Life Here In Thurles Easter Week 1916

The Irish Easter Rebellion or Easter Rising (Éirí Amach na Cásca) began on Easter Monday, April 24th, 1916 and lasted for six days. It was launched by seven members of the Military Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, led by schoolmaster and Irish language activist Patrick Pearse, joined by the Irish Citizen Army of James Connolly, together with 200 members of Cumann na mBan.

It ended with unconditional surrender on Saturday April 29th, following by the courts-martial and execution of most of the leaders.

Old I.R.A. / Cumann na mBan Easter Meeting: Market House, Liberty Square, Thurles, Co Tipperary, (Circa 1957).


Some faces identified in this picture; Travelling L-R (1) Con Spain, (2) Billy Maher, (3) Paddy (The Master) Ryan, (4) Dinny Byrne, (5) ?, (6) ?, (7) T.Long, (Gortnahoe). (8) Andrew Hackett, (9) ?, (10) ?, (11) Jimmy Carroll, (12) John Burns, (13) Patsy Doran, (14) Jimmy Loughnane, (15) Mrs O’Brien (16) Mrs O’Shea, (17) Bill Coman (Known fondly as ‘Bill the Black’, Connaught Rangers, Holycross,) (18) Mrs Delaney, (19) Tommy Griffin, (20) Ml Cleary, (21) Mick Quinn (CIE), (22) Joe Carroll, (23) Mick Leamy, (24) Stephen Troy, (25) Tom Doran, (26) Pakie Gorman, (27) Tom Duggan (Gortnahoe), (28) ?, (29) ?, (29a) Martin Dwyer, (30) Ml Cooney, (31) ?, (32) Hugh Long (Gortnahoe), (33) Tade Gleeson, (34) Jack Hackett, (35) Paddy Maher (Moyne), (36) Jack Kelly, (37) Sean Hayes, (38) ?, (39) Charles Steward Parnell O’Donnell (Gortnahoe), (40) James Mooney.     (Can anyone help us by putting names to the unknown faces captured in the above image?)

(Our sincere thanks to historians; Monseignor Dr. M. Dooley, Liam O’Donoghue and Sean Spain for their research.)

The following extracts, relating to life in Thurles during the week of the Easter Rising 1916, are taken from the journal of Fr. Michael Maher C.C., Thurles, then Secretary to the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, Dr. John Mary Harty.

Easter Monday, 24th April 1916

“On Easter Monday, everything was peaceable to all appearances and we spent a quiet day, as the weather was cold and rainy. It appears that a notice was inserted in the evening papers of Saturday calling on the Irish or Sinn Féin Volunteers* not to have any parades on Easter Monday. It was signed by Eoin MacNeill who was regarded as their head.

[ * Note: In an effort to thwart both informers and the Volunteers’ own leadership, Pearse issued orders in early April for three days of “Parades and Manoeuvres” by the Volunteers for Easter Sunday. His idea was that the republicans within the organisation (particularly IRB members) would know exactly what this meant, while men such as MacNeill and the British authorities in Dublin Castle would take it at only face value.  MacNeill got wind of the truth and threatened to “do everything possible short of phoning Dublin Castle”, to prevent such a rising. ]

I did hear on Sunday morning that a motor car with Sinn Féin Volunteers ran into the sea near Killorglin* in Kerry and that the bodies of the occupants, who were drowned, were on recovery, found to have contained several rounds of ammunition as well as arms and Sinn Féin badges. The man that told me had it by letter and he seemed rather excited, but I paid no heed to it because I knew that the Sinn Féiners had no following or strength except in Dublin, where it was known that they had a force of about five thousand trained and equipped men.

[ * Same news refers to the incident at Ballykissane Pier, on Good Friday 1916, when Con Keating, Charlie Monaghan and Donal Sheehan were drowned. The driver of the car, Thomas McInerney, managed to swim to safety. ]

Around us there were about 50 in Dualla, headed by Mr. Pierce McCan of Ballyowen, and more in Ballagh under the leadership of Éamon O’Dwyer, who is a small farmer near that village. There were a few in Tipperary town and a few in Clonmel and Fethard, but none in Cashel or Templemore. Four was the number in Thurles, but we knew that only one could be counted on to take up arms. There were about a dozen in Drom and that was the sum total of their strength in Tipperary. They were mostly men who had seceded from the National Volunteers when McNeill and his followers took exception to Mr. Redmond’s tendency towards recruiting.

We got the papers on Monday morning April 24th [1916] and there was an account of the motor car incident as well as something about a ship that had been seized off the Kerry coast, but all these things did not disturb us in the least.

After dinner I was sitting in my room with Dr. Heffernan of the College, when Fr. M.K. Ryan came in and told us that the Sinn Féiners had begun a rebellion in Dublin, that the trains were not running and, as far as he could learn, it was on a large scale. I did not pay much heed to the tale because I knew that the Sinn Féiners had only a comparatively small force in Dublin and that they had practically no following in the remainder of Ireland. Yet I knew that a comparatively small body of men well trained and operating in a city could occupy houses and give a great deal of trouble to a military force sent to dislodge them. On the other hand, England had never as many soldiers at her call as now, and I believed that all the forces of the Crown would be sent to the work of suppressing any rising in Ireland, even though it meant shelling Dublin. We got no papers that night and no trains came from Cork or Dublin.”

