Local Trooper’s Dublin Experiences

This blog was written by Roger Ivens from Oldham Local Studies and Archives, and is about the Dublin Rising which took place between the 24th and 29th April 1916.

In May 1914 Parliament passed a Home Rule Bill for Ireland, as a consequence of which Ireland was to have some form of self-government despite remaining part of the United Kingdom. Unfortunately due to the outbreak of the First World War implementation of the Bill was subsequently suspended. For some, however, home rule did not go far enough, and a revolutionary movement, the Irish Republican Brotherhood began planning what would become the Easter Rising.

The Rising, which broke out on 24 April 1916, was meant to take place across Ireland, but for various reasons took place mainly in Dublin. To the disappointment of the rebels the public did not support their cause, martial law was declared and within a week the rising had been crushed. Over 450 people were killed, 2,500 injured, and  much of Dublin city centre was destroyed.

Fifteen leaders of the rising were later executed by firing squad and 3,000 people were arrested of whom 1,800 were imprisoned without trial in England. This heavy-handed response by the British Government resulted in the growth of public support for the rebels and ultimately the movement for Irish independence.

After the rising began on Easter Monday the first troops to be used were those based in Dublin itself. The during the late afternoon and evening troops were moved from the largest military base in Ireland, Curragh Camp, by way of Kingsbridge Station. Among the troops despatched from the Curragh was Trooper Joel Taylor of the Duke of Lancaster’s Own Yeomanry, son of Councillor W. C. Taylor, of Shaw, near Oldham:

‘Since I received your last letter many things have happened in this most ‘distressing country.’…We were in Dublin not many hours after the first shot was fired, and we only came back on Tuesday. This letter will be censored, so I can tell you little of my eight days’ active service at present. At the moment I am standing to for a bit of special business. It has been devilish hot in Dublin I can tell you, and in one or two other places I have been out escorting ammunition and rations, and have heard and felt the bullets whizzing overhead though I was too excited to think of anything. Once when escorting ammunition – the stuff was loaded in cases on petrol lurries and we were on the top – I scarcely shifted the butt of my rifle from my shoulder for about 15 miles. We lay on our bellies, sprawled across the cases and we went like Hades. It would do you good to see these fellows drive. Another time the place where I was stationed was pestered with snipers one afternoon, the rebels shooting from the roofs and houses around.  You couldn’t tell where they were coming from. Bullets were flying around in fine style. Anyhow, a corporal in the lancers and myself were put in an offices at the top of a building. We had a window each. You should have seen my barricade! I put the window up about a foot, lifted a bucketful of coal on to the window sill and grabbed about six ledgers and then blazed away between them. We were being fired at from the roof and attic of a house about 300 yards away, and it was awkward to shift them. They had bombs made out of salmon tins and all kinds. Anyhow, the artillery dropped a shell through the roof and settled matters. I got plenty of guards and through the night it was a sight to see the great buildings burning. All the while the pop-pop-pop of the maxims and rifle and bombs going, and occasionally the artillery, but I had to keep my eyes skinned for snipers, as they seemed to be everywhere. I spent two nights on a fire engine. The last night I spent in Dublin I dined under the table in the Council Chamber of the Castle. The worst of it was we often got the wind up and had to turn out expecting attack. The only casualty in our lot was an officer shot in the ankle. We were most fortunate – ‘the lucky Duke’s.’ All the while we were there the weather was ideal. You would smile if you saw some of the rebels’ weapons – every description of rifle. They fired dum-dums. They had also got a lot of our rifles from somewhere. They emptied the pellets out of the ordinary 12 bore-cartridges and out bits of lead in their place and fired these and they had bayonets made out of old swords…’

Oldham Chronicle, 11 May 1916

British cavalry troops near the Four Courts in the days after Easter Week. (Image: Dublin Rebellion and Aftermath, Manchester Guardian History of War 1916. Full collection available at the National Library of Ireland)
British cavalry troops near the Four Courts in the days after Easter Week. (Image: Dublin Rebellion and Aftermath, Manchester Guardian History of War 1916. Full collection available at the National Library of Ireland)

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