April 12, 2015

Dublin in Easter 1916 through the eyes of a Trinity Student

Dorothy Stopford Price, a Church of Ireland Protestant born in Dublin who lived through and recorded Easter 1916
Dorothy Stopford Price was was born in Dublin, on September 9th 1890. She was in Dublin for Easter 1916. Writing from the Under-Secretary’s Lodge in Phoenix Park in Dublin, home of Sir Matthew Nathan (a key figure in the British administration of Ireland), the 26 year old recorded her view of a city in revolt.

The 1901 Census shows the family living in the city suburb of Terenure. Dorothy’s mother died from typhoid fever in 1902 and the family moved to London. Dorothy went to St Paul’s Girls’ School there, and in 1915 returned to Dublin to study medicine at Trinity College. She was from privilege, a firmly middle-class Protestant. She was not a regular diarist, however it seems the tumultuous events of Easter Week impelled her to record what was happening around her.

The entry for Day OneEaster Monday begins with recollections of a calm morning which turned to an afternoon of high drama. The rebellion began at 1130 but it wasn't until after 1300 hours that Dorothy heard the first exchange of fire. You can read about Day OneDay TwoDay ThreeDay FourDay FiveDay Six and Day Seven below.Here is how her record of Day One, Easter Monday began:
"Sir Matthew Nathan said he would have to go down & work at the Castle we asked would he be out by 4, he said he did not know, he would ring up for the car, so it had better not be used as he might be wanting it as he had the day before. Kearney the parlourmaid went to Wexford for the day. Mrs N, walked as far as the VRL with Sir M . Then she & I & the children walked over to Furry Glen & spent the morning sitting there in the sun. We got back at 1'15 to the gate. Just as we were turning in we heard 3 loud booms. All stopped & we conjectured what it was. I guessed the salute to the L.L. who was starting by the 2.30 train for Belfast. We did not pay much attention but walked on up to the Lodge for lunch. 
The Freeman this morning had a few censored remarks about some gun-running in Tralee, in which two prominent local Sinn Feiners were complicated & had been arrested — also a man of foreign nationality also arrested & brought to Dublin under strong escort guard of police. I thought this was the clue to the situation. 
We were sitting at lunch Mrs N , the children & I when a phone came from the VRL, one of the ADCs the maid thought. Mrs N went up to answer it. It was Captain Maitland who said “The Sinn Feiners are out. They have surrounded the Castle & tried to rush it but the police managed to close the gates in time. Sir M is quite safe but they thought all telephone communication was cut off from the Castle. He was anxious about his wife & child at the Chief Secs, so Mrs N . offered for them to come over for the afternoon."
Day TwoEaster Tuesday begins with Dorothy ready to go to work and into town, however Sir Matthew Nathan's wife stopped her. She then talks of the usual gossip and rumour that swirled around the city as James Stephens remembered. Her closing remarks are more interesting:
"The telephone will only attend to Military calls — but we have a line direct through to the Castle, also to the V.R.L. & CSL. so are independent in that way. we are almost in the dark,— have to supplement with candles. awfully firing went on all the afternoon & evening particularly from 2-4, & up to 11. Went to sleep to the sound of the guns. A rather jumpy night, the only one. They have lowered the gas pressure enormously at the works so. Wild rumours of German landings — baseless I think."
The entry for Day Three is a great length, beginning at high pace and recording a city knocked entirely from normality and enveloped in battle:
"Pam roused me at 7.15 this morning, coming into my bed with her 12 animals. Guns were heard all the time. The wind has veered round to the South, so it is all much more distinct. Still no post or papers. After breakfast Mrs N. rang Sir M. he said very little & seemed much occupied. Needed nothing but said we might go into the Park on the North Side but on no account to go down to the town. He said Stephen’s Green had been retaken by the Military — Then they cut off as he had no time for more... 
The servants can do their shopping in Parkgate St, but are not able to get in further to the city. Stopped by an officer. After lunched walked into Castleknock to find out if there were any posts going out. Met a woman in the Park, obviously very nervous she said she had a business in a street just behind the Four Courts & on Sat Mon the Volunteers walked in — She knew the charwoman. No one was there but the char & a Policeman. They walked right in & asked her the way to Judge Kelly Kenny’s room & she told them they could find it themselves —Then they said they gave her half an hour to clear out & she flew. They then took possession well armed with rifles & are there still. They cannot be dislodged. She also said warning had been given & Liberty Hall blown up. Thy They S.Fs had tried to blow up Nelson’s Pillar but the fuse had failed. Also the Powder Magazine But they had lighted the wrong end of the fuse & it had also failed. Went on to Castleknock. "
Day Four of Dorothy's diary paints an intimate portrait of Dorothy with an ear on Officialdom in Dublin. See here for yourself, closing with words that cast an ominous scene:
"Still no post. Soon after breakfast Sir Matthew rang up Mrs N & had a long talk. Birrell arrived last night upon a torpedo boat & is now in the Castle. Things seem rather better. They have decided on their policy, which is that of Sydney St. that they will try to spare life. So far the casualties are not very heavy. It is just a matter now of blowing them out of the buildings, so a great deal of firing will be heard. All seems to be safe in the Park. He got some sleep last night as he was able to go to bed... 
So stay here I must & fiddle while Rome burns. The only thing to do is play with Mrs N’s children. He was more cheerful & at ease this morning. Birrell is to ring up later. There was very little firing this morning — Occasional guns but nothing to what it had been yest. Dublin must be a wreck... 
10.30pm. The Night is very still but there is a tremendous angry red sky, a great blaze on the quays somewhere. A wonderful & awful sight, I have never seen such a blaze. What can it be."
