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Tuesday 27 September 2016

Step into history as 1915 Dublin comes to life on Easter Monday

David Kearns

Published 06/04/2015 | 15:14

100,000 people turned out on the streets of Dublin today to take a step back in time and experience everyday life in the capital 100 years ago.

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The main artery of the city, O’Connell Street has become a history lesson brought to life as hundred of volunteers don the tailored suits of their great grandfathers to the delight of more than 50,000 visitors to RTE’s “Road to the Rising” celebrations.

While an impressive effort, the true heroes of the day are surely the fairer sex – as while the male re-enactors endure the warm temperatures in their three piece suits, many of the women are doing so in fur stoles and scarves.

Read More: Emotional mood for 99th commemoration of Rising

“It certainly makes you appreciate jeans and a t-shirt,” laughs one clearly uncomfortable flower girl.

Karen Wright with her daughter Noor Wright Salem (6), both from Ballymun as part of Road to the Rising on O’Connell Street, Dublin
Karen Wright with her daughter Noor Wright Salem (6), both from Ballymun as part of Road to the Rising on O’Connell Street, Dublin
Emma Leung (9) from Saggart as part of RTE Road to the Rising on O’Connell Street, Dublin
President of Ireland Michael D Higgins & wife Sabina Higgins with Moya Doherty at the Abbey Theatre as part of Road to the Rising on Abbey Street

“I love the style and feel of the fashion from the mid-1910s but it doesn’t quite lean itself to this weather and these kind of crowds,” said Ann-Marie Sheridan, an actress from Carlow.

“But it’s a minor complaint and one that’s worth having if it means I get to take part in today’s celebrations. It means a lot to me to be able to come here and help bring a little bit of history to the streets of Dublin.”

The 23-year-old is among the thousand strong team of volunteers that jumped at the chance to be apart of RTE’s ambitious period piece – which saw O’Connell Street closed to all traffic from 11am to 5pm on Easter Monday.

Read More: Exhumation being sought for 'Forgotten Rebel' of 1916

“The amount of people that wanted to get involved was remarkable,” said RTE Communications Manager Maureen Catterson.

Hannah Crowley Kildare & Ronan Carey from Balbriggan as part of Road to the Rising on O’Connell Street, Dublin
Hannah Crowley Kildare & Ronan Carey from Balbriggan as part of Road to the Rising on O’Connell Street, Dublin
Abina Mullane from Firhouse as part of RTE Road to the Rising on O’Connell Street, Dublin

“There’s a huge buzz around the commemoration next year and so everyone wanted to get on-board straight away.”

“People have been looking forward to the year away, and based on how today’s gone, so are we.”

Stunned by the interest from the public, Ms Catterson said the celebration was “going down a treat”.

“It’s been an incredible turnout. It is very hard to anticipate what kind of crowd is going to turn out but we’ve been blown away by the numbers.”

Adding: “The sun definitely shone for us.”

Read More: 'Road to the Rising' brings street alive

A restored open-front tram serves as a platform for readings and music performances, while the street hosts an oversized gramophone, a vintage carousel, a steam engine, and acts as a stage for various actors to recreate the major milestones of life a century ago.

“This is all a showcase to remind people what life was like here 100-years ago. To remind them what happen, and why it still has an important part to play in discussing our national identity and cultural roots,” said Ms Catterson.

Among the music, attractions, and theatre highlights RTE has helped recreate, the vintage carousel right in the middle of O’Connell Street has done much to capture the Edwardian splendour on display from the bygone era..

“To see this here brings back a lot of memories,” said 83-year-old Bridget Byrne, who spoke at length about her family’s past involvement in the Republican cause.  

“My father was there, among the volunteers… [and] he would be happy to see all these people celebrating what he fought for.”

“I’m not sure he’d be too happy though about where [this county] has gone… It’s been the working-class people that have been the hardest hit, and it was the working class that lead the struggle.”

“The cause of Ireland is the cause of labour’ James Connolly said.”

Read More: Grenade made safe in Phoenix Park 'may have been meant for Magazine Fort attack'

While much has been made over the Government’s plans for the 1916 commemoration and its conflicts with the families of those volunteers that took part in the Easter Rising, and those who died.

But the mood on the O’Connell is not a political one for most, as many said that the 1916 commemorations should be “beyond politicians and their point scoring.”

“I don’t think the majority of people want it to be like that,” said Marie O'Donnell from Kilkenny, who family came to the festival in period clothing just to be part of the festivities.

"It’s the historical perspective that should be the focus – who we are, and what we fought for. these kinds of events are about helping us discover who we are.”

“It’s important for the younger generation… because the interactive element draws them in and makes them want to learn more. It gives them an interest into the whole setup of the declaration of Ireland.”

The 'Road to the Rising' event will continue until 5pm this evening, while O'Connell Street itself will remained closed to traffic until 8pm.

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