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The 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin Ireland With James Connolly

L.M.Reid is an Irish writer who has published many history articles online and in magazines.

During the 1916 Easter Rising, James Connolly was the Leader of The Irish Citizen Army.

During the 1916 Easter Rising, James Connolly was the Leader of The Irish Citizen Army.

James Connolly and The Easter Rising

He was the leader of the Irish Citizen Army. He led his men and women during the battle on Easter Monday 1916 in Dublin. When the Irish soldiers were defeated they surrendered to the British. James Connolly and other leaders were executed by firing squad. His body dumped in a mass grave at Arbour Hill Prison yard.

A Hard Life

James Connolly was born in 1868 into poor family of Irish immigrants in Edinburgh, Scotland. In the town of Cowgate where he lived, many of the immigrants spoke Irish.

At fourteen years of age he worked fourteen hours a day at a bakery. He hated it that much that he often wished it would burn down. To escape the poverty he joined the First Battalion of the Kings Liverpool Regiment.


He was transferred to Dublin in October 1885. This is where he met Lillie, his future wife. In 1896 after leaving the army he got a job in Dublin organising the Socialist Club of Dublin.

The Dublin Lockout 1913

In Dublin in 1913 a strike was organised for better working conditions. The employers decided to sack the workers on strike and locked them out of their jobs. A meeting was organised in Sackville Street, now O’Connell Street, but the police charged and men women and children were injured. This is known in Irish history as the 1913 Dublin Lockout.

Irish Citizens Army

James Connolly and James Larkin set up the Irish Citizens Army in response to this violence. They saw the need to protect the people from any other attacks. When James Larkin left for America it was Connolly who took charge. He was also Secretary of the I.T.G.W.U. By 1916 James Connolly had a well trained army of men and women to fight on that Easter Monday.

Patrick Pearse and James Connolly

Patrick Pearse and James Connolly

The 1916 Easter Rising

There were three Irish organisations that came together to fight in The Easter Rising.

  • They were the men of The Irish Volunteers with Patrick Pearse as the leader.
  • The men and women of The Irish Citizen Army with James Connolly as its leader.
  • The women of the Cumann na mBan, the female wing of The Irish Volunteers.

The General Post Office on Sackville Street, now O’Connell Street became the Headquarters during the 1916 Easter Rising. There were other outposts around Dublin that had been captured by the Irish soldiers at the same time as the GPO that day.

At noon on Easter Monday, 24th April 1916, James Connolly led the Irish Citizen Army from Liberty Hall and marched into the General Post Office in Sackville Street, now O'Connell Street. The men set about barricading themselves into the building. They waited for the onslaught of the British troops. James Connolly did not expect to win the battle; they were hopelessly outnumbered by British troops and artillery. Once the GPO was secured James Connolly and Patrick Pearse went out onto the steps

Raising the Tri Colour

A few minutes earlier James Connolly had instructed one of his men to remove the British flag and raise the two Irish flags on the top of the GPO. He stepped back a little to look at them, on the left of the building flew the flag with a green background and the words 'Irish Republic' written across it.

On the right of the building flew the tricolour, the green of the south, the orange of Ulster and the white strip in the middle. He smiled at Winifred Carney and said, ' Isn't it grand.' James Connolly then went over to Patrick Pearse who was waiting to read out the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. It was 12.25 p.m. Winifred Carney had re-entered the building and was in her position at the counter ready for the orders he would soon want typed.

The Fighting in the GPO in Dublin Ireland

Fighting during the week of the 1916 Easter Rising. As the days went on orders and dispatches were coming in and out and James Connolly organised the various outposts from the Headquarters at the GPO. The Irish soldiers were short of guns and ammunition.

Some of the Cumann na mBan women went out and collected the arms from around the City. They hid them under their clothes and delivered them back to the G.P.O. They also got medicine, bandages and food rations. By now it was becoming too dangerous for the dispatch riders to do their job.

