The Insurrection in Dublin
Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Martin Pettit and PG Distributed
[Transcriber's note: The spelling inconsistencies of the original are
retained in this etext.]
_BY THE SAME AUTHOR_
THE HILL OF VISION "
GREEN BRANCHES "
SONGS FROM THE CLAY (Macmillan)
THE ADVENTURES OF SEUMAS BEG "
* * * * *
THE CHARWOMANS DAUGHTER (Macmillan)
THE CROCK OF GOLD "
HERE ARE LADIES "
THE DEMI-GODS "
* * * * *
THE INSURRECTION IN DUBLIN
BY JAMES STEPHENS
MAUNSEL & COMPANY, LTD. DUBLIN AND LONDON 1916
VIII. THE INSURRECTION IS OVER
IX. THE VOLUNTEERS
X. SOME OF THE LEADERS
XI. LABOUR AND THE INSURRECTION
XII. THE IRISH QUESTIONS
The day before the rising was Easter Sunday, and they were crying
joyfully in the Churches "Christ has risen." On the following day they
were saying in the streets "Ireland has risen." The luck of the moment
was with her. The auguries were good, and, notwithstanding all that has
succeeded, I do not believe she must take to the earth again, nor be
ever again buried. The pages hereafter were written day by day during
the Insurrection that followed Holy Week, and, as a hasty impression of
a most singular time, the author allows them to stand without any
The few chapters which make up this book are not a history of the
rising. I knew nothing about the rising. I do not know anything about it
now, and it may be years before exact information on the subject is
available. What I have written is no more than a statement of what
passed in one quarter of our city, and a gathering together of the
rumour and tension which for nearly two weeks had to serve the Dublin
people in lieu of news. It had to serve many Dublin people in place of
To-day, the 8th of May, the book is finished, and, so far as Ireland is
immediately concerned, the insurrection is over. Action now lies with
England, and on that action depends whether the Irish Insurrection is
over or only suppressed.
In their dealings with this country, English Statesmen have seldom shown
political imagination; sometimes they have been just, sometimes, and
often, unjust. After a certain point I dislike and despise justice. It
is an attribute of God, and is adequately managed by Him alone; but
between man and man no other ethics save that of kindness can give
results. I have not any hope that this ethic will replace that, and I
merely mention it in order that the good people who read these words may
enjoy the laugh which their digestion needs.
I have faith in man, I have very little faith in States man. But I
believe that the world moves, and I believe that the weight of the
rolling planet is going to bring freedom to Ireland. Indeed, I name this
date as the first day of Irish freedom, and the knowledge forbids me
mourn too deeply my friends who are dead.
It may not be worthy of mention, but the truth is, that Ireland is not
cowed. She is excited a little. She is gay a little. She was not with
the revolution, but in a few months she will be, and her heart which was
withering will be warmed by the knowledge that men have thought her
worth dying for. She will prepare to make herself worthy of devotion,
and that devotion will never fail her. So little does it take to raise
Does it avail anything to describe these things to English readers? They
have never moved the English mind to anything except impatience, but
to-day and at this desperate conjunction they may be less futile than
heretofore. England also has grown patriotic, even by necessity. It is
necessity alone makes patriots, for in times of peace a patriot is a
quack when he is not a shark. Idealism pays in times of peace, it dies
in time of war. Our idealists are dead and yours are dying hourly.
The English mind may to-day be enabled to understand what is wrong with
us, and why through centuries we have been "disthressful." Let them
look at us, I do not say through the fumes that are still rising from
our ruined streets, but through the smoke that is rolling from the North
Sea to Switzerland, and read in their own souls the justification for
all our risings, and for this rising.
Is it wrong to say that England has not one friend in Europe? I say it.
Her Allies of to-day were her enemies of yesterday, and politics alone
will decide what they will be to-morrow. I say it, and yet I am not
entirely right, for she has one possible friend unless she should decide
that even one friend is excessive and irks her. That one possible friend
is Ireland. I say, and with assurance, that if our national questions
are arranged there will remain no reason for enmity between the two
countries, and there will remain many reasons for friendship.
It may be objected that the friendship of a country such as Ireland has
little value; that she is too small geographically, and too thinly
populated to give aid to any one. Only sixty odd years ago our
population was close on ten millions of people, nor are we yet sterile;
in area Ireland is not collossal, but neither is she microscopic. Mr.
Shaw has spoken of her as a "cabbage patch at the back of beyond." On
this kind of description Rome might be called a hen-run and Greece a
back yard. The sober fact is that Ireland has a larger geographical area
than many an independent and prosperous European kingdom, and for all
human and social needs she is a fairly big country, and is beautiful and
fertile to boot. She could be made worth knowing if goodwill and trust
are available for the task.
I believe that what is known as the "mastery of the seas" will, when the
great war is finished, pass irretrievably from the hands or the ambition
of any nation, and that more urgently than ever in her history England
will have need of a friend. It is true that we might be her enemy and
might do her some small harm--it is truer that we could be her friend,
and could be of very real assistance to her.
Should the English Statesman decide that our friendship is worth having
let him create a little of the political imagination already spoken of.
Let him equip us (it is England's debt to Ireland) for freedom, not in
the manner of a miser who arranges for the chilly livelihood of a needy
female relative; but the way a wealthy father would undertake the
settlement of his son. I fear I am assisting my reader to laugh too
much, but laughter is the sole excess that is wholesome.
If freedom is to come to Ireland--as I believe it is--then the Easter
Insurrection was the only thing that could have happened. I speak as an
Irishman, and am momentarily leaving out of account every other
consideration. If, after all her striving, freedom had come to her as a
gift, as a peaceful present such as is sometimes given away with a pound
of tea, Ireland would have accepted the gift with shamefacedness, and
have felt that her centuries of revolt had ended in something very like
ridicule. The blood of brave men had to sanctify such a consummation if
the national imagination was to be stirred to the dreadful business
which is the organizing of freedom, and both imagination and brains have
been stagnant in Ireland this many a year. Following on such tameness,
failure might have been predicted, or, at least feared, and war (let us
call it war for the sake of our pride) was due to Ireland before she
could enter gallantly on her inheritance. We might have crept into
liberty like some kind of domesticated man, whereas now we may be
allowed to march into freedom with the honours of war. I am still
appealing to the political imagination, for if England allows Ireland to
formally make peace with her that peace will be lasting, everlasting;
but if the liberty you give us is all half-measures, and distrusts and
stinginesses, then what is scarcely worth accepting will hardly be worth
thanking you for.
There is a reference in the earlier pages of this record to a letter
which I addressed to Mr. George Bernard Shaw and published in the _New
Age_. This was a thoughtless letter, and subsequent events have proved
that it was unmeaning and ridiculous. I have since, through the same
hospitable journal, apologised to Mr. Shaw, but have let my reference to
the matter stand as an indication that electricity was already in the
air. Every statement I made about him in that letter and in this book
was erroneous; for, afterwards, when it would have been politic to run
for cover, he ran for the open, and he spoke there like the valiant
thinker and great Irishman that he is.
* * * * *
Since the foregoing was written events have moved in this country. The
situation is no longer the same. The executions have taken place. One
cannot justly exclaim against the measures adopted by the military
tribunal, and yet, in the interests of both countries one may deplore
them. I have said there was no bitterness in Ireland, and it was true at
the time of writing. It is no longer true; but it is still possible by
generous Statesmanship to allay this, and to seal a true union between
Ireland and England.
INSURRECTION IN DUBLIN
This has taken everyone by surprise. It is possible, that, with the
exception of their Staff, it has taken the Volunteers themselves by
surprise; but, to-day, our peaceful city is no longer peaceful; guns are
sounding, or rolling and crackling from different directions, and,
although rarely, the rattle of machine guns can be heard also.
Two days ago war seemed very far away--so far, that I have covenanted
with myself to learn the alphabet of music. Tom Bodkin had promised to
present me with a musical instrument called a dulcimer--I persist in
thinking that this is a species of guitar, although I am assured that it
is a number of small metal plates which are struck with sticks, and I
confess that this description of its function prejudices me more than a
little against it. There is no reason why I should think dubiously of
such an instrument, but I do not relish the idea of procuring music with
a stick. With this dulcimer I shall be able to tap out our Irish
melodies when I am abroad, and transport myself to Ireland for a few
minutes, or a few bars.
In preparation for this present I had through Saturday and Sunday been
learning the notes of the Scale. The notes and spaces on the lines did
not trouble me much, but those above and below the line seemed ingenious
and complicated to a degree that frightened me.
On Saturday I got the _Irish Times_, and found in it a long article by
Bernard Shaw (reprinted from the _New York Times_). One reads things
written by Shaw. Why one does read them I do not know exactly, except
that it is a habit we got into years ago, and we read an article by Shaw
just as we put on our boots in the morning--that is, without thinking
about it, and without any idea of reward.
His article angered me exceedingly. It was called "Irish Nonsense
talked in Ireland." It was written (as is almost all of his journalistic
work) with that _bonhomie_ which he has cultivated--it is his
mannerism--and which is essentially hypocritical and untrue. _Bonhomie_!
It is that man-of-the-world attitude, that shop attitude, that
between-you-and-me-for-are-we-not-equal-and-cultured attitude, which is
the tone of a card-sharper or a trick-of-the-loop man. That was the tone
of Shaw's article. I wrote an open letter to him which I sent to the
_New Age_, because I doubted that the Dublin papers would print it if I
sent it to them, and I knew that the Irish people who read the other
papers had never heard of Shaw, except as a trade-mark under which very
good Limerick bacon is sold, and that they would not be interested in
the opinions of a person named Shaw on any subject not relevant to
bacon. I struck out of my letter a good many harsh things which I said
of him, and hoped he would reply to it in order that I could furnish
these acidities to him in a second letter.
That was Saturday.
On Sunday I had to go to my office, as the Director was absent in
London, and there I applied myself to the notes and spaces below the
stave, but relinquished the exercise, convinced that these mysteries
were unattainable by man, while the knowledge that above the stave there
were others and not less complex, stayed mournfully with me.
I returned home, and as novels (perhaps it is only for the duration of
the war) do not now interest me I read for some time in Madame
Blavatsky's "Secret Doctrine," which book interests me profoundly.
George Russell was out of town or I would have gone round to his house
in the evening to tell him what I thought about Shaw, and to listen to
his own much finer ideas on that as on every other subject. I went to
On the morning following I awoke into full insurrection and bloody war,
but I did not know anything about it. It was Bank Holiday, but for
employments such as mine there are not any holidays, so I went to my
office at the usual hour, and after transacting what business was
necessary I bent myself to the notes above and below the stave, and
marvelled anew at the ingenuity of man. Peace was in the building, and
if any of the attendants had knowledge or rumour of war they did not
mention it to me.
At one o'clock I went to lunch. Passing the corner of Merrion Row I saw
two small groups of people. These people were regarding steadfastly in
the direction of St. Stephen's Green Park, and they spoke occasionally
to one another with that detached confidence which proved they were
mutually unknown. I also, but without approaching them, stared in the
direction of the Green. I saw nothing but the narrow street which
widened to the Park. Some few people were standing in tentative
attitudes, and all looking in the one direction. As I turned from them
homewards I received an impression of silence and expectation and
On the way home I noticed that many silent people were standing in their
doorways--an unusual thing in Dublin outside of the back streets. The
glance of a Dublin man or woman conveys generally a criticism of one's
personal appearance, and is a little hostile to the passer. The look of
each person as I passed was steadfast, and contained an enquiry instead
of a criticism. I felt faintly uneasy, but withdrew my mind to a
meditation which I had covenanted with myself to perform daily, and
passed to my house.
