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 28 – March 5, 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 28, 1916:
- Dublin councillor, William Partridge, set up a branch of the ITGWU union at Fenit, in Co Kerry, where he got men to hold out for an extra shilling a day on the arrival of a ship. The police inspector for Co Kerry warned that this, and his demand for an extra five shillings a week for labourers in Tralee, would probably lead to trouble. Partridge was helping to organise the unloading of German-supplied guns, expected to land in Fenit harbour over Easter weekend, in April. Police estimated membership of the Irish Volunteers, in Co Kerry, at 1,000 in 18 companies, with 400 rifles, 174 shotguns, and 80 revolvers in their possession.
Tuesday, February 29, 1916:
- Irish Citizen Army leader, James Connolly, arrived back to Dublin, from Belfast, where he had lectured Irish Volunteers on fighting methods. By now co-opted to the Irish Republican Military Brotherhood (IRB) military council, Connolly was deeply involved in the secret plans for the Rising. While the exact plans for outside Dublin did not survive, they involved disruption of military reinforcements to the capital.
- Alfred Cotton visited military council member Tom Clarke’s shop, in Dublin’s Parnell Street, as well as the Irish Volunteers headquarters, which were also visited by Michael O’Hanrahan (executed after the Rising), Michael Joseph O’Rahilly (killed during the Rising), and leading Volunteers figures, Bulmer Hobson, JJ [Jeremiah Joseph] O’Connell, and chief-of-staff Eoin MacNeill’s wife, Agnes. Cotton was, along with Austin Stack, one of the prime movers in Kerry, in the IRB and Irish Volunteers. Having been ordered, during a trip to Belfast, not to return to Cork or Kerry around this time, he was advised by military council member, Seán MacDiarmada, not to defy the order, as his activities would be under watch and might give away the planned landing of guns in Fenit.
Wednesday, March 1, 1916:
- Tom Clarke’s shop was visited by Con Colbert, Edward Daly, The O’Rahilly, Frank McCabe and Seán McGarry.
- Partridge’s return to the capital was observed by Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) detectives.
- At Irish Volunteer offices, visitors included MacDiarmada, Thomas MacDonagh, Michael O’Hanrahan, Bulmer Hobson, Éamon de Valera, John Fitzgibbon, O’Rahilly, Éamonn Ceannt, Laurence Raul, Edward Daly, George Irvine, John Lyons, Thomas Hunter, and Alfred Cotton.
Thursday, March 2, 1916:
- Patrick Pearse spoke at a Robert Emmet commemoration in Belfast’s St Mary’s Hall.
- At 41 Rutland Square, in Dublin, (now Parnell Square), 50 members of Irish Volunteers were drilled, with MacDiarmada, Joseph McGuinness, and Frank Fahy in attendance.
Friday, March 3, 1916:
- The DMP continued to monitor the movements of suspects like Patrick Pearse, Seán MacDiarmada, Seán McGarry, Piaras Béaslaí, Michael Foley, Thomas Byrne and JJ Walsh.
Saturday, March 4, 1916:
- By early March, the likelihood of an insurrection was being made very clear to British authorities in Dublin Castle. Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) inspector general, Neville Chamberlain’s monthly report told of intelligence from America that John Devoy’s Clan na Gael organisation was making efforts, pushed on by the Germans, “to prepare for some attack against the British government, either in Canada or in Ireland”, with Ireland the more likely target.
“It is now time to seriously consider whether the organisers [sic] of the Irish Volunteers can be allowed with safety to continue their mischievous work, and whether this force, so hostile to British interests, can be permitted to increase its strength and remain any longer in possession of arms without grave danger to the State,” he wrote.
- He believed speeches and articles of the ‘Sinn Fein’ movement were pointing to the force “being organised with a view to insurrection, and, in the event of the enemy being able to effect a landing in Ireland, the Volunteers could, no doubt, delay the dispatch of troops to the scene by blowing up the railway and bridges, provided the organisers were at liberty to plan and direct the operations.”
Sunday, March 5, 1916:
- DMP recorded a meeting of McGarry, MacDiarmada, and Béaslaí, at 12 D’Olier Street. The address, commonly visited by extremist suspects, was the location from which The Irish Review was published from 1911 to the end of 1914. The monthly magazine promoted Irish arts and literature, with regular contributors including WB Yeats, Jack B Yeats, James Stephens, Daniel Corkery and Douglas Hyde. It was edited from 1913 by Joseph Plunkett, later one of the key planners of the Rising, whose poetry also regularly appeared alongside works and literary reviews by others executed in 1916: Patrick Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh and Roger Casement.
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