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Eyewitness account casts doubt on location of 1916 last stand

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British soldiers at the junction of Moore Street and Parnell Street

British soldiers at the junction of Moore Street and Parnell Street

Padraig Pearse surrenders to British Forces in 1916

Padraig Pearse surrenders to British Forces in 1916

New eyewitness account casts doubt on the current theory

New eyewitness account casts doubt on the current theory

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British soldiers at the junction of Moore Street and Parnell Street

NEWLY-published memoirs written almost five decades ago have cast major doubts on claims that the 1916 Rising leaders made their last stand at No 16 Moore Street.

A new account, published for the first time in the Sunday Independent today, tells the story of Josephine Sammon, a 24-year-old book keeper who lived in the heart of the battlefield in 1916.

In light of recent speculation raised in the new book The Irish Citizen Army by historian Ann Matthews regarding location of the final stand of Padraig Pearse, James Connolly, Joseph Plunkett and others, Ms Sammon's 85-year-old son felt compelled to reveal her story.

"There's lots of talk about turning number 16 into some sort of a memorial, but I believe it's the wrong premises. My mother said they came out of 21, Hanlon's fish shop. There's no point wasting time and money on the wrong building now or in the future," said Vincent Bookey.

Ms Sammon's account contradicts the widely-accepted report given by Elizabeth O'Farrell - a nurse who played an instrumental role in the final surrender.

"We were in the middle of it and it was a terrible time with the shooting going on all night. We saw the girl coming out of Hanlons with the white flag and then Pierse (sic)," Josephine Sammon wrote in 1969, when she was 77. "We saw him signing the paper and then taken away in the car. Then all the men came down the street, it was a sad sight, most of them were very young."

During the height of the "army raids" and "bullets hopping off the walls" Ms Sammon and her family had to move from their home at 35 Moore Street to a safer location a few buildings away.

According to her son, who was born in 35 Moore Street, she had a "bird's eye view" of the final surrender.

"My mother said they came out of 21. It was a big fish shop and they used to have their own trawlers and they had a big canopy and a little wall on the path outside the shop, so it was very distinctive," he said.

Vincent said his mother knew the area "like the back of her hand" and would have been "much more familiar" with all the streets and the shops than nurse O'Farrell.

"I'm certain my mother's version is correct," he added. "She was a fairly well-educated woman and she had all her wits about her when she was writing her memoirs. She was a very religious woman too, so she'd hardly be going around telling lies," said the father of six, who lives in the UK.

At the time, Ms Sammon's version of events was not recorded as a witness statement and she "never spoke" of the traumatic experience with her family.

In her 12-page memoir she writes: "The black and tans as they were called were a bad lot. Going around breaking into houses and killing people. We thought we would never have peace again".

Her historic secret, which is about a paragraph long, wasn't revealed to the family until her youngest son read the memoirs after Ms Sammon's death in 1982.

"She never spoke of it and we never asked about the Rising. It was all before I was born," said Mr Bookey, who tried to inform relevant authorities about his mother's story over a decade ago "but got no response".

When asked about the authenticity of Ms Farrell's report, given to the Catholic Bulletin newspaper in March 1917, he said: "Of course, she could have got it wrong. At the end of the day she wasn't familiar with the area and they tunnelled further down than 16.

"They were under fire when she came out. If you're in that situation and you're surrendering out onto the street you're hardly going to look around and see what number shop it is and the name of it are you?"

Sunday Independent