There I was told that there had been a great deal of rifle firing all
the morning, and we concluded that the Military recruits or Volunteer
detachments were practising that arm. My return to business was by the
way I had already come. At the corner of Merrion Row I found the same
silent groups, who were still looking in the direction of the Green, and
addressing each other occasionally with the detached confidence of
strangers. Suddenly, and on the spur of the moment, I addressed one of
these silent gazers.
"Has there been an accident?" said I.
I indicated the people standing about.
"What's all this for?"
He was a sleepy, rough-looking man about 40 years of age, with a blunt
red moustache, and the distant eyes which one sees in sailors. He looked
at me, stared at me as at a person from a different country. He grew
wakeful and vivid.
"Don't you know," said he.
And then he saw that I did not know.
"The Sinn Feiners have seized the City this morning."
"Oh!" said I.
He continued with the savage earnestness of one who has amazement in his
"They seized the City at eleven o'clock this morning. The Green there is
full of them. They have captured the Castle. They have taken the Post
"My God!" said I, staring at him, and instantly I turned and went
running towards the Green.
In a few seconds I banished astonishment and began to walk. As I drew
near the Green rifle fire began like sharply-cracking whips. It was from
the further side. I saw that the Gates were closed and men were standing
inside with guns on their shoulders. I passed a house, the windows of
which were smashed in. As I went by a man in civilian clothes slipped
through the Park gates, which instantly closed behind him. He ran
towards me, and I halted. He was carrying two small packets in his hand.
He passed me hurriedly, and, placing his leg inside the broken window
of the house behind me, he disappeared. Almost immediately another man
in civilian clothes appeared from the broken window of another house. He
also had something (I don't know what) in his hand. He ran urgently
towards the gates, which opened, admitted him, and closed again.
In the centre of this side of the Park a rough barricade of carts and
motor cars had been sketched. It was still full of gaps. Behind it was a
halted tram, and along the vistas of the Green one saw other trams
I came to the barricade. As I reached it and stood by the Shelbourne
Hotel, which it faced, a loud cry came from the Park. The gates opened
and three men ran out. Two of them held rifles with fixed bayonets. The
third gripped a heavy revolver in his fist. They ran towards a motor car
which had just turned the corner, and halted it. The men with bayonets
took position instantly on either side of the car. The man with the
revolver saluted, and I heard him begging the occupants to pardon him,
and directing them to dismount. A man and woman got down. They were
again saluted and requested to go to the sidewalk. They did so.
NOTE--As I pen these words rifle shot is cracking from three
different directions and continually. Three minutes ago there was two
discharges from heavy guns. These are the first heavy guns used in
the Insurrection, 25th April.
The man crossed and stood by me. He was very tall and thin, middle-aged,
with a shaven, wasted face. "I want to get down to Armagh to-day," he
said to no one in particular. The loose bluish skin under his eyes was
twitching. The Volunteers directed the chauffeur to drive to the
barricade and lodge his car in a particular position there. He did it
awkwardly, and after three attempts he succeeded in pleasing them. He
was a big, brown-faced man, whose knees were rather high for the seat he
was in, and they jerked with the speed and persistence of something
moved with a powerful spring. His face was composed and fully under
command, although his legs were not. He locked the car into the
barricade, and then, being a man accustomed to be commanded, he awaited
an order to descend. When the order came he walked directly to his
master, still preserving all the solemnity of his features. These two
men did not address a word to each other, but their drilled and
expressionless eyes were loud with surprise and fear and rage. They went
into the Hotel.
I spoke to the man with the revolver. He was no more than a boy, not
more certainly than twenty years of age, short in stature, with close
curling red hair and blue eyes--a kindly-looking lad. The strap of his
sombrero had torn loose on one side, and except while he held it in his
teeth it flapped about his chin. His face was sunburnt and grimy with
dust and sweat.
This young man did not appear to me to be acting from his reason. He was
doing his work from a determination implanted previously, days, weeks
perhaps, on his imagination. His mind was--where? It was not with his
body. And continually his eyes went searching widely, looking for
spaces, scanning hastily the clouds, the vistas of the streets, looking
for something that did not hinder him, looking away for a moment from
the immediacies and rigours which were impressed where his mind had
When I spoke he looked at me, and I know that for some seconds he did
not see me. I said:--
"What is the meaning of all this? What has happened?"
He replied collectedly enough in speech, but with that ramble and
errancy clouding his eyes.
"We have taken the City. We are expecting an attack from the military at
any moment, and those people," he indicated knots of men, women and
children clustered towards the end of the Green, "won't go home for me.
We have the Post Office, and the Railways, and the Castle. We have all
the City. We have everything."
(Some men and two women drew behind me to listen).
"This morning," said he, "the police rushed us. One ran at me to take my
revolver. I fired but I missed him, and I hit a--"
"You have far too much talk," said a voice to the young man.
I turned a few steps away, and glancing back saw that he was staring
after me, but I know that he did not see me--he was looking at turmoil,
and blood, and at figures that ran towards him and ran away--a world in
motion and he in the centre of it astonished.
The men with him did not utter a sound. They were both older. One,
indeed, a short, sturdy man, had a heavy white moustache. He was quite
collected, and took no notice of the skies, or the spaces. He saw a man
in rubbers placing his hand on a motor bicycle in the barricade, and
called to him instantly: "Let that alone."
The motorist did not at once remove his hand, whereupon the
white-moustached man gripped his gun in both hands and ran violently
towards him. He ran directly to him, body to body, and, as he was short
and the motorist was very tall, stared fixedly up in his face. He roared
up at his face in a mighty voice.
"Are you deaf? Are you deaf? Move back!"
The motorist moved away, pursued by an eye as steady and savage as the
point of the bayonet that was level with it.
Another motor car came round the Ely Place corner of the Green and
wobbled at the sight of the barricade. The three men who had returned
to the gates roared "Halt," but the driver made a tentative effort to
turn his wheel. A great shout of many voices came then, and the three
men ran to him.
"Drive to the barricade," came the order.
The driver turned his wheel a point further towards escape, and
instantly one of the men clapped a gun to the wheel and blew the tyre
open. Some words were exchanged, and then a shout:
"Drive it on the rim, drive it."
The tone was very menacing, and the motorist turned his car slowly to
the barricade and placed it in.
For an hour I tramped the City, seeing everywhere these knots of
watchful strangers speaking together in low tones, and it sank into my
mind that what I had heard was true, and that the City was in
insurrection. It had been promised for so long, and had been threatened
for so long. Now it was here. I had seen it in the Green, others had
seen it in other parts--the same men clad in dark green and equipped
with rifle, bayonet, and bandolier, the same silent activity. The police
had disappeared from the streets. At that hour I did not see one
policeman, nor did I see one for many days, and men said that several of
them had been shot earlier in the morning; that an officer had been shot
on Portobello Bridge, that many soldiers had been killed, and that a
good many civilians were dead also.
Around me as I walked the rumour of war and death was in the air.
Continually and from every direction rifles were crackling and rolling;
sometimes there was only one shot, again it would be a roll of firing
crested with single, short explosions, and sinking again to whip-like
snaps and whip-like echoes; then for a moment silence, and then again
the guns leaped in the air.
The rumour of positions, bridges, public places, railway stations,
Government offices, having been seized was persistent, and was not
denied by any voice.
I met some few people I knew. P.H., T.M., who said: "Well!" and thrust
their eyes into me as though they were rummaging me for information.
But there were not very many people in the streets. The greater part of
the population were away on Bank Holiday, and did not know anything of
this business. Many of them would not know anything until they found
they had to walk home from Kingstown, Dalkey, Howth, or wherever they
I returned to my office, decided that I would close it for the day. The
men were very relieved when I came in, and were more relieved when I
ordered the gong to be sounded. There were some few people in the place,
and they were soon put out. The outer gates were locked, and the great
door, but I kept the men on duty until the evening. We were the last
public institution open; all the others had been closed for hours.
I went upstairs and sat down, but had barely reached the chair before I
stood up again, and began to pace my room, to and fro, to and fro;
amazed, expectant, inquiet; turning my ear to the shots, and my mind to
speculations that began in the middle, and were chased from there by
others before they had taken one thought forward. But then I took myself
resolutely and sat me down, and I pencilled out exercises above the
stave, and under the stave; and discovered suddenly that I was again
marching the floor, to and fro, to and fro, with thoughts bursting about
my head as though they were fired on me from concealed batteries.
At five o'clock I left. I met Miss P., all of whose rumours coincided
with those I had gathered. She was in exceeding good humour and
interested. Leaving her I met Cy----, and we turned together up to the
Green. As we proceeded, the sound of firing grew more distinct, but when
we reached the Green it died away again. We stood a little below the
Shelbourne Hotel, looking at the barricade and into the Park. We could
see nothing. Not a Volunteer was in sight. The Green seemed a desert.
There were only the trees to be seen, and through them small green
vistas of sward.
Just then a man stepped on the footpath and walked directly to the
barricade. He stopped and gripped the shafts of a lorry lodged near the
centre. At that instant the Park exploded into life and sound; from
nowhere armed men appeared at the railings, and they all shouted at the
"Put down that lorry. Let out and go away. Let out at once."
These were the cries. The man did not let out. He halted with the shafts
in his hand, and looked towards the vociferous pailings. Then, and very
slowly, he began to draw the lorry out of the barricade. The shouts came
to him again, very loud, very threatening, but he did not attend to
"He is the man that owns the lorry," said a voice beside me.
Dead silence fell on the people around while the man slowly drew his
cart down by the footpath. Then three shots rang out in succession. At
the distance he could not be missed, and it was obvious they were trying
to frighten him. He dropped the shafts, and instead of going away he
walked over to the Volunteers.
"He has a nerve," said another voice behind me.
The man walked directly towards the Volunteers, who, to the number of
about ten, were lining the railings. He walked slowly, bent a little
forward, with one hand raised and one finger up as though he were going
to make a speech. Ten guns were pointing at him, and a voice repeated
"Go and put back that lorry or you are a dead man. Go before I count
four. One, two, three, four--"
A rifle spat at him, and in two undulating movements the man sank on
himself and sagged to the ground.
I ran to him with some others, while a woman screamed unmeaningly, all
on one strident note. The man was picked up and carried to a hospital
beside the Arts Club. There was a hole in the top of his head, and one
does not know how ugly blood can look until it has been seen clotted in
hair. As the poor man was being carried in, a woman plumped to her knees
in the road and began not to scream but to screetch.
At that moment the Volunteers were hated. The men by whom I was and who
were lifting the body, roared into the railings:--
"We'll be coming back for you, damn you."
From the railings there came no reply, and in an instant the place was
again desert and silent, and the little green vistas were slumbering
among the trees.
No one seemed able to estimate the number of men inside the Green, and
through the day no considerable body of men had been seen, only those
who held the gates, and the small parties of threes and fours who
arrested motors and carts for their barricades. Among these were some
who were only infants--one boy seemed about twelve years of age. He was
strutting the centre of the road with a large revolver in his small
fist. A motor car came by him containing three men, and in the shortest
of time he had the car lodged in his barricade, and dismissed its
stupified occupants with a wave of his armed hand.
The knots were increasing about the streets, for now the Bank Holiday
people began to wander back from places that were not distant, and to
them it had all to be explained anew. Free movement was possible
everywhere in the City, but the constant crackle of rifles restricted
somewhat that freedom. Up to one o'clock at night belated travellers
were straggling into the City, and curious people were wandering from
group to group still trying to gather information.
I remained awake until four o'clock in the morning. Every five minutes
a rifle cracked somewhere, but about a quarter to twelve sharp volleying
came from the direction of Portobello Bridge, and died away after some
time. The windows of my flat listen out towards the Green, and obliquely
towards Sackville Street. In another quarter of an hour there were
volleys from Stephen's Green direction, and this continued with
intensity for about twenty-five minutes. Then it fell into a sputter of
fire and ceased.
