Business Farming

Saturday 1 October 2016

The long road home from the RDS in 1916

Nicholas Taylor was a farm manager from the Woodstock Estate in Kilkenny charged with bringing a bull to the Dublin Spring Show at Easter 1916. His diary, recently rediscovered by his great-grand daughter Deborah Lee Byrne, provides a vivid first-hand account of the Rising and its aftermath.

Published 30/03/2016 | 02:30

Nicholas Taylor, a farm manager from the Woodstock Estate in Kilkenny.
Nicholas Taylor, a farm manager from the Woodstock Estate in Kilkenny.
A page from Nicholas Taylor's diary which detailed his adventures in the capital and beyond during Easter 1916.

"We headed to Stephen's Green gardens where a company of Sinn Feiners were entrenched, with Markievicz as officer. They were surrendering, leaving their guns against railings. There were a company of military in a college overlooking the gardens.

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We came to Butt Bridge but there were Shinners there and they would not let us pass. We went lower down [the Liffey] and we were put across in a boat. There we met a man who was going home to North Circular road and he said he would take us a short way there.

When we got to the back of Amiens Street [Connolly] Station the military were pouring out the gates to surround Dublin and would not let us pass.

We went along another street, up from the quay, and past some slums on to the [North] Circular road. It was surrounded by military who had arrived from England. We went to Drumcondra Bridge, but an Officer there would not let us pass.

I asked for the OC, and he told me I would see him with other officers on the street, and gave me a description of him. I showed him my [RDS] show papers he said he was sorry he could not let us pass. But they were to give permits the following morning at Dublin Castle.

We then tried to get into some hotel but could not. They all said they were full up. So we did not know what to do. When I saw a neighbour of mine, who was at business in the city, coming up the street. He said he was going home to Kilkenny. I made the remark that the city was surrounded he said he knew an archway under the road. I told him we could not get into any hotel. He mentioned one hotel and told me to mention his name. We were after calling at this place earlier and they said they were full up.

When we called again a girl put her head out and said the landlady was over at the hospital seeing the wounded. We waited. When I gave my friend's name she took us in. There were only three people in the house: an old Sea Captain; a lady teacher; and an electrician from Belfast.

The landlady said she had no food in the house and the Captain suggested that we go out in the morning and get some. So the next morning we took four sacks and went down the street. A large shop was looted - even the counter. We saw youngsters without a sack with fur coats dragging after them, and others with bundles of silk stockings and rolls of tweed. They asked us to buy them, one shilling a bundle, and when we refused they pelted the bundle at us. It was a frightful sight. I saw a priest coming out of a chapel and he beseeched them to stop, but they paid no attention to him.

We went further on and I saw a man put his head out of a shop door and close it again quick. I ran over and asked him to sell us some food. He claimed if he opened the door that he would be looted. I told him we would keep a look out and tell him when to open door. He opened the door and let us in. We purchased a side of bacon, tea, sugar, butter and eight stones of potatoes. We got back safe to our hotel. She then said she had very little bread. A butcher came in, he had stables at the back of hotel, and said he knew the manager of a large bakery up the street. We went there and he got a sack of bread. So we were well supplied.

We saw from hotel windows Clerys large shop in O'Connell Street burned. We saw a number of people running around on the top of houses when underneath was a mass of flames, and also a number of soldiers and others shot on the streets. It was a frightful sight.

We got through the military cordon on a permit, which the butcher got to go to the abattoir for meat. He drove us to Gavin Lows yard where our bulls were. He told us he would be a half hour and would pick us up when he was coming back.

But there were a row of barrels across this street and the Sergeant would not let us down to the yard without a permit. He said the OC would be around in a short time and we could get permission from him. He did not come for nearly half an hour and it was nearly an hour later by the time we got arrangements made about the bulls. So when we came out the butcher was gone and we were outside the cordon and could not get in.

We decided to walk to Naas, where the nearest train was, to continue the 100 mile journey home.

We started at 3.30pm to walk 30 miles to Naas. When we came to Lucan it was very dark and we turned onto the wrong road. We walked six miles and came to a cottage, and I rapped at the door. A man put his head out of the window. When I asked him if we were on the right road to Naas, he told me we are six miles wrong. We had to walk back to Lucan, but the man who was with me had bad feet and walked in his socks. We arrived at Naas at 8am. I rapped at the hotel and the owner, who was drunk, came to door.

I asked him if we could have breakfast he said he had no food in the hotel as no supplies came since last Saturday.

The post office was connected with the hotel. I went in to send a wire home and told the young lady there how we were situated. She said there was flour, bacon and eggs in the hotel and if we could wait she would get us breakfast. Our train was not going till 10.30am, so we had plenty of time.

When I arrived in Kilkenny, I found that the train went no further. I was 14 miles from home. I got a bicycle from a friend and rode home but everyone I met I had to take tea and tell them all about Dublin. One man's brother was at the show with his young son. He asked me to go to his brother's house where his wife was in a terrible way about them. So I allayed her fears, and told her they were lying in the stalls with bulls. I got home late that night on Saturday.

On Monday I went back to show, sold the bull, and found the city quiet."

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