By Eamon O Buadhachain
The Irish are synonymous with the consumption of alcohol and having a good time in our pubs and bars, but have you ever wondered about the connection between beer and spirits and the foundation of the State – indeed, public houses were at the very heart of the action unfolding on the streets of Dublin in 1916.
As the rebels secured their headquarters in the GPO, a detachment on men were sent to seize buildings in Abbey Street. They attempted to gain entry to Mooney’s pub but the manager slammed the door in their faces, and not even a shot at the lock could gain entry.
They instead seized ‘The Ship Tavern’ which they had been familiar with, as it had been a magnet for nationalists. But the attitude of the rebels towards drink is best served by William Daly:
“In passing, I wish to record with pride that a few of the men I was in company with, although hardened drinkers, were stationed in the Ship Tavern, and had the taking of anything that was there, not touch anything and refused the offerings of the barmen.”
As a consequence of the British bombardment during Easter Week, the Ship was completely destroyed.
A group of rebels seized J.T. Davy’s pub at Portobello Bridge. Their mission was to delay reinforcements from the Rathmines Barracks.
Once they were in control, the next couple of hours were taken up with securing the premises and setting up sniping positions. They used whatever they could to barricade the windows including most of Davy’s family furniture.
The British sent some soldiers in the direction of Portobello Bridge, three hundred yards from the gates of the barracks, but as soon as they got close the rebels opened fire, pinning them down in the gardens and the doorways along Rathmines Road. The soldiers eventually made their way to the small wall on the opposite side of the Grand Canal.
The police arrived and attempted to keep curious onlookers out of harm’s way and the firing continued intermittently. Lock-keeper Joseph Parsons was reported peering out his window and watch the commotion.
Against the odds, Superintendant Kiernan and Sergeant Crosbie of the Dublin Metropolitan Police kept the ever increasing crowd back from the frontline action.
Most of the rebels were based on the second floor, as the third floor view was obstructed by advertising hoarding along the canal. Gunfire was indiscriminate with the gas lamps on the bridge taking a number of direct hits.
Late on Monday evening, the Army crouched down in strict military fashion behind the canal walls on the southern side, the first line lying on their stomachs, the second kneeling behind, with their commander standing tall behind them, directing their fire. A machine gun was wheeled up from the barracks and positioned on the bridge and began almost immediately to pepper the building continuing for nearly two hours.
Hundreds of rounds were fired at the pub until a ceasefire was ordered, as soon as the British realised that there was no returning fire coming from the pub. Perhaps they were all wounded or dead.
The order was given to enter the building breaking through the glass plate windows on the ground floor.
When they entered, neither rebel nor corpse was found. With their intimate knowledge of the pub, the rebels had broken through the cellar walls into the adjoining buildings and eventually into a nearby lane, making good their escape long before the British had opened fire on the building. Their mission had been a success, as they held up the British long enough to allow the rebels in the centre city to reinforce their defences and barricades.
On Monday night, rebels seized Delahunt’s Pub at 42 Camden Street. The raiding party was led by Lieutenant Shiels with the aid of George Heuston of E Company 2nd Battalion, who was a barman in Delahunt’s. He was one of the lucky rebels not to be captured in the aftermath of the Rising.
When the British troops attacked the position, Richard O’Carroll was fatally wounded. He had been travelling along Camden Street when he was pulled from his motorcycle by a British officer, Captain Bowen-Colthurst, and shot. He died nine days later in the Portobello Hospital.
Further down the street opposite Jacobs Factory was the Swan Pub, and it too was seized.
“Orders were also given that we were to burrow through from Jacob’s to a public house at the corner facing Aungier Street. We had two masons in our party and the burrowing was made easy. Strict instructions were given that no Volunteer was to take any drink from the public house. And although I am not a drinking man myself I must say that this order was strictly obeyed” – Michael Molloy, Witness Statement.