Saturday 22 October 2016

President Higgins remembers forgotten victims of the Easter Rising - 40 children

Published 05/05/2015 | 12:40

They have been the forgotten victims of the 1916 Rising - and the memory of 40 children who died lay dormant for close to a century.

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Aged between two and 16 - until a few years ago - nobody knew their exact number.

A special remembrance Mass was held in Dublin's St Patrick’s Parish in Ringsend, attended by over 200 people, among them descendants of those children who were killed during the Rising.

They were there to pay their respects, and remember some of the more unlikely victims of one of the seminal events in Irish history.

Forty shimmering candles, each emblazoned with the name of a child who died, formed the centrepiece of the ceremony.

In a poignant moment, and to the haunting strains of 'A Clare Benediction' performed by the RTE children's choir, Cor na nOg, the candles were delicately brought to the altar by children from the nearby St Patrick's boys and girls national school.

Among those remembered were two toddlers who died on Easter Monday morning.

John Francis Foster was shot through the head as he slept in his pram during a firefight between rebels and British soldiers at North King Street.

Christina Caffrey died from a bullet wound, outside her home in Corporation Buildings on Foley Street,  in the north inner city.

And there is also the remarkable story of 16-year-old Neville Fryday, who was not fighting in the Rising, but who was killed while wearing a British Army uniform on Easter Monday morning.

Born in Co Tipperary, he had left Ireland at the age of five or six and enlisted in the Canadian armed forces, having lied about his age.

His family say he was home on leave at the time, possibly to visit his mother, who lived in Shankill on Dublin's southside.

However he was shot by a sniper outside Trinity College on Easter Monday - he died one week later and is buried in Mount Jerome cemetery.

President Michael D Higgins, who attended the commemorative mass, said these "forgotten victims of 1916" shared more than youth.

"Many of them shared a working class background. Most of them lived in inner city tenement buildings, many of them sharing such accommodation with several other families, in some of the worst housing conditions in Europe," he told the packed congregation.

"It is perhaps for this reason that they, and their parents, and their class have remained obscure in stories of the Easter Rising.

"The tragedy of the loss of a child is twofold: it is the gravest of all possible hurts to those who love the child, and it is also the quenching of possibilities,  before they have the chance to blossom.

"Engaging with the past is rarely a simple or easy process. It can involve a complex negotiation of the memories, hurts, legacies and emotions of all those affected by events," he added.

The attendance also included Lord Mayor of Dublin, Christy Burke, Communications Minister Alex White, Minister for Children, James Reilly, and RTE broadcaster Joe Duffy, who will recall the heartbreak and sadness of their deaths in a new book, expected to be published this year.

The ecumenical service will be broadcast this Sunday on RTE1 television, and on RTE Radio 1 Extra, at 11.45am.

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