NOT in the news: March 21 – 27, 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.


Monday, March 20:

  • Police sergeant Aherne was shot and injured when the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) entered the Irish Volunteers’ rooms in Tullamore, Co Offaly. Accounts of what happened differ, the RIC saying the Volunteers wer following instructions to resist any attempt to seize their arms. Irish Volunteers honorary secretary Bulmer Hobson was quoted in newspapers as saying that a couple of revolvers went off in a scuffle after the Volunteers were attacked by police searching for arms and a hostile crowd that had followed them into their building.

Tuesday, March 21:

  • In Tom Clarke’s absence, the senior Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) man’s shop in Dublin was visited by his brother-in-law Edward Daly, and Con Colbert. All three were executed after the Rising, now only a few weeks away.
  • Daly also met with senior Irish Volunteers figures at their headquarters in Dublin’s Dawson Street, including Michael Joseph O’Rahilly, Michael O’Hanrahan, Éamonn Ceannt, Thomas MacDonagh – four more men who would be dead within weeks. Others to visit the offices were Hobson, Kerryman Piaras Béaslaí, Michael Foley and Thomas Hunter – a draper’s assistant from north Cork, who would be sentenced to death but later serve as a TD in the first Dáil after the sentence was commuted.

Wednesday, March 22:

  • Rifles and fixed bayonets were held by uniformed Irish Volunteers in the passage leading to their rooms at their headquarters during a meeting on Wednesday evening. According to Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) detectives watching the premises, among those who attended two meetings on this date were Seán MacDiarmada, Thomas MacDonagh and Ceannt, three of the seven-member IRB Military Council that was planning a Rising to begin at Easter weekend, unknown to the most senior Irish Volunteers figures until the days before.
  • Patrick Pearse, Colbert and Daly were at Tom Clarke’s shop in Parnell Street, where the owner was also in attendance.

Thursday, March 23:

  • Alfred Cotton who had been deeply involved in planning the landing of German guns in Kerry – until recent orders to live in Belfast – was observed in Dublin by the DMP, including his attendance at a meeting in Irish Volunteers head office.
  • Colbert, Daly, Hobson, John Milroy and Gerald Griffin were among those at drilling of about 70 Irish Volunteers at 41 Rutland Square (now Parnell Square) in Dublin.


The Gael-CSO_JD_2_216_-28

Friday, March 24:

  • Police in Dublin seized copies of The Spark, The Gael and Honesty in shops, and raided the printing plant where The Gael and other newspapers were being produced. The DMP also surrounded the Irish Citizen Army’s Liberty Hall, where James Connolly and Countess Markievicz summoned members to protect his The Workers’ Republic newspaper. The raids caused “a good deal of commotion and anxiety among Sinn Feiners”, according to police reports of their actions.

Saturday March 25:


Fastnet Lighthouse , Lighthouse keepers leaving the rock for last time due to automation . pic richard mills . 04/04/89  view fastnet .
German submarines were sighted off the Fastnet Rock, south of the west Cork coast. On the same date, a Russian vessel was sunk by a torpedo south-west of the Fastnet. Fastnet Lighthouse, picture: Richard Mills.
  • Sometime around this date, near the end of March, a sister of IRB Military Council member Joseph Plunkett was sent to New York. She had not long returned from there, when she was despatched with a message for the IRB’s go-between John Devoy. He was to tell the Germans that the guns being sent to aid the Rising should not arrive before Easter Sunday.

Sunday, March 26:

  • During the final weekend of March, the Irish Volunteers’ full-time organiser in Cork Terence MacSwiney was seen by police visiting Tom Clarke’s shop in Dublin. He was also seen at Volunteers’ headquarters, where a General Council meeting was held, and in attendance were four men who would be among the seven signatories – Ceannt, MacDiarmada, MacDonagh and Pearse.
  • The Volunteers’ General Council discussed treatment by Government forces of the Irish Volunteers and warned the public that “the general tendency of the Government’s action is to force a highly dangerous situation….”
  • Expansion of the Volunteers continued in rural Ireland, with 12 new members recruited at Ardfield outside Clonakilty in west Cork. Around 180 members of five companies had marched there carrying 30 rifles and 50 shotguns.



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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