Why did the Easter Rising of 1916 fail?
Or did it?
Success or failure in anything at all depends on 3 factors:
Point of view,
Long term affects.
Why did the Easter Rising of 1916 fail?
Or did it?
Success or failure in anything at all depends on 3 factors:
Point of view,
Long term affects.
Rebels or German Spies in 20th Century Ireland
Of all the Petticoat Rebels I have written about I think Sidney Gifford is one of my favorites. Perhaps it was because she never let anyone tell her she couldn’t do something. Like so many other female rebels in 20th century Ireland she accomplished extraordinary goals in a male dominated world.
Sidney Gifford was a writer but not just any writer. While it was acceptable for females to write about subjects such as housekeeping and cooking Miss Gifford took another path entirely with pen and paper. She wrote political and considered radical essays about Irish freedom and British tyranny. She did this in not one but 2 countries. Ireland and the America and took the pen name, John Gifford to make sure her articles were read.
Petticoat Rebels in Medicine and Doctor Kathleen Lynn
The most unlikely Petticoat Rebel after the Easter Rising was Doctor Kathleen Lynn. Appointed Chief Medical Officer of the Irish Citizen Army she trained the rebels in first aid and was active in smuggling arms before the Easter Rising ever took place but her accomplishments go far beyond these simple facts.
After the Easter Rising two things continued. Sinn Fein, the new Provisional Government of Ireland and only one in Europe to include women on its board of trustees, gained massive political and pubic support especially with its anti-conscription bill.
Some of the most unlikely rebels were women who grew up in Protestant Unionist households, in other words part of the Anglo Irish elite
.They went to private schools, socialized with those of their own class, lived in large Georgian houses in the same neighborhoods as their peers, supposedly sharing the same values and ideals.
The lines were strictly drawn and it was considered scandalous for women to speak up against establishment, write editorials, or do almost anything outside of homemaking. In fact, after the Easter Rising, Nellie Gifford was thrown out of her mother’s house. So how did these women become rebels in Ireland?
HOW THE BRITISH TRAINED IRISH REBELS AT FRONGOCH PRISON
“The University of Revolution”
After the Easter Rising in 1916, England was faced with what to do with the several thousand men they’d arrested.The answer was Frongoch Internment Camp in Wales.
Frongoch Internment Camp, a converted whiskey distillery did not squash the desire for Irish independence among the Irish rebels.
The dream of a free Ireland continued to thrive in the hearts and souls of of the men, despite being ripped from their homeland and families and the hardships of prison life. In fact, Frongoch was so beneficial to the War of Independence that it was nicknamed” the University of Revolution.”
LIFE AND TIMES OF CONSTANCE MARKIEVICZ
Her life has been documented in books and periodicals as a woman that was militant, dangerously outspoken, and rebellious; a women who is described as craving the limelight and the only leader not executed after the Rising but is that all there was to her?
Until almost 30 years of age, she lived with her parents in a manor house called Lissadell and had all that any lady of wealth and class could hope for except what she wanted. A life!
In her diary she wrote:‘I feel the want. Women are made to adore and sacrifice themselves, and I as a woman, I demand as a right that Nature should provide me with something to live for, something to die for. Why should I alone never experience the best and at the same time the worst of Life’s Gifts?’
Na Fianna Eireann, the Irish boy scouts was founded in 1909 by Constance Markievicz. When she first began the organization it was with the purpose of teaching the boys basic survival techniques, Ireland’s history and a sense of national pride, something that she felt had been missing for way too long in the schools of Ireland. Since the beginning of Colonization, only British history was taught and everything Irish suppressed. Not only history but Irish music, native sports, Irish dress, and worst of all the Irish tongue. At the time of the Fianna a great wave of nationalism was in the air. Fostering the native language was at the top of the Gaelic League’s list. Some thought this could be accomplished while still remaining in the United Kingdom but others like Constance Markievicz, Patrick Pearse, James Connolly and others became increasingly convinced that breaking away from England was the only way to save Ireland. The Fianna would be a key players in that dream. A dream that had nothing to do with playing soldier for they were in fact real soldiers. In the words of Constance Markievicz It will take the best and the noblest of Ireland’s children to win Freedom.