Easter Tuesday, 25th April 1916

“Next day, Tuesday, all communications was cut off except telegraphic intercourse along the railway, but that only came from Kingsbridge. Then wild rumours began to circulate to the effect that the G.P.O. and the Bank of Ireland as well as the Castle and Portobello Barracks and the magazine in the Park and Kingsbridge terminus were in the hands of the Irish Volunteers. It was also stated that the Volunteers shot every soldier and policeman they found in the streets of Dublin and that a troop of cavalry which was sent against them was wiped out. I did not believe much of these alarming rumours, but I went around and advised the people to keep the peace and that everything would be right in a few days. There was a number of Thurles people in Dublin at the Fairyhouse races and in Cork at the Cork races, none of whom had got home so far except two of these young men, who came as far as the Junction on Monday night and managed to get as far as Thurles, either by goods train or motor car. Two of the bank managers were away, but they had left the keys behind them so the banks were opened by the clerks that had remained at home.

The people were quite calm, but those whose friends were absent began to worry about them, lest any harm should befall them. Reports then came in about risings in other parts of the country and particularly in Dualla and Tipperary. The police were dumbfounded because they had not expected the rising and they did not know how far it would spread or what military force the Government had at their disposal to cope with it. In one way it operated in favour of the police, because we had come to a stage when it was almost incumbent on many of them to join the army and this now meant that they should stay at home to preserve order. It was said during the day that Casement had been arrested and a ship* bearing arms for the southern Volunteers was captured.

[*Roger Casement and the interception by the ‘HMS Bluebell’ of the ‘SS Aud Norge’, (‘SS Libau), scuttled off Daunt’s Rock, near Cobh harbour, Co. Cork, containing Imperial Russian Army Mosin Nagant rifles and ammunition bound for the Easter Rising].

It was also said that a force of ten thousand Volunteers had marched out from Cork towards Macroom, fully armed and equipped, and that there was a general rising in Tralee and that Kerry generally was up. That night people came from Cork and gave us to understand things were very quiet there and that nobody, as far as they knew, had flung up the standard of rebellion. The wild reports from Dublin had been spread chiefly by the railway men who had come down on goods trains and by telegraph clerks who gave out messages that they alleged to have been passed along the line. It was said that the railway had been torn up near Dublin and that therefore no trains could run. On Tuesday evening the mail went as far as Sallins, but no passenger train went into Dublin. It was said that Thurles was to be occupied by the Volunteers on Tuesday night.

We had our Conference as usual on Tuesday and the Archbishop advised the priests to exercise their influence to restrain any hot headed young men that may show any tendency to commit rash acts. That was all he said. He had no sympathy with the authors of the rising and he looked on it as a most foolish enterprise, bound to meet with failure and to do immense harm. He was always a strong supporter of the Irish Party and had he believed in constitutional agitation and that alone. The views of Dr. Fennelly were exactly the same and his attitude towards the rising similar.

The first arrival from Dublin on Monday was Mr. (W.P.) Hanly of Lanespark, who had been at Fairyhouse races and managed to get away in his motor car. He got to Thurles in the afternoon and his chauffeur gave blood curdling accounts of what he saw. He said that the streets of Dublin were littered with dead bodies and that there were rivers of blood on the streets, that there were several dead horses lying in O’Connell St. These stories got circulated around with telegraphic speed and everybody was astounded. Mr. Hanly came down on Monday but we had to wait until Tuesday evening for any other arrival from the scene of hostilities.

Needless to say we got no paper at all on Tuesday morning and all telegraphic communication with Dublin was cut off, but the sympathisers with Sinn Féin supplied the place of the newspapers by spreading all sorts of reports about risings in various districts and help coming from both Germany and America. I was astounded at the airy manner in which several respectable laymen and some priests spread these reports. I was thoroughly convinced that it was the duty of every responsible man to discountenance wild reports and to do everything in his power to keep the people quiet and to save our young men from entering on an enterprise that was bound to end in disaster. We were told that the English could not land a soldier in Kingstown owing to the channel being swarming with German submarines and that ten thousand Americans were waiting to be landed on the West Coast of Ireland.

The second arrival from Dublin was Mr. [Joe] McDonagh, the local [Excise] officer, and the brother of Thomas McDonagh, one of the leaders of the Rebellion and a signatory of the proclamation of the Irish Republic. He had gone up on Monday to see his brother, whom he was to meet at Kingsbridge. When he arrived there, his brother was not present and he heard that the revolution had begun. He then went to see his sister who is a nun in a Dublin Convent. On his way he saw fighting going on. Having seen his sister, he borrowed a bicycle and made for Monasterevan, where he stayed on Monday night.

