1916 Easter Rising leader Padraig Pearse surrenders to General Lowe.NLI

Adam’s Auction House in Dublin will present for sale on Dec 7 one of the truly iconic documents of Irish history. The final handwritten surrender by Patrick Pearse is surely one of the few manuscripts which can justly claim to possess the very DNA of a nation at the moment of its genesis. In a wonderfully moving and evocative piece written for this catalog, Prof. Diarmaid Ferriter provides a living narrative of the events surrounding the history of this document, he goes on to describes it as ‘’A vital part of the archive of the newly declared Republic’’.

In a wonderfully moving and evocative piece written for this catalog, Prof. Diarmaid Ferriter provides a living narrative of the events surrounding the history of this document, he goes on to describes it as ‘’A vital part of the archive of the newly declared Republic’’.

In a wonderfully moving and evocative piece written for this catalog, Prof. Diarmaid Ferriter provides a living narrative of the events surrounding the history of this document, he goes on to describes it as ‘’A vital part of the archive of the newly declared Republic’’.

“As I look back on my career it has been my privilege to have been entrusted with the sale of the most important documents of our history, including Pearse’s handwritten draft of The Second Proclamation, written inside the GPO, now in the Collection of the State through the private purchase of the Stanley collection, or the original draft of the Soldier’s Song by Peadar Kearney, originally written in English, now in a private Irish collection, or the many copies of The Proclamation we have sold over the years.

In all that time I have realized that second chances are exceptionally rare. Once sold, unless they are purchased by the State, these pieces of history usually disappear into private collections, or leave the country for a generation or more.

The surrender letter is that rare exception, a second chance to offer this wonderful document to the market. The current owner purchased the order in 2005 against fierce competition and amidst a public clamor to save this vital touchstone to history. International and national buyers battled until one purchaser more prepared and understanding of the historical significance remained at a distance some 15 times greater than previous expectations. It is in the nature of such priceless objects to surprise us, and undoubtedly when this item is auctioned again it will require an equal determination to acquire.

NLI

NLI

It is worth bearing in mind, that at the time of the last auction there existed a very different political backdrop to the one we enjoy today. In context, at the time of purchase neither side in Northern Ireland had yet to declare a formal end to the armed campaign. The surrender was purchased to secure it until such time as its historical and cultural significance would be more widely appreciated, and what more fitting time for it reappear than the year of commemoration. To that end, in accordance with the wishes of the owner the document will be on display

The surrender was purchased to secure it until such time as its historical and cultural significance would be more widely appreciated, and what more fitting time for it reappear than the year of commemoration. To that end, in accordance with the wishes of the owner the document will be on display in the GPO Dublin, included in the Witness History Exhibition until it is sold on the 7th of December.

Professor of Modern History at UCD Diarmaid Ferriter has written that “Historians have rightly made much of the importance of the First World War in relation to the staging of the Easter Rising in 1916.

International conflict had a profound impact on those who became central leaders in the rebellion, including Patrick Pearse. He viewed the war as providing an opportunity for Irish republicans to organize, in a more serious manner, for rebellion but also to become preoccupied with the notion of blood sacrifice and the idea that the war presented an opportunity for redemption: “It is good for the world that such things should be done. The old heart of the earth needed to be warmed with the red wine of the battlefields. Such august homage was never offered to God as this, the homage of lives given gladly for love of country”.

“It is good for the world that such things should be done. The old heart of the earth needed to be warmed with the red wine of the battlefields. Such august homage was never offered to God as this, the homage of lives given gladly for love of country”.

What that meant in practice, however, was brought home to Pearse by the end of Easter Week 1916. As noted by historian Joe Lee, “After he had hesitated about surrendering initially, the sight of the shedding of innocent blood seems to have revolted Pearse as much as the rhetoric of blood had excited him”.

