North Wales Western Front Association

Aftermath

Tuesday 2nd May

  • County Cork – shooting of Chief Constable Rowe when the police went to arrest Thomas and William Kent.  Nobody knows who fired the fatal shots, and indeed the whole matter seems to be have been botched by both sides.  However, Thomas Kent was blamed and was court-martialled.
  • Dublin – the secret trial of Patrick Pearse, Tom Clarke, Thomas MacDonagh in Richmond Barracks, Dublin. 
  • The rebels were charged with:

did an act to wit did take part in an armed rebellion and in the waging of war against His Majesty the King, such act being of such a nature as to be calculated to be prejudicial to the Defence of the Realm and being done with the intention and for the purpose of assisting the enemy”. 

 However, it seems highly dubious that the final phrase of the charge “with the intention and for the purpose of assisting the enemy” applied at all, or indeed could have been validly proved.

Wednesday 3rd May

  • Augustine Birrell resigned as Chief Secretary for Ireland
  • Mathew Nathan resigned as Under Secretary
  • The secret executions of Patrick Pearse, Tom Clarke, and Thomas MacDonagh at Kilmainham Jail in Dublin.  Clarke was shot even though he was undoubtedly a US citizen by naturalisation (and is so recorded in US State Department archives).  The Irish poet Francis Ledwidge wrote a lament to his friend Thomas MacDonagh that starts “He shall not hear the bittern cry”.  Ledwidge was killed in action 31st July 1917 in the Ypres sector and is buried at Artillery Wood CWGC cemetery.
  • Grace Gifford married Joseph Plunkett in Kilmainham jail, under oppressive army supervision.
  • Shops had reopened in Dublin.
  • The trams were running.
  • The police were back on patrol in Dublin.

Thursday 4th May

  • Ned Daly, Willie Pearse, Michael O’Hanrahan and Joseph Plunkett secretly shot.
  • 36 court martials held that day alone

These were the 15-minute trials.  Prisoners were tried in groups of four, and each session lasted no more than one hour.  There were no defence counsel.  William Wylie acted as the prosecutor in the trials and was acknowledged to have done his best to be fair. Much of the evidence came from army officers who had been held prisoner by the rebels or who had been present at the surrender of the various positions in Dublin.  The rebels were charged with “taking part in an armed rebellion”.  Some, like Michael Mallin, were also charged with “causing disaffection among the civilian population”, and in Mallin’s case he was, unbelievably, acquitted of this latter lesser charge but found guilty of the more serious charge of taking part in an armed rebellion.

The situation has been referred to as “blood seeping under a door”. Machiavelli counselled that bad news should be broken at once, not bit by bit, but that was indeed the effect of the steady stream of executions.

Friday 5th May

  • John MacBride shot at Kilmainham

His estranged wife, the upper class English Maud Gonne, returned to Dublin later and refered to herself thereafter as the “widow MacBride”.

Monday 8th May

  • Sean Heuston, Michael Malin, Eamonn Ceannt and Con Colbert were shot
  • Thomas Kent was shot in Cork detention barracks(reburied September 2015)

Kent was the only Irish Volunteer shot outside Dublin (plus Casement who was hung in London, which totals 16 men).  He was reburied in the family plot in Cork in 2015, 99 years after he was shot.

Wednesday 10th May

  • Commission of Enquiry was set up to examine events surrounding the Rising.

This, however, did not stop the executions.

Friday 12th May

  • Sean MacDermott and James Connolly shot.

Connolly was suffering from gangrene in his leg wound and would probably have been dead in a few days because of that.  He could not walk or stand and was brought from his hospital bed to be shot sitting in a chair.

  • Herbert Asquith arrived in Dublin

His arrival stopped the executions, and so saved De Valera.  But Asquith could easily have halted the executions earlier, or indeed forbidden them completely.  Was he ducking the issue of a political settlement?

 Immediate aftermath of the Rising

  • 1,800 men arbitrarily arrested: there were no trials

People were arbitrarily seized by the army and police, held in custody and then put on ships to England.  There is a story of a corporation gas fitter being seized whilst he was out inspecting the damage to gas mains, but this may be entirely apocryphal!

  • Resentment grows especially over the executions of Willie Pearse and James Connolly, and the oppressive treatment of Grace Gifford and Joseph Plunkett.

Willie Pearse was in awe of his elder brother and in reality merely acted as a messenger and factotum for Patrick.  He was in no sense a “leader” of the Rising, and it seems he was executed merely because he was Patrick’s brother.  Allied to this was the British authorities refusal to release the bodies of any of the 14 executed rebels to their families, which was a double snub to the Pearse family, as obviously they had two executions in the family.

James Connolly would have died of gangrene within days, and his execution seemed inhumane even by the standards then prevailing.

The harsh manner in which Grace Gifford and Oliver Plunkett were treated in regard to their wedding in that they were never given the chance to have a private conversation and say their goodbyes in private was also a cause celebre.

  • Detainees were sent initially to Knutsford, Wakefield, Glasgow, Stafford, Reading and Wandsworth prisons
  • 11th June – first internees were sent to the camp at Frongoch, near Bala in North Wales.  However, 25% had nothing to do with the Rising!
  • Frongoch became a “university of revolution” under Michael Collins

The Frongoch detainees were reviewed by British tribunals in London and those thought to be no great threat were released.  In the end, all the Frongoch detainees were released by Christmas 1916 as a goodwill gesture by the British authorities.

  • De Valera remained in jail (but later escaped and fled to the US to raise money and awareness of the rebels cause). He was never at Frongoch,
  • August 1916: Sir Roger Casement was hung for treason in London. 

A key issue in whether he should receive the death penalty was the disputed existence of a “black diary” allegedly detailing his homosexual encounters.  It does seem rather rich for a group of English ex-public school boys of that era, the government, to criticise someone for homosexual behaviour, never mind use it as a factor in deciding his execution.

  • The 14 men executed in Dublin were not returned to their families as General Maxwell did not want to create shrines to the executed rebels.  Instead, they were interred in a grave in Arbour Hill prison in central Dublin, but which is now part of the old cemetery.  The sergeant in charge carefully recorded who was buried where in the mass grave.  This is, in effect, the national shrine that Maxwell was apparently trying to avoid but which in fact he created by his thoughtlessness.  For the record, Thomas Kent is now buried in a family plot in Cork and Sir Roger Casement was repatriated by the UK in 1966 on the 50th anniversary and is now buried in Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin.

The next section is here