This has taken everyone by surprise. It is possible, that,
with the exception of their Staff, it has taken the Volunteers themselves
by surprise; but, to-day, our peaceful city is no longer peaceful;
guns are sounding, or rolling and crackling from different directions,
and, although rarely, the rattle of machine guns can be heard also.
Two days ago war seemed very far away - so far,
that I have covenanted with myself to learn the alphabet of music.
Tom Bodkin had promised to present me with a musical instrument
called a dulcimer - I persist in thinking that this is a species
of guitar, although I am assured that it is a number of small metal
plates which are struck with sticks, and I confess that this description
of [p.2] its function prejudices me more than a little against it.
There is no reason why I should think dubiously of such an instrument,
but I do not relish the idea of procuring music with a stick. With
this dulcimer I shall be able to tap out our Irish melodies when
I am abroad, and transport myself to Ireland for a few minutes,
or a few bars.
In preparation for this present I had through Saturday
and Sunday been learning the notes of the Scale. The notes and spaces
on the lines did not trouble me much, but those above and below
the line seemed ingenious and complicated to a degree that frightened
On Saturday I got the Irish Times, and found
in it a long article by Bernard Shaw (reprinted from the New
York Times). One reads things written by Shaw. Why one does
read them I do not know exactly, except that it is a habit we got
into years ago, and we read an article by Shaw just as we put on
our boots in the morning - that is, without thinking about it, and
without any idea of reward.
His article angered me exceedingly. It [p.3] was called
‘Irish Nonsense talked in Ireland. It was written (as is almost
all of his journalistic work) with that bonhomie which he
has cultivated - it is his mannerism - and which is essentially
hypocritical and untrue. Bonhomie! It is that man-of-the-world
attitude, that shop attitude, that between-you-and-me-for-are-we-not-equal-and-cultured
attitude, which is the tone of a card-sharper or a trick-of-the-loop
man. That was the tone of Shaws article. I wrote an open letter
to him which I sent to the New Age, because I doubted that
the Dublin papers would print it if I sent it to them, and I knew
that the Irish people who read the other papers had never heard
of Shaw, except as a trade-mark under which very good Limerick bacon
is sold, and that they would not be interested in the opinions of
a person named Shaw on any subject not relevant to bacon. I struck
out of my letter a good many harsh things which I said of him, and
hoped he would reply to it in order that I could furnish these acidities
to him in a second letter.
That was Saturday.
On Sunday I had to go to my office, as the [p.4] Director
was absent in London, and there I applied myself to the notes and
spaces below the stave, but relinquished the exercise, convinced
that these mysteries were unattainable by man, while the knowledge
that above the stave there were others and not less complex, stayed
mournfully with me.
I returned home, and as novels (perhaps it is only for
the duration of the war) do not now interest me I read for some
time in Madame Blavatskys Secret Doctrine, which book
interests me profoundly George Russell was out of town or I would
have gone round to his house in the evening to tell him what I thought
about Shaw, and to listen to his own much finer ideas on that as
on every other subject. I went to bed.
On the morning following I awoke into full insurrection
and bloody war, but I did not know anything about it. It was Bank
Holiday, but for employments such as mine there are not any holidays,
so I went to my office at the usual hour, and after transacting
what business was necessary I bent myself to the notes above and
below the stave, and marvelled anew at the ingenuity of man. [p.5]
Peace was in the building, and if any of the attendants
had knowledge or rumour of war they did not mention it to me.
At one oclock I went to lunch. Passing the corner
of Merrion Row I saw two small groups of people. These people were
regarding steadfastly in the direction of St. Stephens Green
Park, and they spoke occasionally to one another with that detached
confidence which proved they were mutually unknown. I also, but
without approaching them, stared in the direction of the Green.
I saw nothing but the narrow street which widened to the Park. Some
few people were standing in tentative attitudes, and all looking
in the one direction. As I turned from them homewards I received
an impression of silence and expectation and excitement.
On the way home I noticed that many silent people were
standing in their doorways - an unusual thing in Dublin outside
of the back streets. The glance of a Dublin man or woman conveys
generally a criticism of ones personal appearance, and is
a little hostile to the passer. The look of each person as I passed
was steadfast, and contained an [p.6] enquiry instead of a criticism.
I felt faintly uneasy, but withdrew my mind to a meditation which
I had covenanted with myself to perform daily, and passed to my
There I was told that there had been a great deal of
rifle firing all the morning, and we concluded that the Military
recruits or Volunteer detachments were practising that arm. My return
to business was by the way I had already come. At the corner of
Merrion Row I found the same silent groups, who were still looking
in the direction of the Green, and addressing each other occasionally
with the detached confidence of strangers. Suddenly, and on the
spur of the moment, I addressed one of these silent gazers.
Has there been an accident ? said I.
I indicated the people standing about.
Whats all this for?
He was a sleepy, rough-looking man about 40 years of
age, with a blunt red moustache, and the distant eyes which one
sees in sailors. He looked at me, stared at me as at a person from
a different country. He grew wakeful and vivid.
Dont you know, said he. [p.7]
And then he saw that I did not know.
The Sinn Feiners have seized the City this morning.
Oh! said I.
He continued with the savage earnestness of one who
has amazement in his mouth:
They seized the City at eleven oclock this
morning. The Green there is full of them. They have captured the
Castle. They have taken the Post Office.
My God! said I, staring at him, and instantly
I turned and went running towards the Green.
In a few seconds I banished astonishment and began to
walk. As I drew near the Green rifle fire began like sharply-cracking
whips. It was from the further side. I saw that the Gates were closed
and men were standing inside with guns on their shoulders. I passed
a house, the windows of which were smashed in. As I went by a man
in civilian clothes slipped through the Park gates, which instantly
closed behind him. He ran towards me, and I halted. He was carrying
two small packets in his hand. He passed me hurriedly, and, placing
his leg inside the broken window [p.8] of the house behind me, he
disappeared. Almost immediately another man in civilian clothes
appeared from the broken window of another house. He also had something
(I dont know what) in his hand. He ran urgently towards the
gates, which opened, admitted him, and closed again.
In the centre of this side of the Park a rough barricade
of carts and motor cars had been sketched. It was still full of
gaps. Behind it was a halted tram, and along the vistas of the Green
one saw other trams derelict, untenanted.
I came to the barricade. As I reached it and stood by
the Shelbourne Hotel, which it faced, a loud cry came from the Park.
The gates opened and three men ran out. Two of them held rifles
with fixed bayonets. The third gripped a heavy revolver in his fist.
They ran towards a motor car which had just turned the corner, and
halted it. The men with bayonets took position instantly on either
side of the car.
[Footnote: As I pen these words rifle shot is cracking
from three different direction and continually. Three minutes ago
there was two discharges from heavy guns. These are the first heavy
guns used in the Insurrection, 25th April.]
The man with the [p.9] revolver saluted, and I heard
him begging the occupants to pardon him, and directing them to dismount.
A man and woman got down. They were again saluted and requested
to go to the sidewalk. They did so.
The man crossed and stood by me. He was very tall and
thin, middle- aged, with a shaven, wasted face. ‘I want to get down
to Armagh to- day, he said to no one in particular. The loose
bluish skin under his eyes was twitching. The Volunteers directed
the chauffeur to drive to the barricade and lodge his car in a particular
position there. He did it awkwardly, and after three attempts he
succeeded in pleasing them. He was a big, brown-faced man, whose
knees were rather high for the seat he was in, and they jerked with
the speed and persistence of something moved with a powerful spring.
His face was composed and fully under command, although his legs
were not. He locked the car into the barricade, and then, being
a man accustomed to be commanded, he awaited an order to descend.
When the order came he walked directly to his master, still preserving
all the solemnity of his features. These two men did [p.10] not
address a word to each other, but their drilled and expressionless
eyes were loud with surprise and fear and rage. They went into the
I spoke to the man with the revolver. He was no more
than a boy, not more certainly than twenty years of age, short in
stature, with close curling red hair and blue eyes - a kindly-looking
lad. The strap of his sombrero had torn loose on one side, and except
while he held it in his teeth it flapped about his chin. His face
was sunburnt and grimy with dust and sweat.
This young man did not appear to me to be acting from
his reason. He was doing his work from a determination implanted
previously, days, weeks perhaps, on his imagination. His mind was
- where? It was not with his body. And continually his eyes went
searching widely, looking for spaces, scanning hastily the clouds,
the vistas of the streets, looking for something that did not hinder
him, looking away for a moment from the immediacies and rigours
which were impressed where his mind had been.
When I spoke he looked at me, and I know [p.11] that
for some seconds he did not see me. I said: -
What is the meaning of all this? What has happened?
He replied collectedly enough in speech, but with that
ramble and errancy clouding his eyes.
We have taken the City. We are expecting an attack
from the military at any moment, and those people, he indicated
knots of men, women and children clustered towards the end of the
Green, ‘wont go home for me. We have the Post Office, and
the Railways, and the Castle. We have all the City. We have everything.
(Some men and two women drew behind me to listen).
This morning, said he, ‘the police rushed
us. One ran at me to take my revolver. I fired but I missed him,
and I hit a -
You have far too much talk, said a voice
to the young man.
I turned a few steps away, and glancing back saw that
he was staring after me, but I know that he did not see me - he
was looking at turmoil, and blood, and at figures that ran [p.12]
towards him and ran away - a world in motion and he in the centre
of it astonished.
The men with him did not utter a sound. They were both
older. One, indeed, a short, sturdy man, had a heavy white moustache.
He was quite collected, and took no notice of the skies, or the
spaces. He saw a man in rubbers placing his hand on a motor bicycle
in the barricade, and called to him instantly: ‘Let that alone.
The motorist did not at once remove his hand, whereupon
the white- moustached man gripped his gun in both hands and ran
violently towards him. He ran directly to him body to body, and,
as he was short and the motorist was very tall, stared fixedly up
in his face. He roared up at his face in a mighty voice.
Are you deaf? Are you deaf? Move back!
The motorist moved away, pursued by an eye as steady
and savage as the point of the bayonet that was level with it.
Another motor car came round the Ely Place corner of
the Green and wobbled at the sight of the barricade. The three men
who [p.13] had returned to the gates roared ‘Halt, but the
driver made a tentative effort to turn his wheel. A great shout
of many voices came then, and the three men ran to him.
Drive to the barricade, came the order.
The driver turned his wheel a point further towards
escape, and instantly one of the men clapped a gun to the wheel
and blew the tyre open. Some words were exchanged, and then a shout:
Drive it on the rim, drive it.
The tone was very menacing, and the motorist turned
his car slowly to the barricade and placed it in.
For an hour I tramped the City, seeing everywhere these
knots of watchful strangers speaking together in low tones, and
it sank into my mind that what I had heard was true, and that the
City was in insurrection. It had been promised for so long, and
had been threatened for so long. Now it was here. I had seen it
in the Green, others had seen it in other parts - the same men clad
in dark green and equipped with rifle, bayonet, and bandolier, the
same silent activity. The police had disappeared from the streets.