Cumann na mBan

Women of the Cumann na mBan deliver dispatches to and from the GPO Headquarters. Christine Caffrey was delivering a dispatch from Michael Mallin and was stopped by the British troops. Up to then the women if they were stopped were only quickly searched, but the British soldiers had finally realised the part the women were playing in the Easter Rising as they innocently cycled around Dublin.

Christine was strip-searched but they found nothing. When she reported back to Stephens Green and the Countess asked her what she'd done with the dispatch she told her she'd eaten it.

Injured During The Battle

On Thursday afternoon James Connolly was in the surrounding streets around the GPO organising his men when he was wounded slightly in the arm. On that same evening he went out again, this time to the Irish Independent offices in Abbey Street. He had brought thirty of his men to the building and told them to secure it.

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As he stood on the footpath watching the last of them go in, he was shot by a sniper in the ankle, shattering the bone. The men who had just left did not see him, so James Connolly crawled back towards the GPO. He was losing a lot of blood and only managed to reach Princess Street before he collapsed.

The men in the GPO saw him and dragged him in. He spent the night in the makeshift hospital upstairs in the GPO. One of the men had to get some morphine and the captured British soldier, who was also a doctor stayed with him all night. James Connolly was in a lot of pain, but on the Friday morning he insisted on being brought back down to the main hall where he could still take part in the Easter Rising. The GPO had been hit by the artillery of the British and was on fire.

Scene in the GPO during the 1916 Easter Rising

Scene in the GPO during the 1916 Easter Rising

The Post Office was on Fire

The GPO is on fire and in danger of exploding. Fifteen year old John McLoughlin was one of the many boys that had spent the earlier part of the week carrying messages and orders to the men around the city from James Connolly and Patrick Pearse in the G.P.O.

John McLoughlin with John Reid and Brian O'Higgins went into the basement of the G.P.O. where the explosives and grenades had been stored. Other Volunteers held candles as they carefully carried them through the passageway under O'Connell Street to a courtyard at the back of the building on the Princess Street side.

Michael O'Rahilly was hosing the area with water to stop the intense heat getting to the explosives. He accidentally hit John McLoughlin, his arms full of explosives with the powerful spray and knocked him down, luckily they did not explode.


The water eventually ran out and Michael O'Rahilly ordered them to leave, as they could not control the fire. The fires in the GPO were getting out of control and it was decided that it was time to evacuate the G.P.O. Desmond Fitzgerald, James Connolly and Patrick Pearse knew that the end was near.

Patrick Pearse called the women into the main hall of the GPO. He gave a speech thanking them for their bravery and patriotism and shook each of them by the hand. He told them that they deserved a foremost place in the nation's history. Then he ordered them to leave. An argument developed with Sean MacDermott disagreeing with Patrick Pearse and Desmond Fitzgerald. He told them that the women should stay if they wanted to.

The women cheered, but Patrick Pearse gave them the order again. Thirty one members of Cumann na mBan, two members of the Irish Citizen Army and one member of Clann na nGaedheal left very reluctantly.

Injured Irish Soldiers

At Jervis Street Hospital a hole in the wall had been made so that the wounded soldiers from the GPO could be brought to the hospital through houses in Henry Street. The nurses at the hospital had hidden this hole with screens.

When the evacuation went ahead the wounded were brought to Jervis Street safely and quickly hidden. When the British troops raided the hospital looking for Irish soldiers none were captured. The badly wounded were hidden in the wards, some in the nuns ward and when the soldiers looked in no arrests were made as the Irish men had been disguised as nuns.

In a women's ward the wounded were heavily disguised, one nurse cut off her plaited hair and attached it to a young man. Others were in the maternity ward. The nurses had already destroyed the Irish soldiers’ uniforms and boots. Those who were able to walk around were also disguised as women workers and they went about cleaning the wards unnoticed by the soldiers.

Women of 1916

The Cumann na mBan women stayed in the waiting room all night and then left for home the following morning. Desmond Fitzgerald, Father Flanagan and Lieutenant Mahoney, a British doctor captured on Tuesday, accompanied the wounded with the remaining women. They held out a Red Cross Flag and the British Troops escorted the group to Jervis Street Hospital.

