The GPO in the Aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising

Easter 1916 | Real Life on the Streets of Dublin

A battle is raging over the future of a group of houses in Dublin city centre. And today the Irish High Court has come down on the side of those trying to save the buildings. It’s a victory for, among others, James Connolly Heron, grandson of the Rising leader who was shot tied to a chair.

They’re not just any old houses — the buildings being fought over are hallowed ground, the last remaining Easter Rising battlefield site. They represent the final meeting place of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic. This government, proclaimed by Padraig Pearse on the steps of the GPO on Easter Monday 1916, claimed the allegiance of all Irishmen and Irishwomen. As children of Erin they were summoned to her flag to strike for her freedom. A cataclysmic shot was fired across Britannia’s bow that still reverberates 100 years later. The epicentre of this reverberation can be found in Dublin’s Moore Street.

Walking on Moore Street’s hallowed cobbles, you find a microcosm of modern life in a bustling metropolis. On both sides of the streets the traditional fruit and flower sellers have their stalls, alongside shops catering to Dublin’s vibrant migrant population. The melodic voices of the street sellers hawking their wares add to a myriad of foreign voices and accents, combining in a wonderful cacophony. One hundred years ago next month, a different cacophony could be heard all through the street and beyond.

It was the sound of bullets flying through the air, the boom of artillery, the machine-gun staccato and screams and cries of wounded and dying soldiers and rebels alike that filled the 1916 Dublin air. The smell of burning and smouldering rubble pervaded the city. The fires raging throughout the capital could be seen for miles around.

Those who remembered seeing this spectacle painted a vivid picture. One of the most distressing images to many was that of dead horses prostrate on the ground. The smell of their putrefying flesh lingered long in the memory of many. Equally horrifying, let often omitted from collective memory, is the plight of civilians who were caught up in this madness. A high number of ordinary number people living in and around Moore Street perished in the fighting. Some were shot by stray bullets in their own homes, others while simply trying to leave and seek sanctuary elsewhere.

Houses shake as the battle rages

What would you do? A battle is raging all around your home. Shells being fired into your street cause big, solid, houses to shake and buckle. In the surrounding streets you see raging infernos devouring all in their murderous wake. The fire could spread to the neighbouring building and then on to yours. Bullets whizz up and down your street, at anything and anyone that moves. You are safe indoors for the present but fearful of what may come next. Will the building next door be engulfed and then the fire take over your own home? Will it be safe to chance seeking sanctuary elsewhere and set foot into the hailstorm of bullets raining down in all directions? You have but a few seconds, not minutes to decide what to do next. But before you do bear in mind you have a wife and three children to consider …

A man named John Doyle faced this very dilemma and took the brave but reckless decision to lead his family to safety. They lived at number 16 Moore Street. After fashioning a flag of truce using an umbrella and his wife’s apron, John Doyle’s journey began. The small family were barely half way across the street when a fusillade of lead was opened up upon them. John fell wounded on the street. His wife, Teresa, stopped to help him by dragging him to safety. Another shot rang out, and she too was hit. Thankfully, her youngest, a mere toddler was being carried by her teenage daughter.

Luckily for them a neighbour on the opposite side of the street saw what was unfolding and threw a rope which was used to guide all of the family to safety. Crammed inside that house were 20 people all in the same desperate situation, scared for their lives, not knowing what fate would befall them. As each second passed their chances of making it out alive grew slimmer and slimmer. Hope was all they had but even that was running out. If only the firing would cease.

John Doyle’s attempt to save his family ended in his death

One of the men in the house volunteered to try and reach the military lines. Dashing in and out of back alleyways he completed his mission. The officer in charge instructed him to have everyone come up the street under a white flag. A lady with her husband and her three children led the way. Mr Doyle was carried out in a blanket, his wife not far behind using an umbrella to support herself. On reaching the military barricade at the top of the street the men were imprisoned in a looted store and the women given sanctuary above a laundry behind the lines. Mr Doyle was removed to the Rotunda hospital. He died shortly afterwards from the injuries sustained leading his family to safety.  John Doyle was survived by his wife Teresa and three children.

Following her husband’s tragic and untimely death Teresa Doyle was left in considerable physical, emotional and financial distress. Almost a year after this horrific event she was still suffering the effects of her injuries and was in a very weak condition. Still living at the same address she had no visible means on which to survive. Thankfully her 14 year old daughter Elizabeth Mary was able to secure employment as a packer in Jacobs biscuit factory. Elizabeth earned 5s a week and most likely kept house and helped look after her younger siblings.   As a result of her father’s death Elizabeth and her two brothers received £50 each from the Rebellion Victims Committee. Mrs Teresa Doyle received £100 for the loss of her husband. She was described as “a sober and respectable woman”.


Barton&Foy, The Easter Rising, History Press (2011)

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