100 years ago today, Willie Redmond was fatally wounded during the start of the Battle of Messines.
Born in Co.Wexford, he was a brother of John Redmond, the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party and National Volunteers. In the early 1880s, he was heavily involved with the Irish National Land League, and was a follower of Charles Stewart Parnell. At 21 years of age he served three months in Kilmainham Gaol for the crime of possessing seditious literature, during which he shared a cell with Parnell. He was elected an MP for Wexford Borough and later Fermanagh, all the while raising funds for the land league. He was sentenced to three months hard labour in 1888 for resisting the eviction of tenants.
He spoke out against the Boer War, was a social activist and also a supporter of Female Suffrage. Like his brother, Willie Redmond was heavily in favour of Home Rule.
As one would expect from both his and his brother’s views on Home Rule, he was one of the first to enlist in the British Army at the outbreak of the First World War as part of the Irish National Volunteers. In 1915, aged 53, he gained a commission in the 6th Royal Irish Regiment. He gained a reputation for leading from the front and, whenever possible, mingling with the ordinary footsoldiers. He refused the use of a horse, and carried his own kit (officers were not generally expected to carry their belongings, this task normally being carried out by a “batman” – a type of military servant.)
The 1916 Rising affected him deeply. He believed it to be the death knell for Constitutional Nationalism. However he didn’t give up hope. In December 1916, in a letter to his friend Arthur Conan Doyle, he wrote “It would be a fine memorial to the men who have died so splendidly if we could, over their graves, build up a bridge between North and South…the two sections from Ireland are actually side by side holding the trenches!”
Willie Redmond found himself in exactly that position in the morning of the 7th of June 1917. At 56 years of age, and holding the rank of Major, there was official resistance to his request that he lead his men “over the top” at the opening of the Battle of Messines. He was eventually allowed to do so.
At 3.10 a.m. he led his men in the attack, and was the first over the parapet. He was wounded in the arm, but continued to lead until he was again wounded in the leg. He was evacuated to a Field Ambulance depot by two stretcher-bearers from the 36th Ulster Division, and was transferred to Locre Hospice. There, just before noon on the 8th, he died of his wounds.
Unlike the vast majority of British Army casualties, he was not buried in a military cemetery. There is a persistent myth that his last wish was that he would not be buried inside a British cemetery in protest against the execution of the 1916 Easter Rising leaders. The reality is simply that he was buried near a grotto in the grounds of the Hospice in which he died and, despite requests from the War Graves Commission, his wife refused to have his body exhumed, preferring to have the nuns look after his final resting place.
There were further attempts at exhumation and reburial by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission; Once in the 1960s when a local Belgian priest, Fr Debevere, insisted that Mrs. Redmond’s wishes (that her husband’s grave be left alone) be respected. The Commission tried and failed again in 1977 after Fr Debevere’s death.
It is fitting that Major William Hoey Kearney Redmond’s refusal to conform during his lifetime continues 100 years after his death.
Just in and newly digitised, Local Studies have loaded onto our Source digital archive a set of Stereograph images from World War 1.
Originally intended to be viewed through a stereoscope, stereograph images were taken using a camera with three lenses in a triangular formation. The lens at the top provided a view of the scene for the photographer to help with the composition of the photo, while the two lenses below took two photographs from very slightly differing angles.
Viewing the resulting photographs through a stereoscope, the user would be able to “merge” the two images by looking through the viewer’s lenses – effectively recreating the three dimensional effect originally captured by the two cameras.
Stereographs had two eras of popularity. The first was in the 1850s and 60s. They became popular again in the late 1890s, lasting for the duration of the First World War and declining again after its end.
This particular set of images was taken and published by Hilton DeWitt Girdwood under the trademark of “Realistic Travels”. The set contains images from many different conflict locations – not only France and Belgium, but Gallipoli, Jerusalem, Baghdad and Egypt also make an appearance. Some images were disapproved of by the British government. Not because of the graphic nature of some of them, but because they had been staged by Girdwood. It was feared that staging of photographs could undermine the “authenticity” of war reporting in general.
All of the photographs were all taken in the field – even the staged ones.
See if you can guess why this one must have been staged:
The answer of course is that a flash was used to illuminate the scene. This would never have been allowed if a real night attack was in progress as it would have alerted the enemy.
The detail contained in the photos is striking. Here are some closeups of a few of the scenes:
See the entire collection HERE. Note the collection shows some images of death.
The South Dublin and the Battle of the Somme Exhibition was launched by Mayor Guss O’Connell at the County Library, Tallaght last Friday morning, 4th November.
This exhibition is part of South Dublin County Council’s Decade of Commemorations events in which we remember the pivotal decade of 1913-1923.
South Dublin Libraries staff have found 12 known men from the current South Dublin County area who were killed in the various battles of the Somme campaign and their stories are illustrated here using contemporary documents and photographs. There may have been more who were recorded as having been from Dublin with no parish mentioned. More from the county area would have survived the Somme and went on to fight and die in further campaigns in the next two years. Still more would have survived the entire war and returned, traumatised, to a changed Ireland that would have been unrecognisable compared to the one they left.
There are trench maps on display showing the location of the men’s deaths, and the original War diaries which were written up by officers in charge and these detail the actions of the various “South Dubliners’” regiments in the day . Again the statistics for South Dublin reflect those of the country as a whole. The vast majority were killed in and around the village of Guillemont where the 16th Irish Division were involved in days of slaughter to take the heavily-defended villages of Guillemont and Ginchy.