I went to bed about four o'clock convinced that the Green had been
rushed by the military and captured, and that the rising was at an end.
That was the first day of the insurrection.
A sultry, lowering day, and dusk skies fat with rain.
I left for my office, believing that the insurrection was at an end. At
a corner I asked a man was it all finished. He said it was not, and
that, if anything, it was worse.
On this day the rumours began, and I think it will be many a year before
the rumours cease. The _Irish Times_ published an edition which
contained nothing but an official Proclamation that evily-disposed
persons had disturbed the peace, and that the situation was well in
hand. The news stated in three lines that there was a Sinn Fein rising
in Dublin, and that the rest of the country was quiet.
No English or country papers came. There was no delivery or collection
of letters. All the shops in the City were shut. There was no traffic of
any kind in the streets. There was no way of gathering any kind of
information, and rumour gave all the news.
It seemed that the Military and the Government had been taken unawares.
It was Bank Holiday, and many military officers had gone to the races,
or were away on leave, and prominent members of the Irish Government had
gone to England on Sunday.
It appeared that everything claimed on the previous day was true, and
that the City of Dublin was entirely in the hands of the Volunteers.
They had taken and sacked Jacob's Biscuit Factory, and had converted it
into a fort which they held. They had the Post Office, and were building
baricades around it ten feet high of sandbags, cases, wire
entanglements. They had pushed out all the windows and sandbagged them
to half their height, while cart-loads of food, vegetables and
ammunition were going in continually. They had dug trenches and were
laying siege to one of the city barracks.
It was current that intercourse between Germany and Ireland had been
frequent chiefly by means of submarines, which came up near the coast
and landed machine guns, rifles and ammunition. It was believed also
that the whole country had risen, and that many strong places and cities
were in the hands of the Volunteers. Cork Barracks was said to be taken
while the officers were away at the Curragh races, that the men without
officers were disorganised, and the place easily captured.
It was said that Germans, thousands strong, had landed, and that many
Irish Americans with German officers had arrived also with full military
On the previous day the Volunteers had proclaimed the Irish Republic.
This ceremony was conducted from the Mansion House steps, and the
manifesto was said to have been read by Pearse, of St. Enda's. The
Republican and Volunteer flag was hoisted on the Mansion House. The
latter consisted of vertical colours of green, white and orange. Kerry
wireless station was reported captured, and news of the Republic flashed
abroad. These rumours were flying in the street.
It was also reported that two transports had come in the night and had
landed from England about 8,000 soldiers. An attack reported on the
Post Office by a troop of lancers who were received with fire and
repulsed. It is foolish to send cavalry into street war.
In connection with this lancer charge at the Post Office it is said that
the people, and especially the women, sided with the soldiers, and that
the Volunteers were assailed by these women with bricks, bottles,
sticks, to cries of:
"Would you be hurting the poor men?"
There were other angry ladies who threatened Volunteers, addressing to
them this petrifying query:
"Would you be hurting the poor horses?"
Indeed, the best people in the world live in Dublin.
The lancers retreated to the bottom of Sackville Street, where they
remained for some time in the centre of a crowd who were carressing
their horses. It may have seemed to them a rather curious kind of
insurrection--that is, if they were strangers to Ireland.
In the Post Office neighbourhood the Volunteers had some difficulty in
dealing with the people who surged about them while they were preparing
the barricade, and hindered them to some little extent. One of the
Volunteers was particularly noticeable. He held a lady's umbrella in his
hand, and whenever some person became particularly annoying he would
leap the barricade and chase his man half a street, hitting him over the
head with the umbrella. It was said that the wonder of the world was not
that Ireland was at war, but that after many hours the umbrella was
still unbroken. A Volunteer night attack on the Quays was spoken of,
whereat the military were said to have been taken by surprise and six
carts of their ammunition captured. This was probably untrue. Also, that
the Volunteers had blown up the Arsenal in the Phoenix Park.
There had been looting in the night about Sackville Street, and it was
current that the Volunteers had shot twenty of the looters.
The shops attacked were mainly haberdashers, shoe shops, and sweet
shops. Very many sweet shops were raided, and until the end of the
rising sweet shops were the favourite mark of the looters. There is
something comical in this looting of sweet shops--something almost
innocent and child-like. Possibly most of the looters are children who
are having the sole gorge of their lives. They have tasted sweetstuffs
they had never toothed before, and will never taste again in this life,
and until they die the insurrection of 1916 will have a sweet savour for
I went to the Green. At the corner of Merrion Row a horse was lying on
the footpath surrounded by blood. He bore two bullet wounds, but the
blood came from his throat which had been cut.
Inside the Green railings four bodies could be seen lying on the ground.
They were dead Volunteers.
The rain was falling now persistently, and persistently from the Green
and from the Shelbourne Hotel snipers were exchanging bullets. Some
distance beyond the Shelbourne I saw another Volunteer stretched out on
a seat just within the railings. He was not dead, for, now and again,
his hand moved feebly in a gesture for aid; the hand was completely red
with blood. His face could not be seen. He was just a limp mass, upon
which the rain beat pitilessly, and he was sodden and shapeless, and
most miserable to see. His companions could not draw him in for the
spot was covered by the snipers from the Shelbourne. Bystanders stated
that several attempts had already been made to rescue him, but that he
would have to remain there until the fall of night.
From Trinity College windows and roof there was also sniping, but the
Shelbourne Hotel riflemen must have seriously troubled the Volunteers in
As I went back I stayed a while in front of the hotel to count the shots
that had struck the windows. There were fourteen shots through the
ground windows. The holes were clean through, each surrounded by a
star--the bullets went through but did not crack the glass. There were
three places in which the windows had holes half a foot to a foot wide
and high. Here many rifles must have fired at the one moment. It must
have been as awkward inside the Shelbourne Hotel as it was inside the
A lady who lived in Baggot Street said she had been up all night, and,
with her neighbours, had supplied tea and bread to the soldiers who were
lining the street. The officer to whom she spoke had made two or three
attacks to draw fire and estimate the Volunteers' positions, numbers,
&c., and he told her that he considered there were 3,000 well-armed
Volunteers in the Green, and as he had only 1,000 soldiers, he could not
afford to deliver a real attack, and was merely containing them.
Amiens Street station reported recaptured by the military; other
stations are said to be still in the Volunteers' possession.
The story goes that about twelve o'clock on Monday an English officer
had marched into the Post Office and demanded two penny stamps from the
amazed Volunteers who were inside. He thought their uniforms were postal
uniforms. They brought him in, and he is probably still trying to get a
perspective on the occurrence. They had as prisoners in the Post Office
a certain number of soldiers, and rumour had it that these men
accommodated themselves quickly to duress, and were busily engaged
peeling potatoes for the meal which they would partake of later on with
Earlier in the day I met a wild individual who spat rumour as though
his mouth were a machine gun or a linotype machine. He believed
everything he heard; and everything he heard became as by magic
favourable to his hopes, which were violently anti-English. One
unfavourable rumour was instantly crushed by him with three stories
which were favourable and triumphantly so. He said the Germans had
landed in three places. One of these landings alone consisted of fifteen
thousand men. The other landings probably beat that figure. The whole
City of Cork was in the hands of the Volunteers, and, to that extent,
might be said to be peaceful. German warships had defeated the English,
and their transports were speeding from every side. The whole country
was up, and the garrison was out-numbered by one hundred to one. These
Dublin barracks which had not been taken were now besieged and on the
point of surrender.
I think this man created and winged every rumour that flew in Dublin,
and he was the sole individual whom I heard definitely taking a side. He
left me, and, looking back, I saw him pouring his news into the ear of a
gaping stranger whom he had arrested for the purpose. I almost went
back to hear would he tell the same tale or would he elaborate it into a
new thing, for I am interested in the art of story-telling.
At eleven o'clock the rain ceased, and to it succeeded a beautiful
night, gusty with wind, and packed with sailing clouds and stars. We
were expecting visitors this night, but the sound of guns may have
warned most people away. Three only came, and with them we listened from
my window to the guns at the Green challenging and replying to each
other, and to where, further away, the Trinity snipers were crackling,
and beyond again to the sounds of war from Sackville Street. The firing
was fairly heavy, and often the short rattle of machine guns could be
One of the stories told was that the Volunteers had taken the South
Dublin Union Workhouse, occupied it, and trenched the grounds. They were
heavily attacked by the military, who, at a loss of 150 men, took the
place. The tale went that towards the close the officer in command
offered them terms of surrender, but the Volunteers replied that they
were not there to surrender. They were there to be killed. The garrison
consisted of fifty men, and the story said that fifty men were killed.
It was three o'clock before I got to sleep last night, and during the
hours machine guns and rifle firing had been continuous.
This morning the sun is shining brilliantly, and the movement in the
streets possesses more of animation than it has done. The movement ends
always in a knot of people, and folk go from group to group vainly
seeking information, and quite content if the rumour they presently
gather differs even a little from the one they have just communicated.
The first statement I heard was that the Green had been taken by the
military; the second that it had been re-taken; the third that it had
not been taken at all. The facts at last emerged that the Green had not
been occupied by the soldiers, but that the Volunteers had retreated
from it into a house which commanded it. This was found to be the
College of Surgeons, and from the windows and roof of this College they
were sniping. A machine gun was mounted on the roof; other machine guns,
however, opposed them from the roofs of the Shelbourne Hotel, the United
Service Club, and the Alexandra Club. Thus a triangular duel opened
between these positions across the trees of the Park.
Through the railings of the Green some rifles and bandoliers could be
seen lying on the ground, as also the deserted trenches and snipers'
holes. Small boys bolted in to see these sights and bolted out again
with bullets quickening their feet. Small boys do not believe that
people will really kill them, but small boys were killed.
The dead horse was still lying stiff and lamentable on the footpath.
This morning a gunboat came up the Liffey and helped to bombard Liberty
Hall. The Hall is breeched and useless. Rumour says that it was empty at
the time, and that Connolly with his men had marched long before to the
Post Office and the Green. The same source of information relates that
three thousand Volunteers came from Belfast on an excursion train and
that they marched into the Post Office.
On this day only one of my men came in. He said that he had gone on the
roof and had been shot at, consequently that the Volunteers held some of
the covering houses. I went to the roof and remained there for half an
hour. There were no shots, but the firing from the direction of
Sackville Street was continuous and at times exceedingly heavy.
To-day the _Irish Times_ was published. It contained a new military
proclamation, and a statement that the country was peaceful, and told
that in Sackville Street some houses were burned to the ground.
On the outside railings a bill proclaiming Martial Law was posted.
Into the newspaper statement that peace reigned in the country one was
inclined to read more of disquietude than of truth, and one said is the
country so extraordinarily peaceful that it can be dismissed in three
lines. There is too much peace or too much reticence, but it will be
some time before we hear from outside of Dublin.
Meanwhile the sun was shining. It was a delightful day, and the streets
outside and around the areas of fire were animated and even gay. In the
streets of Dublin there were no morose faces to be seen. Almost everyone
was smiling and attentive, and a democratic feeling was abroad, to which
our City is very much a stranger; for while in private we are a sociable
and talkative people we have no street manners or public ease whatever.
Every person spoke to every other person, and men and women mixed and
talked without constraint.
Was the City for or against the Volunteers? Was it for the Volunteers,
and yet against the rising? It is considered now (writing a day or two
afterwards) that Dublin was entirely against the Volunteers, but on the
day of which I write no such certainty could be put forward. There was a
singular reticence on the subject. Men met and talked volubly, but they
said nothing that indicated a personal desire or belief. They asked for
and exchanged the latest news, or, rather, rumour, and while expressions
were frequent of astonishment at the suddenness and completeness of the
occurrence, no expression of opinion for or against was anywhere
Sometimes a man said, "They will be beaten of course," and, as he
prophesied, the neighbour might surmise if he did so with a sad heart or
a merry one, but they knew nothing and asked nothing of his views, and
themselves advanced no flag.
