Easter Rising Events: April 26th, 1916
Liberty Hall Shelled
As soon as it was light enough, the Helga moved up the Liffey and moored just opposite the Customs House. At the stroke of eight o'clock it opened up its guns on Liberty Hall. Although the first shell missed, hitting the cast iron loopline bridge the second and subsequent shells destroyed the building. The only occupant, the caretaker, Peter Ennis, ran a gauntlet of machine gun fire to escape. Liberty Hall was NOT , as they thought, a rebel stronghold. It was, in fact, empty. The green flag on top was simply an act of defiance. In the GPO, although the use of artillery must have come as a shock to James Connolly, who, in his one act of naivety over the whole of their plans, thought the British would not respond with artillery that would destroy buildings, he considered it as proof that the British were beaten and had to resort to such desperate measures. It took some twisting of facts though, to make artillery shelling a positive sign.
At Portobello Barracks, Captain Bowen-Colthurst took three prisoners, Francis Sheehy Skeffington, and two journalists, Thomas Dickson, and a Patrick MacIntyre from Scotland, out into the yard and ordered a hastily arranged firing squad to shoot them. The medical report later showed that Skeffington was shot in the back. At first, Colthurst tried to cover things up by saying that the prisoners had tried to escape, but this was quickly proved to be a lie. He was later relieved of command and court-martialled, but a plea of insanity got him 'off the hook.'
At the Mendicity Institute, Sean Heuston and his men were counting bullets while the British raked them with machine guns and tosses grenades at them. They were cut off from their base at the four courts with little hope of help and two badly injured men among them. Reluctantly, Sean Heuston took the decision that would save the lives of his small group, and another small rebel outpost surrendered. Ironically, after the surrender as the group was being lined up and verbally abused by the soldiers, a sniper killed one of them. Whether it was an Irish Volunteer who made a mistake or a British soldier is unclear. If the first, then it was a tragic accident, if the second, one more outrage since firing on men who had surrendered under a flag of truce is quite unacceptable.
The third battallion had the worst day of all. And at the same time the most successful. They were charged with the task of holding the roads into the city from the East. Three outposts facing the strategic Mount Street bridge were very poorly manned by all standards of military practice. Clanwilliam House had just seven young volunteers in it, George Reynolds in command and Patrick Doyle, Richard Murphy, Tom and Jim Walsh and James Doyle and Willie Ronan. 25 Northumberland Road had just two snipers, Michael Malone and James Grace, and the Parochial Hall had four men in it, Paddy Doyle in command and Joe Clarke, Bill Christian and Pat McGrath. For a full day these thirteen men kept the 2,000 strong 178th Midland Division relief draft under Colonel Maconchy and 800 men of the Sherwood Foresters under Colonel Fane pinned down on the bridge, inflicting huge and terrible casualties on them. If there was a comparison with The Alamo in 1916, it was not the Surrender at Moore Street, but the 'battle of Mount Street Bridge.' Of course, they could not hold out forever. But they probably bought the Irish Republic a few more days than it would have had. In Northumberland road, Malone died in a hail of bullets when the soldiers finally blew in the door and rushed the house. The men at the Parochial Hall escaped with their lives but were captured. Meanwhile at Clanwilliam House, they kept going until near sunset, when the soldiers managed to get close enough to set fire to the house with grenades. Against fire and machine-guns and with less than 10 rounds left the rebels fought to the last. Three of them were killed and their bodies incinerated in the burning building as the four last men finally surrendered. Colonel Maconchy led his troops across the bridge on horseback, eye-witness reports saying that he had a look of a victor. But over two hundred and thirty dead and wounded men were a high enough price to pay for such a victory.
The first real battle on Sackville street saw 'Kelly's Fort' the outpost at the corner of Bachelor's Walk in Kelly's Fishing Tackle store reduced to a shell. Machine guns had raked it all day before an 18 pounder based at Trinity College joined in. About 2.30 in the afternoon the building caught fire, but the rebels retreated unhurt back through tunnelled out adjoining buildings to the GPO Headquarters.
The day was one of retreats and setbacks, but at the same time, the rebels proved that, if they had more weapons, more men, things would not have been so hopeless after all. The defence of Mount Street Bridge showed that the taking over of strategic buildings giving advantage over approaching troops worked. The 'what ifs' were never so evident as the Wednesday of Easter Week.
Casualties on Wednesday, April 26th were:-
George Reynolds, Richard Murphy, Patrick Doyle at Clanwilliam House, Michael Malone in 25 Northumberland House and John Costello in the street fighting in the Mount Street Area.
Peadar Macken fell at Boland's Mills.
George Geoghegan near Dublin Castle
Peter Wilson, shot after the surrender of the Mendicity Institute
Richard O'Carroll, shot and wounded in St. Stephen's Green, died on May 5th of his wounds.