On Tuesday morning, he started for home and arrived in Thurles about 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday evening. He gave us to understand that a great number of soldiers were shot at sight, even though they were only men on leave from the front. He told that a young armed Sinn Féiner challenged a soldier in the street; the young fellow blew his brains out. He also described how a company of soldiers were walking along a street and at one point a volley was fired from houses in near, knocking over several of the soldiers. He said that the G.P.O. and other public buildings were in the hands of the Republican army.

Other reports were that every policeman on the streets in Dublin was shot at sight and that the insurgents had large contingents from the country, which brought their numbers up to twenty or thirty thousand. I did not believe any of these reports and I went around amongst the people to warn them against believing that our countrymen would shoot unnamed men or perpetrate acts that everyone would be ashamed of afterwards.

The Archbishop’s visitors could not get away as they intended, so they had to remain with him until an opportunity would offer. I went to bed on Tuesday night in a rather anxious state of mind. I was persuaded from the attitude of the people that there would be no trouble in our neighbourhood, but one can never know what may happen in such circumstances. The sounds of life on the streets died down as usual at 11 o’clock and then everything was peaceful. Sometimes I listened for the sounds of commotion but none came; then I fell asleep and only awoke in the morning to hear the usual noise of traffic and to see the people calmly going about their business. I was delighted that nothing had happened to disturb the peace or to bring death and destruction to a prosperous town.”

Easter Wednesday, 26th April 1916

“Having said Mass, I went to inquire whether anyone had come from Dublin and I found that one young man had left the ill-fated city on Tuesday morning and made his way home, arriving in Thurles by the train which left Sallins on Wednesday morning and arrived at about 9:30 a.m. I immediately sought an interview with him. He is a shop assistant at Phil Moloney’s named Joe Moloughney,* the Captain of the Thurles hurlers. He went to Dublin on Monday to a meeting of the G.A.A. and stayed at the Royal Exchange Hotel in Parliament St. When the meeting was over, he went about the town and remained out until eleven o’clock. I asked him to tell me what he saw and not what he heard, he said that he did not see any dead about the streets nor any blood. He saw two dead horses in O’Connell St. He did not see any policemen shot, but he heard that one or two had been summarily disposed of in that way; he did not see any policemen on that street.

[ * Thurles Sarsfields Senior Hurling Capt. 1915.  Shop referred is situated at 15-16 Liberty Square, Thurles, on the junction of Slievenamon Rd. & Liberty Square and today identified as D.D.’s Boutique & Executive Men’s Wear. Property was much earlier known as G. A. Woodburn’s  Drapery.]

He saw firing going on in Parliament St. between the insurgents who were in that street in houses and soldiers who were in the City Hall. He saw the Sinn Féiners in the G.P.O. and in several other buildings, they were sitting at the windows or on the roofs keeping a sharp look out. He knew that the insurgents were in the G.P.O., Four Courts and Stephens Green, but he could not say that the Bank of Ireland was in theirs hands nor Dublin Castle. I may remark that it was reported that these two buildings were in their hands.

He saw the looting in O’Connell St., but as far as he remembered Clery’s shop had its usual appearance with the great iron shutters closed. When he was leaving on Tuesday morning everything was quiet except that the insurgents were at windows and on housetops keeping up the sharp look out. He had to walk to Sallins, and on the way he met large detachments of soldiers going by from the Curragh to Dublin. I asked him did he see any soldiers in the streets of Dublin and he said he did not.

This was the first authentic account I got of the rising and I intended to go straight to the Archbishop to tell him. I was disappointed in this, as he had gone to the Conference in Tipperary before I got to the Palace and he had a letter that morning delivered by a railway engine driver from Mr [Thomas]Lundon M.P. giving a rather sanguinary account of the whole business. Mr. Lundon alleged that he went to Dublin and inquired on the spot. That letter the Archbishop read in Tipperary for the priests. I was sorry I had not seen him before he went because I had first hand evidence that could not be denied and it showed that the slaughter was not all what it was reported to be during the first few days. Mr. Lundon said that at least one General was killed and that Lord Dunraven was shot and that blood was being shed on a large scale.

When the Archbishop returned that evening, I told him my story and he was greatly relieved that things were not so bad as he was given to understand. I was particularly pleased to have met Mr. Moloughney because I had to address the Holy Family [Confraternity] that night and I could not easily refrain from saying something about the topic that was the sole subject of conversation amongst the people. I had now something worth saying.

That day was spent as Tuesday, rumours were flying about concerning risings in various places. It was said again that Dublin Castle was in the hands of the insurgents and that Kingsbridge station was also in their hands, but I found at the railway station in Thurles that the terminus was not in their hands, that it was in the possession of the military.

In my interview with Joe Moloughney; I inquired about the strength of the Republican army, and from his answers I established that the maximum strength would not be more than four or five thousand men, and I emphasised that view in my talk with the Archbishop. From that we estimated that the whole affair would be quashed in a few days, although it would prove a different task to get even that number of men out of houses considering that it was impossible for the military and police to get two anarchists out of a house in Sidney St. in London a few years ago and the only means of defeating them was to set the house on fire and burn them in it. That incident was often quoted during these days to show what a formidable task was before the military in the Dublin situation. No papers came on Wednesday so we had no authentic news of the state of affairs.