Once the injured were safely in the hospital Lieutenant Mahoney explained who he was, and was released. Much to everyone's surprise the British troops assumed that Desmond Fitzgerald and Louise Gavan Duffy along with the Cumann na mBan women, which included May Murray and Peggy Downey, were also prisoners so they too were let go.

The End of The Rising

Among the twelve women who stayed in the GPO were Mae Murray, Julie Grennan, Elizabeth O'Farrell and Winifred Carney. Also staying behind at the GPO were Peggy Downey and Louise Gavan Duffy who carried on their duties with the food rations.

By Friday afternoon the GPO was in flames and James Connolly wanted to give the Irish soldiers who were fighting in other garrisons around Dublin encouragement, so he wrote this dispatch.

To Soldiers: 'This is the fifth day of the establishment of the Irish Republic and the flag of our country still floats from the most important buildings in Dublin. …Never had a man or woman a grander cause, never a cause more grandly served.'

The Soldiers Song

A plan was worked out for Michael O'Rahilly to take thirty men and try to capture the building of Williams and Wood on Parnell Street. As they prepared to go one of the men started to sing `The Soldiers Song', and over three hundred of them joined in. It was to become the Irish National Anthem. But Michael O'Rahilly was shot many times as he attempted to lead the men across the road.

After a few more attempts to leave the burning GPO they managed to get across to Moore Street. James Connolly had to be carried over on a make shift stretcher. They stopped at the first house on Moore Street but this became too dangerous because it was too close to the British machine guns at the top of Henry Street.

Michael O'Rahilly lay dying in the street where he fell and all attempts to get to him were met with a burst of British machine guns. Michael O'Rahilly was dead by the next morning


Holes were created in the walls of the other adjoining houses and the leaders were able to pass through them. James Connolly could not go any further than to 16 Moore Street and this became the Headquarters.

Plans were being made with the leaders and James Connolly to attack the position of the British soldiers when three civilians were shot dead by mistake by the British soldiers as they ran out of their burning house in Moore Street. After another meeting with James Connolly, Patrick Pearse and other leaders it was decided that it would be best for them to surrender.

The houses that the Irish Solders were held up in Moore Street were small two bedroom terraced houses. When the 1916 Easter Rising began the families living in them were trapped. The British Soldiers were attacking these houses in order to flush out the Irish soldiers.

Patrick Pearse Surrenders

After Patrick Pearse had surrendered James Connolly was carried up Moore Street by four of his men on a stretcher. Before he left he said goodbye to his son Rory. He told him not to reveal his real name. He also told John McLoughlin not to reveal his rank, that of Commander. He hoped that as both boys were only fifteen they would be let go.

The place were James Connolly was shot in Kilmainham Jail

The place were James Connolly was shot in Kilmainham Jail

Court-Martial at Dublin Castle

He was brought to Dublin Castle. He stayed there at the Red Cross Hospital. A few hours later Major Wheeler came to him and asked him to counter sign the surrender order. Connolly dictated his own order to Major Wheeler, who wrote it under the typed order of Patrick Pearse. James Connolly then signed it. It said:

'I agree to these conditions for the men only under my own command in Moore Street District and for the men in the Stephens Green Command.' James Connolly April 29/16

On May 9, James Connolly was tried by court-martial at Dublin Castle. He had to be propped up in the hospital bed. In part of his statement to the court James Connolly said,

' Believing that the British Government has no right to Ireland, never had any right to Ireland and never can have any right to Ireland.

I personally thank God that I have lived to see the day when thousands of Irish men and boys and hundreds of Irish women and girls were ready to affirm that truth, and attest it with their lives if need be. '

James Connolly and His Family

A few hours before he was due to be executed his wife, Lillie and one of his daughters Nora visited him in the hospital. There were approximately twelve soldiers standing outside the door and one soldier inside the room. James Connolly was so badly wounded that he could barely lift his head and shoulders from the bed. Nora gave an account of what happened.

Connolly said, ' Well Lillie, I suppose you know what this means? '

‘Oh James, it's not that, it's not that. '

He went on to tell her he was to be shot at dawn.

Lillie cried, ' But your beautiful life James, your beautiful life.'

