50 facts about the Easter Rising (PHOTOS)

How much do you know about the 1916 Easter Rising? Above: The ruins of Dublin's GPO after the Rising.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, the rebellion for Irish independence that changed the course of Ireland’s history when it began on Easter Monday, 1916.

In honor of 100 years since the rebellion began, IrishCentral will begin a day-by-day account this Easter Monday on the events of the Rising: The main battles fought, the important decisions made, the vital people involved and how the Rising played out for the rebels over Easter week. 

Before we begin our historical timeline on Monday, however, we'd like to share some important facts of the Rising with you—some well-known, others more obscure.

If you have an interesting story to tell about the history of the Rising or you would like to share your thoughts on the centenary events, please make them heard in the comments section, below. 

1. The seven members of Irish Republican Brotherhood Military Council who planned the Rising were Thomas Clarke, Seán McDermott, Patrick Pearse, Eamonn Ceannt, Joseph Plunkett, James Connolly, and Thomas MacDonagh. All were executed after the Rising.

Eamonn Ceannt - one of the Easter Rising leaders.

2. MacDonagh and Plunkett were poets. Pearse was a poet and writer as well as a schoolteacher.

Pearse's school St. Enda's. Credit: An Claidheamh Solais / Conradh na Gaeilge.

3. Connolly was born in Scotland but made Ireland his home. He also lived for long stretches in the US.

Socialist leader James Connolly, one of the leaders in 1916.

4. Thomas Clarke also lived in the US for long periods starting the Brooklyn Gaelic Society in 1902. He was English-born.

A young Thomas Clarke.

5. Eamon de Valera, who participated in the Rising and later became a prominent figure in Irish politics, was born in New York and therefore an American citizen. This fact e saved him from being executed with his brothers in arms, though historians disagree on this point.

Plaque in New York marking de Valera's place of birth

6. De Valera went on to break away from the government following the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty that implemented partition in Ireland. He would form Fianna Fáil, serve as Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and later, as President of Ireland. 

De Valera was Ireland's president for fourteen years.

7. Before his execution, McDermott wrote, "I feel happiness the like of which I have never experienced. I die that the Irish nation might live!”

Seán Mac Diarmada. Credit: Public Domain / WikiCommons

8. WB Yeats wrote his famous poem “A Terrible Beauty” after he heard about the rising. “All changed, changed utterly a terrible beauty is born.”

WB Yeats. Credit: WikiCommons.

9. The Easter Rising made the front page of The New York Times eight days in a row.

Reports in the New York Times.

10. Joseph Plunkett married his fiance, Grace Gifford, at Kilmainham Gaol eight hours before his execution.

Joseph Mary Plunkett.

11. She wore her widow’s mourning clothes the rest of her life.

Painting by William Orpen from the 1900s of Grace Gifford as Young Ireland.

12. The IRB Military Council declared themselves the "Provisional Government of the Irish Republic" and signed the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

The seven signatories before the Proclamation.

13. It is the only proclamation of its era that mentions women equally, beginning “Irishmen and Irishwomen.”

The 1916 Proclamation.

14. While Germany and England clashed in WWI, the IRB Military Council hoped to get German military backing during the insurrection through an American-Irish Republican Group called Clan na Gael, whose members had already established a relationship with German officials.

John Devoy with Roger Casement. Many say the Rising would not have happened without Devoy's work in the US.

15. The IRB Military Council initially planned to begin the insurrection on Good Friday, April 21, 1916, but eventually decided on Easter Sunday, April 23, 1916.

Scenes of destruction during the Rising.

16. After hearing the news that a ship carrying German weaponry was captured, the Military Council decided to carry out the insurrection on Monday, April 24, 1916 in an emergency meeting held on Sunday morning, April 23. 

The Asgard.

17. A countermanding order by Eoin Mac Neill, head of the Irish Volunteers, after a German gunship bearing arms to Ireland was intercepted caused mass confusion and resulted in many volunteers missing the Rising.

Dublin GPO before 1916

18. IRB Military Council member and President of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic, Patrick Pearse, read the newly drawn up Proclamation, which outlined the establishment of an independent Irish Republic, to a small crowd at the steps of Dublin’s General Post Office on Monday, April 24, 1916.

Pádraig Pearse.

19. The Proclamation itself outlined who was responsible for igniting the rising and referenced the Irish Republic’s potential ally of Germany. These details of the proclamation, considered to be treason, ensured certain death by firing squad for the leaders of the Irish Republic if independence was not obtained.

One of the flags that flew from the GPO.

20. The proclamation called for the Irish abroad to rally to the cause especially the “Exiled children in America.”

A plaque in the GPO marking the point from which the proclamation was read.

21. The Rising began when members of IRB, Irish Volunteer Force and Irish Citizen Army successfully took over the preselected buildings around Dublin with little resistance.

"The Birth of the Irish Republic" depicts the 1916 Rising from inside the GPO.

22. The buildings included the General Post Office, the Four Courts, Jacob’s Factory, Boland’s Mill, the South Dublin Union, St. Stephen’s Green, and the College of Surgeons. Both military strategy and position were the factors that came into play in choosing which buildings to occupy.

Volunteers from the 3rd Battalion marching down Grand Canal Street Lower under escort carrying their weapons and a flag after their surrender at Boland's Bakery.

23. The General Post Office became the main headquarters of the rebellion, with five of the seven members of the Military Council/Provisional Government of the Irish Republic serving there.

A recreation of the reading of the proclamation at the GPO.

24. The British authorities only had 400 troops to about 1,000 Irish rebels when the rising began and therefore couldn’t go on the offensive until reinforcements arrived.

British troops during the Rising.