There was a good attendance at the Holy Family and they evidently expected to hear something from me on the subject that was uppermost in every man’s mind, for when I began my remarks you could notice that everyone held his breath. I exhorted them strongly to keep the peace and above all things not to believe stories that were flying about concerning the terrible work that was going on in Dublin, and of alleged rising in other parts of the country. I said that the present moment when everybody was anxious for news and looked out for people coming from a distance to hear what was happening elsewhere, the travellers would satisfy them by telling them a blood-curdling story about what he heard and saw, and then the questioner would dash off to tell his neighbours while the travellers had a most enjoyable laugh at innocent credulity.

I retired on Wednesday night with somewhat the same feelings as on Tuesday. I felt confident that nobody in Thurles or its neighbourhood would attempt any rising but from the talk of the clerical and lay sympathisers with the movement one could not tell whether insurgents from other places would march into the town or not, although I could not see where they would come from. The noise in the streets died down as usual about 11:00 p.m. and I awoke in the morning to hear the usual noise of the traffic assuring me that nothing untoward had happened.”

Easter Thursday, 27th April 1916

“We had a funeral that day to Upperchurch. I had to sing the Mass. On my way over to the Cathedral, Father M.K. Ryan told me that he had heard that Mr. McCan had marched on Cashel at the head of six hundred men, that a strong force of men was out in Tipperary, and that a contingent had risen in Ballagh and headed for the mountains led by a farmer. I was astounded, but I could not satisfy myself that Mr. McCan could get 600 men to follow him, and I was quite incredulous about the other parts of the story. We went to the funeral and along the road we noticed the farmers working in their gardens as hard as they ever worked on a fine day in Spring. There were certainly no signs of commotion, and the farther we went, the more we were convinced that there was nothing in the air. I met Mr [John]Hackett M.P. [Tipperary] at Upperchurch and I asked him what he heard, and he said that he came from Ballingarry that morning and every thing was quiet there. He heard about Ballagh and about the railway being torn up at Dundrum, but we saw trains coming from that direction as we went out by Ballycahill. I then met a man from Ballagh and I asked him what was happening about his locality. He saw that the people were very busy tilling for the potato crop and there was no rising of any sort in his neighbourhood. I then heard that the man who reported about the Drum incident said at first that they were to go on Thursday night but he found he made no sensation by that tale so he then said that they had gone already.

I returned from Thurles and met a man from Dualla. I asked him what force Mr. McCan had and he laughed at me. He said that there were no fools about Dualla and that I ought to know that. He said moreover that I should know that Mr. McCan had no record to induce men to fight for him, that he is the grandson of a landlord who exacted the last shilling in rent and did not fail to evict when it was not forthcoming. He said that he had four or five of his own workmen whom he had trained, but it was doubtful if they would join the colours if he flung up the standard of revolt.

I went over to the Archbishop and gave him a summary of my inquiries and the information I had gleaned. I found him in low spirits but the news I had for him cheered him up immensely. He had been in Templemore and Killenaule that day and his information agrees with mine. I amused him by telling him a tale which Mr. Hackett told me. It appears Mr. Hackett was staying at Coalbrook with his sister Mrs. Morrissey. He travelled to Thurles and elsewhere each day. On Tuesday he met the Sergeant of police near his sister’s place and asked him how things were going. He got the reply that there was bad work going on, that a farmer told him that a party of insurgents came to the hill of Foilnamon on Monday night and sent up clouds of luminous gas which lighted up the whole locality, then got into their motor cars and dashed off. Mr. Hackett asked if he or any of his men saw them. He replied in the negative but that he had it on the best authority. Then Mr. Hackett asked at what time did it happen; he answered about 10:00 o’clock. Then Mr. Hackett informed him that he passed that way at 10:00 o’clock that night in his motor car. He noticed as he was approaching the top of the hill that his car was not pulling that well; he then observed what he thought was smoke coming from the engine, so he pulled up on the top of the hill to examine if anything were wrong. His powerful headlights were on at the time. Having got out of the car he learned that he had run into a fog. Having examined the engine he found nothing wrong. Then he looked at his watch, and saw it was a quarter to ten, said to himself he would get home in good time, pulled out his pouch, filled and lighted his pipe; got up and drove away. Clearly this was the incident that gave origin to the alarming tale the sergeant heard.

The first paper to arrive in Thurles was the Daily Sketch, a pictorial halfpenny paper published in England. It arrived via Cork during the day on Thursday and all the copies were bought up immediately, only a limited supply could be got. The only news of the rebellion it contained was a statement made by Mr. Asquith in the House of Commons to the effect that the situation in Dublin was well in hand and that troops were on their way there from the Curragh and from England. The Sketch came regularly every day from that on and it was eagerly read. The Cork Examiner was the next in the field the following day, but the Dublin papers did not come till the next week. It was said that Thurles was to be occupied on Thursday night, but this was only a result of the wild tales that had been going the rounds during the day. Everything was quite calm in the town; business was slack on account of the stoppage of trains, and except for the number of country people who came to town in the ordinary course, nobody seemed to be disturbed. There was some sympathy with the insurgents but nobody seemed to lose his head, and as far as I could see, the overwhelming majority of the people were deadly opposed to any attempt at armed rebellion.

