Kilcoole Remembers 1916 Monologue by Jennifer O’Hara
On Sunday 5th June, 2016 – Lord Edwards Own Reenactors and friends re-enacted the story of 1916 in Luisne Spiritual Centred in Kilcoole. The following is a transcript of the monologue that accompanied the re-enactment .
Re-enactors: LORD EDWARDS OWN
Narrator: GERRY GILL
Tessie: MAGGIE MURPHY
Roger: KEVIN MACKEN
Elizabeth O’Farrell: AIDEEN MCLOUGHLIN
The O’Rahilly: FIACH KUNZ
Park Keeper : JOSEPH HUNT
PART ONE – ACT ONE
NARRATOR: Easter Monday 1916 was an average quiet bank holiday for most Dubliners who were blissfully unaware of what was happening at Liberty Hall. Since Good Friday there had been rumours, but not many believed them to be true. Some had heard about Sir Roger Casement, the famous humanitarian, who had mysteriously washed up at Banna Strand, but not many knew about local man Robert Monteith, who had tried to save Sir Roger from capture by the British Army.
It would be some time before the story would come out about their failed attempt to import arms from Germany for a planned insurrection on Easter Sunday. However, the news didn’t escape Eoin MacNeill, Commander in Chief of the Irish Volunteers. With the ship “The Aud” scuttled and the arms languishing at the bottom of the Atlantic, MacNeill put a notice in the Sunday Newspapers announcing there were to be no “Parades” on Easter Sunday. As far as MacNeill was concerned, without sufficient arms and ammunition, it would be doomed to failure. There was to be no Rising.
LORD EDWARDS: Volunteers, Cumann na mBan, Irish Citizen Army, Na Fianna Eireann
Activity: Coming in and out of Liberty Hall, Boxes of ammo being brought out, general scene setting and movement. CAR ARRIVES (with the O’Rahilly)
NARRATOR: MacNeill wasn’t the only one against a rebellion. Michael Joseph O’Rahilly, known as “The O’Rahilly” was dead set against it, so much so he drove around the country trying to spread the word it was off. It seemed the Rebellion was over before it could begin. But what he didn’t know was that The Military Council of the IRB had already made a decision. It would be called off alright. But only for 24 hours.
O’RAHILLY: Well, I’ve helped to wind up the clock – I might as well hear it strike!
NARRATOR: The O’Rahilly was the original “if you can’t beat them, join them” merchant. When he saw the thousand copies of the Proclamation coming hot off the Liberty Hall printing press, he offered not only himself to the cause, but also his trusty motor car.
LORD EDWARDS: The car is loaded with boxes of ammo. The car follows a column of men and women who form lines in twos, and then fours. They march away, most going to the GPO (windows will be blocked from inside, barricades outside, one window will be smashed). A section of the ICA will head to Stephen’s Green. Some men will get changed into Tommy uniforms for part two.
Colaiste Chraobh Abhainn: Students come from inside GPO to read Proclamation
NARRATOR: The first shots were fired from the GPO at lunchtime. As the Lancers rode down Sackville Street, they only got as far as Nelson’s Pillar where they were greeted by a volley of bullets from the roof and the windows of the Rebel HQ. Across the city the other rebel positions were preparing for the fight. The British started to cordon off the city – on the north from Parkgate Street to the North Wall, and from Kingsbridge to Ringsend on the south.
In the centre of the city, ordinary people were taking the bank holiday air in the heartland of Unionist Dublin – St. Stephen’s Green – when they were unceremoniously ordered out of the park by the Irish Citizen Army. With the Green evacuated, the army set up a Red Cross station in the bandstand and barricades all around the park. They even started digging trenches. The Park keeper, James Kearney, refused to leave as he was worried about who would feed the ducks.
LORD EDWARDS: Citizen Army at Stephen’s Green – Digging trenches
TESSIE: I’m only after hearing about them gurriers down in the GPO – The downright cheek of them dirty Fenians, making trouble for ordinary people with enough to be worrying about. Well for them to be speaking irish and spouting poems and all that palaver. Suit them better to come up here and do something for us living in the tenements. Don’t get me wrong it’s not all bad – I have great neighbours so I do – but that’s all I have. What’s that you say? Oh I get my separation money alright and I’m not apologising to you nor nobody else for it. Sure isn’t my husband’s off fightin the war – Not as if anyone appreciates it. Poor eejit was walking up from the snug minding his own business when a group of officers – right toffs they were – invited him into the hotel for cigars in the smoking room if you don’t mind. And that was that. I had a British soldier for a husband and a few bob more with him gone than at home. Anyway, it’d suit them Sinn Feiners to do something for the poor people instead of playing soldiers. Gerrup the yard, I say, Gerrup the Yard.