This was among the men.
The women were less guarded, or, perhaps, knew they had less to fear.
Most of the female opinion I heard was not alone unfavourable but
actively and viciously hostile to the rising. This was noticeable among
the best dressed class of our population; the worst dressed, indeed the
female dregs of Dublin life, expressed a like antagonism, and almost in
similar language. The view expressed was--
"I hope every man of them will be shot."
"They ought to be all shot."
Shooting, indeed, was proceeding everywhere. During daylight, at least,
the sound is not sinister nor depressing, and the thought that perhaps a
life had exploded with that crack is not depressing either.
In the last two years of world-war our ideas on death have undergone a
change. It is not now the furtive thing that crawled into your bed and
which you fought with pill-boxes and medicine bottles. It has become
again a rider of the wind whom you may go coursing with through the
fields and open places. All the morbidity is gone, and the sickness, and
what remains to Death is now health and excitement. So Dublin laughed at
the noise of its own bombardment, and made no moan about its dead--in
the sunlight. Afterwards--in the rooms, when the night fell, and instead
of silence that mechanical barking of the maxims and the whistle and
screams of the rifles, the solemn roar of the heavier guns, and the red
glare covering the sky. It is possible that in the night Dublin did not
laugh, and that she was gay in the sunlight for no other reason than
that the night was past.
On this day fighting was incessant at Mount Street Bridge. A party of
Volunteers had seized three houses covering the bridge and converted
these into forts. It is reported that military casualties at this point
were very heavy. The Volunteers are said also to hold the South Dublin
Union. The soldiers have seized Guinness's Brewery, while their
opponents have seized another brewery in the neighbourhood, and between
these two there is a continual fusilade.
Fighting is brisk about Ringsend and along the Canal. Dame Street was
said to be held in many places by the Volunteers. I went down Dame
Street, but saw no Volunteers, and did not observe any sniping from the
houses. Further, as Dame Street is entirely commanded by the roofs and
windows of Trinity College, it is unlikely that they should be here.
It was curious to observe this, at other times, so animated street,
broad and deserted, with at the corners of side streets small knots of
people watching. Seen from behind, Grattan's Statue in College Green
seemed almost alive, and he had the air of addressing warnings and
reproaches to Trinity College.
The Proclamation issued to-day warns all people to remain within doors
until five o'clock in the morning, and after seven o'clock at night.
It is still early. There is no news of any kind, and the rumours begin
to catch quickly on each other and to cancel one another out. Dublin is
entirely cut off from England, and from the outside world. It is, just
as entirely cut off from the rest of Ireland; no news of any kind
filters in to us. We are land-locked and sea-locked, but, as yet, it
does not much matter.
Meantime the belief grows that the Volunteers may be able to hold out
much longer than had been imagined. The idea at first among the people
had been that the insurrection would be ended the morning after it had
began. But to-day, the insurrection having lasted three days, people are
ready to conceive that it may last for ever. There is almost a feeling
of gratitude towards the Volunteers because they are holding out for a
little while, for had they been beaten the first or second day the City
would have been humiliated to the soul.
People say: "Of course, they will be beaten." The statement is almost a
query, and they continue, "but they are putting up a decent fight." For
being beaten does not greatly matter in Ireland, but not fighting does
matter. "They went forth always to the battle; and they always fell,"
Indeed, the history of the Irish race is in that phrase.
The firing from the roofs of Trinity College became violent. I crossed
Dame Street some distance up, struck down the Quays, and went along
these until I reached the Ballast Office. Further than this it was not
possible to go, for a step beyond the Ballast Office would have brought
one into the unending stream of lead that was pouring from Trinity and
other places. I was looking on O'Connell Bridge and Sackville Street,
and the house facing me was Kelly's--a red-brick fishing tackle shop,
one half of which was on the Quay and the other half in Sackville
Street. This house was being bombarded.
I counted the report of six different machine guns which played on it.
Rifles innumerable and from every sort of place were potting its
windows, and at intervals of about half a minute the shells from a heavy
gun lobbed in through its windows or thumped mightily against its walls.
For three hours that bombardment continued, and the walls stood in a
cloud of red dust and smoke. Rifle and machine gun bullets pattered over
every inch of it, and, unfailingly the heavy gun pounded its shells
through the windows.
One's heart melted at the idea that human beings were crouching inside
that volcano of death, and I said to myself, "Not even a fly can be
alive in that house."
No head showed at any window, no rifle cracked from window or roof in
reply. The house was dumb, lifeless, and I thought every one of those
men are dead.
It was then, and quite suddenly, that the possibilities of street
fighting flashed on me, and I knew there was no person in the house, and
said to myself, "They have smashed through the walls with a hatchet and
are sitting in the next house, or they have long ago climbed out by the
skylight and are on a roof half a block away." Then the thought came to
me--they have and hold the entire of Sackville Street down to the Post
Office. Later on this proved to be the case, and I knew at this moment
that Sackville Street was doomed.
I continued to watch the bombardment, but no longer with the anguish
which had before torn me. Near by there were four men, and a few yards
away, clustered in a laneway, there were a dozen others. An agitated
girl was striding from the farther group to the one in which I was, and
she addressed the men in the most obscene language which I have ever
heard. She addressed them man by man, and she continued to speak and cry
and scream at them with all that obstinate, angry patience of which only
a woman is capable.
She cursed us all. She called down diseases on every human being in the
world excepting only the men who were being bombarded. She demanded of
the folk in the laneway that they should march at least into the roadway
and prove that they were proud men and were not afraid of bullets. She
had been herself into the danger zone. Had stood herself in the track of
the guns, and had there cursed her fill for half an hour, and she
desired that the men should do at least what she had done.
This girl was quite young--about nineteen years of age--and was dressed
in the customary shawl and apron of her class. Her face was rather
pretty, or it had that pretty slenderness and softness of outline which
belong to youth. But every sentence she spoke contained half a dozen
indecent words. Alas, it was only that her vocabulary was not equal to
her emotions, and she did not know how to be emphatic without being
obscene--it is the cause of most of the meaningless swearing one hears
every day. She spoke to me for a minute, and her eyes were as soft as
those of a kitten and her language was as gentle as her eyes. She wanted
a match to light a cigarette, but I had none, and said that I also
wanted one. In a few minutes she brought me a match, and then she
recommenced her tireless weaving of six vile words into hundreds of
About five o'clock the guns eased off of Kelly's.
To inexperienced eyes they did not seem to have done very much damage,
but afterwards one found that although the walls were standing and
apparently solid there was no inside to the house. From roof to basement
the building was bare as a dog kennel. There were no floors inside,
there was nothing there but blank space; and on the ground within was
the tumble and rubbish that had been roof and floors and furniture.
Everything inside was smashed and pulverised into scrap and dust, and
the only objects that had consistency and their ancient shape were the
bricks that fell when the shells struck them.
Rifle shots had begun to strike the house on the further side of the
street, a jewellers' shop called Hopkins & Hopkins. The impact of these
balls on the bricks was louder than the sound of the shot which
immediately succeeded, and each bullet that struck brought down a shower
of fine red dust from the walls. Perhaps thirty or forty shots in all
were fired at Hopkins', and then, except for an odd crack, firing
During all this time there had been no reply from the Volunteers, and I
thought they must be husbanding their ammunition, and so must be short
of it, and that it would be only a matter of a few days before the end.
All this, I said to myself, will be finished in a few days, and they
will be finished; life here will recommence exactly where it left off,
and except for some newly-filled graves, all will be as it had been
until they become a tradition and enter the imagination of their race.
I spoke to several of the people about me, and found the same
willingness to exchange news that I had found elsewhere in the City, and
the same reticences as regarded their private opinions. Two of them,
indeed, and they were the only two I met with during the insurrection,
expressed, although in measured terms, admiration for the Volunteers,
and while they did not side with them they did not say anything against
them. One was a labouring man, the other a gentleman. The remark of the
"I am an Irishman, and (pointing to the shells that were bursting
through the windows in front of us) I hate to see that being done to
He had come from some part of the country to spend the Easter Holidays
in Dublin, and was unable to leave town again.
The labouring man--he was about fifty-six years of age--spoke very
quietly and collectedly about the insurrection. He was a type with whom
I had come very little in contact, and I was surprised to find how
simple and good his speech was, and how calm his ideas. He thought
labour was in this movement to a greater extent than was imagined. I
mentioned that Liberty Hall had been blown up, and that the garrison had
either surrendered or been killed. He replied that a gunboat had that
morning come up the river and had blown Liberty Hall into smash, but, he
added, there were no men in it. All the Labour Volunteers had marched
with Connolly into the Post Office.
He said the Labour Volunteers might possibly number about one thousand
men, but that it would be quite safe to say eight hundred, and he held
that the Labour Volunteers, or the Citizens' Army, as they called
themselves, had always been careful not to reveal their numbers. They
had always announced that they possessed about two hundred and fifty
men, and had never paraded any more than that number at any one time.
Workingmen, he continued, knew that the men who marched were always
different men. The police knew it, too, but they thought that the
Citizens Army was the _most deserted-from force_ in the world.
The men, however, were not deserters--you don't, he said, desert a man
like Connolly, and they were merely taking their turn at being drilled
and disciplined. They were raised against the police who, in the big
strike of two years ago, had acted towards them with unparallelled
savagery, and the men had determined that the police would never again
find them thus disorganised.
This man believed that every member of the Citizen Army had marched with
"The men, I know," said he, "would not be afraid of anything, and," he
continued, "they are in the Post Office now."
"What chance have they?"
"None," he replied, "and they never said they had, and they never
thought they would have any."
"How long do you think they'll be able to hold out?"
He nodded towards the house that had been bombarded by heavy guns.
"That will root them out of it quick enough," was his reply.
"I'm going home," said he then, "the people will be wondering if I'm
dead or alive," and he walked away from that sad street, as I did myself
a few minutes afterwards.
Again, the rumours greeted one. This place had fallen and had not
fallen. Such a position had been captured by the soldiers; recaptured by
the Volunteers, and had not been attacked at all. But certainly fighting
was proceeding. Up Mount Street, the rifle volleys were continuous, and
the coming and going of ambulance cars from that direction were
continuous also. Some spoke of pitched battles on the bridge, and said
that as yet the advantage lay with the Volunteers.
At 11.30 there came the sound of heavy guns firing in the direction of
Sackville Street. I went on the roof, and remained there for some time.
From this height the sounds could be heard plainly. There was sustained
firing along the whole central line of the City, from the Green down to
Trinity College, and from thence to Sackville Street, and the report of
the various types of arm could be easily distinguished. There were
rifles, machine guns and very heavy cannon. There was another sound
which I could not put a name to, something that coughed out over all the
other sounds, a short, sharp bark, or rather a short noise something
like the popping of a tremendous cork.
I met D.H. His chief emotion is one of astonishment at the organizing
powers displayed by the Volunteers. We have exchanged rumours, and found
that our equipment in this direction is almost identical. He says Sheehy
Skeffington has been killed. That he was arrested in a house wherein
arms were found, and was shot out of hand.
I hope this is another rumour, for, so far as my knowledge of him goes,
he was not with the Volunteers, and it is said that he was antagonistic
to the forcible methods for which the Volunteers stood. But the tale of
his death is so persistent that one is inclined to believe it.