During the Rising, though the looting appalled him, he had refused to follow his own injunction to shoot captured looters. Now, from the rebel’s last headquarters in Moore Street, seeing three civilians with a white flag shot down, Pearse surrendered, in the hope of saving civilians and his followers, on the afternoon of Saturday, 29 April. There was nothing ambiguous about Pearse’s response to the demand of Brigadier-General William Lowe, who had commanded British military operations throughout most of the week, that the rebels “surrender unconditionally”. While the Provisional Government of the Republic had hoped to negotiate terms, Pearse, after his surrender to Lowe, was in no position to negotiate anything.

There was nothing ambiguous about Pearse’s response to the demand of Brigadier-General William Lowe, who had commanded British military operations throughout most of the week, that the rebels “surrender unconditionally”. While the Provisional Government of the Republic had hoped to negotiate terms, Pearse, after his surrender to Lowe, was in no position to negotiate anything.

A make-shift barricade on the streets of Dublin.

A make-shift barricade on the streets of Dublin.

Following a brief meeting with British commander in chief General John Maxwell at the British army headquarters in Parkgate Street, a quickly typed order to his subordinates was composed: “ 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 country will order their commands to lay down arms”.

Pearse signed it, and on the same page underneath this order was a handwritten note by James Connolly: “I agree to these conditions for the men only under my own command in the Moore Street district and for the men in the Stephen’s Green command.”

This is one of the best-known documents in modern Irish history and it is housed at the Imperial War Museum in London. Given the clarity of this order, it should have been the last official one Pearse composed.

But just as the 1916 Rising commenced in confused circumstances, so it finished in confused circumstances due to the difficulties associated with relaying messages. How was this order from Pearse to be communicated and would it be believed or accepted? Given the nature of the rebel’s military strategy in 1916 and the extent to which their limited numbers were spread throughout the city in a variety of buildings and outposts, some the scenes of intense battles, others quiet, and given the considerable British military presence by the end of the week, this was not going to be straightforward.

Given the nature of the rebel’s military strategy in 1916 and the extent to which their limited numbers were spread throughout the city in a variety of buildings and outposts, some the scenes of intense battles, others quiet, and given the considerable British military presence by the end of the week, this was not going to be straightforward.

After his brief visit to Parkgate, Pearse was taken to Arbour Hill detention barracks and copies of the surrender order were taken to Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell to be relayed to the sections of rebels at various points in the city, but there were difficulties in getting all them to agree to surrender. Various commanders were reluctant but were persuaded. Rebels at Boland’s Mill, Jacob’s Factory, St Stephen’s Green and Marrowbone Lane surrendered and as

Various commanders were reluctant but were persuaded. Rebels at Boland’s Mill, Jacob’s Factory, St Stephen’s Green and Marrowbone Lane surrendered and as prisoners, were marched to Richmond Barracks where the leaders were identified. It has been noted, “except for a scattering of snipers in Dublin, the surrender was complete”.

But it was not quite as straightforward as that. During Easter week the fighting in the Four Courts area, with its northern outposts at Church Street and North King Street, and its southern posts held at Church Street Bridge, and beyond the river at the Mendicity Institute, was exceptionally severe.

General Maxwell subsequently stated “with the one exception of the place at Ballsbridge, where the Sherwood Foresters were ambushed, this was by far the worst fighting that occurred in the whole of Dublin.” This remark especially applied to the fighting at the intersection of Church Street and North King Street, and, a short distance further north, at the intersection of Church Street and North Brunswick Street. Despite relentless assaults down Church St., supported by an armored car, British forces were unable to penetrate more than 150 yards between the morning of Friday 28 April and 2 p.m. on Saturday 29 April. On

Despite relentless assaults down Church St., supported by an armored car, British forces were unable to penetrate more than 150 yards between the morning of Friday 28 April and 2 p.m. on Saturday 29 April. On the Saturday evening, Capuchin Fr Albert Bobby helped arrange an overnight truce in the area to allow evacuation of the wounded.

The role of the Capuchins during the Rising was very significant, partly because the rebels occupied several positions in the immediate vicinity of the Church Street Capuchin community, establishing a headquarters and first aid station in the Father Mathew Hall adjacent to the friary. Several friars ministered throughout the week to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the insurgents and civilians, especially to the wounded and dying, dividing their time between the Richmond hospital and the North Dublin Union (wherein many of the area’s residents sought refuge).

