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: February 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.
Monday February 14, 1916:
- The Cork-born activist JJ Walsh’s movements were under the usual observation of the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP), having been ordered in 1914 to leave his postal job in Cork in connection with his militant tendencies within the Irish Volunteers. He was removed from his new post in Bradford in May 1915, and since November, his tobacconist shop at the corner of Dublin’s Blessington Street and Berkley Street was one of several city addresses where Irish Volunteers could leave letters or other despatches for each other. Other such delivery addresses included the Parnell Street shop of veteran Fenian and Irish Republican Brotherhood Military Council member, Tom Clarke. Messages and letters deposited up to 8pm would be collected that night, deliveries around Dublin to other Volunteers beginning at 8am next day.
Walsh would later be sentenced to death for his role with the Hibernian Rifles in the Easter Rising, but had the sentence commuted. He represented Cork city in the first Dáil after the December 1918 general election, and was made first Postmaster General in the Irish Free State in 1922, becoming Minister for Posts and Telegraphs the following year.
Tuesday February 15, 1916
- Dublin councillor William Partridge arrived in Tralee, Co Kerry and his subsequent movements were noted by local police, as he addressed meetings in Tralee, Killarney, Listowel and Dingle in his role as an organiser for the ITGWU. ‘His speeches which have been most disloyal — and his work amongst the labourers etc, have caused a considerable amount of unrest,’ the RIC county inspector reported to the force’s inspector general. Unknown to them, as a right-hand man to Irish Citizen Army leader James Connolly, Partridge’s visit also involved making and overseeing arrangements for the landing and transport of German guns due to land in Kerry at Easter in late April.
Wednesday February 16, 1916:
- Con Colbert, Edward Daly (both executed after the Rising), Irish Volunteers training director JJ O’Connell, IRB Supreme Council member Diarmuid Lynch (aware of the plans to import German guns into Kerry), and Piaras Béaslaí were some of those who visited Tom Clarke’s shop, although the owner himself was absent. Unknown to detectives watching the premises, Clarke was did not have the cold that they believed he was suffering from. His aide Sean McGarry had accidentally shot him in the right arm on January 31, and after the bullet was removed the next day in the Mater Hospital, he spent a few days recuperating with his Daly in-laws in Limerick.
- Patrick Pearse, Seán MacDiarmada, Michael O’Hanrahan, Eamonn Ceannt, and Michael Joseph O’Rahilly (all either executed or killed after or during the Rising) were at Irish Volunteers headquarters on this date. Also present, according to DMP observations, were WT Cosgrave, Éamon de Valera, Diarmuid Lynch, who were all sentenced to death for their subsequent roles in the Rising, but all had those sentences commuted.
Thursday February 17, 1916:
- 60 Irish Volunteers were drilled at 41 Rutland Square (now Parnell Square) in Dublin’s north inner city, and in attendance were Edward Daly, Piaras Béaslaí, Frank Fahy, and Joseph McGuinness.
- A memo to Berlin from German ambassador von Bernstorff in Washington reiterated the message that John Devoy informed them of a rising to begin on Easter Saturday, and seeking arms to west coast of Ireland between Good Friday and Easter Saturday.
Friday February 18, 1916:
- The principal speaker at a debate ‘Do we want peace now?’ was pacifist Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, who would be wrongfully executed during Easter Week. It was held in the same venue as the previous night’s Irish Volunteers drilling. Among those attending the event were IRB Military Council members planning the Rising: James Connolly and Sean MacDiarmada, and Edward Daly who would also be executed in May 1916.
Saturday February 19, 1916:
- Among issues of the ‘mosquito press’ included in the daily ‘Movement of Extremists’ file of the Dublin Metropolitan Police was the latest edition of James Connolly’s The Workers Republic. It included an article entitled ‘Irish Independence’ which said: “Now or never… are you going to oblige John Bull, the butcher of your priests and people, by remaining quiet till he is in a position to finish you off.”
- A public meeting organised by the Gaelic League in Cork City Hall, attracted 1,500 people, who protested against the prosecution and conviction in Macroom of Claude Chevasse for refusing to give his details except in Irish to police at Ballingeary. While RIC observers noted the speeches were ‘devoted to abuse of the police, and magistrates’, County Inspector Thomas Howe concluded they would have no effect.
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 – www.nationalarchives.ie (@narireland).
Read some events from the period at the Military Archives timeline, and witness statements made by participants in the Rising www.militaryarchives.ie (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