The Catholic Press 26th October, 1916, p 19 (abridged)
Here is Moira Regan’s story. It is more than the narrative of an eye-witness – it is the narrative of a friend of and fellow worker with Plunkett and Pearse and MacDonagh – of one who shared with them the hopes, ambitions, perils and pains of their brief but great adventure.
At 6 o’clock on the evening of Easter Monday I went down O’Connell Street to the Post Office. But that was not my real entrance into the affairs of the uprising. You see, I belonged to an organisation called Cumann na Mban – the Council of Women. We had been mobilised at noon on Monday near the Broad Stone Station, being told that we’d be needed for bandaging and other Red Cross work.
But late in the afternoon we got word from the commandant that we might disperse, since there would not be any street fighting that day, and so our services would not be needed. The place where we were mobilised is three or four blocks from the Post Office, and we could hear the shooting clearly. There were various rumours about – we were told that the Castle had been taken, and Stephen’s Green and other points of vantage. And at last, as I said, we were told that there would be no street fighting and that we were to go away from the Broad Stone Station and do what good we could.
When I got to the Post Office that evening I found that the windows were barricaded with bags of sand, and at each of them were two men with rifles. The front office had been made the headquarters of the staff, and there I saw James Connolly, who was in charge of the Dublin division; Padraic Pearse, Willie Pease, O’Rahilly, Plunkett, Shane MacDiarmid, Tom Clarke, and others sitting at tables writing out orders and receiving messages. On my way to the Post Office I met a friend of mine who was carrying a message. He asked me had I been inside, and when I told him I had not, he got James Connolly to let me in.
I didn’t stay at the Post Office then, but made arrangements to return later. From the Post Office I went to Stephen’s Green. The Republican army held the square. The men were busy making barricades and commandeering motor cars. They got a good many cars from British officers coming in from the Fairy House races. The Republican army had taken possession of a great many of the public houses. This fact was made much of by the English, who broadcast the report that the rebels had taken possession of all the drinking places in Dublin and were lying about the streets dead drunk. As a matter of fact, the rebels did no drinking at all. They took possession of the public houses because in Dublin these usually are large buildings in commanding positions at the corners of the streets. Therefore the public houses were places of strategic importance, especially desirable as forts.
That night there was not much sleeping done at our house or at any other house in Dublin, I suppose. All night long we could hear the rifles cracking – scattered shots for the most part, and now and then a regular fusilade.
On Tuesday I went again to the Post Office to find out where certain people, including my brother, should go in order to join up with the Republican forces. I found things quiet at headquarters, little going on except the regular executive work. Tuesday afternoon my brother took up his position in the Post Office, and my sister and I went there too, and were set at work in the kitchen. There we found about ten English soldiers at work – that is, they wore the English uniform, but they were Irishmen. They did not seem at all sorry that they had been captured, and peeled potatoes and washed dishes uncomplainingly. The officers were imprisoned in another room.
The rebels had captured many important buildings. They had possession of several big houses on O’Connell street, near the Post Office. They had taken the Imperial Hotel, which belongs to Murphy, Dublin’s great capitalised, and had turned it into a hospital. We found the kitchen well supplied with food. We made big sandwiches of beef and cheese, and portioned out milk and beef tea. There were enough provisions to last for three weeks. About fifteen girls were at work in the kitchen. Some of them were members of the Cumann na mBan, and others were relatives or friends of the Republican army which James Connolly commanded. Some of the girls were not more than 16 years old.
We worked nearly all Tuesday night, getting perhaps, an hour’s sleep on mattresses on the floor. The men were shooting from the windows of the Post Office and the soldiers were shooting at us, but not one of our men were injured. We expected that the Inniskillings would move on Dublin from the north, but no attack was made that night.
On Wednesday I was sent out on an errand to the north side of the city. O’Rahilly was in charge of the prisoners, and he was very eager that the letters of the prisoners should be taken to their families. He gave me the letter of one of the English officers to take to his wife, who lived out beyond Drumcondra. It was a good long walk and I can tell you that I blessed that English officer and his wife before I delivered that letter! As I went on my way I noticed a great crowd of English soldiers marching down on the Post Office from the north. The first of them were only two blocks away from the Post Office, and the soldiers extended as far north as we went – that is – as far as Drumcondra. But nobody interfered with us – all those days the people walked freely around the streets of Dublin without being interfered with.
