Margaret Skinnider: ‘Doing my Bit for Ireland’ (1917)

James Connolly was a very quiet man at the time I met him, quiet and tense. He was short and thick-set, with a shrewd eye and determined speech. He proved a genius at organization, and this was lucky, for in Dublin there are no great factories, except Guinness’s, to employ large numbers of men, and this makes organization difficult. To have managed such a strike as the Transport Workers’ in 1913, after only half a dozen years of organization, is proof of his great ability. And then to organize a Citizen’s Army!

p. 75:

At Liberty Hall I saw the flag of the republic waiting to be raised. I saw, too, the bombs and ammunition stored there, and was set to work with some other girls making cartridges. This was on the Thursday before Easter. That same evening I was given a despatch to take to Belfast. The address of the man to whom it was to be delivered was at Mr. Connolly’s home in the outskirts of the city. I was to go there first and get it from Nora Connolly, then go on to this man.

p. 101:

As soon as our men were in position in St. Stephen’s Green, I rode off down Leeson Street toward the Grand Canal to learn if the British soldiers were now leaving Beggar’s Bush or the Portobello barracks. Everything remained quiet.

pp. 102-3:

Again I was sent out to learn if the Harcourt Street Station had been occupied by our men. This had been done, and already telegraph wires there, as well as elsewhere, had been cut to isolate Dublin. Telephone wires were cut, too, but one was overlooked. By that wire word of the rising reached London much sooner than otherwise would have been the case. But here again, the wonder is not that something had been overlooked, but that so much was accomplished. By the original plan, volunteers were told off to do this wire-cutting and the hundred and one things necessary to a revolt taking place in a city like Dublin. When this work was redistributed to one third the original number of men, it was hard to be certain that those who had never drilled for the kind of task assigned them could do it at all. This insurrec tion had been all but rehearsed, during those months when it was being worked out on paper, by daily and weekly drills.

p. 109:

Even while I was cycling toward the post-office, the crowd had reassembled to watch the raising of the flag of the Irish Republic. As the tricolor — green, white, and orange — appeared above the roof of the post-office, a salute was fired. A few days later, while it was still waving, James Connolly wrote: “For the first time in seven hundred years the flag of a free Ireland floats triumphantly over Dublin City!” Mr. Connolly and a few of his officers came out to look at it as it waved up there against the sky. I saw an old woman go up to him and, bending her knee, kiss his hand. Indeed, the people loved and trusted him.

pp. 115-116

… [Countess Markievicz] returned to St. Stephen’s Green and alone and single-handed took possession of the College of Surgeons. This is a big, square, granite building on the west side of the Green. It was, as we later discovered, impregnable. For all im pression they made, the machine-gun bullets with which the British soldiers peppered it for five days might have been dried peas. The countess, fortunately, had met with no resistance. She walked up the steps, rang the bell, and, when no one answered, fired into the lock and  entered. The flag we flew from the roof of the building was a small one I had brought on my bicycle from headquarters.

pp. 125-126:

Several days elapsed before the people of Dublin became fully aware of the meaning of what was going on. Riots are not rare, and this might well seem to many of them only rioting on a large scale, with some new and interesting features. The poor of Dublin have never been appeased with bread or circuses by the British authorities. They have had to be content with starvation and an occasional street disturbance. But little bv little, as I rode along, I could detect a change in attitude. Some became craven and disappeared; in others, it seemed that at last their souls might come out of hiding and face the day.

pp. 145-146:

IT took only a few moments to reach the building we were to set afire. Councilor Partridge smashed the glass door in the front of a shop that occupied the ground floor. He did it with the butt of his rifle and a flash followed. It had been discharged! I rushed past him into the doorway of the shop, call- ing to the others to come on. Behind me came the sound of a volley, and I fell. It was as I had on the instant divined. That flash had revealed us to the enemy. “It ‘s all over,” I muttered, as I felt myself falling. But a moment later, when I knew I was not dead, I was sure I should pull through. Before another volley could be fired, Mr. Partridge lifted and carried me into the street. There on the sidewalk lay a dark figure in a pool of blood. It was Fred Ryan, a mere lad of seventeen, who had wanted to come with us as one of the party of four. “We must take him along,” I said. But it was no use; he was dead.

Full text at Doing my Bit for Ireland


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