Under the discipline of their own peers, the Fianna members grew from boys to men, learning everything from camp-life and knot tying to signalling, marching in formation, and how to use a rife properly. They formed pipe bands and hurling teams all over the country. They also learned basic first-aid.
In 1913,the Fianna trained the newly formed military group, the Irish Volunteers. At this time in Europe, Ireland was one of the most poverty stricken countries in all of Europe. The infant mortality rate soared, and many Dublin Irish lived in one room run-down tenements. Wages were low; employment conditions unfair, and when the Irish formed the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, Dublin businesses locked out their employees. People were barely living on their wages as it was. Now they were starving. The Fianna and others set up a Soup Kitchen in Liberty Hall and fed soup and sandwiches to over 3000 people a day.
In 1914, Fianna soldiers marched with the older Irish Volunteers from Dublin, bringing with them bicycles and a trek cart to intercept German guns being smuggled in the Howth Harbor on the ship, Asgard. When the British realized what was going on a great collision began between volunteers and the British. The guns were hidden in the Scout’s cart and whisked away under British noses. According to an unknown eye witness The Scouts were even pluckier than the volunteers. every one of them held onto his rifle as he would hold his own life.
By 1916 the country was in open rebellion against the British, beginning with the taking over of the General Post Office in Dublin and declaring Ireland a Republic. The Fianna soldiers were in the thick of the fighting. This is what they trained for. With the quickness of youth, they cycled from one point to another, passing dispatches or signals by means of a heliograph or fighting and some lost their lives. By 1919 Ireland was in a Civil War and the Fianna were older. Some had already joined the Irish Volunteers or the Irish Republican Brotherhood. This later became known as the IRA.
In 1909 Constance decided to make a commune for her Fianna boys North of the city in Belcamp Park. She felt it would get them away from the unhealthy atmosphere of city life, they would learn about farming and continue their military training. Lots of hungry scouts arrived but it was not a great success. The commune was to be run by Constance, Bulmer Hobson and Helena Molony but Hobson thought it women’s work and was never around. . Rumors spread that Hobson was sharing his bed with both women and people refused to do business with them. The large rooms were difficult to heat, food was not delivered as ordered, the garden only produced weeds, and soon they ran out of money. The house also appeared to be haunted and food disappeared. When Casimir, Constance husband, returned from the Ukraine, he first made appearances at his favorite pubs where he was told that his wife had moved and how.
Casmir Markievicz was the husband of Constance and quite a character. He was away in Poland when his wife was working with her scouts. His biography is interesting. In The Polish Irishman by Patrick Quigley, Casimir relates in his Polish theatrical way, the story of how he returned to his new home after visiting his family abroad …
“I have great trouble to find this house in the dark. Finally I find it and I knock and I knock but not a sound. I go around the back and I call out ‘Constance! After a while a window goes up and a dirty little ragamuffin puts out his head and say, ‘Who da?..’I say I am Count Markievicz and I want to see Constance Markievicz.” I hear much scuffling and running and a voice saying ‘there is some big fella out there who says he is your husband, at last the door opens. In 1924 Casimir wrote a series of essays in the Polish Press depicting scenes like this, entitled Letters from Ireland. He called the boys ‘Sprouts’ for they popped up everywhere, under beds, under chairs and, out of cupboards consuming all the rashers and eggs, smoking his tobacco and drinking his whiskey. One night he stayed up late to confront the ghost to find the maid had been keeping an unofficial boarder, a milkman who was also an army deserter.
