In recent months, the faces of the 1916 Generation have been starring down on Dubliners from above The Ivy on the corner of Parliament Street in a glorious Andy Warhol style, along with the Starry Plough of the Citizen Army flying from the premises. It is visually striking, and thankfully has remained up after the main centenary celebrations have passed. Readers may remember these same faces gazing down from what was then Thomas Read’s in 2006. The work is that of the artist and councillor Mannix Flynn, entitled ‘Something To Live For’.
While this fine piece of art is one reminder of the Rising, the building opposite it carries its own reminders, albeit not as immediately obvious. The next time you’re passing, have a close look at the old Evening Mail offices.
The first shots of the Rising in Dublin were fired in the vicinity of Dublin Castle, where a small band of Citizen Army men and women were deployed under the command of Seán Connolly, a talented Abbey Theatre actor from a family deeply rooted in the trade union movement. His brother Matthew remembered that as they marched up Dame Street, a voice from the footpath called out “Here’s the Citizen Army with their pop guns!”, while another joked “there goes Ireland’s only hope!”. Connolly remembered that “they laughed at their own jokes. Little did they know!” Seán ordered the men and women under his command to seize a number of outposts in the vicinity, including the Mail offices.
Shots rang out at the gates of the Castle on Cork Hill early in the Rising, resulting in the death of DMP Constable James O’Brien. O’Brien had attempted to close the Castle gates, leading Seán Connolly to shoot him. While the ICA succeeded in taking the guard room of the Castle, the closure of the second set of gates prevented them from seizing the Castle outright. This was not the first Irish insurrection to fail in its ambition of seizing Dublin Castle.
Having seized the nearby City Hall and surrounding buildings, the rebels came under intense fire from within the Castle. A sniper in the Bedford Tower caused great difficulty for ICA members on the rooftop of City Hall, and it was here that Seán was fatally shot. His brother recalled the view from the rooftop of City Hall, looking across at other occupied buildings:
From this elevated position, I had a commanding view over a good portion of the city; the air was clear, and the visibility good. Across the street from where I was, men were taking up positions on the roof of the Henry and James’ building.at the corner of Parliament Street, and on the roof of the Evening Mail offices. These were members of our own company.
In the aftermath of the Rising, sections of the city were damaged beyond repair. In other places, there were quick-fix solutions to the damage. At the Mail offices, bullet marks were filled with crushed brick and mortar. The years have weathered this finish, and today the filled sections can be clearly seen.
Thanks to Las Fallon for these images. Las is the curator of an exhibition on Dublin Fire Brigade and the 1916 Rising, currently running in City Hall.