He was the most absurdly courageous man I have ever met with or heard
of. He has been in every trouble that has touched Ireland these ten
years back, and he has always been in on the generous side, therefore,
and naturally, on the side that was unpopular and weak. It would seem
indeed that a cause had only to be weak to gain his sympathy, and his
sympathy never stayed at home. There are so many good people who
"sympathise" with this or that cause, and, having given that measure of
their emotion, they give no more of it or of anything else. But he
rushed instantly to the street. A large stone, the lift of a footpath,
the base of a statue, any place and every place was for him a pulpit;
and, in the teeth of whatever oppression or disaster or power, he said
There are multitudes of men in Dublin of all classes and creeds who can
boast that they kicked Sheehy Skeffington, or that they struck him on
the head with walking sticks and umbrellas, or that they smashed their
fists into his face, and jumped on him when he fell. It is by no means
an exaggeration to say that these things were done to him, and it is
true that he bore ill-will to no man, and that he accepted blows, and
indignities and ridicule with the pathetic candour of a child who is
disguised as a man, and whose disguise cannot come off. His tongue, his
pen, his body, all that he had and hoped for were at the immediate
service of whoever was bewildered or oppressed. He has been shot. Other
men have been shot, but they faced the guns knowing that they faced
justice, however stern and oppressive; and that what they had engaged to
confront was before them. He had no such thought to soothe from his mind
anger or unforgiveness. He who was a pacifist was compelled to revolt to
his last breath, and on the instruments of his end he must have looked
as on murderers. I am sure that to the end he railed against oppression,
and that he fell marvelling that the world can truly be as it is. With
his death there passed away a brave man and a clean soul.
Later on this day I met Mrs. Sheehy Skeffington in the street. She
confirmed the rumour that her husband had been arrested on the previous
day, but further than that she had no news. So far as I know the sole
crime of which her husband had been guilty was that he called for a
meeting of the citizens to enrol special constables and prevent looting.
Among the rumours it was stated with every accent of certitude that
Madame Markievicz had been captured in George's Street, and taken to the
Castle. It was also current that Sir Roger Casement had been captured at
sea and had already been shot in the Tower of London. The names of
several Volunteer Leaders are mentioned as being dead. But the surmise
that steals timidly from one mouth flies boldly as a certitude from
every mouth that repeats it, and truth itself would now be listened to
with only a gossip's ear, but no person would believe a word of it.
This night also was calm and beautiful, but this night was the most
sinister and woeful of those that have passed. The sound of artillery,
of rifles, machine guns, grenades, did not cease even for a moment. From
my window I saw a red flare that crept to the sky, and stole over it and
remained there glaring; the smoke reached from the ground to the clouds,
and I could see great red sparks go soaring to enormous heights; while
always, in the calm air, hour after hour there was the buzzing and
rattling and thudding of guns, and, but for the guns, silence.
It is in a dead silence this Insurrection is being fought, and one
imagines what must be the feeling of these men, young for the most part,
and unused to violence, who are submitting silently to the crash and
flame and explosion by which they are surrounded.
This morning there are no newspapers, no bread, no milk, no news. The
sun is shining, and the streets are lively but discreet. All people
continue to talk to one another without distinction of class, but nobody
knows what any person thinks.
It is a little singular the number of people who are smiling. I fancy
they were listening to the guns last night, and they are smiling this
morning because the darkness is past, and because the sun is shining,
and because they can move their limbs in space, and may talk without
having to sink their voices to a whisper. Guns do not sound so bad in
the day as they do at night, and no person can feel lonely while the sun
The men are smiling, but the women laugh, and their laughter does not
displease, for whatever women do in whatever circumstances appears to
have a rightness of its own. It seems right that they should scream
when danger to themselves is imminent, and it seems right that they
should laugh when the danger only threatens others.
It is rumoured this morning that Sackville Street has been burned out
and levelled to the ground. It is said that the end is in sight; and, it
is said, that matters are, if anything rather worse than better. That
the Volunteers have sallied from some of their strongholds and
entrenched themselves, and that in one place alone (the South Lotts)
they have seven machine guns. That when the houses which they held
became untenable they rushed out and seized other houses, and that,
pursuing these tactics, there seemed no reason to believe that the
Insurrection would ever come to an end. That the streets are filled with
Volunteers in plain clothes, but having revolvers in their pockets. That
the streets are filled with soldiers equally revolvered and plain
clothed, and that the least one says on any subject the less one would
have to answer for.
The feeling that I tapped was definitely Anti-Volunteer, but the number
of people who would speak was few, and one regarded the noncommital
folk who were so smiling and polite, and so prepared to talk, with much
curiosity, seeking to read in their eyes, in their bearing, even in the
cut of their clothes what might be the secret movements and cogitations
of their minds.
I received the impression that numbers of them did not care a rap what
way it went; and that others had ceased to be mental creatures and were
merely machines for registering the sensations of the time.
None of these people were prepared for Insurrection. The thing had been
sprung on them so suddenly that they were unable to take sides, and
their feeling of detachment was still so complete that they would have
betted on the business as if it had been a horse race or a dog fight.
Many English troops have been landed each night, and it is believed that
there are more than sixty thousand soldiers in Dublin alone, and that
they are supplied with every offensive contrivance which military art
Merrion Square is strongly held by the soldiers. They are posted along
both sides of the road at intervals of about twenty paces, and their
guns are continually barking up at the roofs which surround them in the
great square. It is said that these roofs are held by the Volunteers
from Mount Street Bridge to the Square, and that they hold in like
manner wide stretches of the City.
They appear to have mapped out the roofs with all the thoroughness that
had hitherto been expended on the roads, and upon these roofs they are
so mobile and crafty and so much at home that the work of the soldiers
will be exceedingly difficult as well as dangerous.
Still, and notwithstanding, men can only take to the roofs for a short
time. Up there, there can be no means of transport, and their
ammunition, as well as their food, will very soon be used up. It is the
beginning of the end, and the fact that they have to take to the roofs,
even though that be in their programme, means that they are finished.
From the roof there comes the sound of machine guns. Looking towards
Sackville Street one picks out easily Nelson's Pillar, which towers
slenderly over all the buildings of the neighbourhood. It is wreathed in
smoke. Another towering building was the D.B.C. Cafe. Its Chinese-like
pagoda was a landmark easily to be found, but to-day I could not find
it. It was not there, and I knew that, even if all Sackville Street was
not burned down, as rumour insisted, this great Cafe had certainly been
curtailed by its roof and might, perhaps, have been completely burned.
On the gravel paths I found pieces of charred and burnt paper. These
scraps must have been blown remarkably high to have crossed all the
roofs that lie between Sackville Street and Merrion Square.
At eleven o'clock there is continuous firing, and snipers firing from
the direction of Mount Street, and in every direction of the City these
sounds are being duplicated.
In Camden Street the sniping and casualties are said to have been very
heavy. One man saw two Volunteers taken from a house by the soldiers.
They were placed kneeling in the centre of the road, and within one
minute of their capture they were dead. Simultaneously there fell
several of the firing party.
An officer in this part had his brains blown into the roadway. A young
girl ran into the road picked up his cap and scraped the brains into it.
She covered this poor debris with a little straw, and carried the hat
piously to the nearest hospital in order that the brains might be buried
with their owner.
The continuation of her story was less gloomy although it affected the
"There is not," said she, "a cat or a dog left alive in Camden Street.
They are lying stiff out in the road and up on the roofs. There's lots
of women will be sorry for this war," said she, "and their pets killed
In many parts of the City hunger began to be troublesome. A girl told me
that her family, and another that had taken refuge with them, had eaten
nothing for three days. On this day her father managed to get two loaves
of bread somewhere, and he brought these home.
"When," said the girl, "my father came in with the bread the whole
fourteen of us ran at him, and in a minute we were all ashamed for the
loaves were gone to the last crumb, and we were all as hungry as we had
been before he came in. The poor man," said she, "did not even get a bit
for himself." She held that the poor people were against the Volunteers.
The Volunteers still hold Jacob's Biscuit Factory. It is rumoured that a
priest visited them and counselled surrender, and they replied that they
did not go there to surrender but to be killed. They asked him to give
them absolution, and the story continues that he refused to do so--but
this is not (in its latter part) a story that can easily be credited.
The Adelaide Hospital is close to this factory, and it is possible that
the proximity of the hospital, delays or hinders military operations
against the factory.
Rifle volleys are continuous about Merrion Square, and prolonged machine
gun firing can be heard also.
During the night the firing was heavy from almost every direction; and
in the direction of Sackville Street a red glare told again of fire.
It is hard to get to bed these nights. It is hard even to sit down, for
the moment one does sit down one stands immediately up again resuming
that ridiculous ship's march from the window to the wall and back. I am
foot weary as I have never been before in my life, but I cannot say that
I am excited. No person in Dublin is excited, but there exists a state
of tension and expectancy which is mentally more exasperating than any
excitement could be. The absence of news is largely responsible for
this. We do not know what has happened, what is happening, or what is
going to happen, and the reversion to barbarism (for barbarism is
largely a lack of news) disturbs us.
Each night we have got to bed at last murmuring, "I wonder will it be
all over to-morrow," and this night the like question accompanied us.
This morning also there has been no bread, no milk, no meat, no
newspapers, but the sun is shining. It is astonishing that, thus early
in the Spring, the weather should be so beautiful.
It is stated freely that the Post Office has been taken, and just as
freely it is averred that it has not been taken. The approaches to
Merrion Square are held by the military, and I was not permitted to go
to my office. As I came to this point shots were fired at a motor car
which had not stopped on being challenged. Bystanders said it was Sir
Horace Plunkett's car, and that he had been shot. Later we found that
Sir Horace was not hurt, but that his nephew who drove the car had been
At this hour the rumour of the fall of Verdun was persistent. Later on
it was denied, as was denied the companion rumour of the relief of Kut.
Saw R. who had spent three days and the whole of his money in getting
home from County Clare. He had heard that Mrs. Sheehy Skeffington's
house was raided, and that two dead bodies had been taken out of it. Saw
Miss P. who seemed sad. I do not know what her politics are, but I think
that the word "kindness" might be used to cover all her activities. She
has a heart of gold, and the courage of many lions. I then met Mr.
Commissioner Bailey who said the Volunteers had sent a deputation, and
that terms of surrender were being discussed. I hope this is true, and I
hope mercy will be shown to the men. Nobody believes there will be any
mercy shown, and it is freely reported that they are shot in the street,
or are taken to the nearest barracks and shot there. The belief grows
that no person who is now in the Insurrection will be alive when the
Insurrection is ended.
That is as it will be. But these days the thought of death does not
strike on the mind with any severity, and, should the European war
continue much longer, the fear of death will entirely depart from man,
as it has departed many times in history. With that great deterrent
gone our rulers will be gravely at a loss in dealing with strikers and
other such discontented people. Possibly they will have to resurrect the
long-buried idea of torture.
The people in the streets are laughing and chatting. Indeed, there is
gaiety in the air as well as sunshine, and no person seems to care that
men are being shot every other minute, or bayoneted, or blown into
scraps or burned into cinders. These things are happening, nevertheless,
but much of their importance has vanished.
I met a man at the Green who was drawing a plan on the back of an
envelope. The problem was how his questioner was to get from where he
was standing to a street lying at the other side of the river, and the
plan as drawn insisted that to cover this quarter of an hour's distance
he must set out on a pilgrimage of more than twenty miles. Another young
boy was standing near embracing a large ham. He had been trying for
three days to convey his ham to a house near the Gresham Hotel where his
sister lived. He had almost given up hope, and he hearkened
intelligently to the idea that he should himself eat the ham and so get
rid of it.
The rifle fire was persistent all day, but, saving in certain
localities, it was not heavy. Occasionally the machine guns rapped in.
There was no sound of heavy artillery.
The rumour grows that the Post Office has been evacuated, and that the
Volunteers are at large and spreading everywhere across the roofs. The
rumour grows also that terms of surrender are being discussed, and that
Sackville Street has been levelled to the ground.