Speaking at the launch, Mayor O’Connell said, “The South Dublin men commemorated here are a microcosm of the island of Ireland’s participation in the Great War. As with the participants in the 1916 Rising, all walks of life are represented here. We have a Trinity medical student, a quarry worker, some general and agricultural labourers, a Vicar’s son and the son of a Barrister-at-Law. The streets of the villages they left for the last time would look very familiar to us today.”
South Dublin County Council, through its library service, is delighted to host this exhibition as part of our Decade of Commemorations activities. It will run at the County Library, Tallaght until Wednesday 30th November 2016.
We are very interested in finding additional names of those locals from South Dublin County who died at the Somme (between the 1st of July and the 18th of November 1916) and who we may have missed because they were listed on official records as having been from Dublin instead of the village from which they came.
If you can help, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Dublin Fire Brigade and the 1916 Rising Exhibition was launched by Mayor Guss O’Connell at the County Library, Tallaght yesterday evening. Founded in 1862, Dublin Fire Brigade is a Dublin institution in every sense of the word. In the 154 years since it was founded it has served and protected the people of Dublin and visitors to our city and county.
Dublin Fire Brigade has had many proud moments in its history and this exhibition brings one aspect of that history into particular focus: its role in the events of Easter 1916.
A small professional brigade under the command of Captain Thomas Purcell worked throughout the week of the Rebellion to save lives and property in a city which became a battlefield. In the immediate aftermath of the Rising they faced a city on the verge of destruction and went to work to stop the spread of the flames and bring the great fires under control.
Throughout this year Dublin Fire Brigade has played a major role in commemorative events, including the parade during the State Commemoration on Easter Sunday, honouring those who wore the Dublin Fire Brigade uniform in 1916.
Speaking at yesterday evening’s launch, Mayor O’Connell commented, “That small band of firefighters wrote a long forgotten page in the history of the events of 1916 and it gives me great pleasure to see their story brought to light in this exhibition and highlighted for a new generation.”
The launch was also attended by Deputy Chief Fire Officer Denis Keeley, and Las Fallon, Head of Heritage Projects with the Dublin Fire Brigade.
South Dublin County Council, through its library service, is delighted to host this exhibition as part of our 1916 centenary activities.
The exhibition runs at the County Library, Tallaght until 9th September 2016 (during library opening hours).
On this day in 1922, the Illustrated London News published this account of the destruction of O’Connell Street for the second time – this time by Free State Forces, using artillery against Anti-Treaty “Irregulars” who had taken over buildings near the Gresham.
Accompanying the main view from Nelson’s Pillar, there are two more photos (enlarged below), one showing the remains of the Gresham:
The other is captioned as having been taken outside the General Post Office – although the premises bear no resemblance to any part of the GPO then or now:
Partly obscured by the soldier on the left, eagle-eyed readers will be surprised to see the name “An Post” being used 62 years before the name was adopted as the name for the successor to the Department of Posts and Telegraphs!
Of course in this case it simply means “Post” in the general sense.
Also visible on either side of the letterboxes is “S E” for”Saorstát Éireann”.
Click HERE to see our entire Civil War collection.
Page from the Illustrated London News reproduced with thanks to the Defence Forces Military Archive.
The early 20th century saw the beginning of the soon-to-be widespread use of photography in newspapers and periodicals. Magazines such as The Sphere, Irish Life and the Illustrated London News brought pictorial accounts of news from distant lands into people’s homes, and the photographs alongside the text enhanced the readers’ experience enabling them to “see” world events as well as read about them.
During the period 1914 to 1919, the Manchester Guardian newspaper published a series of pictorial supplements which contained an account of every action of the First World War as it happened. Profusely illustrated with maps, artwork and photographs, they remain an invaluable source of contemporary accounts of every action that took place in that conflict, from the Western Front to the Balkans and the Middle East.
South Dublin Libraries have acquired all nine bound volumes of this unique historical resource and these are available to consult in the Local Studies section of the County Library, Tallaght.
Alongside the main theatres of war, it covers the “Dublin Rebellion” as it was then called using nowadays rarely-seen photographs of the 1916 Rising. These images are now viewable on South Dublin Libraries’ “Source” digital archive and we present some examples here.
Here is an interesting photograph of the east side of the Four Courts after its bombardment in 1916. Six years later it would be targeted again, this time by the forces of the Free State:
Behind the soldier to the right you can just about see a torn recruitment poster. Here is the poster as it would have appeared immediately after being put up:
Here is a scene, from a location nearby, of British Army Lancers rounding the corner at the junction of Church Street and Merchants Quay – about to cross Father Mathew Bridge (then known as Whitworth Bridge):
The photo is interesting, as the only record of Lancers in this area is from the first day of the Rising when a troop of the 5th and 12th Lancers was escorting an ammunition convoy along the north Quays. The lancers came under fire from the 1st Battalion of the Irish Volunteers under Ned Daly who were occupying the Four Courts. They dismounted, let the horses free and carried the ammunition boxes into the Medical Mission building opposite the east side of the Four Courts. The building still bears the scars of rifle fire on its façade.
This strange vehicle located outside the Granville Hotel on Sackville (O’Connell) Street is an early version of the armoured car. The vehicle was comprised of a locomotive boiler on the back of a flatbed truck. They were built by the Great Southern and Western Railway Works in Inchicore by order of the British Military, and had a line of four openings on either side through which a rifle could be aimed.
You would be forgiven for thinking there are more than four apertures. However if you look closely you will see that the “holes” above and below the middle row – and every second one on the middle row – are dummy openings painted on to confuse snipers. In the background is another recruitment poster.
To view all 24 Manchester Guardian images from 1916, click here:
If you wish to view the original volumes, please ask at the desk in the County Library.