Several friars ministered throughout the week to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the insurgents and civilians, especially to the wounded and dying, dividing their time between the Richmond hospital and the North Dublin Union (wherein many of the area’s residents sought refuge).

Also on the Saturday evening, another Capuchin Fr Columbus Murphy, when returning from Jervis Street Hospital, met Elizabeth O’Farrell conveying the surrender order to Commandant Edward Daly at the Four Courts. Fr Columbus accompanied her, bearing a small white flag, and on reaching the Four Courts they interviewed Daly at the Chancery Place entrance.

As recalled by John Shouldice in his Bureau of Military History Statement “Comt Daly addressed us and stated that orders had been received from General Pearse that we were to lay down our arms and surrender unconditionally. This was the cause of an outburst amongst the men and some of the officers who replied that they would fight on sooner than surrender Daly, however, sympathized with them and stated that

Daly, however, sympathized with them and stated that personally, he would prefer to fight on under these conditions, but the orders from General Pearse were definite and had to be obeyed…the Four Courts was gradually being surrounded by strong military forces and the final surrender occurred about 7pm”

At the surrender, the Volunteers’ arms were passed out through the railings at Chancery Place to the soldiers outside. Comdt. Daly, at the head of his men, was marched under heavy military guard along the quays, by Capel Street and Britain Street, to the northern end of O’Connell Street. They were afterwards placed inside the Rotunda railings and throughout the night were confined on the grass plot opposite the hospital. Several of the Cumann na mBan were taken prisoners at the same time.

The complication, however, was that the outlying position at North King Street, a post held by about 69 Volunteers, which although only a few yards beyond the captured position, did not surrender. The Volunteers in this area continued to hold out under the armistice; there was still confusion in North King Street and in other locations as to whether this was a truce or a complete surrender. According to the witness statements of two other Franciscans, Fr. Augustine and Fr Aloysius, both went to Dublin Castle at 8am on Sunday morning, where General Lowe confirmed the authenticity of the typed copies of the Pearse surrender in circulation, but he could not produce a spare. While James Connolly was at the Castle, he confirmed the veracity of the

According to the witness statements of two other Franciscans, Fr. Augustine and Fr Aloysius, both went to Dublin Castle at 8am on Sunday morning, where General Lowe confirmed the authenticity of the typed copies of the Pearse surrender in circulation, but he could not produce a spare. While James Connolly was at the Castle, he confirmed the veracity of the order, and stressed that his signature pertained to men under his direct command in Dublin, but it was Pearse who led the national organization. Lowe was aware of possible difficulty and put his car and chauffeur at the disposal of the Capuchins who, according to Fr Augustine “drove at once to Arbour Hill Detention Barracks to see Pearse who, after a short while, was ushered into the room by a soldier who then stood at the end with a loaded rifle…he said that he had signed a document of unconditional surrender stating the reasons why he had done so, but that one of our fathers had been here a short time previously, and as he assured him no copy of it could be found, he wrote another”

Lowe was aware of possible difficulty and put his car and chauffeur at the disposal of the Capuchins who, according to Fr Augustine “drove at once to Arbour Hill Detention Barracks to see Pearse who, after a short while, was ushered into the room by a soldier who then stood at the end with a loaded rifle…he said that he had signed a document of unconditional surrender stating the reasons why he had done so, but that one of our fathers had been here a short time previously, and as he assured him no copy of it could be found, he wrote another”

Padraig Pearse.

Padraig Pearse.

The “one of our fathers” referred to by Fr Augustine, was Fr Columbus. According to a diary kept by Fr Columbus, later discovered in the Capuchin Archives in Church Street, to clarify the situation for those Volunteers still fighting and who had not received proper notice of the Irish surrender, Fr. Columbus went to the Four Courts in an effort to retrieve Padraig Pearse’s note which had led to the surrender of Cmdt. Daly. Failing in this effort, Fr. Columbus crossed the river to Dublin Castle to see if someone there had the note.