At half-past seven in the evening calm is almost complete. The sound of
a rifle shot being only heard at long intervals.
I got to bed this night earlier than usual. At two o'clock I left the
window from which a red flare is yet visible in the direction of
Sackville Street. The morning will tell if the Insurrection is finished
or not, but at this hour all is not over. Shots are ringing all around
and down my street, and the vicious crackling of these rifles grow at
times into regular volleys.
The Insurrection has not ceased.
There is much rifle fire, but no sound from the machine guns or the
eighteen pounders and trench mortars.
From the window of my kitchen the flag of the Republic can be seen
flying afar. This is the flag that flies over Jacob's Biscuit Factory,
and I will know that the Insurrection has ended as soon as I see this
flag pulled down.
When I went out there were few people in the streets. I met D.H., and,
together, we passed up the Green. The Republican flag was still flying
over the College of Surgeons. We tried to get down Grafton Street (where
broken windows and two gaping interiors told of the recent visit of
looters), but a little down this street we were waved back by armed
sentries. We then cut away by the Gaiety Theatre into Mercer's Street,
where immense lines of poor people were drawn up waiting for the
opening of the local bakery. We got into George's Street, thinking to
turn down Dame Street and get from thence near enough to Sackville
Street to see if the rumours about its destruction were true, but here
also we were halted by the military, and had to retrace our steps.
There was no news of any kind to be gathered from the people we talked
to, nor had they even any rumours.
This was the first day I had been able to get even a short distance
outside of my own quarter, and it seemed that the people of my quarter
were more able in the manufacture of news or more imaginative than were
the people who live in other parts of the city. We had no sooner struck
into home parts than we found news. We were told that two of the
Volunteer leaders had been shot. These were Pearse and Connolly. The
latter was reported as lying in the Castle Hospital with a fractured
thigh. Pearse was cited as dead with two hundred of his men, following
their sally from the Post Office. The machine guns had caught them as
they left, and none of them remained alive. The news seemed afterwards
to be true except that instead of Pearse it was The O'Rahilly who had
been killed. Pearse died later and with less excitement.
A man who had seen an English newspaper said that the Kut force had
surrendered to the Turk, but that Verdun had not fallen to the Germans.
The rumour was current also that a great naval battle had been fought
whereat the German fleet had been totally destroyed with loss to the
English of eighteen warships. It was said that among the captured
Volunteers there had been a large body of Germans, but nobody believed
it; and this rumour was inevitably followed by the tale that there were
one hundred German submarines lying in the Stephen's Green pond.
At half-past two I met Mr. Commissioner Bailey, who told me that it was
all over, and that the Volunteers were surrendering everywhere in the
city. A motor car with two military officers, and two Volunteer leaders
had driven to the College of Surgeons and been admitted. After a short
interval Madame Marckievicz marched out of the College at the head of
about 100 men, and they had given up their arms; the motor car with the
Volunteer leaders was driving to other strongholds, and it was expected
that before nightfall the capitulations would be complete.
I started home, and on the way I met a man whom I had encountered some
days previously, and from whom rumours had sprung as though he wove them
from his entrails, as a spider weaves his web. He was no less provided
on this occasion, and it was curious to listen to his tale of English
defeats on every front. He announced the invasion of England in six
different quarters, the total destruction of the English fleet, and the
landing of immense German armies on the West coast of Ireland. He made
these things up in his head. Then he repeated them to himself in a loud
voice, and became somehow persuaded that they had been told to him by a
well-informed stranger, and then he believed them and told them to
everybody he met. Amongst other things Spain had declared war on our
behalf, the Chilian Navy was hastening to our relief. For a pin he
would have sent France flying westward all forgetful of her own war. A
singular man truly, and as I do think the only thoroughly happy person
in our city.
It is half-past three o'clock, and from my window the Republican flag
can still be seen flying over Jacob's factory. There is occasional
shooting, but the city as a whole is quiet. At a quarter to five o'clock
a heavy gun boomed once. Ten minutes later there was heavy machine gun
firing and much rifle shooting. In another ten minutes the flag at
Jacob's was hauled down.
During the remainder of the night sniping and military replies were
incessant, particularly in my street.
The raids have begun in private houses. Count Plunkett's house was
entered by the military who remained there for a very long time. Passing
home about two minutes after Proclamation hour I was pursued for the
whole of Fitzwilliam Square by bullets. They buzzed into the roadway
beside me, and the sound as they whistled near was curious. The sound is
something like that made by a very swift saw, and one gets the
impression that as well as being very swift they are very heavy.
Snipers are undoubtedly on the roofs opposite my house, and they are not
asleep on these roofs. Possibly it is difficult to communicate with
these isolated bands the news of their companions' surrender, but it is
likely they will learn, by the diminution of fire in other quarters that
their work is over.
In the morning on looking from my window I saw four policemen marching
into the street. They were the first I had seen for a week. Soon now the
military tale will finish, the police story will commence, the political
story will recommence, and, perhaps, the weeks that follow this one will
sow the seed of more hatred than so many centuries will be able to
uproot again, for although Irish people do not greatly fear the military
they fear the police, and they have very good reason to do so.
THE INSURRECTION IS OVER.
The Insurrection is over, and it is worth asking what has happened, how
it has happened, and why it happened?
The first question is easily answered. The finest part of our city has
been blown to smithereens, and burned into ashes. Soldiers amongst us
who have served abroad say that the ruin of this quarter is more
complete than any thing they have seen at Ypres, than anything they have
seen anywhere in France or Flanders. A great number of our men and women
and children, Volunteers and civilians confounded alike, are dead, and
some fifty thousand men who have been moved with military equipment to
our land are now being removed therefrom. The English nation has been
disorganised no more than as they were affected by the transport of
these men and material. That is what happened, and it is all that
How it happened is another matter, and one which, perhaps, will not be
made clear for years. All we know in Dublin is that our city burst into
a kind of spontaneous war; that we lived through it during one singular
week, and that it faded away and disappeared almost as swiftly as it had
come. The men who knew about it are, with two exceptions, dead, and
these two exceptions are in gaol, and likely to remain there long
enough. (Since writing one of these men has been shot.)
Why it happened is a question that may be answered more particularly. It
happened because the leader of the Irish Party misrepresented his people
in the English House of Parliament. On the day of the declaration of war
between England and Germany he took the Irish case, weighty with eight
centuries of history and tradition, and he threw it out of the window.
He pledged Ireland to a particular course of action, and he had no
authority to give this pledge and he had no guarantee that it would be
met. The ramshackle intelligence of his party and his own emotional
nature betrayed him and us and England. He swore Ireland to loyalty as
if he had Ireland in his pocket, and could answer for her. Ireland has
never been disloyal to England, not even at this epoch, because she has
never been loyal to England, and the profession of her National faith
has been unwavering, has been known to every English person alive, and
has been clamant to all the world beside.
Is it that he wanted to be cheered? He could very easily have stated
Ireland's case truthfully, and have proclaimed a benevolent neutrality
(if he cared to use the grandiloquent words) on the part of this
country. He would have gotten his cheers, he would in a few months have
gotten Home Rule in return for Irish soldiers. He would have received
politically whatever England could have safely given him. But, alas,
these carefulnesses did not chime with his emotional moment. They were
not magnificent enough for one who felt that he was talking not to
Ireland or to England, but to the whole gaping and eager earth, and so
he pledged his country's credit so deeply that he did not leave her even
one National rag to cover herself with.
After a lie truth bursts out, and it is no longer the radiant and
serene goddess knew or hoped for--it is a disease, it is a moral
syphilis and will ravage until the body in which it can dwell has been
purged. Mr. Redmond told the lie and he is answerable to England for the
violence she had to be guilty of, and to Ireland for the desolation to
which we have had to submit. Without his lie there had been no
Insurrection; without it there had been at this moment, and for a year
past, an end to the "Irish question." Ireland must in ages gone have
been guilty of abominable crimes or she could not at this juncture have
been afflicted with a John Redmond.
He is the immediate cause of this our latest Insurrection--the word is
big, much too big for the deed, and we should call it row, or riot, or
squabble, in order to draw the fact down to its dimensions, but the
ultimate blame for the trouble between the two countries does not fall
The fault lies with England, and in these days while an effort is being
made (interrupted, it is true, by cannon) to found a better
understanding between the two nations it is well that England should
recognize what she has done to Ireland, and should try at least to
atone for it. The situation can be explained almost in a phrase. We are
a little country and you, a huge country, have persistently beaten us.
We are a poor country and you, the richest country in the world, have
persistently robbed us. That is the historical fact, and whatever
national or political necessities are opposed in reply, it is true that
you have never given Ireland any reason to love you, and you cannot
claim her affection without hypocrisy or stupidity.
You think our people can only be tenacious in hate--it is a lie. Our
historical memory is truly tenacious, but during the long and miserable
tale of our relations you have never given us one generosity to remember
you by, and you must not claim our affection or our devotion until you
are worthy of them. We are a good people; almost we are the only
Christian people left in the world, nor has any nation shown such
forbearance towards their persecutor as we have always shown to you. No
nation has forgiven its enemies as we have forgiven you, time after time
down the miserable generations, the continuity of forgiveness only
equalled by the continuity of your ill-treatment. Between our two
countries you have kept and protected a screen of traders and
politicians who are just as truly your enemies as they are ours. In the
end they will do most harm to you for we are by this vaccinated against
misery but you are not, and the "loyalists" who sell their own country
for a shilling will sell another country for a penny when the
opportunity comes and safety with it.
Meanwhile do not always hasten your presents to us out of a gun. You
have done it so often that your guns begin to bore us, and you have now
an opportunity which may never occur again to make us your friends.
There is no bitterness in Ireland against you on account of this war,
and the lack of ill-feeling amongst us is entirely due to the more than
admirable behaviour of the soldiers whom you sent over here. A peace
that will last for ever can be made with Ireland if you wish to make it,
but you must take her hand at once, for in a few months' time she will
not open it to you; the old, bad relations will re-commence, the rancor
will be born and grow, and another memory will be stored away in
Ireland's capacious and retentive brain.
There is much talk of the extraordinary organising powers displayed in
the insurrection, but in truth there was nothing extraordinary in it.
The real essence and singularity of the rising exists in its simplicity,
and, saving for the courage which carried it out, the word extraordinary
is misplaced in this context.
The tactics of the Volunteers as they began to emerge were reduced to
the very skeleton of "strategy." It was only that they seized certain
central and stragetical districts, garrisoned those and held them until
they were put out of them. Once in their forts there was no further
egress by the doors, and for purpose of entry and sortie they used the
skylights and the roofs. On the roofs they had plenty of cover, and this
cover conferred on them a mobility which was their chief asset, and
which alone enabled them to protract the rebellion beyond the first day.
This was the entire of their home plan, and there is no doubt that they
had studied Dublin roofs and means of inter-communication by roofs with
the closest care. Further than that I do not think they had organised
anything. But this was only the primary plan, and, unless they were
entirely mad, there must have been a sequel to it which did not
materialise, and which would have materialised but that the English
Fleet blocked the way.
There is no doubt that they expected the country to rise with them, and
they must have known what their own numbers were, and what chance they
had of making a protracted resistance. The word "resistance" is the
keyword of the rising, and the plan of holding out must have been
rounded off with a date. At that date something else was to have
happened which would relieve them.
There is not much else that could happen except the landing of German
troops in Ireland or in England. It would have been, I think, immaterial
to them where these were landed, but the reasoning seems to point to the
fact that they expected and had arranged for such a landing, although
on this point there is as yet no evidence.
