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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)


Memories of 1916

Co. Carlow


Memories of 1916

Part One

PERHAPS it was listening to Bertie’s (Bertie Ahern) passionate appeal to the people to say yes to the forthcoming Memorandum that set me thinking about what was really the start of that final fight for freedom, the rising on Easter Monday 1916. Bertie spoke of the thousands of Irishmen and Women who had died seeking the right to have a free vote and more important, to vote whatever way we liked.

It was at the annual commemoration of the 1916 rising and the men and women who took part in it. I suppose it was as good a time as any to make that appeal, especially as he was nearing the end of his time to be in a position to do so, whether it will be successful or not only time will tell.

As a statesman he would rank with the best we have had and his efforts to get the Good Friday Agreement signed would rank with the finest. Somehow I began to wonder what would De Valera have did in the same circumstances. When we think of Dev and Churchill and the dispute over the ports in the 1940’s, I think Churchill was a harder nut to crack than Tony Blair. But then Bertie had cultivated Blair and played him like a fisherman plays a salmon. Then another point arises, was our neutrality as neutral as it was supposed to be. A lot of revelations after the war looked otherwise. We could go on for hours going back over the great men in our history and discover that Michael Collins could claim that he could hang his hat on the wall as high as the best of them. So let history tell the true story in time still to come and maybe we would all be surprised. It was passing where Jacob’s factory used to be that set other little thoughts to work, so let us base this on Jacob’s and the happenings therein for they would be a microcosm of what was happening elsewhere in 1916.

The workers of Jacob’s Factory got a hard jolt when they were told they were being let off work from what had appeared to be one of the safest jobs in the country as far as duration of work was concerned. Jacobs and biscuits had been associated as long as most of, not only the present workers but their parents and grandparents, could remember. But Jacob’s factory was remembered by many for more than its association with biscuits, it had been one of the Dublin buildings taken over the Irish Volunteers and the Citizen Army in their attempt to strike for freedom on Easter Monday 1916.

The simmering pot that had been the organising and training of the Volunteers for the past few years now boiled over and the burning desire for freedom from British laws and independence for their own country sent the men who were prepared to give their lives for that cause into action against what would be deemed impossible odds. By the end of the week they knew the battle was lost but they had laid the foundation for the winning of the war. Although they did not live to see it, the flag they raised on the roof of the G.P.O. now floats proudly over that building and can be seen not only in the land they died for but in Irish Embassy’s and Military Posts all over a world in which they champion the cause of Freedom. They may have failed to finalise their ambition on that Easter Week in 1916 but to alter a little the quote of a few words from the song “The Four Green Fields” ‘Their sons had sons, and they wanted their country free’ so today the ‘rivers run free’ and Ireland has taken her place amid the Nations of the earth.

To get back to 1916 and the many unfortunate mistakes and false rumours that reduced the chances of success by at least 60% we must see the position the organisers were in. For a start off they had made the same mistake that had ruined rebellions throughout Ireland’s history, they were always waiting for some other nation or some even to come to their assistance. It had been the French in 1798, now it was the Germans. Connolly, who was one of the real founders of the move towards a rebellion, in his writings and appeals in the Workers Republic was demanding quick action. His fear was that the fortunes of war might change and that the plan for the rising would then become outdated. His politics and his organisation were the first threads of forming socialism and were bitterly opposed by the government and a powerful Catholic Church. Even the leaders of the Volunteers’ were hesitant, so he decided to go over their heads and contact the rank and file thus creating a position into which would be sucked the Executive of the Volunteers leaving them no option but to go ahead with the rising. One of his comrades, Hobson, recognised the danger of such strategy and persuaded Mac Neill to come face to face with Connolly at a headquarters meeting on Sunday 16th January 1916.

It was at this meeting that the Executive, after hearing Connolly’s admission that the was prepared to use the Citizen Army in an attempt to create a nationwide rising, that they informed him that they would have nothing to do with it under such circumstances.

Pearse, who was at the meeting, was equally appalled, although for a different reason. It was now that he informed the Military Council that Connolly was gone out of control and that his actions would draw real British action if something was not done at once.

The heads of the council came to the conclusion that something had to be done at once and three days later, he was taken from Liberty Hall by two IRB men. This strange action was never fully explained but afterwards the following story was told.

He was brought to a brickworks in the suburb of Dolphin’s Barn and in the following three days he was interviewed by Pearse, MacDermott and Plunkett. This is supposed to be the first time he heard of the Military Council’s existence and the plans they had made for a German Arms shipment and a Rising. In return for abandoning his own plans he was offered a place on the Military Council and an alliance between the Citizen Army and the Volunteers. We are told Connolly agreed and that ended the split in the groups getting ready for the rising.

The plans went ahead and but for a few changes in location and the landing place of the German rifles they were a copy of plans already drawn up by Plunkett in

1915.

The importance of Dublin in the rising was obvious. It was the base from which both the Volunteers and the Citizen Army would operate and it was now a matter of selecting the important points from a military point of view. This was gone into in depth and among the important points selected was Jacob’s biscuit factory. This was to be occupied by MacDonagh’s 2nd Battalion. The factory was made important because of the fact that it was less than three-quarters of a mile from both Portobello and Richmond Barracks on the southern rim of what was called the central city area.

On the day of the rising some of the commanders were up tight with worry and wonder, and one of them was MacDonagh who was a battalion commander and had been designated to lead his men in the occupation of Jacob’s Factory. He spent some time with his fellow leaders before having to rush to his post.

Source: Previously published in The Nationalist Thursday, May 01, 2008


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