We heard that two policeman were shot in Tipperary and that was given as a proof that the rebellion had broken out there. Reports also were circulated about Kilkenny being in a state of turmoil. Of course it was hard to know what might happen in distant places; where we had no knowledge of the recent development of events but judging from the knowledge we had, it would be harsh to judge that the rising would be on a extensive scale anywhere but in Dublin. The Sinn Féin party gave out that it was possible that the Limerick and Kilkenny contingents would march on Thurles. It was contended that a number of young men would join them on their march. The chief sympathy the people had with them was that they were out against conscription* and that was a very popular opposition. No one wanted conscription but whether they would be able to get men to join them on that plea was a problem. It was known that the Sinn Féiners had no arms to spare, and it was also known that the ship bearing arms from Germany had been captured. I would not be got to believe that they would try any march over the country to gather in followers because the only men who could use rifles, if they were supplied to them, would be the National Volunteers as they were not in favour of this movement. Any other men would be no use and other available arms would be absolutely ineffective.

[ * The Military Service Act 1916 was an Act passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom and came into force on March 2nd 1916. Previously the British Government had relied on voluntary enlistment with John Edward Redmond, an Irish nationalist politician, barrister, and MP in the British House of Commons who was best known as a recruiting agent for the British army in Ireland. The British Government tried in 1918 to impose conscription on Ireland, leading to increased support for Sinn Féin.]

Another yarn the Sinn Féiners spread about was that anyone opposing them would be shot at sight – priest or laymen; his blood, they said, would be upon his own head. We were told that two magistrates near Cashel were designated to be shot on account of sentencing some Dundrum Sinn Féiners, a short time before. It was said that one of them was bound to go down, but I knew that the same was said of him twenty years ago, when he was a sub-agent for Mr. Butler over the Thurles property. He certainly did not show any cowardice then, for I saw him in Thurles on the day he was to be shot, and he gave anyone that wished to fire on him, every opportunity of doing so. I knew now that there was nobody amongst the Sinn Féiners who would volunteer to have a shot at him and I knew too that he would not leave his home, as was said, to go into hiding, for he never turned his back to danger at any time in the past. Having made inquiries a few days later, I found that there was no truth in the statement that Mr. Maher had left his home or showed any signs of fear. I learned on the other hand that he procured arms for himself and retainers and awaited the threatened onslaught, which never came, with the greatest fortitude.”

Easter Friday, 28th April 1916

“I retired on Thursday night with feelings similar to those of the previous nights, not knowing what might happen before morning. There was no noise in the air until I went to sleep and when I awoke in the morning I found the daily routine undisturbed by any untoward events. That was the first time I breathed freely because I then felt that there would be no rising in our locality and that the situation in Dublin would be soon settled. We had heard nothing from the Thurles people who were held up in the Capital from Monday, and some of their relatives grew anxious about their safety. Some people too were not slow to invent tales about them to the effect that they were wounded in the fighting and one young woman became quite distressed about her husband, who was said to have his arm badly damaged. Of course there was no truth in these rumours, but it was much more for outsiders to see that, than the relatives of the absent ones.

It was now well known that a large contingent of soldiers had been landed from England and that Sir John Maxwell had been made Commander in Chief in Ireland. It was also ascertained that Liberty Hall, the headquarters of the Sinn Féiners, had been captured by the military and a complete cordon had been drawn about the city. There were reports too of heavy firing being heard by men who came from the neighbourhood of Dublin, but we could not be sure that large guns had been turned on the city. Some said that Maxwell sent an ultimatum to the insurgents saying that if they did not surrender within a given period he would bombard the place.

One man got to Thurles that day, who had been in Dublin since Easter Sunday. He happened to be outside the surrounded area and in that way succeeded in getting to Sallins, where he took a train to Thurles. I interviewed him that night and found that his experiences were exactly like those of the young man I had questioned on Wednesday. He had been in the City on Monday night and Tuesday morning but he saw no fighting, he only saw the volunteers watching at their posts in the occupied buildings. He did not hear that the Bank of Ireland was occupied and he saw the soldiers holding Kingsbridge terminus. I questioned him about any priests having been shot, as we heard that two or three priests were shot in the streets, and he replied that he did not hear anything of the kind, nor could he say that there was any bombardment up to the time he left on Thursday, though he heard the sounds of heavy guns being fired off.

I was satisfied then that the talk about police and unarmed soldiers being shot at sight was all wrong. I felt and proclaimed as far as I could that the insurgents would not be guilty of any cold blooded murder of that kind, nor did I think that any true Irishman should spread tales to the effect that they could be guilty of any such unclean fighting. I had a talk with one of the local Sinn Féiners in which I put my views on these matters forcibly before him and he agreed that it was a libel on the brave but misguided men who had taken up arms in what they judged to be a good cause, to saddle them with such nefarious deeds.”