At [p.14] that hour I did not see one policeman, nor did I see one
for many days, and men said that several of them had been shot earlier
in the morning; that an officer had been shot on Portobello Bridge,
that many soldiers had been killed, and that a good many civilians
were dead also.
Around me as I walked the rumour of war and death was
in the air. Continually and from every direction rifles were crackling
and rolling; sometimes there was only one shot, against would be
a roll of firing crested with single, short explosions, and sinking
again to whip-like snaps and whip-like echoes; then for a moment
silence, and then again the guns leaped in the air.
The rumour of positions, bridges, public places, railway
stations, Government offices, having been seized was persistent,
and was not denied by any voice.
I met some few people I knew. P. H., T. M., who said:
‘Well! and thrust their eyes into me as though they were rummaging
me for information.
But there were not very many people in the streets,
The greater part of the population [p.15] were away on Bank Holiday,
and did not know anything of this business. Many of them would not
know anything until they found they had to walk home from Kingstown,
Dalkey, Howth, or wherever they were.
I returned to my office, decided that I would close
it for the day. The men were very relieved when I came in, and were
more relieved when I ordered the gong to be sounded. There were
some few people in the place, and they were soon put out. The outer
gates were locked, and the great door, but I kept the men on duty
until the evening. We were the last public institution open; all
the others had been closed for hours.
I went upstairs and sat down, but had barely reached
the chair before I stood up again, and began to pace my room, to
and fro, to and fro; amazed, expectant, inquiet; turning my ear
to the shots, and my mind to speculations that began in the middle,
and were chased from there by others before they had taken one thought
forward. But then I took myself resolutely and sat me down, and
I pencilled out exercises above the stave, and [p.16] under the
stave; and discovered suddenly that I was again marching the floor,
to and fro, to and fro, with thoughts bursting about my head as
though they were fired on me from concealed batteries.
At five oclock I left. I met Miss P., all of whose
rumours coincided with those I had gathered. She was in exceeding
good humour and interested. Leaving her I met Cy---, and we turned
together up to the Green. As we proceeded, the sound of firing grew
more distinct, but when we reached the Green it died away again.
We stood a little below the Shelbourne Hotel, looking at the barricade
and into the Park. We could see nothing. Not a Volunteer was in
sight. The Green seemed a desert. There were only the trees to be
seen, and through them small green vistas of sward.
Just then a man stepped on the footpath and walked directly
to the barricade. He stopped and gripped the shafts of a lorry lodged
near the centre. At that instant the Park exploded into life and
sound; from nowhere armed men appeared at the railings, and they
all shouted at the man. [p.17]
Put down that lorry. Let out and go away. Let
out at once.
These were the cries. The man did not let out. He halted
with the shafts in his hand, and looked towards the vociferous pairings.
Then, and very slowly, he began to draw the lorry out of the barricade.
The shouts came to him again, very loud, very threatening, but he
did not attend to them.
He is the man that owns the lorry, said
a voice beside me.
Dead silence fell on the people around while the man
slowly drew his cart down by the footpath. Then three shots rang
out in succession. At the distance he could not be missed, and it
was obvious they were trying to frighten him. He dropped the shafts,
and instead of going away he walked over to the Volunteers.
He has a nerve, said another voice behind
The man walked directly towards the Volunteers, who,
to the number of about ten, were lining the railings. He walked
slowly, bent a little forward, with one hand raised and one finger
up as though he were going to [p.18] make a speech. Ten guns were
pointing at him, and a voice repeated many times:
Go and put back that lorry or you are a dead man.
Go before I count four. One, two, three, four ---
A rifle spat at him, and in two undulating movements
the man sank on himself and sagged to the ground.
I ran to him with some others, while a woman screamed
unmeaningly, all on one strident note. The man was picked up and
carried to a hospital beside the Arts Club. There was a hole in
the top of his head, and one does not know how ugly blood can look
until it has been seen clotted in hair. As the poor man was being
carried in, a woman plumped to her knees in the road and began not
to scream but to screech.
At that moment the Volunteers were hated. The men by
whom I was and who were lifting the body, roared into the railings:
Well be coming back for you, damn you.
From the railings there came no reply, and in an instant
the place was again desert and silent, and the little green vistas
were slumbering among the trees. [p.19]
No one seemed able to estimate the number of men inside
the Green, and through the day no considerable body of men had been
seen, only those who held the gates, and the small parties of threes
and fours who arrested motors and carts for their barricades. Among
these were some who were only infants - one boy seemed about twelve
years of age. He was strutting the centre of the road with a large
revolver in his small fist. A motor car came by him containing three
men, and in the shortest of time he had the car lodged in his barricade,
and dismissed its stupified occupants with a wave of his armed hand.
The knots were increasing about the streets, for now
the Bank Holiday people began to wander back from places that were
not distant, and to them it had all to be explained anew. Free movement
was possible everywhere in the City, but the constant crackle of
rifles restricted somewhat that freedom. Up to one oclock
at night belated travellers were straggling into the City, and curious
people were wandering from group to group still trying to gather
I remained awake until four oclock in the [p.20]
morning. Every five minutes a rifle cracked somewhere, but about
a quarter to twelve sharp volleying came from the direction of Portobello
Bridge, and died away after some time. The windows of my flat listen
out towards the Green, and obliquely towards Sackville Street. In
another quarter of an hour there were volleys from Stephens
Green direction, and this continued with intensity for about twenty-five
minutes. Then it fell into a sputter of fire and ceased.
I went to bed about four oclock convinced that
the Green had been rushed by the military and captured, and that
the rising was at an end.
That was the first day of the insurrection.
A sultry, lowering day, and dusk skies fat with rain.
I left for my office, believing that the insurrection
was at an end. At a corner I asked man was it all finished. He said
it was not, and that, if anything, it was worse.
On this day the rumours began, and I think it will be
many a year before the rumours cease. The Irish Times published
an edition which contained nothing but an official Proclamation
that evilly-disposed persons had disturbed the peace, and that the
situation was well in hand. The news stated in three lines that
there was a Sinn Fein rising in Dublin, and that the rest of the
country was quiet.
No English or country papers came. There was no delivery
or collection of letters. All the shops in the City were shut. There
was no traffic of any kind in the streets. There [p.22] was no way
of gathering any kind of information, and rumour gave all the news.
It seemed that the Military and the Government had been
taken unawares. It was Bank Holiday, and many military officers
had gone to the races, or were away on leave, and prominent members
of the Irish Government had gone to England on Sunday.
It appeared that everything claimed on the previous
day was true, and that the City of Dublin was entirely in the hands
of the Volunteers. They had taken and sacked Jacobs Biscuit
Factory, and had converted it into a fort which they held. They
had the Post Office, and were building barricades around it ten
feet high of sandbags, cases, wire entanglements. They had pushed
out all the windows and sandbagged them to half their height, while
cart-loads of food, vegetables and ammunition were going in continually.
They had dug trenches and were laying siege to one of the city barracks.
It was current that intercourse between Germany and
Ireland had been frequent chiefly by means of submarines, which
came up near the coast and landed machine guns, [p.23] rifles and
ammunition. It was believed also that the whole country had risen,
and that many strong places and cities were in the hands of the
Volunteers. Cork Barracks was said to be taken while the officers
were away at the Curragh races, that the men without officers were
disorganised, and the place easily captured.
It was said that Germans, thousands strong, had landed,
and that many Irish Americans with German officers had arrived also
with full military equipment.
On the previous day the Volunteers had proclaimed the
Irish Republic. This ceremony was conducted from the Mansion House
steps, and the manifesto was said to have been read by Pearse, of
St. Endas. The Republican and Volunteer flag was hoisted on
the Mansion House. The latter consisted of vertical colours of green,
white and orange. Kerry wireless station was reported captured,
and news of the Republic flashed abroad. These rumours were flying
in the street.
It was also reported that two transports had come in
the night and had landed from England about 8,000 soldiers. An attack
reported [p.24] on the Post Office by a troop of lancers who were
received with fire and repulsed. It is foolish to send cavalry into
In connection with this lancer charge at the Post Office
it is said that the people, and especially the women, sided with
the soldiers, and that the Volunteers were assailed by these women
with bricks, bottles, sticks, to cries of:
Would you be hurting the poor men?
There were other angry ladies who threatened Volunteers,
addressing to them this petrifying query:
Would you be hurting the poor horses?
Indeed, the best people in the world live in Dublin.
The lancers retreated to the bottom of Sackville Street,
where they remained for some time in the centre of a crowd who were
caressing their horses. It may have seemed to them a rather curious
kind of insurrection - that is, if they were strangers to Ireland.
In the Post Office neighbourhood the Volunteers had
some difficulty in dealing with the people who surged about them
while they were preparing the barricade, and hindered [p.25] them
to some little extent. One of the Volunteers was particularly noticeable.
He held a ladys umbrella in his hand, and whenever some person
became particularly annoying he would leap the barricade and chase
his man half a street, hitting him over the head with the umbrella.
It was said that the wonder of the world was not that Ireland was
at war, but that after many hours the umbrella was still unbroken.
A Volunteer night attack on the Quays was spoken of, whereat the
military were said to have been taken by surprise and six carts
of their ammunition captured. This was probably untrue. Also, that
the Volunteers had blown up the Arsenal in the Phoenix Park.
There had been looting in the night about Sackville
Street, and it was current that the Volunteers had shot twenty of
The shops attacked were mainly haberdashers, shoe shops,
and sweet shops. Very many sweet shops were raided, and until the
end of the rising sweet shops were the favourite mark of the looters.
There is something comical in this looting of sweet shops - something
almost innocent and child-like. [p.26]
Possibly most of the looters are children who are having
the sole gorge of their lives. They have tasted sweetstuffs they
had never toothed before, and will never taste again in this life,
and until they die the insurrection of 1916 will have a sweet savour
I went to the Green. At the corner of Merrion Row a
horse was lying on the footpath surrounded by blood. He bore two
bullet wounds, but the blood came from his throat which had been
Inside the Green railings four bodies could be seen
lying on the ground. They were dead Volunteers.
The rain was falling now persistently, and persistently
from the Green and from the Shelbourne Hotel snipers were exchanging
bullets. Some distance beyond the Shelbourne I saw another Volunteer
stretched out on a seat just within the railings. He was not dead,
for, now and again, his hand moved feebly in a gesture for aid;
the hand was completely red with blood. His face could not be seen.
He was just a limp mass, upon which the rain beat pitilessly, and
he was sodden and shapeless, and most miserable to see. His [p.27]
companions could not draw him in for the spot was covered by the
snipers from the Shelbourne. Bystanders stated that several attempts
had already been made to rescue him, but that he would have to remain
there until the fall of night.
From Trinity College windows and roof there was also
sniping, but the Shelbourne Hotel riflemen must have seriously troubled
the Volunteers in the Green.
As I went back I stayed a while in front of the hotel
to count the shots that had struck the windows. There were fourteen
shots through the ground windows. The holes were clean through,
each surrounded by a star - the bullets went through but did not
crack the glass. There were three places in which the windows had
holes half a foot to a foot wide and high. Here many rifles must
have fired at the one moment. It must have been as awkward inside
the Shelbourne Hotel as it was inside the Green.