The logic of this is so simple, so plausible, that it might be accepted
without further examination, and yet further examination is necessary,
for in a country like Ireland logic and plausibility are more often
wrong than right. It may just as easily be that except for furnishing
some arms and ammunition Germany was not in the rising at all, and this
I prefer to believe. It had been current long before the rising that the
Volunteers knew they could not seriously embarass England, and that
their sole aim was to make such a row in Ireland that the Irish question
would take the status of an international one, and on the discussion of
terms of peace in the European war the claims of Ireland would have to
be considered by the whole Council of Europe and the world.
That is, in my opinion, the metaphysic behind the rising. It is quite
likely that they hoped for German aid, possibly some thousands of men,
who would enable them to prolong the row, but I do not believe they
expected German armies, nor do I think they would have welcomed these
with any cordiality.
In this insurrection there are two things which are singular in the
history of Irish risings. One is that there were no informers, or there
were no informers among the chiefs. I did hear people say in the streets
that two days before the rising they knew it was to come; they
invariably added that they had not believed the news, and had laughed at
it. A priest said the same thing in my hearing, and it may be that the
rumour was widely spread, and that everybody, including the authorities,
looked upon it as a joke.
The other singularity of the rising is the amazing silence in which it
was fought. Nothing spoke but the guns; and the Volunteers on the one
side and the soldiers on the other potted each other and died in
whispers; it might have been said that both sides feared the Germans
would hear them and take advantage of their preoccupation.
There is a third reason given for the rebellion, and it also is divorced
from foreign plots. It is said, and the belief in Dublin was widespread,
that the Government intended to raid the Volunteers and seize their
arms. One remembers to-day the paper which Alderman Kelly read to the
Dublin Corporation, and which purported to be State Instructions that
the Military and Police should raid the Volunteers, and seize their arms
and leaders. The Volunteers had sworn they would not permit their arms
to be taken from them. A list of the places to be raided was given, and
the news created something of a sensation in Ireland when it was
published that evening. The Press, by instruction apparently, repudiated
this document, but the Volunteers, with most of the public, believed it
to be true, and it is more than likely that the rebellion took place in
order to forestall the Government.
This is also an explanation of the rebellion, and is just as good a one
as any other. It is the explanation which I believe to be the true one.
All the talk of German invasion and the landing of German troops in
Ireland is so much nonsense in view of the fact that England is master
of the seas, and that from a week before the war down to this date she
has been the undisputed monarch of those ridges. During this war there
will be no landing of troops in either England or Ireland unless Germany
in the meantime can solve the problem of submarine transport. It is a
problem which will be solved some day, for every problem can be solved,
but it will hardly be during the progress of this war. The men at the
head of the Volunteers were not geniuses, neither were they fools, and
the difficulty of acquiring military aid from Germany must have seemed
as insurmountable to them as it does to the Germans themselves. They
rose because they felt that they had to do so, or be driven like sheep
into the nearest police barracks, and be laughed at by the whole of
Ireland as cowards and braggarts.
It would be interesting to know why, on the eve of the insurrection,
Professor MacNeill resigned the presidency of the Volunteers. The story
of treachery which was heard in the streets is not the true one, for men
of his type are not traitors, and this statement may be dismissed
without further comment or notice. One is left to imagine what can have
happened during the conference which is said to have preceded the
rising, and which ended with the resignation of Professor MacNeill.
This is my view, or my imagining, of what occurred. The conference was
called because the various leaders felt that a hostile movement was
projected by the Government, and that the times were exceedingly black
for them. Neither Mr. Birrell nor Sir Mathew Nathan had any desire that
there should be a conflict in Ireland during the war. This cannot be
doubted. From such a conflict there might follow all kinds of political
repercussions; but although the Government favoured the policy of
_laissez faire_, there was a powerful military and political party in
Ireland whose whole effort was towards the disarming and punishment of
the Volunteers--particularly I should say the punishment of the
Volunteers. I believe, or rather I imagine, that Professor MacNeill was
approached at the instance of Mr. Birrell or Sir Mathew Nathan and
assured that the Government did not meditate any move against his men,
and that so long as his Volunteers remained quiet they would not be
molested by the authorities. I would say that Professor MacNeill gave
and accepted the necessary assurances, and that when he informed his
conference of what had occurred, and found that they did not believe
faith would be kept with them, he resigned in the dispairing hope that
his action might turn them from a purpose which he considered lunatic,
or, at least, by restraining a number of his followers from rising, he
might limit the tale of men who would be uselessly killed.
He was not alone in his vote against a rising. The O'Rahilly and some
others are reputed to have voted with him, but when insurrection was
decided on, the O'Rahilly marched with his men, and surely a gallant man
could not have done otherwise.
When the story of what occurred is authoritatively written (it may be
written) I think that this will be found to be the truth of the matter,
and that German intrigue and German money counted for so little in the
insurrection as to be negligible.
SOME OF THE LEADERS.
Meanwhile the insurrection, like all its historical forerunners, has
been quelled in blood. It sounds rhetorical to say so, but it was not
quelled in peasoup or tisane. While it lasted the fighting was very
determined, and it is easily, I think, the most considerable of Irish
The country was not with it, for be it remembered that a whole army of
Irishmen, possibly three hundred thousand of our race, are fighting with
England instead of against her. In Dublin alone there is scarcely a poor
home in which a father, a brother, or a son is not serving in one of the
many fronts which England is defending. Had the country risen, and
fought as stubbornly as the Volunteers did, no troops could have beaten
them--well that is a wild statement, the heavy guns could always beat
them--but from whatever angle Irish people consider this affair it must
appear to them tragic and lamentable beyond expression, but not mean
and not unheroic.
It was hard enough that our men in the English armies should be slain
for causes which no amount of explanation will ever render less foreign
to us, or even intelligible; but that our men who were left should be
killed in Ireland fighting against the same England that their brothers
are fighting for ties the question into such knots of contradiction as
we may give up trying to unravel. We can only think--this has
happened--and let it unhappen itself as best it may.
We say that the time always finds the man, and by it we mean: that when
a responsibility is toward there will be found some shoulder to bend for
the yoke which all others shrink from. It is not always nor often the
great ones of the earth who undertake these burdens--it is usually the
good folk, that gentle hierarchy who swear allegiance to mournfulness
and the under dog, as others dedicate themselves to mutton chops and the
easy nymph. It is not my intention to idealise any of the men who were
concerned in this rebellion. Their country will, some few years hence,
do that as adequately as she has done it for those who went before them.
Those of the leaders whom I knew were not great men, nor brilliant--that
is they were more scholars than thinkers, and more thinkers than men of
action; and I believe that in no capacity could they have attained to
what is called eminence, nor do I consider they coveted any such public
distinction as is noted in that word.
But in my definition they were good men--men, that is, who willed no
evil, and whose movements of body or brain were unselfish and healthy.
No person living is the worse off for having known Thomas MacDonagh, and
I, at least, have never heard MacDonagh speak unkindly or even harshly
of anything that lived. It has been said of him that his lyrics were
epical; in a measure it is true, and it is true in the same measure that
his death was epical. He was the first of the leaders who was tried and
shot. It was not easy for him to die leaving behind two young children
and a young wife, and the thought that his last moment must have been
tormented by their memory is very painful. We are all fatalists when we
strike against power, and I hope he put care from him as the soldiers
marched him out.
The O'Rahilly also I knew, but not intimately, and I can only speak of a
good humour, a courtesy, and an energy that never failed. He was a man
of unceasing ideas and unceasing speech, and laughter accompanied every
sound made by his lips.
Plunkett and Pearse I knew also, but not intimately. Young Plunkett, as
he was always called, would never strike one as a militant person. He,
like Pearse and MacDonagh, wrote verse, and it was no better nor worse
than their's were. He had an appetite for quaint and difficult
knowledge. He studied Egyptian and Sanscrit, and distant curious matter
of that sort, and was interested in inventions and the theatre. He was
tried and sentenced and shot.
As to Pearse, I do not know how to place him, nor what to say of him. If
there was an idealist among the men concerned in this insurrection it
was he, and if there was any person in the world less fitted to head an
insurrection it was he also. I never could "touch" or sense in him the
qualities which other men spoke of, and which made him military
commandant of the rising. None of these men were magnetic in the sense
that Mr. Larkin is magnetic, and I would have said that Pearse was less
magnetic than any of the others. Yet it was to him and around him they
Men must find some centre either of power or action or intellect about
which they may group themselves, and I think that Pearse became the
leader because his temperament was more profoundly emotional than any of
the others. He was emotional not in a flighty, but in a serious way, and
one felt more that he suffered than that he enjoyed.
He had a power; men who came into intimate contact with him began to act
differently to their own desires and interests. His schoolmasters did
not always receive their salaries with regularity. The reason that he
did not pay them was the simple one that he had no money. Given by
another man this explanation would be uneconomic, but from him it was so
logical that even a child could comprehend it. These masters did not
always leave him. They remained, marvelling perhaps, and accepting, even
with stupefaction, the theory that children must be taught, but that no
such urgency is due towards the payment of wages. One of his boys said
there was no fun in telling lies to Mr. Pearse, for, however outrageous
the lie, he always believed it. He built and renovated and improved his
school because the results were good for his scholars, and somehow he
found builders to undertake these forlorn hopes.
It was not, I think, that he "put his trust in God," but that when
something had to be done he did it, and entirely disregarded logic or
economics or force. He said--such a thing has to be done and so far as
one man can do it I will do it, and he bowed straightaway to the task.
It is mournful to think of men like these having to take charge of
bloody and desolate work, and one can imagine them say, "Oh! cursed
spite," as they accepted responsibility.
LABOUR AND THE INSURRECTION.
No person in Ireland seems to have exact information about the
Volunteers, their aims, or their numbers. We know the names of the
leaders now. They were recited to us with the tale of their execution;
and with the declaration of a Republic we learned something of their
aim, but the estimate of their number runs through the figures ten,
thirty, and fifty thousand. The first figure is undoubtedly too slender,
the last excessive, and something between fifteen and twenty thousand
for all Ireland would be a reasonable guess.
Of these, the Citizen Army or Labour side of the Volunteers, would not
number more than one thousand men, and it is with difficulty such a
figure could be arrived at. Yet it is freely argued, and the theory will
grow, that the causes of this latest insurrection should be sought among
the labour problems of Dublin rather than in any national or patriotic
sentiment, and this theory is buttressed by all the agile facts which
such a theory would be furnished with.
It is an interesting view, but in my opinion it is an erroneous one.
That Dublin labour was in the Volunteer movement to the strength of,
perhaps, two hundred men, may be true--it is possible there were more,
but it is unlikely that a greater number, or, as many, of the Citizen
Army marched when the order came. The overwhelming bulk of Volunteers
were actuated by the patriotic ideal which is the heritage and the
burden of almost every Irishman born out of the Unionist circle, and
their connection with labour was much more manual than mental.
This view of the importance of labour to the Volunteers is held by two
distinct and opposed classes.
Just as there are some who find the explanation of life in a sexual
formula, so there is a class to whom the economic idea is very dear, and
beneath every human activity they will discover the shock of wages and
profit. It is truly there, but it pulls no more than its weight, and in
Irish life the part played by labour has not yet been a weighty one;
although on every view it is an important one. The labour idea in
Ireland has not arrived. It is in process of "becoming," and when labour
problems are mentioned in this country a party does not come to the
mind, but two men only--they are Mr. Larkin and James Connolly, and they
are each in their way exceptional and curious men.
There is another class who implicate labour, and they do so because it
enables them to urge that as well as being grasping and nihilistic,
Irish labour is disloyal and treacherous.
