Now for the turning point in my life. I was not yet 21 years of age and was never out of London (except on a holiday) in my life. My mother was born in Kerry and had never seen Ireland since she was 4 years of age. My father (who died before I was 14 years old) was born in London of Irish parents, and I was born in Dockhead, a rough and ready quarter of London. I knew nothing of Ireland except in a hazy kind of a way until I joined the Gaelic League. So, in a sense, I adopted Ireland as my own country until it adopted me at Easter 1916….
Around about this time, things with regard to the activities of the Irish Volunteers were being viewed by the British authorities as becoming serious, and on St. Patrick’s Day 1916, I witnessed and took part in the most impressive event, I think, in modern Irish affairs, namely the church parade and march past in College Green…
We received orders drawing us to attention, were filed into SS. Michael and John’s to attend the special Mass held for the benefit of the Irish Volunteers. The Rev. Father Nevin, I believe, officiated and the scene had a profound effect on me which will never leave my mind. A guard of honour in full uniform had been drawn up around the altar and the chapel packed to utmost capacity with Volunteers. At the elevation the guard of honour drew their swords to the Salute while the bugles rang out with a clarity that was astounding owing to the backed condition of the chapel; in the immediate silence that took place the priest on the altar, with the guard in the attitude of salute, looked, like a vision from another world and in the faces of those near me was the appearance that they also were looking into something wonderful. Patrick Pearse, The O’Rahilly, Sean McDermott and the executive who were in close attendance near the altar, appeared to look in their uniforms as if receiving a special blessing from God, and undoubtedly every man attending that Mass received such a blessing. Suddenly a rich baritone voice burst
into the hymn to our Patron Saint “Hail Glorious St. Patrick” and it was taken up by the whole congregation in such a fervent manner that a lump rose in my throat and I wanted to burst out crying or to do something to prove that I was worthy of being in their company.
Bureau of Miliary History testimony of William Daly, Member of Irish Volunteers London. 1913-1916.
On St. Patrick’s Day 1916 the Dublin Brigade practically fully armed, uniformed and equipped paraded through the City of Dublin and held that portion of Dame St. from the City Hall to the Bank of Ireland for over an hour, during which time no traffic was allowed to break the ranks of the Volunteers, Citizen Army and Cumann na mBan. I remember seeing on that day British soldiers with horse drawn vehicles; conveying war material from North Wall under heavy armed guards being stopped and ordered to proceed on alternative routes and having no choice but to obey the directions of our men. A large force of armed police were simply powerless to intervene and I cannot recollect a single incident to marr the fine demonstration amid the high standard of discipline and training displayed by the combined republican forces.
At this time a great feeling of comradeship had developed between individual Volunteers and they could be seen in small groups chatting or walking, and it was felt by all that soon something big would take place.
Bureau of Miliary History testimony of Sean Cody, Member of ‘G’ Coy, 1st Battalion, Dublin Brigade
Cruagh, Rathfarnham, March 1949
I wish to place on record (what I believe has never been recorded) an instance of which I was an eye-witness as I think it is due in honour to the memory of the man concerned.
It was St. Patrick’s Day 1916 in College Green where Eoin McNeill was reviewing the volunteers of the Dublin Brigade. I was in charge of the cyclists of the 4th Batt. on the right of College Green as you face Cork Hill, on my left were the cyclists of the 3rd Batt, in charge of Lieut. Malone, our duty was to close the road against traffic.
Just as Cmdt De Valera was giving the order for his battalion (immediately behind us) to present arms a large motor car came to a halt in front of Lieut Malones cyclists, in that car was Major Genl Friend, G.O.C of the British forces in Ireland with some members of his staff.
The obvious intention of the driver of the car was to cut the corner into Trinity Street otherwise the car would have driven to my side.
Lieut Malone went forward and objected to the car getting through, he was determined that it should not get through and his determination succeeded as the car was backed and went away in the direction of George’s Street.
Now this Lieut Malone was the same Lieut Malone who gave his life for freedom at Carisbrooke House a few weeks later (Easter 1916).
His guiding motto on both occasions would appear to be: They shall not pass.
All honour to his name and memory, and to his soul eternal rest.
Bureau of Military history testimony of John J Keegan, Member of Fourth Battalion, Irish Volunteers
Ever since the Volunteers were formed in 1913 detectives or police accompanied all marching parties of Volunteers, and when the split came the same system of observation was maintained in both sections, viz. Irish Volunteers and National Volunteers. In the beginning and for some time the Volunteers looked self-conscious in their uniforms, most of which were not too well tailored. As the men were of all shapes, sizes and ages, some with beards and others with spectacles, they often presented a rather “gawky” appearance as compared with the police or British military.
There was, however, a gradual improvement in appearance and police who accompanied the St. Patrick’s Day, 1916, parade of the Irish Volunteers commented on the remarkable turn out of the men on that day. Gone were all awkwardness and self-consciousness, and the men looked like soldiers, no longer dominated by their uniforms, and, with rifles and bayonets, had acquired a workmanlike and purposeful air comparable to the best British infantry battalions of the time.
Full reports were made by the police on that day’s marches, and again nobody seemed to give the matter much thought in British Government circles.
All this time, however, police raids were continuously being made on newsagent’s shops, and mosquito printing plants, and what they styled “seditious literature” was constantly being seized, accompanied frequently by arrests for disloyal activities.
The Castle authorities never appeared to anticipate a rising by the Volunteers. They did expect resistance to arrest or disarmament and believed they held the initiative as to whether there would be a clash or not. The British at this time purported to be fighting for democracy and small nationalities on the continent and appeared to be unwilling to admit to themselves or anybody else that they were really holding down Ireland against the wishes of the Irish people…
Bureau of Military History testimony of Eamon Broy, I.R.A. Intelligence Agent, Dublin Castle, later Garda Siochana Commissioner