A lady who lived in Baggot Street said she had been
up all night, and, with her neighbours, had supplied tea and bread
to the soldiers who were lining the street. The [p.28] officer to
whom she spoke had made two or three attacks to draw fire and estimate
the Volunteers positions, numbers, &c., and he told her
that he considered there were 3,000 well-armed Volunteers in the
Green, and as he had only 1,000 soldiers, he could not afford to
deliver a real attack, and was merely containing them.
Amiens Street station reported recaptured by the military;
other stations are said to be still in the Volunteers possession.
The story goes that about twelve oclock on Monday
an English officer had marched into the Post Office and demanded
two penny stamps from the amazed Volunteers who were inside. He
thought their uniforms were postal uniforms. They brought him in,
and he is probably still trying to get a perspective on the occurrence.
They had as prisoners in the Post Office a certain number of soldiers,
and rumour had it that these men accommodated themselves quickly
to duress, and were busily engaged peeling potatoes for the meal
which they would partake of later on with the Volunteers.
Earlier in the day I met a wild individual [p.29] who
spat rumour as though his mouth were a machine gun or a linotype
machine. He believed everything he heard; and everything he heard
became as by magic favourable to his hopes, which were violently
anti-English. One unfavourable rumour was instantly crushed by him
with three stories which were favourable and triumphantly so. He
said the Germans had landed in three places. One of these landings
alone consisted of fifteen thousand men. The other landings probably
beat that figure. The whole City of Cork was in the hands of the
Volunteers, and, to that extent, might be said to be peaceful. German
warships had defeated the English, and their transports were speeding
from every side. The whole country was up, and the garrison was
out- numbered by one hundred to one. These Dublin barracks which
had not been taken were now besieged and on the point of surrender.
I think this man created and winged every rumour that
flew in Dublin, and he was the sole individual whom I heard definitely
taking a side. He left me, and, looking back, I saw him pouring
his news into the ear of a [p.30] gaping stranger whom he had arrested
for the purpose. I almost went back to hear would he tell the same
tale or would he elaborate it into a new thing, for I am interested
in the art of story-telling.
At eleven oclock the rain ceased, and to it succeeded
a beautiful night, gusty with wind, and packed with sailing clouds
and stars. We were expecting visitors this night, but the sound
of guns may have warned most people away. Three only came, and with
them we listened from my window to the guns at the Green challenging
and replying to each other, and to where, further away, the Trinity
snipers were crackling, and beyond again to the sounds of war from
Sackville Street. The firing was fairly heavy, and often the short
rattle of machine guns could be heard.
One of the stories told was that the Volunteers had
taken the South Dublin Union Workhouse, occupied it, and trenched
the grounds. They were heavily attacked by the military, who, at
a loss of 150 men, took the place. The tale went that towards the
close the officer in command offered them terms of surrender, but
the Volunteers replied that [p.31] they were not there to surrender.
They were there to be killed. The garrison consisted of fifty men,
and the story said that fifty men were killed.
It was three oclock before I got to sleep last night, and
during the hours machine guns and rifle firing had been continuous.
This morning the sun is shining brilliantly, and the
movement in the streets possesses more of animation than it has
done. The movement ends always in a knot of people, and folk go
from group to group vainly seeking information and quite content
if the rumour they presently gather differs even a little from the
one they have just communicated.
The first statement I heard was that the Green had been
taken by the military; the second that it had been re-taken; the
third that it had not been taken at all. The facts at last emerged
that the Green had not been occupied by the soldiers, but that the
Volunteers had retreated from it into a house which commanded it.
This was found to be the [p.33]
College of Surgeons, and from the windows and roof of
this College they were sniping. A machine gun was mounted on the
roof; other machine guns, however, opposed them from the roofs of
the Shelbourne Hotel, the United Service Club, and the Alexandra
Club. Thus a triangular duel opened between these positions across
the trees of the Park.
Through the railings of the Green some rides and bandoliers
could be seen lying on the ground, as also the deserted trenches
and snipers holes. Small boys bolted in to see these sights
and bolted out again with bullets quickening their feet. Small boys
do not believe that people will really kill them, but small boys
The dead horse was still lying stiff and lamentable
on the footpath.
This morning a gunboat came up the Liffey and helped
to bombard Liberty Hall. The Hall is breached and useless. Rumour
says that it was empty at the time, and that Connolly with his men
had marched long before to the Post Office and the Green. The same
source of information relates that three thousand Volunteers came
from Belfast on [p.34] an excursion train and that they marched
into the Post Office.
On this day only one of my men came in. He said that
he had gone on the roof and had been shot at, consequently that
the Volunteers held some of the covering houses. I went to the roof
and remained there for half an hour. There were no shots, but the
firing from the direction of Sackville Street was continuous and
at times exceedingly heavy.
To-day the Irish Times was published. It contained a
new military proclamation, and a statement that the country was
peaceful, and told that in Sackville Street some houses were burned
to the ground.
On the outside railings a bill proclaiming Martial Law
Into the newspaper statement that peace reigned in the
country one was inclined to read more of disquietude than of truth,
and one said is the country so extraordinarily peaceful that it
can be dismissed in three lines. There is too much peace or too
much reticence, but it will be some time before we hear from outside
Meanwhile the sun was shining. It was a [p.35] delightful
day, and the streets outside and around the areas of fire were animated
and even gay. In the streets of Dublin there were no morose faces
to be seen. Almost everyone was smiling and attentive, and a democratic
feeling was abroad, to which our City is very much a stranger; for
while in private we are a sociable and talkative people we have
no street manners or public ease whatever. Every person spoke to
every other person, and men and women mixed and talked without constraint.
Was the City for or against the Volunteers? Was it for
the Volunteers, and yet against the rising? It is considered now
(writing a day or two afterwards) that Dublin was entirely against
the Volunteers, but on the day of which I write no such certainty
could be put forward. There was a singular reticence on the subject.
Men met and talked volubly, but they said nothing that indicated
a personal desire or belief. They asked for and exchanged the latest
news, or, rather, rumour, and while expressions were frequent of
astonishment at the suddenness and completeness of the occurrence,
[p.36] no expression of opinion for or against was anywhere formulated.
Sometimes a man said, ‘They will be beaten of course,
and, as he prophesied, the neighbour might surmise if he did so
with a sad heart or a merry one, but they knew nothing and asked
nothing of his views, and themselves advanced no flag.
This was among the men.
The women were less guarded, or, perhaps, knew they
had less to fear. Most of the female opinion I heard was not alone
unfavourable but actively and viciously hostile to the rising. This
was noticeable among the best dressed class of our population; the
worst dressed, indeed the female dregs of Dublin life, expressed
a like antagonism, and almost in similar language. The view expressed
I hope every man of them will be shot.
They ought to be all shot.
Shooting, indeed, was proceeding everywhere. During
daylight, at least, the sound is not sinister nor depressing, and
the thought that perhaps a life had exploded with that crack is
not depressing either. [p.37]
In the last two years of world-war our ideas on death
have undergone a change. It is not now the furtive thing that crawled
into your bed and which you fought with pill-boxes and medicine
bottles. It has become again a rider of the wind whom you may go
coursing with through the fields and open places. All the morbidity
is gone, and the sickness, and what remains to Death is now health
and excitement. So Dublin laughed at the noise of its own bombardment,
and made no moan about its dead - in the sunlight. Afterwards -
in the rooms, when the night fell, and instead of silence that mechanical
barking of the maxims and the whistle and screams of the rifles,
the solemn roar of the heavier guns, and the red glare covering
the sky. It is possible that in the night Dublin did not laugh,
and that she was gay in the sunlight for no other reason than that
the night was past.
On this day fighting was incessant at Mount Street Bridge.
A party of Volunteers had seized three houses covering the bridge
and converted these into forts. It is reported that military casualties
at this point were [p.38] very heavy. The Volunteers are said also
to hold the South Dublin Union. The soldiers have seized Guinnesss
Brewery, while their opponents have seized another brewery in the
neighbourhood, and between these two there is a continual fusillade.
Fighting is brisk about Ringsend and along the Canal.
Dame Street was said to be held in many places by the Volunteers.
I went down Dame Street, but saw no Volunteers, and did not observe
any sniping from the houses. Further, as Dame Street is entirely
commanded by the roofs and windows of Trinity College, it is unlikely
that they should be here.
It was curious to observe this, at other times, so animated
street, broad and deserted, with at the corners of side streets
small knots of people watching. Seen from behind, Grattans
Statue in College Green seemed almost alive, and he had the air
of addressing warnings and reproaches to Trinity College.
The Proclamation issued to-day warns all people to remain
within doors until five oclock in the morning, and after seven
oclock at night. [p.39] It is still early. There is no news
of any kind, and the rumours begin to catch quickly on each other
and to cancel one another out. Dublin is entirely cut off from England,
and from the outside world. It is, just as entirely cut off from
the rest of Ireland; no news of any kind filters in to us. We are
land-locked and sea-locked, but, as yet, it does not much matter.
Meantime the belief grows that the Volunteers may be
able to hold out much longer than had been imagined. The idea at
first among the people had been that the insurrection would be ended
the morning after it had began. But to-day, the insurrection having
lasted three days, people are ready to conceive that it may last
for ever. There is almost a feeling of gratitude towards the Volunteers
because they are holding out for a little while, for had they been
beaten the first or second day the City would have been humiliated
to the soul.
People say: ‘Of course, they will be beaten. The
statement is almost a query, and they continue, ‘but they are putting
up a decent fight. For being beaten does not [p.40] greatly
matter in Ireland, but not fighting does matter. ‘They went forth
always to the battle; and they always fell. Indeed, the history
of the Irish race is in that phrase.
The firing from the roofs of Trinity College became
violent. I crossed Dame Street some distance up, struck down the
Quays, and went along these until I reached the Ballast Office.
Further than this it was not possible to go, for a step beyond the
Ballast Office would have brought one into the unending stream of
lead that was pouring from Trinity and other places. I was looking
on OConnell Bridge and Sackville Street, and the house facing
me was Kellys - a red-brick fishing tackle shop, one half
of which was on the Quay and the other half in Sackville Street.
This house was being bombarded.
I counted the report of six different machine guns which
played on it. Rifles innumerable and from every sort of place were
potting its windows, and at intervals of about half a minute the
shells from a heavy gun lobbed in through its windows or thumped
mightily against its walls.
For three hours that bombardment continued, [p.41] and
the walls stood in a cloud of red dust and smoke. Rifle and machine
gun bullets spattered over every inch of it, and, unfailingly the
heavy gun pounded its shells through the windows.
Ones heart melted at the idea that human beings
were crouching inside that volcano of death, and I said to myself,
‘Not even a fly can be alive in that house.
No head showed at any window, no rifle cracked from
window or roof in reply. The house was dumb, lifeless, and I thought
every one of those men are dead.
