On my recent walking tour of radical Dublin, one of the places I brought people was to the site of the Irish Farm Produce Company restaurant and shop on Henry Street. It was there that the 1916 Proclamation was signed, and indeed the premises was the ‘radical cafe’ of its time. Interestingly, most of the people on the tour had not noticed the plaque marking the location of the premises before. It truly is an unusual Dublin plaque.
The plaque to Captain Thomas Weafar on the corner of Lower Abbey Street is another prime example of a plaque many Dubliners are unaware of.
Captain Thomas Weafer ( The plaque reads Wafer, however as you will see below Weafer is more commonly found when discussing him) was shot and killed on Wednesday April 26 1916 while occupying the Hibernian Bank on the corner of Lower Abbey Street and Sackville Street. The strategic importance of the building is clear. It allowed Weafer and his men to control access to the street from Amiens Street Station for example, and members of the the GPO Garrison were occupying a number of buildings on each side of Sackville Street.
Meda Ryan wrote about the experiences of Leslie Price (who went on to marry Tom Barry), in her study of the famous Cork rebel leader entitled Tom Barry: IRA Freedom Fighter.
Receiving no orders, like many Cumann na mBan activists, Leslie headed for the G.P.O
Initially they cooked meals and helped the men in the Hibernian Bank. On Tuesday forenoon the building came under attack from British troops. Leslie was standing beside Capt. Tom Weafer, OC of the Hibernian Garrison, when a bullet whizzed past her and into his stomach. As she was about to attend to him another bullet lodged in the chest of the man who had gone to Capt. Weafer’s aid. She had just time to say a prayer in Weafer’s ear when he died.
The Rebellion Handbook published in 1916 by The Irish Times gives the following listing for Weafer:
Weafer, Thomas, was a captain in the Irish Republican Army, and belonged to Enniscorthy, where he was born twenty-six years ago. He was killed in the Hibernian Bank at the corner of Sackville Street and Lower Abbey Street, on Wednesday 26th April.
Weafer is refered to as Thomas Wafer in an entertaining piece from ‘Sceilg’, the pen name of choice for John Joseph O’Kelly. In his piece The GPO, now widely available within the recently republished Dublin’s Fighting Story, he wrote that
At the Hibernian Bank, Lower Abbey Street, Captain Thomas Wafer of Enniscorthy died of terrible wounds, at the age of twenty-six, the place in which he fell being soon shrouded in flames
The body of Thomas Weafer was never recovered, lost to the fire that destroyed the premises . Some idea of the ferocity of the fires that broke out on Sackville Street during the insurrection can be obtained from the Bureau of Military History Witness Statement of Oscar Traynor (W.S 340) who remarked that
Some time on Thursday a barricade which stretched from the Royal Hibernian Academy to a cycle shop- I think the name of it was Keating’s, on the opposite side of the street, took fire as a result of a direct shell hit. It was the firing of this barricade that caused the fire which wiped out the east side of O’ Connell St. I saw that happen myself. I saw the barricade being hit, I saw the fire consuming it and I saw Keating’s going up. Then Hoyt’s caught fire, and when Hoyt’s caught fire the whole block up to Earl St. became involved. Hoyt’s had a lot of turpentine and other inflammable stuff, and I saw the fire spread from there to Clery’s. Clery’s and the Imperial Hotel were one and the same building, and this building was ignited from the fire which consumed Hoyt’s (…..) I had the extraordinary experience of seeing the huge plate-glass windows of Clery’s stores run molten into the channel from the terrific heat.
The National Graves Association unveiled a plaque to Captain Thomas Weafer on Easter Sunday 1936. Notice the Weafer spelling is used on the contemporary site, while the plaque reads Wafer.
Weafer was a married man who was living in North Dublin at the time of the insurrection. Today, a street in his hometown of Enniscorthy is named after him (Weafer Street) and the plaque to his memory remains. While partially obstructed by a newspaper stall, this plaque remains readable to the passing public. It is, like the earlier linked-to plaque marking the spot of the Irish Farm Produce Company premises, an important site of the 1916 Rising marked.