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Most Anglo Irish throughout history, have a cruel heartless reputation with historians. The native Irish, who were thought by the English to be barbaric imbeciles unable to govern themselves, were dispossessed of what remaining lands they owned, not already occupied by foreigners, and replaced by English settlers under Queen Elizabeth I . Thus began the legacy of the Anglo-Irish landlords. What followed was heartbreaking. A legacy of religious persecution, forced emigration and evictions, famine and ruin of the native Irish by their neighbors, the Anglo Irish or landed gentry.
Not every Anglo Irish landlord was heartless and cruel though it may have been the norm and easy to see how the stereotype difficult to dismiss over all Anglo Irish gentry. One family dared to defy their peers. They were the Gore-Booths of Lissadell in County Sligo. Their ancestry goes all the way back to those first colonists given land by Elizabeth I.
Born in London the most famous of the Gore-Booths was Constance, who would later be called The Rebel Countess, or Lady Markievicz. She grew up with governesses, spoke multiple languages, was a poet, a painter, and skilled horsewoman. Fearless and a philanthropist even in childhood, she often missed meals and lessons for she was a frequent visitor of the houses of the poor. She would later be best known for her part in the 1916 Easter Rising. Because Constance was a Patriot and one of the few women known for her part in the War for Irish independence, there is much written about her. In fact most of my facts come from a very thorough biography ‘The Rebel Countess’ by Anne Marreco. What strikes me about Constance most is not her combativeness, which is what most history books will talk about but her devotion to the poor of Dublin. She gave everything she owned to them, carried bags of coal up multiple flights when she was ill herself, and opened a soup kitchen at Liberty Hall when a city-wide lockout deprived thousands of men and women of a way to feed their families. One only has to look at the funeral procession to see how many people mourned her when she died, many of them the lowest of Ireland’s social class at the time.
But Constance would not have become strong-spirited, fierce in her convictions, generous and independent, if not for her father, Henry, and her grandfather, Sir Robert Gore-Booth. Both men were rich landlords.
Sir Robert Gore-Booth is best remembered by the local Irish in two very different shades of light. Both stories show the power of the landlord.
In 1833 Sir Robert bought land called the Seven Cartrons, a township inhabited by fishermen and small landholdings. In the mood of the time, Sir Henry began to make clearances of his property. His choice of an agent fell on a man called Dodswell, famous for his ruthless evictions. It may have been the single worst decision Sir Robert ever made in his life, perhaps one he never stopped trying to correct. Dodswell offered the hapless tenants plots elsewhere but the land was so poor that they took the alternative offer of compensation and passage money to America instead. (it is stated that the compensation was generous for the time, no doubt a stipulation by Sir Robert). Now we come to a sad misrepresentation of what happened to those passengers.
A story circulated that the passengers drowned soon after leaving a port in Sligo; the ship was called the Ponoma.This was not the ship carrying Lissadell’s tenants (its possible there were 2 ships by that name or likely was assumed they were Gore-Booth tenants) and people loving a good story and eager to believe the worst, the inaccurate tale circulated and stuck. In fact, the ship carrying Gore-Booth tenants sailed ten years earlier. It has been proved Sir Robert had no connection whatsoever and would be known to be a benevolent landowner who spent thousands of pounds on food for his people in the Famine. For more information on this story read this post from Lissadell House.
In 1881 the London Times stated Sir Robert spent 40,000 pounds on relief for the starving Irish. In 1903 he was one of the first to sell a large part of his estate to his tenants. He died in 1876.
In 1879 was another potato failure and terrifying since many still remembered the Great Hunger of the 40s. At Lissadell, the Gore-Booth family stored food in their house, doling it out to the poor from morning to night. (an event unique at that time in Ireland.) The new Baronet, Sir Henry became known as the good landlord. He reduced rents by as much as 18-40% or forgave them completely. He allowed his tenants to cut thorn from his property for fencing and granted turf cutting rights. He was also remarkably unprejudiced towards Catholics. One night when Sir Henry was visiting a neighbor, he heard a great clatter outside. When he looked out the door he saw hundreds of people from the surrounding countryside, torch lights in their hands, lead by a local Temperance Band. As he stood in the door cheer after cheer went up for Sir Henry Gore-Booth.
