NOT in the news: April 17-23, 1916

Continuing our  look behind the scenes at how the Rising was being planned and what we know about those involved, 100 years ago this week: March 14-20, 1916. 

Many of the main players featured regularly in newspapers of the time, but most of these activities did not feature in the news and are only now known from information held in archives.


This is how the last week before the Rising transpired — with confusion, tragedy and conflicting orders


Monday, April 17


  • Seán MacDiarmada, Éamon de Valera and W T Cosgrave met at 9pm in the Irish Volunteers headquarters in Dublin’s Dawson St. As a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) Military Council planning to start the Rising the next Sunday, and a signatory to the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, MacDiarmada would be executed after the rebellion was quashed. Both de Valera and Cosgrave would also be sentenced to death but those sentences were commuted.
  • MacDiarmada visited fellow Military Council member Tom Clarke’s shop on Parnell Street, as did future President of Ireland Seán T Ó Ceallaigh.
  • At 41 Rutland Square (Parnell Square today), Dublin Metropolitan Police noted “about 40” Irish Volunteers drilling without rifles, with “extremist” suspects Joseph McGuinness, Frank Fahy. and Charles Kickham in attendance.
  • Kickham was earlier seen at Volunteers headquarters with Diarmuid Lynch, Michael O’Hanrahan, and Herbert Mellows. Like de Valera, Lynch’s US citizenship would help him avoid execution later; O’Hanrahan was not as fortunate.


Tuesday, April 18


  • The wording of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic was finalised at 21 Henry St, a restaurant owned by Jenny and John Wyse Power. Ms Wyse Power was first president of women’s auxiliary organisation to the Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan.


Wednesday April 19


  • The ‘Castle document’ was read out at a meeting of Dublin Castle, prompting Irish Volunteers chief-of-staff Eoin MacNeill to issue orders that Volunteers be prepared to resist attempts to suppress the movement.
  • The first of several dispatches from Dublin arrived to Irish Volunteers’ Cork Brigade commandant Tomás MacCurtain from Bridget Foley, Cumann na mBan. Its contents unknown, it was already the second to be sent from Seán MacDiarmada to Cork in three days.


Thursday, April 20


  • MacNeill’s order arrived in Cork, telling MacCurtain only to take action in defence of men and weapons.
  • The Aud arrived in the late afternoon in Tralee bay but the expected signal from dry land to bring the vessel into Fenit pier to land the guns never arrived. A message had reached Berlin advising that the boat was not to arrive until Easter Sunday evening but, with no radio on board the Aud, it could not be relayed to the ship’s captain Karl Spindler.


Friday, April 21


  • In the early hours, Roger Casement and accomplices Robert Monteith and Daniel Julian Bailey made it ashore at Banna Strand in Tralee Bay. Later that day, after the others went to seek Volunteer officers in Tralee, Casement was found by police hiding in a fort and brought to the RIC station in Ardfert.
  • Around 6pm, as it was heading away after no signal from shore, the Aud was intercepted by the Royal Navy off the southwest coast and ordered to follow to naval base at Queenstown (Cobh today) in Cork Harbour.
  • Word of the events reached James Connolly’s accomplice William Partridge, who took a train from Tralee back to Dublin to convey news of the disaster. He revealed the developments to an Irish Volunteers Cork Brigade messenger on his way from delivering instructions to Kerry companies, who passed it on to his Brigade commander Tomás MacCurtain. MacNeill’s order giving command and control of Munster brigades to JJ O’Connell when the Volunteers HQ officer had already reached Cork on Friday.
  • In the early hours of Saturday morning, a further order from MacNeill arrived in Cork through James Ryan, to say Rising could now go ahead. The chief-of-staff had been convinced of the strength of the plan after being told German guns were arriving.


Saturday, April 22


  • As Spindler scuttled the Aud on its way into Cork Harbour at Daunt’s Rock, details reached Dublin of its capture and Roger Casement’s arrest in Kerry. On hearing these developments, MacNeill changed his mind and issued further orders for regional commanders, effectively cancelling the Rising: “Volunteers deceived. All orders for to-morrow Sunday are entirely cancelled.”


Sunday, April 23


  • As MacNeill’s countermanding order reached Volunteers Brigade chiefs, the IRB Military Council met at Liberty Hall. It was decided to reschedule for midday on Monday instead, and orders were despatched again to regional Volunteers officers.
  • Uncertain of the situation after receiving MacNeill’s countermanding order, Cork Brigade commandant Tomás MacCurtain allowed mobilisations go ahead. Originally intended to collect their portion of the arms from the Germans, the movements saw more than 1,000 Volunteers move to eight main rallying points. They were all sent home again before evening unaware of events about to begin in Dublin the next day.



Digitised copies of the Dublin Metropolitan Police ‘Movement of Extremists’ files for the corresponding dates in 1916 are uploaded regularly to the National Archives of Ireland website – (@narireland).

Read some events from the period at the Military Archives timeline, and witness statements made by participants in the Rising (Twitter @dfarchives).

Among the other sources used in this diary are monthly reports of the Royal Irish Constabulary inspector general and county inspectors, viewed in UCC’s Boole Library’s Special Collections department (@theriversideUCC).

— Compiled by Niall Murray

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