25. By Friday, April 28, 1916 the number of British troops rose to about 19,000 while the Irish Republic groups had only amassed 1,600 fighters due to mass confusion over the date of the Rising.

Rebel prisoners being marched out of Dublin by British Soldiers May 1916.

26. The British troops were commanded by Brigadier-General William Lowe.

Archive image of a group of British holding a Dublin street against the rebels in the Easter uprising of 1916. Credit: CAMERA PRESS/IWM.

27. Ashbourne, Co. Meath was the only town other than Dublin to see significant fighting during the Easter Rising.

Milestone to Ashbourne, Co. Meath. Credit: geograph.co.uk.

28. Among those in junior positions in the GOP was 24-year-old Michael Collins, who served by Connolly’s side.

Michael Collins.

29. Connolly, the commander of the Dublin Brigade, was injured early on in the fighting. The position of highest in command then passed on to Pearse.

Connolly being brought to his execution.

30. Connolly was so badly injured that he was carried to his execution on a stretcher and then tied to a chair to face the firing squad.

It was John Maxwell who made the final decision to execute the leaders, including the injured Connolly.

31. The Rising's failure outside of Dublin was due to the capture of a ship loaded with Russian rifles acquired by Germany in the war.

Roger Casement, tasked with bringing guns from Germany, on board the Aud which was later captured by the British.

32. British officials had intelligence about the ship coming from Germany and captured it before any guns reached the shore of Banna Strand outside Tralee.

A model of the captured Aud in Cork. Credit: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen / WikiCommons.

33. In charge of the gun-running from Germany was Sir Roger Casement, a top British foreign service official, who was later executed.

Roger Casement

34. Casement’s “black diaries,” purportedly from his time in the Belgian Congo and Peru, allegedly revealed he was gay and were used against him at trial. They were kept classified by the British government until 1959.

Roger Casement reading.

35. In Dublin, the deadliest battles took place at Mount Street Bridge.

British police mount a roadblock to support a search in Dublin easter rising 1916.

36. A British strategic attack that included artillery strikes on the main rebel stronghold, The General Post Office, led to an unconditional surrender on Saturday, April 29 by Irish Republican leaders, who had escaped the burning building for nearby Moore Street.

Moore Street has been the subject of much controversy lately as locals try to save the buildings the rebels escaped through.

37. The order to surrender, from Pearse, was carried by a nurse, Elizabeth O’Farrell, to the other strongholds, which were still under rebel control.

Elizabeth O'Farrell

38. It read: “In order to prevent the further slaughter of Dublin citizens, and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers now surrounded and hopelessly outnumbered, the members of the Provisional Government present at headquarters have agreed to an unconditional surrender, and the commandants of the various districts in the City and County will order their commands to lay down arms.”

Pádraig Pearse at the surrender.

39. The Irish rebels suffered 64 casualties.

Fianna Eireann scouts with Countess Markievicz, includes Fianna Eireann flags. Photo Rollingnews.ie/National Library of Ireland

40. 132 British officers perished.

The destruction of the Rising.

41. With battles primarily taking place in densely populated areas, the civilian death toll of the Rising was said to be as high as 254 people, and over 2,000 civilians were injured.

Dublin Bread Company after the Rising.

42. The Easter Rising was considered a betrayal at first by many of the Irish citizenry, and the 1916 leaders were spat at on their way to jail. It was only when the executions began that the national mood changed.

Home Rule advocate John Redmond was among those disappointed that the Rising took place.

43. Sixteen leaders of the rising were executed while about 3,000 more were arrested in connection to the groups.

Kilmainham Gaol, place of execution of the leaders of the 1916 Rising. Photo: Eweht/Creative Commons

44. Many of the leaders believed in the effectiveness of a "blood sacrifice" to inspire Irish nationalism. Blood sacrifice was a very common theme of the times from the First World War. The severe punishment of "death by being shot" served to those leading the rising inspired both Irish nationalism and British resentment, just as the Military Council hoped.

What is now O'Connell Street, after the Rising.

45. Songs were sung for those who laid down their lives, funds were started for their families, more republican flags and badges began appearing, recruitment to the British Armed Forces dropped, and Irish nationalism as a whole was rejuvenated.

Members of the Irish Republican Army photographed during the 1916 Easter Rising.

46. Women played a key role in the Rising, with over 200 members of Cumann na mBan, the women’s auxiliary branch of the Irish Volunteers, fighting for Irish independence.

Cumann na mBan protest outside Mountjoy Prison during the Irish War of Independence. Placards read Mother of God, open the prison gates; Release our Fathers and Brothers; and Mother of Mercy, pray for prisoners. July 1921.

47. Countess Constance Markievicz, who had been second in command to Michael Mallin in St. Stephen’s Green, was initially sentenced to death along with the other leaders of the Rising. Her sentence was changed to life in prison “on account of the prisoner’s sex.”

Countess Constance Markievicz.

48. The unrest became so bad after the Rising that the British sent in the Black and Tans, a dreadful group of former prisoners, misfits, and felons to try and quiet the rebellion.

A group of Black and Tans.

49. In 1917, the British government granted amnesty to those who had fought in the Rising and all remaining prisoners were released.

The Memorial stone and plaque at Frongoch, Wales to commemorate the site of the internment camp where 1,800 Irish prisoners where held following the 1916 Easter Rising. Credit: Huw P.

50. The Easter Rising was a major factor in Sinn Féin’s victory in the 1918 parliamentary elections and subsequent decision to not sit in the United Kingdom’s Parliament.

Sinn Féin election poster in 1918, quoting D. D. Sheehan MP, leading up to the December 1918 general election in Ireland. Credit: WikiCommons.

If you have an interesting story to tell about the history of the Rising or you would like to share your thoughts on the centenary events, please make them heard in the comments section, below. 

* Originally published in April 2015.