The truth is that labour in Ireland has not yet succeeded in organising
anything--not even discontent. It is not self-conscious to any extent,
and, outside of Dublin, it scarcely appears to exist. The national
imagination is not free to deal with any other subject than that of
freedom, and part of the policy of our "masters" is to see that we be
kept busy with politics instead of social ideas. From their standpoint
the policy is admirable, and up to the present it has thoroughly
One does not hear from the lips of the Irish workingman, even in
Dublin, any of the affirmations and rejections which have long since
become the commonplaces of his comrades in other lands. But on the
subject of Irish freedom his views are instantly forthcoming, and his
desires are explicit, and, to a degree, informed. This latter subject
they understand and have fabricated an entire language to express it,
but the other they do not understand nor cherish, and they are not
prepared to die for it.
It is possibly true that before any movement can attain to really
national proportions there must be, as well as the intellectual ideal
which gives it utterance and a frame, a sense of economic misfortune to
give it weight, and when these fuse the combination may well be
irresistible. The organised labour discontent in Ireland, in Dublin, was
not considerable enough to impose its aims or its colours on the
Volunteers, and it is the labour ideal which merges and disappears in
the national one. The reputation of all the leaders of the insurrection,
not excepting Connolly, is that they were intensely patriotic Irishmen,
and also, but this time with the exception of Connolly, that they were
not particularly interested in the problems of labour.
The great strike of two years ago remained undoubtedly as a bitter and
lasting memory with Dublin labour--perhaps, even, it was not so much a
memory as a hatred. Still, it was not hatred of England which was evoked
at that time, nor can the stress of their conflict be traced to an
English source. It was hatred of local traders, and, particularly,
hatred of the local police, and the local powers and tribunals, which
were arrayed against them.
One can without trouble discover reasons why they should go on strike
again, but by no reasoning can I understand why they should go into
rebellion against England, unless it was that they were patriots first
and trade unionists a very long way afterwards.
I do not believe that this combination of the ideal and the practical
was consummated in the Dublin insurrection, but I do believe that the
first step towards the formation of such a party has now been taken,
and that if, years hence, there should be further trouble in Ireland
such trouble will not be so easily dealt with as this one has been.
It may be that further trouble will not arise, for the co-operative
movement, which is growing slowly but steadily in Ireland, may arrange
our economic question, and, incidentally, our national question
also--that is if the English people do not decide that the latter ought
to be settled at once.
James Connolly had his heart in both the national and the economic camp,
but he was a great-hearted man, and could afford to extend his
affections where others could only dissipate them.
There can be no doubt that his powers of orderly thinking were of great
service to the Volunteers, for while Mr. Larkin was the magnetic centre
of the Irish labour movement, Connolly was its brains. He has been
sentenced to death for his part in the insurrection, and for two days
now he has been dead.
He had been severely wounded in the fighting, and was tended, one does
not doubt with great care, until he regained enough strength to stand
up and be shot down again.
Others are dead also. I was not acquainted with them, and with Connolly
I was not more than acquainted. I had met him twice many months ago, but
other people were present each time, and he scarcely uttered a word on
either of these occasions. I was told that he was by nature silent. He
was a man who can be ill-spared in Ireland, but labour, throughout the
world, may mourn for him also.
A doctor who attended on him during his last hours says that Connolly
received the sentence of his death quietly. He was to be shot on the
morning following the sentence. This gentleman said to him:
"Connolly, when you stand up to be shot, will you say a prayer for me?"
His visitor continued:
"Will you say a prayer for the men who are shooting you?"
"I will," said Connolly, "and I will say a prayer for every good man in
the world who is doing his duty."
He was a steadfast man in all that he undertook. We may be sure he
steadfastly kept that promise. He would pray for others, who had not
time to pray for himself, as he had worked for others during the years
when he might have worked for himself.
THE IRISH QUESTIONS.
There is truly an Irish question. There are two Irish questions, and the
most important of them is not that which appears in our newspapers and
in our political propaganda.
The first is international, and can be stated shortly. It is the desire
of Ireland to assume control of her national life. With this desire the
English people have professed to be in accord, and it is at any rate so
thoroughly understood that nothing further need be made of it in these
The other Irish question is different, and less simply described. The
difficulty about it is that it cannot be approached until the question
of Ireland's freedom has by some means been settled, for this ideal of
freedom has captured the imagination of the race. It rides Ireland like
a nightmare, thwarting or preventing all civilising or cultural work in
this country, and it is not too much to say that Ireland cannot even
begin to live until that obsession and fever has come to an end, and her
imagination has been set free to do the work which imagination alone can
do--Imagination is intelligent kindness--we have sore need of it.
The second question might plausibly be called a religious one. It has
been so called, and, for it is less troublesome to accept an idea than
to question it, the statement has been accepted as truth--but it is
untrue, and it is deeply and villainously untrue. No lie in Irish life
has been so persistent and so mischievous as this one, and no political
lie has ever been so ingeniously, and malevolently exploited.
There is no religious intolerance in Ireland except that which is
political. I am not a member of the Catholic Church, and am not inclined
to be the advocate of a religious system which my mentality dislikes,
but I have never found real intolerance among my fellow-countrymen of
that religion. I have found it among Protestants. I will limit that
statement, too. I have found it among some Protestants. But outside of
the North of Ireland there is no religious question, and in the North
it is fundamentally more political than religious.
All thinking is a fining down of one's ideas, and thus far we have come
to the statement of Ireland's second question. It is not Catholic or
Nationalist, nor have I said that it is entirely Protestant and
Unionist, but it is on the extreme wing of this latter party that
responsibility must be laid. It is difficult, even for an Irishman
living in Ireland, to come on the real political fact which underlies
Irish Protestant politics, and which fact has consistently opposed and
baffled every attempt made by either England or Ireland to come to
terms. There is such a fact, and clustered around it is a body of men
whose hatred of their country is persistent and deadly and unexplained.
One may make broad generalisations on the apparent situation and
endeavour to solve it by those. We may say that loyalty to England is
the true centre of their action. I will believe it, but only to a point.
Loyalty to England does not inevitably include this active hatred, this
blindness, this withering of all sympathy for the people among whom one
is born, and among whom one has lived in peace, for they have lived in
peace amongst us. We may say that it is due to the idea of privilege and
the desire for power. Again, I will accept it up to a point--but these
are cultural obsessions, and they cease to act when the breaking-point
I know of only two mental states which are utterly without bowels or
conscience. These are cowardice and greed. Is it to a synthesis of these
states that this more than mortal enmity may be traced? What do they
fear, and what is it they covet? What can they redoubt in a country
which is practically crimeless, or covet in a land that is almost as
bare as a mutton bone? They have mesmerised themselves, these men, and
have imagined into our quiet air brigands and thugs and titans, with all
the other notabilities of a tale for children.
I do not think that this either will tell the tale, but I do think there
is a story to be told--I imagine an esoteric wing to the Unionist Party.
I imagine that Party includes a secret organisation--they may be
Orangemen, they may be Masons, and, if there be such, I would dearly
like to know what the metaphysic of their position is, and how they
square it with any idea of humanity or social life. Meantime, all this
is surmise, and I, as a novelist, have a notoriously flighty
imagination, and am content to leave it at that.
But this secondary Irish question is not so terrible as it appears. It
is terrible now, it would not be terrible if Ireland had national
The great protection against a lie is--not to believe it; and Ireland,
in this instance, has that protection. The claims made by the Unionist
Wing do not rely solely on the religious base. They use all the
arguments. It is, according to them, unsafe to live in Ireland. (Let us
leave this insurrection of a week out of the question.) Life is not safe
in Ireland. Property shivers in terror of daily or nightly
appropriation. Other, undefined, but even more woeful glooms and creeps,
wriggle stealthily abroad.
These things are not regarded in Ireland, and, in truth, they are not
meat for Irish consumption. Irish judges are presented with white
gloves with a regularity which may even be annoying to them, and were it
not for political trouble they would be unable to look their salaries in
the face. The Irish Bar almost weep in chorus at the words "Land Act,"
and stare, not dumbly, on destitution. These tales are meant for England
and are sent there. They will cease to be exported when there is no
market for them, and these men will perhaps end by becoming patriotic
and social when they learn that they do not really command the Big
Battalions. But Ireland has no protection against them while England can
be thrilled by their nonsense, and while she is willing to pound Ireland
to a jelly on their appeal. Her only assistance against them is freedom.
There are certain simplicities upon which all life is based. A man finds
that he is hungry and the knowledge enables him to go to work for the
rest of his life. A man makes the discovery (it has been a discovery to
many) that he is an Irishman, and the knowledge simplifies all his
subsequent political action. There is this comfort about being an
Irishman, you can be entirely Irish, and claim thus to be as complete
as a pebble or a star. But no Irish person can hope to be more than a
muletto Englishman, and if that be an ambition and an end it is not an
But there is an Ulster difficulty, and no amount of burking it will
solve it. It is too generally conceived among Nationalists that the
attitude of Ulster towards Ireland is rooted in ignorance and bigotry.
Allow that both of these bad parts are included in the Northern outlook,
they do not explain the Ulster standpoint; and nothing can explain the
attitude of official Ireland _vis-a-vis_ with Ulster.
What has the Irish Party ever done to allay Northern prejudice, or bring
the discontented section into line with the rest of Ireland? The answer
is pathetically complete. They have done nothing. Or, if they have done
anything, it was only that which would set every Northerner grinding his
teeth in anger. At a time when Orangeism was dying they raised and
marshalled the Hibernians, and we have the Ulsterman's answer to the
Hibernians in the situation by which we are confronted to-day. If the
Party had even a little statesmanship among them they would for the past
ten years have marched up and down the North explaining and mollifying
and courting the Black Northerner. But, like good Irishmen, they could
not tear themselves away from England, and they paraded that country
where parade was not so urgent, and they made orations there until the
mere accent of an Irishman must make Englishmen wail for very boredom.
Some of that parade might have gladdened the eyes of the Belfast
citizens; a few of those orations might have assisted the men of Derry
to comprehend that, for the good of our common land, Home Rule and the
unity of a nation was necessary if only to rid the country of these
Let the Party explain why, among their political duties, they neglected
the duty of placating Ulster in their proper persons. Why, in short,
they boycotted Ulster and permitted political and religious and racial
antagonism to grow inside of Ireland unchecked by any word from them
upon that ground. Were they afraid "nuts" would be thrown at them?
Whatever they dreaded, they gave Ulster the widest of wide berths, and
wherever else they were visible and audible, they were silent and unseen
in that part of Ireland.
The Ulster grievance is ostensibly religious; but safeguards on this
count are so easily created and applied that this issue might almost be
left out of account. The real difficulty is economic, and it is a
tangled one. But unless profit and loss are immediately discernible the
soul of man is not easily stirred by an accountant's tale, and therefore
the religious banner has been waved for our kinsfolk of Ulster, and
under the sacred emblem they are fighting for what some people call
mammon, but which may be in truth just plain bread and butter.
The words Sinn Fein mean "Ourselves," and it is of ourselves I write in
this chapter. More urgent than any political emancipation is the drawing
together of men of good will in the endeavour to assist their
necessitous land. Our eyes must be withdrawn from the ends of the earth
and fixed on that which is around us and which we can touch. No
politician will talk to us of Ireland if by any trick he can avoid the
subject. His tale is still of Westminster and Chimborazo and the
Mountains of the Moon. Irishmen must begin to think for themselves and
of themselves, instead of expending energy on causes too distant to be
assisted or hindered by them. I believe that our human material is as
good as will be found in the world. No better, perhaps, but not worse.
And I believe that all but local politics are unfruitful and
soul-destroying. We have an island that is called little. It is more
than twenty times too spacious for our needs, and we will not have
explored the last of it in our children's lifetime. We have more
problems to resolve in our towns and cities than many generations of
minds will get tired of striving with. Here is the world, and all that
perplexes or delights the world is here also. Nothing is lost. Not even
brave men. They have been used. From this day the great adventure opens
for Ireland. The Volunteers are dead, and the call is now for
Back to Full Books