Friday 18 October 2019

Follow how the police reported on the Rising live

The police phone records, telegrams and letters that report, minute-by-minute, what was happening in Dublin from the outbreak of the rebellion to the surrender, are being posted live all week on @1916live and, giving a unique account of the Easter Rising as it happened.

Sir Matthew Nathan, the top civil servant in Dublin Castle, compiled the documents and took them out of Ireland in his personal papers after the rebellion. They were given to the Bodleian Libraries following his death. Publishing them online will make them a publicly-accessible resource for the future.

The project has been carried out by a team of volunteers led by journalist Naomi O’Leary with the permission of the Bodleian Libraries.

Naomi O’Leary, journalist, explained the project,

“I became fascinated by these documents the moment I first came across them while conducting research for a documentary. Many of them are clearly written in great urgency in the middle of the upheaval of the Easter Rising, and their concision and immediacy makes them a gripping account of this key moment in our history.

"I think it’s particularly appropriate to release them on social media, 100 years to the minute since they were logged, as the telephone messages are the records of a relatively new system of technology that allowed for instant communication -- affording Dublin Castle an important strategic advantage over the rebels.

"Transcribing and scheduling the hundreds of documents has been an intense but very rewarding experience. It was all done on a voluntary basis and I couldn’t have done it without the team of volunteers who worked on the project: Michael Lanigan, Kit Rickard, Rory O’Regan, Rachel Rose O’Leary; and Bill Hollingsworth who was in charge of the images and visuals.”

MS. Nathan 476, fol. 73.jpg
“The Sinn Fein volunteers have attacked the castle and have possession of the GPO. They have Stephen’s Green Park in their hands and have turned out the people and locked the gates.”

One of the first messages to be sent on Easter Monday 1916 was at 12:20pm, 24.4.1916.  The telephone message was from Superintendent G Division to Viceregal Lodge, residence of Lord Lieutenant Wimborne stating,

“The Sinn Fein volunteers have attacked the castle and have possession of the GPO. They have Stephen’s Green Park in their hands and have turned out the people and locked the gates.”

The following day, a telephone message from Constable Heffernan to Dublin's Metropolitan Police Chief Commissioner described a scene in Dublin,

“While in plain clothes at North King St endeavouring to purchase bread, I was made prisoner by the Sinn Fein Volunteers… I did not know any of the volunteers, but think they were all Dublin men and would know them again, Commandant Daly’s name was mentioned the majority were in plain clothes, wearing green hats.”

The reality of the situation in Dublin and the plight of the people comes through in one telephone message later in the week from the caretaker of  the Dublin Steam Packet Company Offices to the Police Office,

“My wife, three children and myself are starving here and the military will not allow us out could you please do something for us.”

Mike Webb from Bodleian Libraries commented,

“These records are among the papers of the Under Secretary in Dublin Castle in April 1916, Sir Matthew Nathan. They were gathered as evidence for the Royal Commission of Enquiry into the Rising in its immediate aftermath, and have remained among Nathan’s papers ever since where they have been catalogued as MS. Nathan 476.

"There include hundreds of Dublin Metropolitan Police messages, scribbled onto pink sheets of paper apparently taken from message pads. They give an extraordinarily vivid street-level view of the rising hour by hour. This will bring a somewhat neglected source back to life – patchy, sporadic, instantaneous, sometimes confused reports that allow us to see history as it happens rather than filtered through decades of reflection and discussion."

For more information visit or follow @1916Live on Twitter.

Images copyright Bodleian Libraries.

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