NARRATOR: The Rising was a total surprise to the Government and to the Military. With only 400 troops to about 1,000 Irish rebels, the British couldn’t go on the offensive until reinforcements arrived. The Great War was at its bloodiest and an endless supply of young men was needed on the Western Front. But the British quickly recovered. By Monday evening they had taken over the Shelbourne Hotel and the Park provided no cover for the rebels. Leaving their dead behind and most of their supplies, the rebels fled to the Royal College of Surgeons.
ROGER: So that crowd of modern day Fenians are striking a blow for Irish Freedom. Really, did you ever hear the like of it! Don’t get me wrong I’m not a West Briton but really and truly, a rabble of revolutionaries taking on the biggest empire in the world! Of course, we’re all sick and tired of waiting for Home Rule but this is just a big old Ruggy Up. Splendid fun I’m certain, but what good can it do? Mind you, those volunteer fellows do know how to pick their moment. England’s Difficulty is Ireland’s Opportunity – that’s what they say. I say it has a certain ring to it.
In fact, it’s a capital idea. Let’s run our own country, speak our own language, make our own decisions. Let’s have our own Government. And not a glorified local government either. Home Rule is out of vogue it seems. The new fashion is total freedom. (LAUGHS)
PART ONE – ACT TWO
National School Choir : A Nation Once Again, God Save Ireland, The Rising of the Moon
LORD EDWARDS: During Choir – scene changes – Liberty Hall becomes Clanwilliam, Fencing moved to Georgian Houses, Mount Street Bridge put in place.
Reservists get ready
NARRATOR: Monday evening – a column of Volunteer Training Corps, also known as the Gorgeous Wrecks were returning after a training exercise to their barracks in Beggar’s Bush when they were fired upon from Volunteers. Carrying rifles without ammunition, five of this group of part-time reservists were killed. Seven more were wounded.
LORD EDWARDS: Reservists getting fired upon
NARRATOR: By Wednesday reinforcements had arrived from England. Liberty Hall and the G.P.O. were shelled by heavy artillery. The British had gained a foothold at Trinity College and the gunboat Helga was ruling the Liffey.
To great clapping and cheering from locals, troops from Nottingham and Derbyshire, known as the Sherwood Forresters, arrived in Kingstown. Most of them were young lads with little or no training. Some of them thought they were in France. These boys didn’t want to fight English speaking people. Some were fellow countrymen. While the officers had breakfast in the Yacht Club, the young recruits were sent up Northumberland Road. But with no heavy weapons or local knowledge, they were lambs to the slaughter.
LORD EDWARDS: Battle of Mount Street Bridge – includes Ceasefire – Nurses and ambulance – Brits form and march again.
NARRATOR: The Battle of Mount Street was a blood bath for the British. 12 Volunteers pinned down 2 battalions for 9 hours. But the British were closing in on the rebels. There was now a ring of steel around the city. It was a complete battle zone. There were now 20,000 British soldiers against 2,000 rebels.
On Friday General Sir John Maxwell arrived and brought with him Martial Law. Nobody was safe from Maxwell. It was his job and his job alone to sort out the situation. And do it quickly.
TESSIE: I suppose they think it’s amusing that we can’t get into the post office all week. How are we supposed to get our Separation Allowance? My husband off fighting a war and this is the thanks we get! What are we supposed to put in the pot? Patriotism? Politics? Well I’ve made a few soups outta parings in my time, but this is a different kettle of fish. Sure even if I had a few bob, there’s not a bit of bread to be got anywhere. The whole place is gone to ruination. And your man Sean McDermott giving out to the poor unfortunates for a bit of looting. Sure what do they expect? It’s pandemonium out there in anyway. So why shouldn’t the poor people get something out of it? Ah d’you know what I seen yesterday? Two auld wans wheeling a stolen piano across Gardiner Street in the middle of it all. Not scared off by a few bullets. Not scared off by nothin. They were dragging that piano home and no Tommies nor Fenians was gonna stop them.
I wonder if the kids will bring me home a few toffees tonight. The jellies they got last night were grand, but I do love a nice bit of toffee so I do.
ROGER: If I didn’t know there was war on the Western Front, I might think it had come here to dear old Dublin. But it’s not the dear old Dublin I know – it’s a bloody mess. Complete hullabaloo and a total inconvenience. I can’t even get to Bewley’s Oriental Café and I always go there on a Wednesday. It’s getting beyond a joke at this stage. There’s no post, no newspapers, no gas. The telephone’s been cut off. I can’t get into the bank and when I’ll be able to get back to the office, I really can’t tell.