It was then, and quite suddenly, that the possibilities
of street fighting flashed on me, and I knew there was no person
in the house, and said to myself, ‘They have smashed through the
walls with a hatchet and are sitting in the next house, or they
have long ago climbed out by the skylight and are on a roof half
a block away. Then the thought came to me - they have and
hold the entire of Sackville Street down to the Post Office. Later
on this proved to be the case, and I knew at this moment that Sackville
Street was doomed. [p.42] I continued to watch the bombardment,
but no longer with the anguish which had before torn me. Near by
there were four men, and a few yards away, clustered in a laneway,
there were a dozen others. An agitated girl was striding from the
farther group to the one in which I was, and she addressed the men
in the most obscene language which I have ever heard. She addressed
them man by man, and she continued to speak and cry and scream at
them with all that obstinate, angry patience of which only a woman
She cursed us all. She called down diseases on every
human being in the world excepting only the men who were being bombarded.
She demanded of the folk in the laneway that they should march at
least into the roadway and prove that they were proud men and were
not afraid of bullets. She had been herself into the danger zone.
Had stood herself in the track of the guns, and had there cursed
her fill for half an hour, and she desired that the men should do
at least what she had done.
This girl was quite young - about nineteen [p.43] years
of age - and was dressed in the customary shawl and apron of her
class. Her face was rather pretty, or it had that pretty slenderness
and softness of outline which belong to youth. But every sentence
she spoke contained half a dozen indecent words. Alas, it was only
that her vocabulary was not equal to her emotions, and she did not
know how to be emphatic without being obscene - it is the cause
of most of the meaningless swearing one hears every day. She spoke
to me for a minute, and her eyes were as soft as those of a kitten
and her language was as gentle as her eyes. She wanted a match to
light a cigarette, but I had none, and said that I also wanted one.
In a few minutes she brought me a match, and then she recommenced
her tireless weaving of six vile words into hundreds of stupid sentences.
About five oclock the guns eased off of Kellys.
To inexperienced eyes they did not seem to have done
very much damage, but afterwards one found that although the walls
were standing and apparently solid there was no inside to the house.
From roof to basement the building [p.44] was bare as a dog kennel.
There were no floors inside, there was nothing there but blank space;
and on the ground within was the tumble and rubbish that had been
roof and floors and furniture. Everything inside was smashed and
pulverised into scrap and dust, and the only objects that had consistency
and their ancient shape were the bricks that fell when the shells
Rifle shots had begun to strike the house on the further
side of the street, a jewellers shop called Hopkins &
Hopkins. The impact of these balls on the bricks was louder than
the sound of the shot which immediately succeeded, and each bullet
that struck brought down a shower of fine red dust from the walls.
Perhaps thirty or forty shots in all were fired at Hopkins,
and then, except for an odd crack, firing ceased.
During all this time there had been no reply from the
Volunteers, and I thought they must be husbanding their ammunition,
and so must be short of it, and that it would be only a matter of
a few days before the end. All this, I said to myself, will be finished
in a few days, and they will be finished; life here [p.45] will
recommence exactly where it left off, and except for some newly-filled
graves, all will be as it had been until they become a tradition
and enter the imagination of their race.
I spoke to several of the people about me, and found
the same willingness to exchange news that I had found elsewhere
in the City, and the same reticences as regarded their private opinions.
Two of them, indeed, and they were the only two I met with during
the insurrection, expressed, although in measured terms, admiration
for the Volunteers, and while they did not side with them they did
not say anything against them. One was a labouring man, the other
a gentleman. The remark of the latter was:
I am an Irishman, and (pointing to the shells
that were bursting through the windows in front of us) I hate to
see that being done to other Irishmen.
He had come from some part of the country to spend the
Easter Holidays in Dublin, and was unable to leave town again.
The labouring man - he was about fifty-six years of
age - spoke very quietly and collectedly [p.46] about the insurrection.
He was a type with whom I had come very little in contact, and I
was surprised to find how simple and good his speech was, and how
calm his ideas. He thought labour was in this movement to a greater
extent than was imagined. I mentioned that Liberty Hall had been
blown up, and that the garrison had either surrendered or been killed.
He replied that a gunboat had that morning come up the river and
had blown Liberty Hall into smash, but, he added, there were no
men in it. All the Labour Volunteers had marched with Connolly into
the Post Office.
He said the Labour Volunteers might possibly number
about one thousand men, but that it would be quite safe to say eight
hundred, and he held that the Labour Volunteers, or the Citizens
Army, as they called themselves, had always been careful not to
reveal their numbers. They had always announced that they possessed
about two hundred and fifty men, and had never paraded any more
than that number at any one time. Workingmen, he continued, knew
that the men who marched were always different men. [p.47] The police
knew it, too, but they thought that the Citizens Army was the most
deserted-from force in the world.
The men, however, were not deserters - you dont,
he said, desert a man like Connolly, and they were merely taking
their turn at being drilled and disciplined. They were raised against
the police who, in the big strike of two years ago, had acted towards
them with unparallelled savagery, and the men had determined that
the police would never again find them thus disorganised.
This man believed that every member of the Citizen Army
had marched with their leader.
The men, I know, said he, ‘would not be
afraid of anything, and, he continued, ‘they are in the Post
What chance have they?
None, he replied, ‘and they never said they
had, and they never thought they would have any.
How long do you think theyll be able to
He nodded towards the house that had been bombarded
by heavy guns. [p.48]
That will root them out of it quick enough,
was his reply.
Im going home, said he then, ‘the
people will be wondering if Im dead or alive, and he
walked away from that sad street, as I did myself a few minutes
Again, the rumours greeted one. This place had fallen and had not
fallen. Such a position had been captured by the soldiers; recaptured
by the Volunteers, and had not been attacked at all. But certainly
fighting was proceeding. Up Mount Street, the rifle volleys were
continuous, and the coming and going of ambulance cars from that
direction were continuous also. Some spoke of pitched battles on
the bridge, and said that as yet the advantage lay with the Volunteers.
At 11.30 there came the sound of heavy guns firing in
the direction of Sackville Street. I went on the roof, and remained
there for some time. From this height the sounds could be heard
plainly. There was sustained firing along the whole central line
of the City, from the Green down to Trinity College, and from thence
to SackvilIe Street, and the report of the various types of arm
could be easily distinguished. There were rifles, machine guns [p.50]
and very heavy cannon. There was another sound which I could not
put a name to, something that coughed out over all the other sounds,
a short, sharp bark, or rather a short noise something like the
popping of a tremendous cork.
I met D. H. His chief emotion is one of astonishment
at the organizing powers displayed by the Volunteers. We have exchanged
rumours, and found that our equipment in this direction is almost
identical. He says Sheehy Skeffington has been killed. That he was
arrested in a house wherein arms were found, and was shot out of
I hope this is another rumour, for, so far as my knowledge
of him goes, he was not with the Volunteers, and it is said that
he was antagonistic to the forcible methods for which the Volunteers
stood. But the tale of his death was so persistent that one is inclined
to believe it.
He was the most absurdly courageous man I have ever
met with or heard of. He has been in every trouble that has touched
Ireland these ten years back, and he has always been in on the generous
side, therefore, and [p.51] naturally, on the side that was unpopular
and weak. It would seem indeed that a cause had only to be weak
to gain his sympathy, and his sympathy never stayed at home. There
are so many good people who ‘sympathise with this or that
cause, and, having given that measure of their emotion, they give
no more of it or of anything else. But he rushed instantly to the
street. A large stone, the lift of a footpath, the base of a statue,
any place and every place was for him a pulpit; and, in the teeth
of whatever oppression or disaster or power, he said his say.
There are multitudes of men in Dublin of all classes
and creeds who can boast that they kicked Sheehy Skeffington, or
that they struck him on the head with walking sticks and umbrellas,
or that they smashed their fists into his face, and jumped on him
when he fell. It is by no means an exaggeration to say that these
things were done to him, and it is true that he bore ill-will to
no man, and that he accepted blows, and indignities and ridicule
with the pathetic candour of a child who is disguised as a man,
and whose disguise cannot come off. His tongue, his pen, his [p.52]
body, all that he had and hoped for were at the immediate service
of whoever was bewildered or oppressed. He has been shot. Other
men have been shot, but they faced the guns knowing that they faced
justice, however stern and oppressive; and that what they had engaged
to confront was before them. He had no such thought to soothe from
his mind anger or unforgiveness. He who was a pacifist was compelled
to revolt to his last breath, and on the instruments of his end
he must have looked as on murderers. I am sure that to the end he
railed against oppression, and that he fell marvelling that the
world can truly be as it is. With his death there passed away a
brave man and a clean soul.
Later on this day I met Mrs. Sheehy Skeffington in the
street. She confirmed the rumour that her husband had been arrested
on the previous day, but further than that she had no news. So far
as I know the sole crime of which her husband had been guilty was
that he called for a meeting of the citizens to enrol special constables
and prevent looting. [p.53]
Among the rumours it was stated with every accent of
certitude that Madame Markievicz had been captured in Georges
Street, and taken to the Castle. It was also current that Sir Roger
Casement had been captured at sea and had already been shot in the
Tower of London. The names of several Volunteer Leaders are mentioned
as being dead. But the surmise that steals timidly from one mouth
flies boldly as a certitude from every mouth that repeats it, and
truth itself would now be listened to with only a gossips
ear, but no person would believe a word of it.
This night also was calm and beautiful, but this night
was the most sinister and woeful of those that have passed. The
sound of artillery, of rifles, machine guns, grenades, did not cease
even for a moment. From my window I saw a red flare that crept to
the sky, and stole over it and remained there glaring; the smoke
reached from the ground to the clouds, and I could see great red
sparks go soaring to enormous heights; while always, in the calm
air, hour after hour there was the buzzing and rattling and thudding
of guns, and, but for the guns, silence. [p.54]
It is in a dead silence this Insurrection is being fought,
and one imagines what must be the feeling of these men, young for
the most part, and unused to violence, who are submitting silently
to the crash and flame and explosion by which they are surrounded.
This morning there are no newspapers, no bread, no milk, no news.
The sun is shining, and the streets are lively but discreet. All
people continue to talk to one another without distinction of class,
but nobody knows what any person thinks.
It is a little singular the number of people who are
smiling. I fancy they were listening to the guns last night, and
they are smiling this morning because the darkness is past, and
because the sun is shining, and because they can move their limbs
in space, and may talk without having to sink their voices to a
whisper. Guns do not sound so bad in the day as they do at night,
and no person can feel lonely while the sun shines.
The men are smiling, but the women laugh, and their
laughter does not displease, for whatever women do in whatever circumstances
appears to have a rightness of its own.
It seems right that they should scream when danger to
themselves is imminent, and it seems right that they should laugh
when the danger only threatens others.
It is rumoured this morning that Sackville Street has
been burned out and levelled to the ground. It is said that the
end is in sight; and, it is said, that matters are, if anything
rather worse than better. That the Volunteers have sallied from
some of their strongholds and entrenched themselves, and that in
one place alone (the South Lotts) they have seven machine guns.
That when the houses which they held became untenable they rushed
out and seized other houses, and that, pursuing these tactics, there
seemed no reason to believe that the Insurrection would ever come
to an end. That the streets are filled with Volunteers in plain
clothes, but having revolvers in their pockets. That the streets
are filled with soldiers equally revolvered and plain clothed, and
that the le ast one says on any subject the less one
would have to answer for.