Easter Saturday, 29th April 1916

“By Saturday, matters had become more settled as far as we were concerned, because the trouble was bound then to keep away from us, so we could give all our time to discussing how and when the affair in Dublin would end. It was amusing to watch the crowd of people assembled each morning outside Shanahan’s shop when the Cork Examiner was expected and when it arrived, there was a regular scramble. They managed to keep papers for their regular customers but the ones sold over the counter were swept away in about five minutes and plenty of people had to go without any paper and the supply was not at all up to the demand. The Sketch came regularly and was the only paper that had late information about Dublin and that information was chiefly contained in the announcements made in the House of Commons, as no other messages were allowed to be sent. The Sketch on that account was a tremendous boon to us, as it told us how things were going.

On Saturday morning we learned from the Cork Examiner how the policemen had been shot near Tipperary. It was the act of a man who had been mad with the rebel idea and drink, who had fired at another man, who ventured to contradict him in some statement he had made. The Tipperary police went to arrest him but failed. He fled to the neighbourhood of Galbally, where the local sergeant and policeman proceeded to apprehend him. They went about their work in a quite friendly manner, with the result that both of them were shot dead, and the man escaped.

There was a report in the Cork Examiner from various places in the South and West of Ireland to say that peace had reigned there all the time. We heard reports about Galway and Enniscorthy being in arms and I went to the railway to inquire if they had any account there. I was informed by the Station Master that a rising had taken place in both centres, but he could not give me any more information. During Saturday we expected to hear some news from Dublin, either that a surrender had taken place or that the city had been shelled. As the day wore on, it was felt that there had been no surrender, but travellers brought account of terrific explosions being heard in the distance by those who came from the direction of the Capital. We then feared that the worst had happened and that many victims would be made among the civil population and much property destroyed.

It was feared that this course would be adopted owing to the prevalent idea that the Government would wish to finish the matter as quickly as possible, so as not to allow the disturbance to spread to the provinces, and at the same time to teach us a lesson that we could not rise up against constituted authority without taking the consequences. The Archbishop had prepared a statement which he intended to make at the 9:00 o’clock Mass in the Cathedral on the following morning. Its purport was to put before the people a summary of the Church’s teaching on rebellion and to show that there is no reason at present for armed resistance to the power over us and to inform them that Ireland’s grievances can be redressed in one way, and one only, and that is by constitutional agitation, a course which has won so many concessions for Ireland during the last half a century.

I had a long talk with him about the whole situation on Saturday and he was thoroughly convinced that loyalty to the Irish Party was the only hope for the Irish people at that critical moment. Nothing new transpired until a few minutes before 9:00 o’clock. I was hearing confessions in the Cathedral when a penitent told me that a telegram had been received at the Police Barrack to say that the Dublin insurgents had surrendered. When the confessions were finished, I had a sick call which prevented me from going to the Barrack to see the telegram. I inquired from some people I met in the street and all agreed that the telegram had been received. I went to the Archbishop and found that he had heard it, but when he asked me had I seen the telegram, I unfortunately had to answer in the negative. The Sinn Féiners were inclined to say that it was a bogus thing, invented by the police in order to stop the great rising that was to take place in the provinces.”

Easter Saturday, 29th April 1916

“Next morning, I got up early and went to the police to inquire about the telegram. I met a sergeant, who informed me that the telegram was received the previous night, that he had it in his hand, read it and saw it posted up in the barrack, where it could now be read by the public. I went back and waited a few minutes until the Archbishop was going into the pulpit. I met him and told him that the telegram had been received from Dublin, so he did not make the statement he had intended to make, but contented himself with saying that we should be all glad that the deplorable business was over. I asked him later in the day what he intended to do if I had not met him on his way to the pulpit. He said he was doubtful as the Sacristan had assured him before the said Mass that the telegram had no force that it was only a police ruse.”

Low Sunday, 30th April 1916

“It turned out the next day that the telegram was absolutely correct: it said that [Pádraic] Pearse had signed a document of unconditional surrender. The fact was that Pearse surrendered on Saturday, but some more did not follow suit until the next day. Monday morning’s papers confirmed the news about Pearse’s surrender and then we knew that the whole thing was over. When Maxwell came across he proclaimed martial law and all telegraphic communication was stopped; also travelling by motor cars or motor bicycles unless by permit from the local inspector of police for each journey.

I had to get a permit for my motor bicycle to go to Dundrum to hear the Nuns’ confessions and the name of the place I was going was mentioned on the billet. It was amusing to me when I came to Clonoulty barrack to observe how the police received me. I sounded the horn when I came near them and then I saw a policeman armed with rifle prepared, standing in the middle of the road before me, then the sergeant stepped out as I slowed down to avoid being shot. The sergeant asked me had I pass. I answered in the affirmative and he let me proceed without coming to a halt. Of course they knew me, having seen me pass that way almost every week. I had to get a permit for the Archbishop in order to enable him to make his Visitation and it was given in the form of a permit to go to each place of Visitation each day, but all mentioned on one sheet. He did not get a general permit to go round his diocese. I had also to apply to the County Inspector for a permit to buy petrol, as none of the local traders were allowed to supply the spirit without that permit being shown.