As we walked back we saw that the British troops were setting up machine guns near the Post Office. We heard the cracking of rifles and other sounds, which indicated that a real seige was beginning. At Henry Street, near the Post Office, we were warned not to cross over, because a gunboat on the river was shelling Kelly’s house – a big place at the corner of the quay. So we turned back, and stayed the night with friends on the north side of the town. Our home was on the south side.
There was heavy firing all night. The firing was especially severe at the Four Courts and down near Ring’s End and Fairview. The streets were crowded with British soldiers; a whole division landed from Kingstown. That was on Wednesday night. On Thursday we thought we’d have another try at the Post Office. By devious ways we succeeded, after a long time, in reaching it and getting in. We found the men in splendid form and everything seemed to be going well. But the rebels were already hopelessly outnumbered. The Sherwood Foresters had begun to arrive Tuesday night, and on Wednesday and Thursday other regiments came to reinforce them. Now, a division in the British army consists of 25,000 men, so you can see that the British were taking the rising seriously enough.
The British soldiers brought with them all their equipment as if they were prepared for a long war. They had field guns and field kitchens, and everything else. Most of them came in by Boland’s Mills, where de Valera was in command. They suffered several reverses, and many of them were shot down. The chief aim of the British was, first of all, to cut off the Post Office. So on Thursday messengers came to Pearse and Connolly, reporting that the machine guns and other equipment were being trained on the Post Office. But the men were quite ready for this, and were exceedingly cheerful. Indeed, the Post Office was the one place in Dublin that week where no one could help feeling cheerful. I didn’t stay there long on Thursday morning, as I was sent out to take some messages to the south side. I had my own trouble getting through the ranks of soldiers surrounding the Post Office and when I eventually delivered my messages I could not get back. The Post Office was now completely cut off.
Thursday evening, Friday and Saturday I heard many wild rumours, one insistent report being that the Post Office was burned down. As a matter of fact, the Post Office was set on fire on Friday morning by means of an incendiary bomb which landed on top of the door. All the other houses held by the rebels had been burned to the ground, and the people who had been in them had gone to the Post Office, where there were now at least 400 men.
The Post Office burned all day Friday and late in the afternoon it was decided that it must be abandoned. First, Father Flanagan, who had been there all the time, and the girls and a British Officer, a surgeon lieutenant, who had been doing Red Cross work – were sent to Jervis Street Hospital through an underground passage. Then all the able-bodied men and James Connolly (who had broken his shin) tried to force their way out of the Post Office, to get to the Four Courts, where the rebels were still holding out. They made three charges. In the first charge O’Rahilly was killed. In the second, many of the men were wounded. In the third the rebels succeeded in reaching a house in Moor-lane, back of the Post Office. There they stayed all night. They had only a little food and their ammunition was almost exhausted. So on Saturday they saw that further resistance was useless, and that they ought to surrender, in order to prevent further slaughter.
There were three girls with the men. They had chosen to attend Commandant Connolly when the other girls were sent away. One was now sent out with a white flag to parley with the British officers. At first she received nothing but insults, but eventually she was taken to Tom Clarke’s shop, where the Brigadier-General was stationed. Tom Clarke was a great rebel leader, one of the headquarters staff, so it was one of the ironies of fate that the general conducted his negotiations for the surrender of the rebels in his shop.
Well the Brigadier General told this girl to bring Padraic Pearse to him. Pearse came to him in Clarke’s shop and surrendered. Pearse made the remark that he did not suppose it would be necessary for all his men to come and surrender. He called Miss Farrell, the girl who had been sent to the general, and asked her would she take his message to his men. She said she would and so she took the note that he gave her to the rebel soldiers that were left alive, and they laid down their arms. Notice was sent around that a truce had been arranged. Miss Farrell was sent around in a motor car with Pearse’s note.