The feeling that I tapped was definitely Anti-Volunteer,
but the number of people who [p.57] would speak was few, and one
regarded the noncommital folk who were so smiling and polite, and
so prepared to talk, with much curiosity, seeking to read in their
eyes, in their bearing, even in the cut of their clothes what might
be the secret movements and cogitations of their minds.
I received the impression that numbers of them did not
care a rap what way it went; and that others had ceased to be mental
creatures and were merely machines for registering the sensations
of the time.
None of these people were prepared for Insurrection.
The thing had been sprung on them so suddenly that they were unable
to take sides, and their feeling of detachment was still so complete
that they would have betted on the business as if it had been a
horse race or a dog fight.
Many English troops have been landed each night, and
it is believed, that there are more than sixty thousand soldiers
in Dublin alone, and that they are supplied with every offensive
contrivance which military art has invented.
Merrion Square is strongly held by the [p.58] soldiers.
They are posted along both sides of the road at intervals of about
twenty paces, and their guns are continually barking up at the roofs
which surround them in the great square. It is said that these roofs
are held by the Volunteers from Mount Street Bridge to the Square,
and that they hold in like manner wide stretches of the City.
They appear to have mapped out the roofs with all the
thoroughness that had hitherto been expended on the roads, and upon
these roofs they are so mobile and crafty and so much at home that
the work of the soldiers will be exceedingly difficult as well as
Still, and notwithstanding, men can only take to the
roofs for a short time. Up there, there can be no means of transport,
and their ammunition, as well as their food, will very soon be used
up. It is the beginning of the end, and the fact that they have
to take to the roofs, even though that be in their programme, means
that they are finished.
From the roof there comes the sound of machine guns.
Looking towards Sackville Street one picks out easily Nelsons
Pillar, [p.59] which towers slenderly over all the buildings of
the neighbourhood. It is wreathed in smoke. Another towering building
was the D.B.C. Café. Its Chinese-like pagoda was a landmark
easily to be found, but to-day I could not find it. It was not there,
and I knew that, even if all Sackville Street was not burned down,
as rumour insisted, this great Café had certainly been curtailed
by its roof and might, perhaps, have been completely burned.
On the gravel paths I found pieces of charred and burnt
paper. These scraps must have been blown remarkably high to have
crossed all the roofs that lie between Sackville Street and Merrion
At eleven oclock there is continuous firing, and
snipers firing from the direction of Mount Street, and in every
direction of the City these sounds are being duplicated.
In Camden Street the sniping and casualties are said
to have been very heavy. One man saw two Volunteers taken from a
house by the soldiers. They were placed kneeling in the centre of
the road, and within one minute of their capture they were dead.
[p.60] Simultaneously there fell several of the firing party.
An officer in this part had his brains blown into the
roadway. A young girl ran into the road picked up his cap and scraped
the brains into it. She covered this poor debris with a little straw,
and carried the hat piously to the nearest hospital in order that
the brains might be buried with their owner.
The continuation of her story was less gloomy although
it affected the teller equally.
There is not, said she, ‘a cat or a dog
left alive in Camden Street. They are lying stiff out in the road
and up on the roofs. Theres lots of women will be sorry for
this war, said she, ‘and their pets killed on them.
In many parts of the City hunger began to be troublesome.
A girl told me that her family, and another that had taken refuge
with them, had eaten nothing for three days. On this day her father
managed to get two loaves of bread somewhere, and he brought these
When, said the girl, ‘my father came in
with the bread the whole fourteen of us ran at him, and in a minute
we were all [p.62] ashamed for the loaves were gone to the last
crumb, and we were all as hungry as we had been before he came in.
The poor man, said she, ‘did not even get a bit for himself.
She held that the poor people were against the Volunteers.
The Volunteers still hold Jacobs Biscuit Factory.
It is rumoured that a priest visited them and counselled surrender,
and they replied that they did not go there to surrender but to
be killed. They asked him to give them absolution, and the story
continues that he refused to do so - but this is not (in its latter
part) a story that can easily be credited. The Adelaide Hospital
is close to this factory, and it is possible that the proximity
of the hospital, delays or hinders military operations against the
Rifle volleys are continuous about Merrion Square, and
prolonged machine gun firing can be heard also.
During the night the firing was heavy from almost every
direction; and in the direction of Sackville Street a red glare
told again of fire,
It is hard to get to bed these nights. It is [p.62]
hard even to sit down, for the moment one does sit down one stands
immediately up again resuming that ridiculous ships march
from the window to the wall and back. I am foot weary as I have
never been before in my life, but I cannot say that I am excited.
No person in Dublin is excited, but there exists a state of tension
and expectancy which is mentally more exasperating than any excitement
could be. The absence of news is largely responsible for this. We
do not know what has happened, what is happening, or what is going
to happen, and the reversion to barbarism (for barbarism is largely
a lack of news) disturbs us.
Each night we have got to bed at last murmuring, ‘I
wonder will it be all over to-morrow, and this night the like
question accompanied us. [p.63]
This morning also there has been no bread, no milk, no meat, no
newspapers, but the sun is shining. It is astonishing that, thus
early in the Spring, the weather should be so beautiful.
It is stated freely that the Post Office has been taken,
and just as freely it is averred that it has not been taken. The
approaches to Merrion Square are held by the military, and I was
not permitted to go to my office. As I came to this point shots
were fired at a motor car which had not stopped on being challenged.
Bystanders said it was Sir Horace Plunketts car, and that
he had been shot. Later we found that Sir Horace was not hurt, but
that his nephew who drove the car had been severely wounded.
At this hour the rumour of the fall of Verdun was persistent.
Later on it was denied, as was denied the companion rumour [p.64]
of the relief of Kut. Saw R. who had spent three days and the whole
of his money in getting home from County Clare. He had heard that
Mrs. Sheehy Skeffingtons house was raided, and that two dead
bodies had been taken out of it. Saw Miss P. who seemed sad. I do
not know what her politics are, but I think that the word ‘kindness
might be used to cover all her activities. She has a heart of gold,
and the courage of many lions. I then met Mr. Commissioner Bailey
who said the Volunteers had sent a deputation, and that terms of
surrender were being discussed. I hope this is true, and I hope
mercy will be shown to the men. Nobody believes there will be any
mercy shown, and it is freely reported that they are shot in the
street, or are taken to the nearest barracks and shot there. The
belief grows that no person who is now in the Insurrection will
be alive when the Insurrection is ended.
That is as it will be. But these days the thought of
death does not strike on the mind with any severity, and, should
the European war continue much longer, the fear of death will entirely
depart from man, as it has departed [p.65] many times in history.
With that great deterrent gone our rulers will be gravely at a loss
in dealing with strikers and other such discontented people. Possibly
they will have to resurrect the long-buried idea of torture.
The people in the streets are laughing and chatting.
Indeed, there is gaiety in the air as well as sunshine, and no person
seems to care that men are being shot every other minute, or bayoneted,
or blown into scraps or burned into cinders. These things are happening,
nevertheless, but much of their importance has vanished.
I met a man at the Green who was drawing a plan on the
back of an envelope. The problem was how his questioner was to get
from where he was standing to a street lying at the other side of
the river, and the plan as drawn insisted that to cover this quarter
of an hours distance he must set out on a pilgrimage of more
than twenty miles. Another young boy was standing near embracing
a large ham. He had been trying for three days to convey his ham
to a house near the Gresham Hotel where his sister lived. He [p.66]
had almost given up hope, and he hearkened intelligently to the
idea that he should himself eat the ham and so get rid of it.
The rifle fire was persistent all day, but, saving in
certain localities, it was not heavy. Occasionally the machine guns
rapped in. There was no sound of heavy artillery.
The rumour grows that the Post Office has been evacuated,
and that the Volunteers are at large and spreading everywhere across
the roofs. The rumour grows also that terms of surrender are being
discussed, and that Sackville Street has been levelled to the ground.
At half-past seven in the evening calm is almost complete.
The sound of a rifle shot being only heard at long intervals.
I got to bed this night earlier than usual. At two oclock
I left the window from which a red flare is yet visible in the direction
of Sackville Street. The morning will tell if the Insurrection is
finished or not, but at this hour all is not over. Shots are ringing
all around and down my street, and the vicious crackling of these
rifles grow at times into regular volleys.
The Insurrection has not ceased.
There is much rifle fire, but no sound from the machine
guns or the eighteen pounders and trench mortars.
From the window of my kitchen the flag of the Republic
can be seen flying afar. This is the flag that flies over Jacobs
Biscuit Factory, and I will know that the Insurrection has ended
as soon as I see this flag pulled down.
When I went out there were few people in the streets.
I met D. H., and, together, we passed up the Green. The Republican
flag was still flying over the College of Surgeons. We tried to
get down Grafton Street (where broken windows and two gaping interiors
told of the recent visit of looters), but a little down this street
we were waved back by armed sentries We then cut away by the Gaiety
Theatre into Mercers Street, where immense [p.68] lines of
poor people were drawn up waiting for the opening of the local bakery.
We got into Georges Street, thinking to turn down Dame Street
and get from thence near enough to Sackville Street to see if the
rumours about its destruction were true, but here also we were halted
by the military, and had to retrace our steps.
There was no news of any kind to be gathered from the
people we talked to, nor had they even any rumours.
This was the first day I had been able to get even a
short distance outside of my own quarter, and it seemed that the
people of my quarter were more able in the manufacture of news or
more imaginative than were the people who live in other parts of
the city. We had no sooner struck into home parts than we found
news. We were told that two of the Volunteer leaders had been shot.
These were Pearse and Connolly. The latter was reported as lying
in the Castle Hospital with a fractured thigh. Pearse was cited
as dead with two hundred of his men, following their sally from
the Post Office. The machine guns had caught them as they left,
and none [p.69] of them remained alive. The news seemed afterwards
to be true except that instead of Pearse it was The ORahilly
who had been killed. Pearse died later and with less excitement.
A man who had seen an English newspaper said that the
Kut force had surrendered to the Turk, but that Verdun had not fallen
to the Germans. The rumour was current also that a great naval battle
had been fought whereat the German fleet had been totally destroyed
with loss to the English of eighteen warships. It was said that
among the captured Volunteers there had been a large body of Germans,
but nobody believed it; and this rumour was inevitably followed
by the tale that there were one hundred German submarines lying
in the Stephens Green pond.
At half-past two I met Mr. Commissioner Bailey, who
told me that it was all over, and that the Volunteers were surrendering
everywhere in the city. A motor car with two military officers,
and two Volunteer leaders had driven to the College of Surgeons
and been admitted. After a short interval [p.70]
Madame Marckievicz marched out of the College at the
head of about 100 men, and they had given up their arms; the motor
car with the Volunteer leaders was driving to other strongholds,
and it was expected that before nightfall the capitulations would
I started home, and on the way I met a man whom I had
encountered some days previously, and from whom rumours had sprung
as though he wove them from his entrails, as a spider weaves his
web. He was no less provided on this occasion, and it was curious
to listen to his tale of English defeats on every front. He announced
the invasion of England in six different quarters, the total destruction
of the English fleet, and the landing of immense German armies on
the West coast of Ireland. He made these things up in his head.