He met a British officer and explained to him that he needed the document to convince the Volunteers in the North King Street area that the Rising was over. The officer suggested he should go in person to Arbour Hill detention barracks and ask Pearse to rewrite the surrender note. Gen Maxwell received him courteously and, when Fr. Columbus asked to be allowed to see Pearse and the others held there, his request was granted.

Fr Columbus wrote that Maxwell expressed his horror at the loss of life and destruction of property, but said “Oh, but we will make those beggars pay for it”. Fr Columbus replied, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of martyrs”.” Are you backing them up then?” asked Maxwell. Concluding that prudence was the better part of velour, Columbus said nothing. Fr Columbus was taken to Arbour Hill barracks to see Pearse. He found him seated in his cell with his head bowed deep into his arms, resting on a little table. He looked a sad, forlorn, exhausted figure. Disturbed by the opening of the cell door, he slowly raised his head.

He had the vacant, dazed look of someone waking from sleep. Then, recognizing the Capuchin habit, he got up quickly, stretched out his hand and said: “Oh, Father, the loss of life, the destruction! But, please God, it won’t be in vain”.

” Are you backing them up then?” asked Maxwell. Concluding that prudence was the better part of velour, Columbus said nothing. Fr Columbus was taken to Arbour Hill barracks to see Pearse. He found him seated in his cell with his head bowed deep into his arms, resting on a little table.

He looked a sad, forlorn, exhausted figure. Disturbed by the opening of the cell door, he slowly raised his head. He had the vacant, dazed look of someone waking from sleep. Then, recognizing the Capuchin habit, he got up quickly, stretched out his hand and said: “Oh, Father, the loss of life, the destruction! But, please God, it won’t be in vain”.

He had the vacant, dazed look of someone waking from sleep. Then, recognizing the Capuchin habit, he got up quickly, stretched out his hand and said: “Oh, Father, the loss of life, the destruction! But, please God, it won’t be in vain”.

Fr. Columbus explained briefly why he had come, and asked Pearse to rewrite the surrender order. He agreed, saying his one wish was to prevent further loss of life and property. In the governor’s office, Pearse wrote the order, which differed slightly in wording from the original surrender order: “In order to prevent further slaughter of the civil population and in the hope of saving the lives of our followers, the members of the Provisional Government present at headquarters have decided on an unconditional surrender, and commandants or officers commanding districts will order their commands to lay down arms. PH Pearse, Dublin, 30th April 1916.”

Shaking hands with Fr Columbus, Pearse said: “Hurry, Father, as time is precious and perhaps there are lives depending on it”. On reading the letter, Patrick Holohan, who had assumed command of a small detachment engaged in fighting in North Brunswick St. when his superior officer was wounded, ceased hostilities and surrendered. It was only the following day, 1 May, that General Maxwell could issue his statement saying “all involved in the insurrection have surrendered unconditionally”.

Pearse’s final order is a document of immense historical significance. Unlike the surrender order that was composed in Parkgate, it was handwritten and signed by Pearse alone. Behind the single sentence of the communication lie many layers. It was the last official letter Pearse wrote, three days before his execution by firing squad on the morning of May 3rd 1916 and is therefore a vital part of the archive of the newly declared republic in 1916.

It marked the end of the 1916 rebellion and underlined the role of both the rebel leaders and the British forces in bringing the fighting to a conclusion. It is also a reminder of some of the difficulties associated with the rebels’ military strategy in 1916, especially communications, but also the success in securing certain positions in the midst of urban warfare. Lessons were certainly learned as a result, and this would become strikingly apparent during the War of Independence when a wholly different military strategy was adopted.

The document also illuminates other themes; the role the Catholic church during Easter week, a church that faced a dilemma in how to respond to the Rising, and also the concern for the deaths of civilians – in Pearse’s words, “the civil population”- who ultimately, experienced the most suffering in Dublin in 1916 as they bore the brunt of the warfare.

Read more: The unfathomable mystery of Easter Rising hero Padraig Pearse