Since 1898, Dublin Fire Brigade ran an ambulance service; their log book bears witness to the events of 1916.
By Las Fallon
In 2014 the log book from Tara St fire station for early 1916, which was thought to have been lost forever, turned up in a Dublin auction house.
It was an official logbook, or ‘occurrence book’, for Dublin Fire Brigade headquarters in Tara St, with handwritten entries which gave a new insight into the events of Easter Week.
The book was bought by Dublin City Library and Archives and now forms a central part of their 1916 Rising material. It has been digitised and is now available online for historians and scholars of the period.
It bears witness to the attempts by Dublin Fire Brigade to deal with the battle raging on the streets of Dublin and within its pages are stories of tragedy and heroism, all told in the clinical shorthand of Ireland’s oldest fire and rescue service.
Page 167 (Tuesday, April 25) for instance, opens with mention of stations being alerted to a previously reported fire in O’Connell St: “Sent word to C to attend. Also sent word to A & D & Watercontrol & Police.”
‘C’ station was the fire brigade station at Buckingham Street. ‘A’ and ‘D’ stations were Thomas St and Dorset St stations respectively.
The standard formula of informing the waterworks department and the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) of a fire in the city was also followed, although by this stage the DMP were long gone from the streets.
Since 1898, the Dublin Fire Brigade had provided the capital’s ambulance service and a returning ambulance is noted in the log at 12.05:
“Ambulance returned left 3 patients 1 Male & 2 Female in Jervis St [hospital] Male dead Females unconscious Ages about 14 to 16 Knocked down by a crowd and trampled on.”
We can only surmise what happened to those girls. Were they looting among the abandoned shops and caught up in a panic to escape some threat? Were they just children doing what children do and trying to get close to the action to see what was going on?
Some other stories are easier to follow for a student of the period. The ambulance which returned at 12.16 gives us an insight into the fighting going on in the city: “Ambulance returned left Sgt. John Hughes DMP aged 47 arm shattered by bullet Also Michael Doherty 10 Mayor St aged 32 . Bullet wounds in body & head. Both in Mercers.”
Hughes, a station sergeant in the DMP, had been captured near Stephen’s Green in plain clothes on the night of Monday, April 24. He was held overnight in the park by the Irish Citizen Army garrison there, but released early on the morning of Tuesday, April 25.
At this time, the garrison was under intense fire from Royal Dublin Fusiliers in the Shelbourne Hotel and the United Services Institute. Hughes was shot in the arm and lay wounded in the park for some hours until an ambulance was able to approach during a lull in the firing.
He was taken to Mercers Hospital, where he had two operations on the arm. He returned to duty in January 1917.
Michael O’Doherty, on the other hand, was a member of the Irish Citizen Army and had been hit by a burst of machinegun fire while in action on the roof of the Royal College of Surgeons.
He had 12 wounds, including a bullet through his right eye and severe wounds in the face and body. He was rescued from the roof by Joe Connolly of the ICA and treated for his injuries before being removed to hospital.
Joe Connolly was a serving member of Dublin Fire Brigade. He had left Tara St fire station the previous day to take part in the Rising when he heard from his brother Sean that it was going ahead.
Sean Connolly would be killed in action at City Hall. Joe served throughout Easter Week at the College of Surgeons and would later return to duty with the Dublin Fire Brigade after his release from Frongoch internment camp in Wales. He went on to serve as chief fire officer of the DFB in later years.
O’Doherty would survive his initial wounds but was arrested in hospital and sent to Frongoch. He suffered terribly through the next few years due to the lack of proper medical attention in the months after he was shot. He died in late 1919.
At 2.08pm another returning ambulance reported that they had “left Lord Dunsaney in Jervis St bullet wound in jaw aged 36”.
Dunsany was an officer in the Inniskilling Fusiliers travelling in a car with a driver and another senior officer. They had attempted to drive through a Volunteer roadblock near the Four Courts and had been fired on.
All were wounded and captured. Dunsany, a playwright and author in his civilian life, later remarked that a Volunteer officer had passed a favourable comment on one of his plays when he realised who his captive was.
Dunsany had sustained a wound in the jaw when captured and his captors appear to have released him for medical treatment.