‘Well Lillie, hasn't it been a full life and isn't this a good end.' Connolly consoled her.

The officer in the room then said, ' Five minutes more. Lillie Connolly was so overcome with grief that she nearly collapsed and had to be given a drink of water. Then the soldier said, ' Times up. ' Nora and a nurse had to pull Lillie away from James Connolly's bed. Then Nora ran back and kissed her father. They never saw him again.

The grave of the 14 men who were executed after the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin

The grave of the 14 men who were executed after the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin

He had to be helped on a stretcher into the yard, where he was strapped to a chair. James Connolly was shot dead at dawn on 12th May 1916. His body was dumped in the pit at Arbour Hill and covered in quick lime.

The Aftermath

The Rising lasted seven days until 30 April until the decision was made to surrender. Thousands of men and women who fought in the Easter Rising were transported to England and Wales to prisons and detention camps.

Sixteen men were executed. Fourteen of these men were buried in a Mass grave at Arbour Hill in Dublin. The Irish soldiers who fought during the 1916 Easter Rising failed to free Ireland from British Rule that week. What they did do through their courage and sacrifice was ignite the desire for Irish freedom once again in the heart and soul of the Irish people.

Irish Free State

The Irish War of Independence began in 1919 and ended in January 1923 when Ireland became a Free State. James Connolly was one of the men executed for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising. He and the other thirteen men who lay buried at Arbour Hill Memorial Park are now an important part of Irish history.

They are: Tom Clarke, Joseph Plunkett, Con Colbert, Sean Heuston, Sean McDermott, Thomas MacDonagh, Michael O'Hanrahan, John McBride, Eamonn Ceannt, Michael Mallin, William Pearse, Patrick Pearse and Edward Daly.


  • James Connolly, A Full Life by Donal Nevin
  • James Connolly, 16 Lives by Lorcan Collins
  • Last Words. Piaras F. Mac Lochlainn. 1990
  • A walk through Rebel Dublin 1916. Mick O'Farrell. 1999
  • A Terrible Beauty. Diana Norman. 1987
  • Constance Markievicz. Sean O'Faolain. 1938
  • 1916 Rebellion Handbook. Mourne River Press. 1998
  • 113 Great Irishwomen and Irishmen. Art Byrne & Sean McMahon. 1990
  • The Easter Rebellion. Max Caulfield. 1964
  • The O'Rahilly. Marcus Bourke. 1967
  • Agony at Easter, The 1916 Irish Uprising. Thomas M. Coffey. 1971
  • Ghosts of Kilmainham. Kilmainham Jail Restoration Society. 1991
  • As I was going down Sackville Street. Oliver St John Gogarty. 1980
  • A Terrible Beauty is Born. Ulick O'Connor. 1975
  • Sixteen Roads To Golgotha. Martin Shannon.
  • The Insurrection in Dublin. James Stephens. 1966
  • Kilmainham. Kilmainham Jail Restoration Society. 1982
  • The History of Kilmainham Gaol. Government of Ireland 1995.
  • Markievicz, The Rebel Countess. Moriarty & Sweeney. 1991
  • Countess Markievicz. An Independent Life. Anne Haverty. 1988
  • Dublin 1913, A Divided City. Curriculum Development Unit. 1989
  • Ireland Since The Famine. F S L Lyons. 1973
  • The Easter Rising. Nathaniel Harris. 1987
  • The Easter Rising. Dublin, 1916 The Irish Rebel Against British Rule. Neil Grant. 1973
  • 1916 As History. The Myth of the Blood Sacrifice. C. Desmond Greaves. 1991
  • The Irish Republic. Dorothy Macardle. 1968
  • North Dublin Easter 1916. North Inner City Folklore Project. Souvenir 1992.
  • The Insurrection in Dublin. James Stephens. 1965
  • Revolutionary Woman. Kathleen Clarke. 1878 - 1972 an Autobiography. 1991

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


L M Reid (author) from Ireland on May 11, 2012:

Our Beloved Country of Ireland has been sold out!

