch to the GPO to report the shelling of the building. The men were ordered to evacuate to the GPO, where they were able to rest and have something to eat. Later they were redeployed to the block of buildings between Middle Abbey Street and Princes Street. Bracken wanted to reoccupy Kelly’s, but was unable to because of the constant machine gun fire on Middle Abbey Street (BMH WS361, 9-10).

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Kelly’s Fort after the Rising showing the extensive damage done to the building (Image: Dublin after the Six Days’ Insurrection, 1916).

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Advert from 1916 announcing the opening of Kapp and Peterson at Kelly’s Fort. Source: comeheretome.com

Photographs taken after the Rising show the extensive damage done to Kelly’s. All the windows were broken and the southern façade was punctured by shells and gunfire. Kelly’s made a substantial claim to the Property Losses (Ireland) Committee. They filed for 1051-9-2 for damage done to No. 56 and the adjacent property, No. 34 Bachelor’s Walk, which they also owned [6]. Included in their claim was the repair of the holes bored in the walls by the Volunteers on the second floor.

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Kelly’s file from the Property Losses (Ireland) Committee (PLIC/1/4347).

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Detail of the claim for repair of the hole bored by Volunteers through Kelly’s (PLIC/1/4347).

Shortly after the Rising, the lease on the building was acquired by Knapp and Peterson, pipe-makers, who set about renovating the property. In June 1916, the Irish Builder carried a notice for their intended works:

Dublin – Messrs. Kapp and Peterson Ltd., having acquired the premises No.56 Lower Sackville Street, otherwise known as “Kelly’s Fort,” intend to carry out alternations and repairs to put the premises in thorough order again. It is intended to clear away all the brick walls on the ground floor and carry the superstructure over the shop by steel joists and a steel column at the corner, the joists being supported by stanchions bedded on reinforced concrete. A handsome shop front and shop fixtures are to be installed by Mr. A. H. Bex, 19 South King St, which will include the formation of island show cases, polished granite bases to the shop windows etc.  The upper portion of the premises which was badly riddled by shell and rifle fire during the insurrection, is to be practically rebuilt, with new floors, partitions, etc., to make the rooms suitable for letting as offices. The building operations are to be carried out under the superintendence of Mr. G. P. Sheridan, architect, 1 Suffolk Street [4].

In 1918 a photograph of the renovated premises accompanied an article in the Freeman’s Journal on the rebuilding of O’Connell Street after the Rising. Today the façade of the building looks much as it did in 1916. The shop front erected by Kapp and Peterson in the aftermath of the Rising can still be seen complete with the company’s logo.

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Kelly’s Fort in 1918 after the renovations by Kapp and Peterson Ltd. Image: The Freeman’s Journal, 6 June, 1918.

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Kapp and Peterson’s shop front today.

References:

[1] Foy and Barton, The Easter Rising (The History Press, 1999), 175.

[2] Christine Casey, The Buildings of Ireland, Dublin (Yale University Press, 2005), 213.

[3] https://comeheretome.com/2012/10/15/kapp-and-peterson/

[4] The Irish Builder, No. 58, 24 June 1916, p. 284-287.

[5] Foy and Barton, The Easter Rising (The History Press, 1999), 189.

[6] National Archives of Ireland, PLIC/1/4347.