Then he repeated them to himself in a loud voice, and became somehow
persuaded that they had been told to him by a well-informed stranger,
and then he believed them and told them to everybody he met. Amongst
other things Spain had declared war on our behalf, the Chilian Navy
[p.71] was hastening to our relief. For a pin he would have sent
France flying westward all forgetful of her own war. A singular
man truly, and as I do think the only thoroughly happy person in
It is half-past three oclock, and from my window
the Republican flag can still be seen flying over Jacobs factory.
There is occasional shooting, but the city as a whole is quiet.
At a quarter to five oclock a heavy gun boomed once. Ten minutes
later there was heavy machine gun firing and much rifle shooting.
In another ten minutes the flag at Jacobs was hauled down.
During the remainder of the night sniping and military
replies were incessant, particularly in my street.
The raids have begun in private houses. Count Plunketts
house was entered by the military who remained there for a very
long time. Passing home about two minutes after Proclamation hour
I was pursued for the whole of Fitzwilliam Square by bullets. They
buzzed into the roadway beside me, and the sound as they whistled
near was curious. The sound is something like that made by a very
[p.72] swift saw, and one gets the impression that as well as being
very swift they are very heavy.
Snipers are undoubtedly on the roofs opposite my house,
and they are not asleep on these roofs. Possibly it is difficult
to communicate with these isolated bands the news of their companions
surrender, but it is likely they will learn, by the diminution of
fire in other quarters that their work is over.
In the morning on looking from my window I saw four
policemen marching into the street. They were the first I had seen
for a week. Soon now the military tale will finish, the police story
will commence, the political story will recommence, and, perhaps,
the weeks that follow this one will sow the seed of more hatred
than so many centuries will be able to uproot again, for although
Irish people do not greatly fear the military they fear the police,
and they have very good reason to do so.
VIII: The Insurrection Is Over
The Insurrection is over, and it is worth asking what has happened,
how it has happened, and why it happened?
The first question is easily answered. The finest part
of our city has been blown to smithereens, and burned into ashes.
Soldiers amongst us who have served abroad say that the ruin of
this quarter is more complete than any thing they have seen at Ypres,
than anything they have seen anywhere in France or Flanders. A great
number of our men and women and children, Volunteers and civilians
confounded alike, are dead, and some fifty thousand men who have
been moved with military equipment to our land are now being removed
therefrom. The English nation has been disorganised no more than
as they were affected by the transport of these men and material.
That is what happened, and it is all that happened.
How it happened is another matter, and [p.74] one which,
perhaps, will not be made clear for years. All we know in Dublin
is that our city burst into a kind of spontaneous war; that we lived
through it during one singular week, and that it faded away and
disappeared almost as swiftly as it had come. The men who knew about
it are, with two exceptions, dead, and these two exceptions are
in gaol, and likely to remain there long enough. (Since writing
one of these men has been shot.)
Why it happened is a question that may be answered more
particularly. It happened because the leader of the Irish Party
misrepresented his people in the English House of Parliament. On
the day of the declaration of war between England and Germany he
took the Irish case, weighty with eight centuries of history and
tradition, and he threw it out of the window. He pledged Ireland
to a particular course of action, and he had no authority to give
this pledge and he had no guarantee that it would be met. The ramshackle
intelligence of his party and his own emotional nature betrayed
him and us and England. He swore Ireland to loyalty as if he had
Ireland in his pocket, and could answer [p.75] for her. Ireland
has never been disloyal to England, not even at this epoch, because
she has never been loyal to England, and the profession of her National
faith has been unwavering, has been known to every English person
alive, and has been clamant to all the world beside.
Is it that he wanted to be cheered? He could very easily
have stated Irelands case truthfully, and have proclaimed
a benevolent neutrality (if he cared to use the grandiloquent words)
on the part of this country. He would have gotten his cheers, he
would in a few months have gotten Home Rule in return for Irish
soldiers. He would have received politically whatever England could
have safely given him. But, alas, these carefulnesses did not chime
with his emotional moment. They were not magnificent enough for
one who felt that he was talking not to Ireland or to England, but
to the whole gaping and eager earth, and so he pledged his countrys
credit so deeply that he did not leave her even one National rag
to cover herself with.
After a lie truth bursts out, and it is no [p.76] longer
the radiant and serene goddess we knew or hoped for - it is a disease,
it is a moral syphilis and will ravage until the body in which it
can dwell has been purged. Mr. Redmond told the lie and he is answerable
to England for the violence she had to be guilty of, and to Ireland
for the desolation to which we have had to submit. Without his lie
there had been no Insurrection; without it there had been at this
moment, and for a year past, an end to the ‘Irish question.
Ireland must in ages gone have been guilty of abominable crimes
or she could not at this juncture have been afflicted with a John
He is the immediate cause of this our latest Insurrection
- the word is big, much too big for the deed, and we should call
it row, or riot, or squabble, in order to draw the fact down to
its dimensions, but the ultimate blame for the trouble between the
two countries does not fall against Ireland.
The fault lies with England, and in these days while
an effort is being made (interrupted, it is true, by cannon) to
found a better understanding between the two nations it is well
that England should recognize what she [p.77] has done to Ireland,
and should try at least to atone for it. The situation can be explained
almost in a phrase. We are a little country and you, a huge country,
have persistently beaten us. We are a poor country and you, the
richest country in the world, have persistently robbed us. That
is the historical fact, and whatever national or political necessities
are opposed in reply, it is true that you have never given Ireland
any reason to love you, and you cannot claim her affection without
hypocrisy or stupidity.
You think our people can only be tenacious in hate -
it is a lie. Our historical memory is truly tenacious, but during
the long and miserable tale of our relations you have never given
us one generosity to remember you by, and you must not claim our
affection or our devotion until you are worthy of them. We are a
good people; almost we are the only Christian people left in the
world, nor has any nation shown such forbearance towards their persecutor
as we have always shown to you. No nation has forgiven its enemies
as we have forgiven you, time after time down the miserable generations,
the continuity of our forgiveness only equalled by the continuity
[p.78] of your ill-treatment. Between our two countries you have
kept and protected a screen of traders and politicians who are just
as truly your enemies as they are ours. In the end they will do
most harm to you for we are by this vaccinated against misery but
you are not, and the ‘loyalists who sell their own country
for a shilling will sell another country for a penny when the opportunity
comes and safety with it.
Meanwhile do not always hasten your presents to us out
of a gun. You have done it so often that your guns begin to bore
us, and you have now an opportunity which may never occur again
to make us your friends. There is no bitterness in Ireland against
you on account of this war, and the lack of ill-feeling amongst
us is entirely due to the more than admirable behaviour of the soldiers
whom you sent over here. A peace that will last for ever can be
made with Ireland if you wish to make it, but you must take her
hand at once, for in a few months time she will not open it
to you; the old, bad relations will re-commence, the rancor will
be born and grow, and another memory will be stored away in Irelands
capacious and retentive brain.
IX: The Volunteers
There is much talk of the extraordinary organising powers displayed
in the insurrection, but in truth there was nothing extraordinary
in it. The real essence and singularity of the rising exists in
its simplicity, and, saving for the courage which carried it out,
the word extraordinary is misplaced in this context.
The tactics of the Volunteers as they began to emerge
were reduced to the very skeleton of ‘strategy. It was only
that they seized certain central and strategical districts, garrisoned
those and held them until they were put out of them. Once in their
forts there was no further egress by the doors, and for purpose
of entry and sortie they used the skylights and the roofs. On the
roofs they had plenty of cover, and this cover conferred on them
a mobility which was their chief asset, and which alone enabled
them to protract the rebellion beyond the first day. [p.80]
This was the entire of their home plan, and there is
no doubt that they had studied Dublin roofs and means of inter-
communication by roofs with the closest care. Further than that
I do not think they had organised anything. But this was only the
primary plan, and, unless they were entirely mad, there must have
been a sequel to it which did not materialise, and which would have
materialised but that the English Fleet blocked the way.
There is no doubt that they expected the country to
rise with them, and they must have known what their own numbers
were, and what chance they had of making a protracted resistance.
The word ‘resistance is the keyword of the rising, and the
plan of holding out must have been rounded off with a date. At that
date something else was to have happened which would relieve them.
There is not much else that could happen except the
landing of German troops in Ireland or in England. It would have
been, I think, immaterial to them where these were landed, but the
reasoning seems to point to the fact that they expected and had
arranged [p.81] for such a landing, although on this point there
is as yet no evidence.
The logic of this is so simple, so plausible, that it
might be accepted without further examination, and yet further examination
is necessary, for in a country like Ireland logic and plausibility
are more often wrong than right. It may just as easily be that except
for furnishing some arms and ammunition Germany was not in the rising
at all, and this I prefer to believe. It had been current long before
the rising that the Volunteers knew they could not seriously embarrass
England, and that their sole aim was to make such a row in Ireland
that the Irish question would take the status of an international
one, and on the discussion of terms of peace in the European war
the claims of Ireland would have to be considered by the whole Council
of Europe and the world.
That is, in my opinion, the metaphysic behind the rising.
It is quite likely that they hoped for German aid, possibly some
thousands of men, who would enable them to prolong the row, but
I do not believe they expected German armies, nor do I think they
[p.82] would have welcomed these with any cordiality.
In this insurrection there are two things which are
singular in the history of Irish risings. One is that there were
no informers, or there were no informers among the chiefs. I did
hear people say in the streets that two days before the rising they
knew it was to come; they invariably added that they had not believed
the news, and had laughed at it. A priest said the same thing in
my hearing, and it may be that the rumour was widely spread, and
that everybody, including the authorities, looked upon it as a joke.
The other singularity of the rising is the amazing silence
in which it was fought. Nothing spoke but the guns; and the Volunteers
on the one side and the soldiers on the other potted each other
and died in whispers; it might have been said that both sides feared
the Germans would hear them and take advantage of their preoccupation.
There is a third reason given for the rebellion, and
it also is divorced from foreign plots. It is said, and the belief
in Dublin was widespread, that the Government intended to [p.83]
raid the Volunteers and seize their arms. One remembers to- day
the paper which Alderman Kelly read to the Dublin Corporation, and
which purported to be State Instructions that the Military and Police
should raid the Volunteers, and seize their arms and leaders. The
Volunteers had sworn they would not permit their arms to be taken
from them. A list of the places to be raided was given, and the
news created something of a sensation in Ireland when it was published
that evening. The Press, by instruction apparently, repudiated this
document, but the Volunteers, with most of the public, believed
it to be true, and it is more than likely that the rebellion took
place in order to forestall the Government.
This is also an explanation of the rebellion, and is
just as good a one as any other. It is the explanation which I believe
to be the true one.
All the talk of German invasion and the landing of German
troops in Ireland is so much nonsense in view of the fact that England
is master of the seas, and that from a week before the war down
to this date she [p.84] has been the undisputed monarch of those
ridges. During this war there will be no landing of troops in either
England or Ireland unless Germany in the meantime can solve the
problem of submarine transport. It is a problem which will be solved
some day, for every problem can be solved, but it will hardly be
during the progress of this war. The men at the head of the Volunteers
were not geniuses, neither were they fools, and the difficulty of
acquiring military aid from Germany must have seemed as insurmountable
to them as it does to the Germans themselves. They rose because
they felt that they had to do so, or be driven like sheep into the
nearest police barracks, and be laughed at by the whole of Ireland
as cowards and braggarts.