The corrupt politicians of FF with Bertie and Brian at the helm conned us all and brought the country to ruin.

Now we have FG and the like telling us to vote Yes in the EU referendum 'OR ELSE!' And the Irish people are falling for it.

James Connolly and the rest of our Irish soldiers must really feel like coming back and giving us all a shake!

irish on May 10, 2012:

what have we learned ? what hav these people died 4?shame on us

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on February 20, 2012:

Gerry thank you for sharing this extra piece of Irish history about Sean McLoughlin and Roddy Connolly.

Gerry Kavanagh on February 20, 2012:

Sean McLoughlin was two months short of his 21st birthday at the time of the Rising. The reason James Connolly told him not to reveal his rank was because he had been by that time given Connolly's command. This was agreed by Clarke, MacDiarmada & Pearse, on Connolly's suggestion. Roddy Connolly had been sent by his father to the house of William O'Brien in Belvedere Place on the Wednesday and it was from there that he was arrested and taken to Richmond Barracks along with William O'Brien. Of all those in the holding cell only MacDiarmada recognised him, but didn't reveal his identity. Roddy had a lifelong passion for chess, which he later recalled he was first introduced to by MacDiarmada in that holding cell when he scratched a chess board out on the floor and used pieces of fruit peel as chess pieces. Sean McLoughlin and Roddy Connolly were good friends and were later members of the Socialist Party of Ireland and later founding members of the Communist Party of Ireland (a possible reason for McLoughlin being air-brushed out of history). Ironically, when DeValera was unvailing the statue to Cuchullainn in the G.P.O. in 1935, to save embarassment he had Roddy released from jail where he was held under arrest without trial. Sean McLoughlin was active in the labour movement in Scotland and England in the 1920's and died in Sheffield in 1960. For further information on both Roddy and Sean, read "Sean McLoughlin: Ireland's Forgotten Revolutionary" and "Roddy Connolly and the Struggle For Socialism", both written by Charlie McGuire and available from the Connolly Bookstore in Essex St. Finally, May McLoughlin, Sean's sister, who was 15 years old, found a pistol in Abbey St, while acting as a courier and returned to the G.P.O. with it. Tom Clarke recognised it as belonging to James Connolly and May duly returned it to him.

L M Reid (author) from Ireland on October 03, 2011:

Anne Condon: Thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment.

I am delighted to hear from someone so closely related to Edith who was part of historical events that shaped the birth of the Free State of Ireland.

anne condon on October 03, 2011:

my grand aunt, Edith o'connell was the nurse who stayed with James Connolly on the night before his execution. I believe she was one of two recipients to receive the red cross in Ireland. She later went on to become the first woman physiotherapist in Ireland. She was a very interesting woman, who incidentally was related to Daniel O'connell via his sister Bridget. The O'connell name came later when Bridgets daughter married I believe a James o'connell. I have a photo of William Cheesman who was part of the family.

david douglass on December 23, 2010:

can anyone send me a clear photo in colour of the irish citizen army uniform ? Ive given up trying to get one of Connolly wearing one, so any colour photo which shows the colour of the uniform. We are trying to reproduce a banner from the 1930's but only have black and white photo's of it. It shows connolly in his uniform.

jandee from Liverpool.U.K on November 21, 2010:

Well done viking !!How refreshing to see and hear the truth for once.. What Women then-----Wonderful !! it was their fight for liberation as well and they all pulled together -Man,Woman,Child,thanks from jandee

billyaustindillon on September 06, 2010:

I have to agree you have done an excellent job humanizing the 1916 Easter Rising

prettydarkhorse from US on September 05, 2010:

Oh he was executed, thanks for the glimpse viking, Great share of history and the man -- and good historical information, Maita

Tony from At the Gemba on September 04, 2010:

Great trip back in time, the videos are great.

Wendy Henderson from Cape Coral on September 03, 2010:

Thank you for the history lesson.

Jaypyramid on September 03, 2010:

Brilliant article Viking, pity they don't teach about the role of the women in schools. I remember learning about Irish History in school and they make is so staid, your article shows the human side of it and make it as if you were there. Thanks for sharing.

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