These regulations were made in order to prevent speedy communications between the different centres of Sinn Féin, and so stringent were they for some time, that many people were refused permission to go on motor journeys, even for business purposes. The martial law did not press heavily on the mass of the people in this part of the country, as it was confined to the two regulations mentioned and they affected the wealthy class more than the general body. Race meetings and sport gatherings of all kinds were suspended, but that did not press heavily on any one.

I preached in the Cathedral on the martial law and I warned the people to observe the restrictions scrupulously as that was the easiest way of avoiding difficulties. I said that the people did not deserve to have any restrictions imposed on them as they had broken the law in no way. I had to be very careful because the District Inspector Mr. [Michael] Hunt* was under the pulpit listening most attentively. I must say that he behaved very wisely during the whole trouble. He did nothing to exasperate the people and the result was that there was no untoward incident of any kind in his district.”

[ * On Monday the 23rd of June 1919 District R.I.C. Inspector Michael Hunt, aged 46, was shot dead in Market Square, (Now Liberty Square) Thurles, County Tipperary. Hunt was hit twice by large calibre, blunt nosed revolver bullets, latter which travelled diagonally through his torso, resulting in instant death. First cousins Jim and Tommy Stapleton from Finnahy, Upperchurch, and Jim Murphy (Latter known as “The Jennett”) from Curreeney, Kilcommon, would be later named as responsible for his killing, in a statement made by James Leahy, Commandant No.2 Irish Republican Army (I.R.A.) (Mid) Tipp-Brigade.

“We expected some people from Dublin on Monday, but we were disappointed, the troops would not let anybody out of the city, lest some of the insurgents might escape, so we had to wait until the next day to get definite information about the whole affair. Later on, all the Thurles people came home safe and the young wife, whom I mentioned before, was relieved from anxiety by having her husband restored to her. They told us thrilling tales about their adventures, though individually they only knew what occurred in the immediate locality, where each one happened to be.

The papers soon began to come from Dublin and to bring news of the results of the courts-martial which were held on the prisoners. Most people expected that the seven signatories to the proclamation of the Irish Republic would be shot, but when the papers came day after day and announced the death sentences on others as well, besides sentences for life and long terms of years in abundance, there was a rapid revulsion of feeling in favour of the Sinn Féiners on the part of the whole nationalist population of Ireland.

This was confirmed by wholesale arrests which were made in many places amongst the local Sinn Féin leaders. Public feeling was running very high, particularly as the English had spared the Boer rebels a short time before, and as the Boers had spared Dr. Jameson and his buccaneers, when they might have laid heavy hands on them after their abortional raid into Transvaal territory. These cases were regularly quoted by the people and the difference of treatment meted out to the offenders then and now exasperated them beyond measure. They were not changed over to Sinn Féin, but they sympathized with the latest victim of England’s cruelty.

At last John Dillon spoke out in the House of Commons, making a defiantly impassioned protest against any further executions. He simply voiced the feelings of his countrymen all over the world. His words bore fruit and an assurance was given that no more prisoners would be put to death, except some that had been already condemned.

Maxwell was hated nearly as much as Cromwell. It was a singular irony of fate that reports were widely circulated all over Ireland during the rising that Redmond and Dillon or in fact any member of Parliament dare not appear out of doors in Dublin during Easter week, although Dillon was in Dublin at least when the thing started.  I don’t believe he would have been shot had he come out in public, except perhaps by some irresponsible person, for whose actions the body could not be blamed, but this and other reports were quoted with approbation by the adherents of Sinn Féin throughout the country, showing what shocking degraded ideas they had about the methods of freeing our country.

Now in the hour of their greatest need when they were beaten to the ropes, John Dillon was the man to make a vehement protest on their behalf and extract more lenient treatment for them. He acted, doubtless, as the spokesman of the Irish Party, whose cordial support he had in his fiery demands. The concessions won by Mr. Dillon and the Irish Party gave universal satisfaction to the nationalists of Ireland, but it is singular that those who were opposed to the Party before, had nothing good to say of it yet.

The rebellion was ended as far as we were concerned when the surrender of Pearse took place on Low Saturday, nor did we feel the after-effects, as no local man was implicated except a few in the Cashel direction, a man named Edmond O’Dwyer of Ballagh, a small farmer, whose father, I am informed was a pensioner from the army; Con Deere of Gooldscross, a returned American, and Pierce McCan of Ballyowen.

These three were arrested and sent under escort to Dublin. McCan was arrested in the early hours of the morning at Ballyowen by a troop of cavalry, who came from Cahir for that purpose. I believed they expected some resistance and they came prepared, but none was offered. We were doubtful about their fate for the first day or two, when we heard of the wholesale shootings after the trials by court-martial, any fear however that we entertained concerning them was removed when it was guaranteed that there would be no more executions. We knew then that they would be deported and when things would return to normal conditions, that a pardon would be granted.

