We’re all about Viking and Medieval Dublin here in Dublinia, but that doesn’t mean we forget what an important time it is in our country, the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising. The Synod Hall, the building that houses Dublinia, was involved in the Rising when three armed rebels from the socialist Irish Citizens Army (ICA) were stationed here. We have done a little research of what happened here and we’d like to share it with you! Read on below for more…
Combat at the Crossroads: Dublinia 1916
In 1916, Dublinia (then the Synod Hall) was one of the outposts used in the Rising. Three armed rebels from the socialist Irish Citizens Army (ICA) were stationed here under the orders of Capt James Connolly. Their task was to delay expected British troops heading to Dublin Castle where the ICA had planned a take-over. On Easter Monday at 12 o’clock, John Christopher O’Keeffe, Patrick Byrne and Thomas Healy took up their position as other rebels took to their posts around the city. A sworn statement by Healy outlines their activity over the next few days. He explains they ‘got onto the top windows’ where they had a vantage point overlooking High Street and Christ Church Place and the approaching British soldiers. Within 30 minutes of taking up their post they opened fire on a group of British soldiers and then later that evening on another larger group. Fire was returned and Byrne and Healy sustained injuries. Patrick Byrne a wound to the head and John O’Keeffe a ‘flesh wound to the heart’ that was probably a wound in the chest. There was no attempt made by the British troops to capture them and they stayed there until 4am on Wednesday morning.
Believing that the Rising was over, they left to seek access to neighbouring outposts. When outside they heard gun fire at the Four Courts but didn’t see any troops. Making their way across the road they veered towards Jacobs Factory, an ICA outpost (now the site of the National Archives). On the way at Nicolas St, they met a mother of a comrade, Mrs Solan. She informed them Jacobs was surrounded and there were British Soldiers on Bride St. Convinced they would not be able to gain access, she brought them home to her house so they could eat and wash and so she could dress Byrne’s wound.
That evening they separated. Byrne and O’Keefe tried to get to the GPO and headed towards the Four Courts. Healy went towards Queen St near today’s Collins Barracks but couldn’t get any further. He then ventured into Capel St where his brother-in-law lived (this may have been an ICA meeting point) and remained there until the next day. Not everyone was a comrade or in support of the Rising, someone told the British Police he was hiding there. On Thursday, at around 9pm, the Police came to the house and arrested Healy. He was accused of being involved in the insurgence on Friday in Dublin Castle but was was released as there was insubstantial proof against him.
All three men had been recruited by the ICA in the weeks leading up to the Rising. Two of the men, Byrne and O’Keefe were Dubliners. All three lived in north Dublin where there were slums, low employment rates and cramped conditions. At this time, about a third of Dublin’s population were living in one roomed tenement buildings. O’Keefe was around 31 at the time of the Rising and lived on Little Mary Street in a two-roomed flat with his sister and parents. The third man, Healy, came from Limerick and was 48 years old. He claimed to be have secured arms for the Volunteers and ICA during cattle runs to and from Liverpool. He had contacts there who would supply him. He stored the arms in bags on the ferry without any difficulty of being caught. All three men returned home after these events and did not take part in the remainder of the Rising.
Sources: Military Service Pension Collection www.militaryarchives.ie. Membership roll of the Irish Citizen Army, compiled by Dr Ann Mathews www.communistpartyofireland.ie