An Oldhamer in Dublin

This blog was researched 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.

Mr J. J. Roberts, an Oldham musician, has received a letter from his son, who is the drummer at the Dublin Theatre Royal, giving his experiences during the revolt:

I went to the GPO to get a postal order, when, lo and behold! I found the windows smashed and all the cavities packed full of mail-bags, with muzzles of rifles peeping out between, so I didn’t bother going in. On Easter Monday I went to see what I thought to be another big row, so common in Ireland. I had just left Sackville Street when I found myself looking down the barrel of a rifle held by a rebel, who ordered me to go back. Thinking the rifle was not loaded I silently proceeded on my journey with the nose of the barrel poking in my back. My indifference saved me, for had I blustered I should have become a target for more than one sniper. After visiting a dentist friend I retraced my steps and once more passed over the ground that had for some time been taken from the British. I revisited Sackville Street, which was then being looted by the mob, while the rebels held the ‘enemy’ at bay. ‘Sinn (pronounced Shin) Fein’ put in modern English means ‘ourselves’. You know what a wreck Sackville Street is. And it was such a fine street in which six trams can stand abreast. The GPO, of which only four walls remain, was a building Dublin people were rightly proud of.

I was going along Merrion Square when there was a report, and a bullet whistled past me: a lovely sound when there is no shelter. Before I reached the end three more whizzed past uncomfortably near. I don’t suppose they tried to hit me but whatever they were aiming at they were nearer to me than their object which struck me as being rotten shooting. A band of rebels made a mad move by ‘taking’ St. Stephen’s Green. The squares, of which this is one, are surrounded by houses. The invaders turned all the people out and then entrenched themselves. The trenches turned out to be the graves of many of the diggers, for all who were killed were buried there. It was child’s play for the military to storm the trenches from advantageous positions, using 600-shots-a minute machine-guns. In going towards Beggar’s Bush Barracks I saw a sight which made my heart bleed. A company of GR’s returning from a route march had been fired at by the rebels, who killed some six of the unsuspecting soldiers. The poor fellow had rifles but no ammunition, so had not a fighting chance: it was murder.

Tyler’s boot shop became a wreck in five minutes when the looters arrived. In fifteen minutes great emporiums, the finest in town, were made a heap of ruins. What could not be purloined was ruthlessly smashed. Women in shawls could be seen trying on patent-leather boots. Goods were taken away in sackloads and set out on some side street. God boots were then offered at from a shilling a pair upwards. I saw boys break into a shop and bring out an overcoat, which they offered for sixpence. Sackville Street seemed to be paved with clothing, hosiery, footwear, sweets, watches, clocks, jewellery, and things too numerous to mention. One redeeming feature was that if the goods had not been removed they would have been destroyed by fire later.
Oldham Chronicle, 19 May 1916

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