I may mention that Mr. McCan and his family were great friends of mine from boyhood and I was deeply grieved when Pierce was taken up. I advised him often since he broke off from the National Volunteers to drop off quietly from the advanced movement, but he would not be moved, and he was in Dublin at the meeting when a vote was taken as to whether they should strike or not. I believed he followed McNeill’s lead and came down the country on Saturday or Sunday with the message from McNeill directing his followers not to parade on Sunday or Monday. I heard that he made some attempt to rouse his followers to action when he learned that the fighting was taking place in Dublin, but his effort ended in failure. He was in Thurles on Easter Tuesday accompanied by his mother and a priest. He was on his way to Limerick on a motor drive to leave the priest there. His movements were watched by the police that day. He and the priest spoke Irish and he interviewed one Sinn Féiner here.

There were no arrests in Thurles, Templemore, Nenagh or Roscrea, nor in any of the surrounding localities. Clonmel also escaped, but there were some individuals arrested in Tipperary, Fethard and Slievardagh, only four or five in all. Everybody felt that these arrests were quite unwarranted because the men concerned had not broken the law as much as Carson’s Volunteers in the north, a few months previously, they having in no way risen up against the constituted authority. We could not see any reason why a man should be arrested because he was attached to a party that was tolerated by the Government up to the time of the Dublin affair, and then kept the peace as much as he had done before.

The Archbishop went on his ‘Visitation’ as usual, but his car was stopped by the police a few times and a demand made for his pass. He complained each time with the request and suffered very little inconvenience. We had to get a permit from the County Inspector of police to buy petrol and none would be supplied by the merchants unless the permit was produced. There was no fixed time for keeping indoors nor any restriction on the ordinary course of business in this part of the country. The police went on patrol with revolvers in their belts and sometimes you would meet one riding a bicycle on the road with a rifle strapped over his shoulder, the latter course was adopted for stopping motor vehicles, although the stopping was usually done at the barracks. After a couple of weeks the police did not assume such a belligerent attitude when asking us to stop. They appeared unarmed on the road before us and stopped us with a wave of a hand. Soon too we got a pass to go where we wished, but the difficulty of getting petrol now arose, not through any cause connected with the insurrection but through a shortage of the spirit owing to the extensive demands of the War Office. However we managed to get as much as we needed for ordinary purposes. One could notice a great decrease in the number of motor cars and motor bicycles on the road owing to the restrictions.

Dr. Fennelly was in his house at Parkstown at the time of the rising. I dined with him on the Monday of Low Week. He looked on the whole thing as a most foolish and mad adventure destined to end in complete failure. He maintained then as always that constitutional agitation was the only means of gaining substantial advantages for the Irish people, that agitation to be carried on under the direction of the Irish Party. He was delighted that the people of his native county did not take any part in the rebellion nor bring any trouble on themselves by running counter to the law.”

A Visit To O’Connell Street, Dublin In June 1916

“I took my holidays in the month of June. I went to Kingstown and stayed at the Royal Marine Hotel for three weeks. On several occasions I went to Dublin to see the ruin enacted in Easter week. It was depressing to visit former O’Connell St. and to observe the debris of the fine buildings that used look so graceful in former times.

The walls of the G.P.O. were intact but it looked like the remains of a feudal castle without roof or windows. The front wall of the Imperial Hotel was standing, but the Hotel Metropole was levelled to the foundation. A few houses between the Metropole and the river escaped, but none were left on the other side of the street. I was shown one of the apertures which the Sinn Féiners made to enable them to pass from house to house without exposing themselves and I saw traces of the shooting that went on in broken windows and empty boxes scattered about in all directions. I also observed several houses where the window panes were perforated with bullets and the blinds peppered with the same deadly missiles. In one house the shutters were closed, and these along with the doors were perforated by bullet holes in many places. These were houses that were occupied either by Sinn Féiners or soldiers as each fired on the others from houses to hiding places and from hiding places to houses.

There was not much irreparable damage done outside the neighbourhood of O’Connell St., although severe rifle firing took place in other places. The Shelbourne Hotel and the College of Surgeons in Stephens Green were pock-marked with bullets on the exterior, and the Four Courts had some apertures in the walls made by gunfire of heavier calibre.

The walls of Liberty Hall were standing when I first visited the scene, but the walls were perforated by shell fire from the river to such an extent that they had to be thrown down for the sake of security. There were no marks of the fray beyond Ballsbridge nor around Kingstown. Dublin was crowded with soldiers and there was a squad of them stationed in the ruins of the Pavilion at Kingstown and a further squad in the private house adjoining the Marine Hotel. These were recruits preparing to go to the front. They had drill in the pavilion grounds every day. I spoke to a good many of the people around Kingstown and I found that there was a great deal of sympathy with the Sinn Féiners.

All the wealthier classes were opposed to them but not the working people or the small traders. I was in Kingstown on Whit Sunday and I was surprised to learn that the soldiers were confined to barracks in expectation of another outbreak on Whit Monday. They could have been left at large because there was no semblance of any trouble. During my stay in Kingstown the Bishop of Cork died and I suspected that I would have to take part in another episcopal election.”


7 comments to Life Here In Thurles Easter Week 1916

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