From a clear blue sky the sun burned down on the lone figure of a man, lying outstretched on O’Connell Bridge. Beyond him, flames licked the sky from almost every building on Dublin’s grand continental boulevard, Sackville Street. The quays too, were ablaze and the smoke thick, rubble strewn streets were deserted. Yet, everywhere there was a presence - snipers, tensely poised upon the roofs and in the shadows, soldiers hunkered down behind makeshift barricades and shawl shrouded women trembling in doorways, braving the gunfire for a loaf of bread.
It was Thursday, April 27th, 1916. Three days earlier, Easter Monday, April 24th, at around midday, Padraig Pearse, James Plunkett and James Connolly walked unnoticed from Liberty Hall to the G.P.O. There, Pearse read the Proclamation of Independence to bemused and even bewildered passersby. Young volunteers for the cause scurried around attaching copies to walls and doorways. The rebels entered the building and The Rising had begun. Within the hour, dark red pools stained Sackville Street and men and horses lay dying and injured. The cavalry were in noisy retreat, the rebel guns aimed at their backs. The first skirmish had been won and the street fell quiet.
Tuesday brought looters, creeping stealthily across the bridge and along the quays, reaching through the shattered windows and taking what insurance they could against an uncertain future. The populace, wearied by endless poverty and wartime shortages knew little of politics and a lot about hunger. By Wednesday the gunship, Helga, pounded her demand for submission from the Liffey. Sniper fire trailed from the roofs of Trinity College and Tara Street fire station and the big guns trained their sights over O’Connell bridge at the rebels on Sackville Street. Thursday brought relentless fighting. The order for evacuation rang out on Friday and the rebels retreated from the burning G.P.O. to the back streets. On Saturday, they surrendered, their hot rebel tempers chilled by the sight of innocents gunned down in cold blood.
More stories about O’Connell Bridge
The War of Independence (1919 - 1921)
by Annette Black, Wicklow — 02nd September 2013