It would be interesting to know why, on the eve of the
insurrection, Professor MacNeill resigned the presidency of the
Volunteers. The story of treachery which was heard in the streets
is not the true one, for men of his type are not traitors, and this
statement may be dismissed without further comment or notice. One
is left to imagine what can have [p.85] happened during the conference
which is said to have preceded the rising, and which ended with
the resignation of Professor MacNeill.
This is my view, or my imagining, of what occurred.
The conference was called because the various leaders felt that
a hostile movement was projected by the Government, and that the
times were exceedingly black for them. Neither Mr. Birrell nor Sir
Mathew Nathan had any desire that there should be a conflict in
Ireland during the war. This cannot be doubted. From such a conflict
there might follow all kinds of political repercussions; but although
the Government favoured the policy of laissez faire, there
was a powerful military and political party in Ireland whose whole
effort was towards the disarming and punishment of the Volunteers
- particularly I should say the punishment of the Volunteers. I
believe, or rather I imagine, that Professor MacNeill was approached
at the instance of Mr. Birrell or Sir Matthew Nathan and assured
that the Government did not meditate any move against his men, and
that so long as his Volunteers remained quiet they would not be
molested by [p.86] the authorities. I would say that Professor MacNeill
gave and accepted the necessary assurances, and that when he informed
his conference of what had occurred, and found that they did not
believe faith would be kept with them, he resigned in the despairing
hope that his action might turn them from a purpose which he considered
lunatic, or, at least, by restraining a number of his followers
from rising, he might limit the tale of men who would be uselessly
He was not alone in his vote against a rising. The ORahilly
and some others are reputed to have voted with him, but when insurrection
was decided on, the ORahilly marched with his men, and surely
a gallant man could not have done otherwise.
When the story of what occurred is authoritatively written
(it may be written) I think that this will be found to be the truth
of the matter, and that German intrigue and German money counted
for so little in the insurrection as to be negligible.
X: Some of the Leaders
Meanwhile the insurrection, like all its historical forerunners,
has been quelled in blood. It sounds rhetorical to say so, but it
was not quelled in peasoup or tisane. While it lasted the fighting
was very determined, and it is easily, I think, the most considerable
of Irish rebellions.
The country was not with it, for be it remembered that
a whole army of Irishmen, possibly three hundred thousand of our
race, are fighting with England instead of against her. In Dublin
alone there is scarcely a poor home in which a father, a brother,
or a son is not serving in one of the many fronts which England
is defending. Had the country risen, and fought as stubbornly as
the Volunteers did, no troops could have beaten them - well that
is a wild statement, the heavy guns could always beat them - but
from whatever angle Irish people consider this affair it must [p.88]
appear to them tragic and lamentable beyond expression, but not
mean and not unheroic.
It was hard enough that our men in the English armies
should be slain for causes which no amount of explanation will ever
render less foreign to us, or even intelligible; but that our men
who were left should be killed in Ireland fighting against the same
England that their brothers are fighting for ties the question into
such knots of contradiction as we may give up trying to unravel.
We can only think - this has happened - and let it unhappen itself
as best it may.
We say that the time always finds the man, and by it
we mean: that when a responsibility is toward there will be found
some shoulder to bend for the yoke which all others shrink from.
It is not always nor often the great ones of the earth who undertake
these burdens - it is usually the good folk, that gentle hierarchy
who swear allegiance to mournfulness and the under dog, as others
dedicate themselves to mutton chops and the easy nymph. It is not
my intention to idealise any of the men who were concerned [p.89]
in this rebellion. Their country will, some few years hence, do
that as adequately as she has done it for those who went before
Those of the leaders whom I knew were not great men,
nor brilliant - that is they were more scholars than thinkers, and
more thinkers than men of action; and I believe that in no capacity
could they have attained to what is called eminence, nor do I consider
they coveted any such public distinction as is noted in that word.
But in my definition they were good men - men, that
is, who willed no evil, and whose movements of body or brain were
unselfish and healthy. No person living is the worse off for having
known Thomas MacDonagh, and I, at least, have never heard MacDonagh
speak unkindly or even harshly of anything that lived. It has been
said of him that his lyrics were epical; in a measure it is true,
and it is true in the same measure that his death was epical. He
was the first of the leaders who was tried and shot. It was not
easy for him to die leaving behind two young children and a young
wife, and the thought that his last moment must have been tormented
[p.90] by their memory is very painful. We are all fatalists when
we strike against power, and I hope he put care from him as the
soldiers marched him out.
The ORahilly also I knew, but not intimately,
and I can only speak of a good humour, a courtesy, and an energy
that never failed. He was a man of unceasing ideas and unceasing
speech, and laughter accompanied every sound made by his lips.
Plunkett and Pearse I knew also, but not intimately.
Young Plunkett, as he was always called, would never strike one
as a militant person. He, like Pearse and MacDonagh, wrote verse,
and it was no better nor worse than theirs were. He had an
appetite for quaint and difficult knowledge. He studied Egyptian
and Sanscrit, and distant curious matter of that sort, and was interested
in inventions and the theatre. He was tried and sentenced and shot.
As to Pearse, I do not know how to place him, nor what
to say of him. If there was an idealist among the men concerned
in this insurrection it was he, and if there was any person in the
world less fitted to head an insurrection [p.91] it was he also.
I never could ‘touch or sense in him the qualities which other
men spoke of, and which made him military commandant of the rising.
None of these men were magnetic in the sense that Mr. Larkin is
magnetic, and I would have said that Pearse was less magnetic than
any of the others. Yet it was to him and around him they clung.
Men must find some centre either of power or action
or intellect about which they may group themselves, and I think
that Pearse became the leader because his temperament was more profoundly
emotional than any of the others. He was emotional not in a flighty,
but in a serious way, and one felt more that he suffered than that
He had a power; men who came into intimate contact with
him began to act differently to their own desires and interests.
His schoolmasters did not always receive their salaries with regularity.
The reason that he did not pay them was the simple one that he had
no money. Given by another man this explanation would be uneconomic,
but from him it was so logical that even a child could [p.92] comprehend
it. These masters did not always leave him. They remained, marvelling
perhaps, and accepting, even with stupefaction, the theory that
children must be taught, but that no such urgency is due towards
the payment of wages. One of his boys said there was no fun in telling
lies to Mr. Pearse, for, however outrageous the lie, he always believed
it. He built and renovated and improved his school because the results
were good for his scholars, and somehow he found builders to undertake
these forlorn hopes.
It was not, I think, that he ‘put his trust in God,
but that when something had to be done he did it, and entirely disregarded
logic or economics or force. He said - such a thing has to be done
and so far as one man can do it I will do it, and he bowed straightaway
to the task.
It is mournful to think of men like these having to
take charge of bloody and desolate work, and one can imagine them
say, ‘Oh ! cursed spite, as they accepted responsibility.
XI: Labour and the Insurrection
No person in Ireland seems to have exact information about the Volunteers,
their aims, or their numbers. We know the names of the leaders now.
They were recited to us with the tale of their execution; and with
the declaration of a Republic we learned something of their aim,
but the estimate of their number runs through the figures ten, thirty,
and fifty thousand. The first figure is undoubtedly too slender,
the last excessive, and something between fifteen and twenty thousand
for all Ireland would be a reasonable guess.
Of these, the Citizen Army or Labour side of the Volunteers,
would not number more than one thousand men, and it is with difficulty
such a figure could be arrived at. Yet it is freely argued, and
the theory will grow, that the causes of this latest insurrection
should be sought among the labour problems of Dublin rather than
in any national or [p.94] patriotic sentiment, and this theory is
buttressed by all the agile facts which such a theory would be furnished
It is an interesting view, but in my opinion it is an
That Dublin labour was in the Volunteer movement to
the strength of, perhaps, two hundred men, may be true - it is possible
there were more, but it is unlikely that a greater number, or, as
many, of the Citizen Army marched when the order came. The overwhelming
bulk of Volunteers were actuated by the patriotic ideal which is
the heritage and the burden of almost every Irishman born out of
the Unionist circle, and their connection with labour was much more
manual than mental.
This view of the importance of labour to the Volunteers
is held by two distinct and opposed classes.
Just as there are some who find the explanation of life
in a sexual formula, so there is a class to whom the economic idea
is very dear, and beneath every human activity they will discover
the shock of wages and profit. It is truly there, but it pulls no
more than its [p.95] weight, and in Irish life the part played by
labour has not yet been a weighty one, although on every view it
is an important one. The labour idea in Ireland has not arrived.
It is in process of ‘becoming, and when labour problems are
mentioned in this country a party does not come to the mind, but
two men only - they are Mr. Larkin and James Connolly, and they
are each in their way exceptional and curious men.
There is another class who implicate labour, and they
do so because it enables them to urge that as well as being grasping
and nihilistic, Irish labour is disloyal and treacherous.
The truth is that labour in Ireland has not yet succeeded
in organising anything - not even discontent. It is not self- conscious
to any extent, and, outside of Dublin, it scarcely appears to exist.
The national imagination is not free to deal with any other subject
than that of freedom, and part of the policy of our ‘masters
is to see that we be kept busy with politics instead of social ideas.
From their standpoint the policy is admirable, and up to the present
it has thoroughly succeeded. [p.96] One does not hear from the lips
of the Irish workingman, even in Dublin, any of the affirmations
and rejections which have long since become the commonplaces of
his comrades in other lands. But on the subject of Irish freedom
his views are instantly forthcoming, and his desires are explicit,
and, to a degree, informed. This latter subject they understand
and have fabricated an entire language to express it, but the other
they do not understand nor cherish, and they are not prepared to
die for it.
It is possibly true that before any movement can attain
to really national proportions there must be, as well as the intellectual
ideal which gives it utterance and a frame, a sense of economic
misfortune to give it weight, and when these fuse the combination
may well be irresistible. The organised labour discontent in Ireland,
in Dublin, was not considerable enough to impose its aims or its
colours on the Volunteers, and it is the labour ideal which merges
and disappears in the national one. The reputation of all the leaders
of the insurrection, not excepting Connolly, is that they were intensely
patriotic [p.97] Irishmen, and also, but this time with the exception
of Connolly, that they were not particularly interested in the problems
The great strike of two years ago remained undoubtedly
as a bitter and lasting memory with Dublin labour - perhaps, even,
it was not so much a memory as a hatred. Still, it was not hatred
of England which was evoked at that time, nor can the stress of
their conflict be traced to an English source. It was hatred of
local traders, and, particularly, hatred of the local police, and
the local powers and tribunals, which were arrayed against them.
One can without trouble discover reasons why they should
go on strike again, but by no reasoning can I understand why they
should go into rebellion against England, unless it was that they
were patriots first and trade unionists a very long way afterwards.