Day Five is a high paced, tense read where Dorothy talk of a Sir Nathan under pressure, food shortages and rebels making many casualties:
"Sir M rang up at about 10 oc. He has got a very bad cold & asked for a suit-case which one of the ADCs is to call for & take down to him. He said would not say what the fire was but it seems to be very serious. The fighting now is all sniping by the S.Fs from windows, a very difficult warfare for the military. The Sherwood Foresters have lost very heavily, mostly just after they arrived. There is a [com tee] being formed today to organise provisons. The military have drawn a cordon round the city & no food can go past that, either out or in. We are outside it & we are to see what we can do. Heaps more troops are arriving from England. It looks very serious. Mrs Bell Irving went away on a Troop ship. Mrs N consulted with Mrs Hall. There is very little in the house. 
No milk or butter to be got, - no meat or eggs. Clements is going down to Chapelizod & on to Lucan this morning to see if he can get anything there. Of course no shops will supply us, I was surprised we had lasted out so long, but apparently the servants had been getting things in a very round about way, via friends of the gardener etc. All The Park gate shops are inside the cordon so we can get nothing from there. I dont mind about us, of course we shall be all right; but I cant imagine what they are doing in Dublin. No shops going & if people dare not go out of doors."
The account of Day Six, the Saturday was the most vivid. This was the day fighting ended. She wrote:
"4pm Sir M. rang up to say the leaders have surrendered unconditionally all over. Sat 29th At 4 pm the two cars left the Lodge, the first was the Viceregal car containing Lady Freddie and her mother and Capt Murray Grahame, and in Sir Matthews, driven by one of the Viceregal chauffeurs, were Mrs Nathan, the two children and myself, with as much luggage as we could cram in. Our chauffeur was disguised to look very ruffianly, a great character who had driven everywhere during the last few days, Flak by name. We drove swiftly out by the Chapelizod gate, and along the Lucan road, a long way beyond the Clondalkin turning. 
Then veered back, and through Clondalkin, and out along the Nass road. When we got to Corkagh gates, I began to doubt the chauffeur of the first car really knowing the way, so I told the A D C I thought we were going too far in the opposite direction, so he told our car to lead and I brought them back and past Belgard, and through Tallaght, and over the bridge, and along Butterfield lane. There we burst a tyre. Both cars stopped, and they got on a new inner tube, and tied a great patch onto the outer one. Then we started again. We came through Rathfarnham, which the ADC thought getting uncomfortably near Dublin, and up past the Hermitage. 
As we went along all seemed much as usual, except that no one was at work, every one was standing at their cottage doors and gossipping, and looking interestedly at anything passing. Round about the Park and Island Bridge there were a number of soldiers and before we got through the closed gates we had each car to show a pass. Otherwise you would not realize that anything out of the common was happening. 
At Hermitage our back tyre went again, this time beyond repair. The other car went on, promising to return and pick us up, and get us down to the boat in time; meanwhile we shed the tyre and went on at snail’s pace on the rim, a jolty ride. We came through to Dundrum. At the cross-roads there we were challenged by a policeman armed with a rifle. We shewed our pass, and he told us that the grey Daimler had gone through shortly before. Then he told us that news had just been telephoned tarough to the barracks that all the rebels had surrendered, and that the Countess M had been taken. We confirmed the first report for him; we came through, and came down into Stillorgan, still dead slow, and down into Monkstown. There the car sat down finally on the cobbles. There was no sign of the grey car, which we concluded had come by another way, and we were very stranded as the boat was due to start within half an hour, it being then 
7.15. I looked out for a side car, when a man in a large open motor stopped and asked if he could give us a lift to the boat as he was going there. They all piled in with their multitudes of small parcels, and went off. I got into the wrecked car to await some further developement. Soon the ADC’s car came back, so I got it to take me over to Foxrock. 
All the approaches to Kingstown were closely guarded by the T. Leicesters, and every second moment we were held up and had to show our pass. The last sentry on the way up o Foxrock said “Hurry, I shall arrest you if you are out after 7.30 .” It was then 7.20, so I dont know how the car ever got home. 
At Altan Grange I found that Charlie had been in Beggars Bush Barracks ever since Monday, the the V. Corps had lost heavily on the march infrom the hills where they had been having a field day, and that Charlie had gone in alone as he had not been up on the hills with them. I heard a lot of news that we had not heard out at the Lodge. The first decent night Ive had for a week, out of the sound of guns."
The Sunday entry was brief and made up of the general and mundane. It recorded a city without gunfire but on high alert:
"Went to Church. The C of I made a formal protest against this infamous rebellion which causes the people of Ireland to blush with shame. Hospital at Kingstown appealed for comforts, jam and drinks, and any necessities of life even... 
Walked over to the Colles after tea. Jack tried to avoid seeing me as he was afraid to hurt my feelings by things he might say, but Olive warned us both in time and he was very nice and we talked of other things. He and Ruth walked in to Rathgar today and found all quiet, I will go tomorrow. He had an English paper, scathing indictment of Birrell, but otherwise said little about Ireland, treating it as a small thing. Great stories of the wreckage in Dublin."
Click on the links to read about Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four, Day Five, Day Six and Day Seven.
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