The above image is one of the most recognisable in the history of the capital, showing the infamous police riot on O’Connell Street, when police officers rushed a huge gathering on O’Connell Street on 31 August 1913, who had gathered to hear Jim Larkin speak upon the outbreak of the Lockout. John Dorney has written about this event on The Irish Story, noting that it is one of four Bloody Sunday’s in twentieth-century Irish history, and writing that:
Most of those injured were not in fact trade unionists, who were at a rally elsewhere in the city, but mere bystanders –showing how indiscriminate the police action was.
Several hundred people were injured and there was ferocious rioting all over working class districts of Dublin that night and over the following days between trade unionists and the police. In the labour tradition, this is “their own” Bloody Sunday.
The violence was not restricted to this one incident however, and there were reports of serious brutality on the Friday and Saturday before the planned Sunday demonstration.
Some eyewitness accounts of this violence exist, and make for fascinating reading. Below are a selection of accounts. Two of these are sworn statements, and another comes from Robert Monteith, a fascinating character who would later land with Roger Casement at Banna Strand in 1916. These eyewitness accounts all deal with the murder of James Nolan, who died as a result of violence inflicted upon him on the Saturday night. Nolan died as a result of a police attack on a crowd gathered around Liberty Hall and Eden Quay. A few days later John Byrne would also die as a result of his injuries.
Captain Robert Monteith: Writing in ‘Casement’s Last Adventure’.
I witnessed the murder of Nolan.
He was walking quietly down Eden Quay when he was met by a mixed patrol of Dublin Metropolitan Police and the Royal Irish Constabulary The strength of the patrol was about thirty-five, all more or less drunk. One of the constabulary walked from the centre of the road on to the sidewalk and without the slightest provocation felled the poor man with a blow from his staff.
The horrible crunching sound of the blow was clearly audible about fifty yards away. This drunken scoundrel was ably seconded by two of the Metropolitan police, who, as the unfortunate man attempted to rise, beat him about the head until his skull was smashed in, in several places. They then rejoined their patrol, leaving him in his blood. For saying “You damn cowards” I was instantly struck by two policemen and fell to the ground, where I had sense enough to lie until the patrol had passed.
Stephen Gilligan: Sworn Statement
I was going down to the post office with a telegram. As soon as I landed outside I saw the charge of the police. The people were talking in threes and fours, and got no chance of moving. The first thing they knew was the batons coming down on them. I heard a voice saying “Now give it to them, boys!” I pretended I was a reporter and got safe. I saw the police charge the doorways and smash the sidelight. They charged round Eden Quay. The majority went on the footpath charging the people there. the people for the most part kept to the quayside. I stood in the shadow of the Corporation weigh-house and saw poor Nolan trying to get away. I saw a police constable, 224C, Constable Bell, strike him with a baton. I saw him fall on his knees. The constable ran on, and then 149C struck him across the neck. I went back towards the Butt Bridge.
Patrick Carton: Sworn Statement
As far as I can remember on the night of the occurrence, when the first baton charge took place, I was at Liberty Hall, and I noticed about twenty police on duty outside Tuck’s entrance. There were about 300 people round Liberty Hall. I noticed a number of children singing national songs. The police advanced and drew their batons and commenced batoning the people owing to the children singing national songs. I was on the steps and I heard a voice shouting ‘Clear the steps of Liberty Hall!’. I hen made my way down to Eden Quay, but also got a blow on the way which my cap saved me from. I saw a man lying on the ground after being batoned, whose name subsequently turned out to be James Nolan, who died owing to the effects of this baton charge. I saw a polcie man going in front of Nolan and looking at him after, as I thought, striking him. I took the constable’s number, which was 224C.
All reports via the great 1913: Jim Larkin and the Dublin Lockout, a rare publication from 1964 (Workers’ Union of Ireland)