This weekend will see the Easter Rising being commemorated in Ireland. Technically the anniversary is the 24th of April but the connection with Easter is so strong that the commemorations tend to occur on Easter Sunday and Monday, rather than on the specific date of the Rising itself.
The story of the Easter Rising has been told many times and from many different angles: politics, leaders, participants, victims; and most recently children. Not having any family stories to draw on here at the findmypast.ie offices we decided to delve into the British Newspaper collection to see how it was reported by the newspapers of the day. Newspapers lend great immediacy to historical events. Unfolding in real time without the benefit of hindsight their focus is not exclusively on famous historical figures, they also give us the story of the ‘man in the street’, how he acted and reacted. They add colour and detail often missing from the sweeping narrative of history books.
Naturally there are hundreds of articles covering the main events, although the press did have a difficult time gaining access to the city. There are significantly more articles from after the Rising than there are during the week of the 24th. The events are variously described by the British newspapers as ‘rebellion’, ‘revolt’, ‘trouble’ and ‘grave disturbances’. This is something to keep in mind when searching historical sources, our modern name for an event is not necessarily the name our ancestors would have used. In this instance we also need to be aware of newspaper speak which can be used to heighten or downplay events depending on the agenda of the newspaper.
On the 24th itself there is no news of the Rising which had started at noon. The Nottingham Evening Post reports on Irishmen’s participation in WWI. This is a powerful reminder of the context in which the Rising happened.
Many of the newspapers report on German support for the rising and reveal the very real fear, at the time, that the events of Easter week would see the full horror of the war being waged on the continent being visited on Ireland. In that week Dublin resembled a war-zone: civilians including thirty children were killed, there were food shortages and a total disruption to daily life, large parts of Dublin were razed to the ground. Residents were asked to notify the authorities if they found bodies to help prevent the spread of disease.
Stories and Snippets
Among the hundreds of articles a few stories caught our attention. A bride left at the altar, the role of women, the price of beef and the disorder in the city are all to be found in the newspaper stories.
A Dundee newspaper reported on the forgotten role of women in the rising, something which is only recently being addressed by the history books:
Another story left us wondering what happened to a soldier dispatched to Dublin on the day of his wedding:
This story paints a vivid picture of the opportunistic response of some of the Dublin citizenry to events.
Finally the price of beef became a concern for some.
Members of findmypast.ie with a World or Britain & Ireland subscription can explore the newspapers here.