I do not believe that this combination of the ideal
and the practical was consummated in the Dublin insurrection, but
I do believe that the first step towards the formation of [p.98]
such a party has now been taken, and that if, years hence, there
should be further trouble in Ireland such trouble will not be so
easily dealt with as this one has been.
It may be that further trouble will not arise, for the
co-operative movement, which growing slowly but steadily in Ireland,
may arrange our economic question, and, incidentally, our national
question also - that is if the English people do not decide that
the latter ought to be settled at once.
James Connolly had his heart in both the national and
the economic camp, but he was great-hearted man, and could afford
to extend his affections where others could only dissipate them.
There can be no doubt that his powers of orderly thinking
were of great service to the Volunteers, for while Mr. Larkin was
the magnetic centre of the Irish labour movement, Connolly was its
brains. He has been sentenced to death for his part in the insurrection,
and for two days now he has been dead.
He had been severely wounded in the fighting, and was
tended, one does not doubt with [p.99] great care, until he regained
enough strength to stand up and be shot down again.
Others are dead also. I was not acquainted with them,
and with Connolly I was not more than acquainted. I had met him
twice many months ago, but other people were present each time,
and he scarcely uttered a word on either of these occasions. I was
told that he was by nature silent. He was a man who can be ill-spared
in Ireland, but labour, throughout the world, may mourn for him
A doctor who attended on him during his last hours says
that Connolly received the sentence of his death quietly. He was
to be shot on the morning following the sentence. This gentleman
said to him:
‘Connolly, when you stand up to be shot, will you say
a prayer for me?
His visitor continued:
‘Will you say a prayer for the men who are shooting
‘I will, said Connolly, ‘and I will say a prayer
for every good man in the world who is doing his duty. [p.100]
He was a steadfast man in all that he undertook. We
may be sure he steadfastly kept that promise. He would pray for
others, who had not time to pray for himself, as he had worked for
others during the years when he might have worked for himself.
XII: The Irish Questions
There is truly an Irish question. There are two Irish questions,
and the most important of them is not that which appears in our
newspapers and in our political propaganda.
The first is international, and can be stated shortly.
It is the desire of Ireland to assume control of her national life.
With this desire the English people have professed to be in accord,
and it is at any rate so thoroughly understood that nothing further
need be made of it in these pages.
The other Irish question is different, and less simply
described. The difficulty about it is that it cannot be approached
until the question of Irelands freedom has by some means been
settled, for this ideal of freedom has captured the imagination
of the race. It rides Ireland like a nightmare, thwarting or preventing
all civilising or cultural work in this country, and it is not too
much to say [p.102] that Ireland cannot even begin to live until
that obsession and fever has come to an end, and her imagination
has been set free to do the work which imagination alone can do
- Imagination is intelligent kindness - we have sore need of it.
The second question might plausibly be called a religious
one. It has been so called, and, for it is less troublesome to accept
an idea than to question it, the statement has been accepted as
truth - but it is untrue, and it is deeply and villainously untrue.
No lie in Irish life has been so persistent and so mischievous as
this one, and no political lie has ever been so ingeniously, and
There is no religious intolerance in Ireland except
that which is political. I am not a member of the Catholic Church,
and am not inclined to be the advocate of a religious system which
my mentality dislikes, but I have never found real intolerance among
my fellow-countrymen of that religion. I have found it among Protestants.
I will limit that statement, too. I have found it among some Protestants.
But outside of the North of Ireland [p.103] there is no religious
question, and in the North it is fundamentally more political than
All thinking is a fining down of ones ideas, and
thus far we have come to the statement of Irelands second
question. It is not Catholic or Nationalist, nor have I said that
it is entirely Protestant and Unionist, but it is on the extreme
wing of this latter party that responsibility must be laid. It is
difficult, even for an Irishman living in Ireland, to come on the
real political fact which underlies Irish Protestant politics, and
which fact has consistently opposed and baffled every attempt made
by either England or Ireland to come to terms. There is such a fact,
and clustered around it is a body of men whose hatred of their country
is persistent and deadly and unexplained.
One may make broad generalisations on the apparent situation
and endeavour to solve it by those. We may say that loyalty to England
is the true centre of their action. I will believe it, but only
to a point. Loyalty to England does not inevitably include this
active hatred, this blindness, this withering [p.104] of all sympathy
for the people among whom one is born, and among whom one has lived
in peace, for they have lived in peace amongst us. We may say that
it is due to the idea of privilege and the desire for power. Again,
I will accept it up to a point - but these are cultural obsessions,
and they cease to act when the breaking-point is reached.
I know of only two mental states which are utterly without
bowels or conscience. These are cowardice and greed. Is it to a
synthesis of these states that this more than mortal enmity may
be traced? What do they fear, and what is it they covet? What can
they redoubt in a country which is practically crimeless, or covet
in a land that is almost as bare as a mutton bone? They have mesmerised
themselves, these men, and have imagined into our quiet air brigands
and thugs and titans, with all the other notabilities of a tale
I do not think that this either will tell the tale,
but I do think there is a story to be told - I imagine an esoteric
wing to the Unionist Party. I imagine that Party includes a secret
organisation - they may be Orangemen, they [p.105] may be Masons,
and, if there be such, I would dearly like to know what the metaphysic
of their position is, and how they square it with any idea of humanity
or social life. Meantime, all this is surmise, and I, as a novelist,
have a notoriously flighty imagination, and am content to leave
it at that.
But this secondary Irish question is not so terrible
as it appears. It is terrible now, it would not be terrible if Ireland
had national independence.
The great protection against a lie is - not to believe
it; and Ireland, in this instance, has that protection. The claims
made by the Unionist Wing do not rely solely on the religious base.
They use all the arguments. It is, according to them, unsafe to
live in Ireland. (Let us leave this insurrection of a week out of
the question.) Life is not safe in Ireland. Property shivers in
terror of daily or nightly appropriation. Other, undefined, but
even more woeful glooms and creeps, wriggle stealthily abroad.
These things are not regarded in Ireland, and, in truth,
they are not meat for Irish consumption. Irish judges are presented
with [p.106] white gloves with a regularity which may even be annoying
to them, and were it not for political trouble they would be unable
to look their salaries in the face. The Irish Bar almost weep in
chorus at the words Land Act, and stare, not dumbly, on destitution.
These tales are meant for England and are sent there. They will
cease to be exported when there is no market for them, and these
men will perhaps end by becoming patriotic and social when they
learn that they do not really command the Big Battalions. But Ireland
has no protection against them while England can be thrilled by
their nonsense, and while she is willing to pound Ireland to a jelly
on their appeal. Her only assistance against them is freedom.
There are certain simplicities upon which all life is
based. A man finds that he is hungry and the knowledge enables him
to go to work for the rest of his life. A man makes the discovery
(it has been a discovery to many) that he is an Irishman, and the
knowledge simplifies all his subsequent political action. There
is this comfort about being an Irishman, you can be entirely Irish,
and [p.107] claim thus to be as complete as a pebble or a star.
But no Irish person can hope to be more than a mulatto Englishman,
and if that be an ambition and an end it is not an heroic one.
But there is an Ulster difficulty, and no amount of
burking it will solve it. It is too generally conceived among Nationalists
that the attitude of Ulster towards Ireland is rooted in ignorance
and bigotry. Allow that both of these bad parts are included in
the Northern outlook, they do not explain the Ulster standpoint;
and nothing can explain the attitude of official Ireland vis-a-vis
What has the Irish Party ever done to allay Northern
prejudice, or bring the discontented section into line with the
rest of Ireland? The answer is pathetically complete. They have
done nothing. Or, if they have done anything, it was only that which
would set every Northerner grinding his teeth in anger. At a time
when Orangeism was dying they raised and marshalled the Hibernians,
and we have the Ulstermans answer to the Hibernians in the
situation by [p.108] which we are confronted to-day. If the Party
had even a little statesmanship among them they would for the past
ten years have marched up and down the North explaining and mollifying
and courting the Black Northerner. But, like good Irishmen, they
could not tear themselves away from England, and they paraded that
country where a parade was not so urgent, and they made orations
there until the merry accent of an Irishman must make an Englishmen
wail for very boredom.
Some of that parade might have gladdened the eyes of
the Belfast citizens; a few of those orations might have assisted
the men of Derry to comprehend that, for the good of our common
land, Home Rule and the unity of a nation was necessary if only
to rid the country of these blatherers.
Let the Party explain why, among their political duties,
they neglected the duty of placating Ulster in their proper persons.
Why, in short, they boycotted Ulster and permitted political and
religious and racial antagonism to grow inside of Ireland unchecked
by any word from them upon that [p.109] ground. Were they afraid
‘nuts would be thrown at them? Whatever they dreaded, they
gave Ulster the widest of wide berths, and wherever else they were
visible and audible, they were silent and unseen in that part of
The Ulster grievance is ostensibly religious; but safeguards
on this count are so easily created and applied that this issue
might almost be left out of account. The real difficulty is economic,
and it is a tangled one. But unless profit and loss are immediately
discernible the soul of man is not easily stirred by an accountants
tale, and therefore the religious banner has been waved for our
kinsfolk of Ulster, and under the sacred emblem they are fighting
for what some people call mammon, but which may be in truth just
plain bread and butter.
Before we can talk of Ireland a nation we must make
her one. A nation, politically speaking, is an aggregation of people
whose interests are identical; and the interests of Ulster with
the rest of Ireland rather than being identical are antagonistic.
It is England orders and pays for the Belfast ships, [p.110] and
it is to Britain or under the goodwill of the British power that
Ulster conducts her huge woollen trade. Economically the rest of
Ireland scarcely exists for Ulster, and whoever insists on regarding
the Northern question from an ideal plane is wasting his own time
and the time of everyone who listens to him The safeguards which
Ulster will demand, should events absolutely force her to it, may
sound political or religious, they will be found essentially economic,
and the root of them all will be a watertight friendship with England,
and anything that smells, however distantly, of hatred for England
will be a true menace to Ulster. We must swallow England if Ulster
is to swallow us, and until that fact becomes apparent to Ireland
the Ulster problem cannot be even confronted, let alone solved.
The words Sinn Fein mean ‘Ourselves, and it is
of ourselves I write in this chapter. More urgent than any political
emancipation is the drawing together of men of good will in the
endeavour to assist their necessitous land. Our eyes must be withdrawn
from the ends of the earth and fixed on that which [p.111]
is around us and which we can touch. No politician will
talk to us of Ireland if by any trick he can avoid the subject.
His tale is still of Westminster and Chimborazo and the Mountains
of the Moon. Irishmen must begin to think for themselves and of
themselves, instead of expending energy on causes too distant to
be assisted or hindered by them. I believe that our human material
is as good as will be found in the world. No better, perhaps, but
not worse. And I believe that all but local politics are unfruitful
and soul-destroying. We have an island that is called little. It
is more than twenty times too spacious for our needs, and we will
not have explored the last of it in our childrens lifetime.
We have more problems to resolve in our towns and cities than many
generations of minds will get tired of striving with. Here is the
world, and all that perplexes or delights the world is here also.
Nothing is lost. Not even brave men. They have been used. From this
day the great adventure opens for Ireland. The Volunteers are dead,
and the call is now for volunteers.