I think they’ve all gone mad. In the middle of a bloody world war, we have to tolerate this sort of nonsense! Blasted rebels discommoding all of us. There’s not a sausage nor an egg to be got for love nor money. Thank God we have that partridge to roast this evening. Most unseasonable. Dreadfully inconsiderate.
PART TWO – ACT ONE
ROGER: Who would’ve thought they had it in them? Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and now it’s Friday and they’re still defending their positions. So it wasn’t just a gesture. These rebels are after more than token symbolism. But do they really think they can hold on much longer? The troops are coming from North, South, East, West – 16,000 arrived the other day along with that great big gunboat. The city’s ablaze. You can’t hear yourself think. And all those beautiful buildings reduced to rubble. I never would have believed it. The second city of the British Empire brought to its knees.
TESSIE: Here we are fainting with the lack of food and now I find out that my own daughter’s one of them. Cumann na bloody mban. First she was one of them militant suffragettes. Then it was the Lockout crowd. Oh she was all socialist this and trade unions that. And now she’s one of them women helping the rebels. In the Four Courts she is so I heard. If her father knew he’d kill her.
But that’s not the worst thing happend. Didn’t poor Mary Murphy’s young-fella get caught up in it. He was only trying to rob a bit of coal for his mammy but he shoulda stayed at home. Bullet in the back of the head he got. Don’t know if it was one of them rebels or who it was but I tell you one thing – if I get my hands on who did it – I’ll have their guts for garters. Innocent people getting killed over their fancy notions. Bloody cheek of them.
LORD EDWARDS: Shots fired
NARRATOR: By Friday the GPO was engulfed in fire. The roof was collapsing and the rebels had no choice but to evacuate the building. Led by the O’Rahilly, they began to battle their way down Henry Street, making use of local knowledge of lanes and houses. They only made it as far as Moore Street.
LORD EDWARDS: O’Rahilly leads charge shouting
O’RAHILLY: It is madness but it is glorious madness”
LORD EDWARDS: Activity / Shooting
He is shot and lies dying. British soldiers refuse to allow St. John’s help him. He writes a letter to his wife slumped against a door.
NARRATOR: Darling Nancy, I was shot leading a rush up Moore Street and took refuge in a doorway. I got more than one bullet I think. Tons and tons of love dearie to you and to the boys & to Nell & Anna. It was a good fight anyhow. Good bye Darling.
LORD EDWARDS ACTIVITY/SHOOTING
NARRATOR: By Saturday the noose had closed. An eerie silence settled across the burning city. Nobody knew what was happening. Appalled by the suffering of civilians, Pearse and the Military Council ordered a surrender. Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell was given the task to carry the surrender to General Lowe.
NURSE O’FARRELL EMERGES FROM BUILDING, WAVING A WHITE FLAG, CARRYING A LETTER.
NURSE O’FARRELL On behalf of the Provisional Government – oh I love the way that sounds – we surrender. We cannot countenance the further slaughter of innocent men, women and children. We didn’t mean for that to happen. Our intentions were honourable. We did our best. We struck a blow for freedom and we made them sit up and listen. Some say we’re mad. Others think we are self serving. I know the truth. They will not forget this week. History will show that it wasn’t in vain. But I pray for the men who signed that piece of paper. Clarke, McDermott, Pearse, McDonagh, Plunkett, Ceannt and my dear friend Mr Connolly. God above please bless and protect them. We will never see their like again.
LORD EDWARDS: Nurse O’Farrell goes to the barricade. As Narrator continues, she will return to Moore Street Building and (possibly) get into a car which is driven away.
NARRATOR: Nurse O’Farrell’s job wasn’t over yet as she was sent back to get Pearse himself. There’s a famous surrender photograph of the two of them standing before General Lowe. Well we can see her feet anyway. Years later Elizabeth O’Farrell admitted she had stepped out of view, but for the rest of her days she regretted it.
Pearse, on the other hand, regretted nothing.
TESSIE So what was all that for then? 254 ordinary decent people – slaughtered. The city’s destroyed, you can’t tell who’s who’s your friend or who’s your foe and the poor men fighting the war being made a mockery of. I tell you one thing, sure as shooting – them rebels will never get their precious Irish Republic if this is the way they’re going to be carrying on.
ROGER: So the Uprising is over. But I suspect that the revolution is just beginning. I’m starting to believe there might be some method to their madness after all. They knew what they were doing. What’s going to happen now is this – mark my words. That General Maxwell is merciless. I hear they won’t get a trial. Court martialled, the lot of them. They’ll be charged with high treason. Nobody threatens the British Empire and gets away with it. Especially when they’re in the middle of a bloody war. But Maxwell should take care. They don’t want to make martyrs out this mob. That might backfire on the British completely.
LORD EDWARDS: Various volunteers start to emerge from various places. Volunteers form up with rifles and march towards the audience.