As the centenary of the 1916 rebellion is commemorated it seems the 485 civilians murdered during Easter Week as a result of the Rising are forgotten.
According to a Glasnevin Trust report, "1916 Necrology 485," 54% of those killed during the Easter Rising were civilian men, women, and children going about their lives. Of those 485 people 20% were under the age of 19.
Just 16% of those killed were rebels and 26% were British soldiers. Members of the police forces account for the rest of those who died.
On the densely populated streets of Dublin in 1916 many people were caught in the crossfire, but hundreds were shot by the Irish Volunteers and British military also, according to Paul O'Brien, author of the book “Shootout – The Battle for St Stephen's Green 1916.” As the police withdrew from the city, and the rebellion took hold, law and order collapsed. The poorer citizens, in a city which was largely slums, saw an opportunity to loot. Doors were broken open and windows smashed. There are famous witness accounts of children raiding Noblett’s sweet shop, on O’Connell Street, and women stockpiling shoes and dresses.
According to O’Brien, while some civilians appealed to the looters to cease, “the Irish Volunteers and the military shot at the large groups that rushed from building to building.”
Some of the 485 stories are known, but most will never be known. There’s a tale of a blind man who emerged on to O’Connell Street and was shot and wounded by a sniper. A medic ran to help the injured blind man and both men were shot and killed.
Even at the Shelbourne Hotel, on Stephen’s Green, civilians on vacation were not safe. George Smethwick was shot as he exited the hotel doors. Victor Brooke was shot as he sat down for lunch in the dining room. A Mr Armiger was shot in the jaw while sitting elsewhere in the hotel. As the shooting continued the guests were moved to the writing room, at the back of the building, where they would be safe.
Mercer’s Hospital, near Stephen’s Green, reported 16 dead and 278 wounded following Easter Week. The facility was overwhelmed by the numbers and temporary casualty clearing stations were set up at Merrion Square and Harcourt Street.
On April 24 many residents lost their lives at Mount Street in Ballsbridge when they wandered out to see what was going on and found themselves in the middle of a fierce engagement.
As the fighting continued fires erupted in Dublin around O’Connell Street and the surrounding areas. However, as the city was at war the fire service was unable to provide any help to the civilians of Dublin.
Another gruesome scene unfolded as Dublin burned and the British troops attempted to defend the Four Courts. Fifteen civilians were shot or bayoneted to death by soldiers from the South Staffordshire regiment on North King Street. The rebels held the streets and so the British soldiers tunneled through the densely populated tenement houses killing those civilians who protested. The street fighting in the area was also some of the worst of the Rising.
The Glasnevin Trust study of the dead also found that during Easter Week the numbers killed steadily increased, day on day, until the last day, April 29, when 45 civilians were killed. April 29 was the most violent day of the Rising with the total number of deaths reaching 78.
The Battle of Mount Street Bridge, on April 26, was the worst day of loss for the British Army with 30 men losing their lives, the rebels lost 13. For the police, April 28, the day of the Battle of Ashbourne, in Co Meath, was the worst.
The death toll in Dublin was so great that the staff of Glasnevin Cemetery struggled to cope with the numbers in the aftermath. However, despite the strain on resources, all were given a dignified burial and their details (however little was known) were recorded.
The Glasnevin Trust recalled a contemporary newspaper account, which gives an insight into the scenes that those present witnessed.
“Residents in the vicinity of the Glasnevin Cemetery witnessed many pathetic scenes during the week. On Sunday there were few dry eyes along the cemetery road when a solitary mourner followed the remains of some relative to the cemetery. She was an old lady, white-haired, and weak looking. In front, the hearse rattled along at a fast pace and the lady obviously tired almost to collapsing point, tumbled rather than walked some distance in the rear. Every now and then she broke into a little run to keep up with the hearse.
“In her hands she clasped a crucifix, which she held out before her when she quickened her pace as if she found in it some power to draw forward her tired and weakened body. At another funeral one man, apparently the father, carried under his arm a rough improvised coffin containing the remains of a child.
“The little procession crossed from the Drumcondra district on their way to the cemetery, the parent changing the coffin from one arm to another as they made the journey. They were greeted everywhere with expressions of sympathy which touched them frequently to tears, the father breaking down completely again and again on the route. Thus all the way to the cemetery gates, while the residents along the route expressed their helpless sympathy in moistening eyes. This was only a typical but perhaps somewhat more poignant example of the pathos on the road to the cemetery.”
In 2015 this full list of the dead was collated and made available online. The names of the dead will be engraved on a new memorial in Glasnevin Cemetery.
At the time the list was made available online Taoiseach (Ireland's Prime Minister) Enda Kenny said, “It brings home to us the very real impact that the events of Easter 1916 had on ordinary members of the public as well as those directly involved in the Rising itself.”
John Green, the Chairman of Glasnevin Trust, said, “This act of remembrance is in keeping with Daniel O’Connell’s stated purpose in establishing Glasnevin Cemetery – ‘to bury people of all religions and none.’
“We have diligently followed O’Connell’s instruction for 180 or so years here at Ireland’s necropolis and will continue to do so.”
Some of the names of the dead are listed, but the majority of the dead are unknown. The Glasnevin Trust, at the time of the release said, “Their stories tell the true history of the rebellion and what it meant for Ireland. We would like people who are related to, or have information on those listed, to get in contact with us so we can further expand these stories in advance of our exhibition and events to mark the centenary of the Rebellion.”
View the full list of the dead here.