Where were your ancestors during the 1916 Easter Rising?

Zoe Fagan

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President Michael D Higgins remembers 1916 Easter Rising on O'Connell Street - photo credit Irish Defence Forces (Flickr)
President Michael D Higgins remembers 1916 Easter Rising on O’Connell Street – photo credit Irish Defence Forces (Flickr)

Next year will be the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising but, when the time comes to celebrate and remember those who fought for their country, will you know the part your family played? Take a walk around Dublin City Centre and see the scars left by a rebellion that has painted who we are. See the bullet holes scattered on the front of the GPO on O’Connell Street, look up at the fourth floor of the Shelbourne Hotel and imagine British soldiers invisible behind the curtains or, picture the chaos and casualties that have left their mark on the Four Courts area. Now try to place your grand-parents or your great-grandparents at those scenes.

A lot can be forgotten in 100 years but still, enough can be remembered. With the Easter Rising centennial approaching now is the time to find out where your family were on a day that sent tremors throughout the nation. Was your great-grandfather involved in an attack on police barracks at Clarinbridge or Oranmore in County Galway? Was your grandmother at home playing with her dolls unaware that in Enniscorthy, the town next to hers, 200 volunteers would take over the town hall for five days? Or, perhaps your great-grandmother was working in a sweet shop on O’Connell Street and seeing a horse shot dead, she ran onto the street and cradled it, oblivious that her future husband was three streets over from her. And maybe, this rebellion would be the motivation for that boy to later join the Irish army.

That is exactly what happened to my great-grandparents. The 1916 Rising was the reason my great-grandfather joined the Irish army; it was the reason for meeting my great-grandmother and having four daughters; it was his motive to be involved in the burning of the Custom House in 1921 and ultimately, it was the reason he died so young leaving me to know so little about him. Now, the approaching 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising is the reason I want to learn more about him. This is what I discovered:

Unlocking memories about the past allows us to discover where we came from. It unveils the long-lost values and dreams our families once held and, also, shows how far we have progressed since that time. But above all, exploring our pasts gives a voice to our ancestors who are slowly disappearing into the abyss of time.  Delving into family and national history will have its own ripple effect in providing knowledge to our descendants.  Honour both your past and future generations by finding out where your family was during the 1916 Easter Rising.

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Zoe Fagan

  • Des White

    Hi Zoe, really liked the job you did on your great granddad’s story. I’ve a big interest in the Burning of the Custom House, member of a Commemoration (Closed) Group on Facebook and contributor to our blog at https://customhousecommemoration.com/ .
    I’m planning short bios of Michael and the other 5 IRA men wounded in 1921 I know of. I think you might find some of our info & activities of interest – we hold an annual commemoration & talks (private, non-political) for relatives & friends of the Custom House Men at the building on 25 May. I’d be delighted if you would contact me if you’re interested. Cheers, Des White.