Sadly, the Gore-Booths were not typical of Anglo-Irish families but were it not for those of their social class, Ireland might not have won her freedom at all for from this Anglo Irish family sprung the most well-known heroic woman of them all, Constance Markievicz, lover of the poor and devoted patriot.
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In commemorating the Easter Rising of 1916 in Ireland, here are just a few of some less known facts, for all my Irish History Buffs out there.
FACT 1:. Did you know that the ‘Easter Rising of 1916’ which catapulted Ireland to its dream of Freedom from England , did not happen on Easter Sunday, but on the day after, Monday in fact?. Do you know why?.
Arms were to be delivered from Germany to aid the Rebellion, but the English got wind of the whole thing and the Royal navy sunk the ship, thus losing the cargo of arms..
A counter command, ordered by Eoin Mac Neill cancelled what was supposed to be a non-military parade by the Irish Volunteers on Easter Sunday, This threw all those involved into confusion. Mac Neill had not yet joined the Military Council of the IRB and was not aware that the parade was just a ruse for an actual Rising until Bulmer Hobson informed him of such. When he found out he was completely uncooperative and wanted nothing to do with it.
When the Rebels in the outlying countryside heard of the counter command they laid down their guns for another day. They were not aware that the IRB planned to ignore the command and forge ahead with the Rising, after all. This left Dublin in a less than advantageous state of affairs. They were outnumbered and outgunned. Patrick Pearse, who was leading the revolution knew what that meant. A blood sacrifice. He’d known it all along, actually and had accepted his fate for his country.
Constance Markievicz was the only woman arrested who was put into solitary confinement in Kilmainham Gaol. She was sentenced to death but then was not executed, perhaps because she was a woman. She wanted to die with her friends and countrymen and was quoted as saying, “I do wish your lot would have the decency to shoot me!” She was released from jail in 1917 and happily found a changed Ireland. Public opinion had shifted dramatically and made all the rebels who previously had been despised and hated into heroes and the executed, martyrs. Constance was a fascinating woman and there is much more to her than this little bit of history. I’ve dedicated a historical novel to her life and the love story she had with her husband, the Polish Count, to be released sometime in 2016, on the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising.
In the beginning of the Rising, women in black capes called ‘Shawlees’ threw bottles and anything they could get their hands on at the GPO, where the Rebels had taken up residence. They were aware the rebels previously had lectured and discouraged that Irishmen should not taking up arms for the British army when they themselves were being oppressed by the English here at home. The women were angry and vengeful because they were convinced that the Rebels were trying to keep them from obtaining their checks, sent home from husbands and sons, whom were fighting in WWI. After all it was a Post Office.
Grace Gifford, a painter, married Joseph Mary Plunkett, who was then dying of TB, in Kilmainham Gaol, only hours before Plunkett’s execution. They had originally planned to have a double wedding on Easter Sunday with Plunkett’s sister Geraldine and Thomas Dillon, who did escape execution. One source I read claimed a boy-hood friend of Plunkett’s was one of the guards in Kilmainham Gaol and as Grace cried in her husband’s arms, the friend assured her, Joseph would probably not be executed, for the British would certainly not shoot a dying man. This boyhood ‘chum’ also was ordered to be part of the firing squad, which he refused, resulting in his own arrest.. Grace was misinformed and he was shot a few hours after they took their vows. To take a crash course in Irish History go here and read 100 Things You Didn’t Know About Irish History now with Bonus Content..
Another misprint of the Easter Rising that seems to have stuck thanks to the British is that James Connolly was strapped to a chair during his execution because he could not sit up straight. The reality was much worse. He was strapped to a stretcher and leaned upright against the wall while they fired on him! This description was recorded by the Sacristan to the Parish of St James by Fr McCarthy
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Warmly, Brighid O’Sullivan