Centenary of the Easter Rising

This year marks the centenary of the Easter Rising.  This was an armed insurrection mounted by Irish republicans to end British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic. It took place over the Easter weekend – back in 1916 this was 24-29 April – Easter is a movable feast and it fell later in the year.


During the Easter Rising the rebel headquarters was the General Post Office (GPO) on Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street).

The Special Collections hold material relating to Ireland spanning five centuries.  This image comes from one of Hartley Library’s rare books Ireland: its scenery, character (vol. 2) by a husband and wife team, Anna Maria and Samuel Carter Hall published in London, in the early 1840s.

If we delve into the Broadlands archives we find, among the papers of the Tory politician Colonel Wilfrid Ashley, Baron Mount Temple, correspondence relating to those active in the uprising. General Sir John Grenfell Maxwell was sent to Dublin under orders from the British Government to quell the Rising and pacify Ireland. He writes to Ashley a private secretary in the War Office the following year about Constance Markievicz, the revolutionary nationalist, suffragette and socialist:

I have little doubt that she exercised a personal attraction and appealed to the emotional side of many young men who joined up with her, and took part in the rebellion who might otherwise not have done so […] She was tried and convicted, had her sex been different the sentence would have probably been confirmed. The kindest thing is to look on her as mad, but dangerous.  [MS 62 BR 77/11]

Markievicz had been sentenced to death but this was commuted to life imprisonment on account of her gender. She was released from prison in 1917 as part of a general amnesty; in 1919 she became the first Irish female Cabinet Minister as Minister for Labour. She died, of peritonitis, in 1927.

Mary Gilmartin from Creevykeel wrote to Wilfred Ashley in June 1916 thanking him for the character references Ashley gave to “the boys”, including her own arrested during the rebellion. Seven have been released and eight have been sent to Bala, Wales; she hopes Ashley will help to have them released:

They [have] done nothing and its terrible to think the Government are keeping them so long; the most of the boys are the support of their widow mothers.  [MS 62 BR150/12/14]

Ashley was a unionist and active in promoting opposition to the creation of an Irish free state; maybe he felt that young men from his family’s Co Sligo estates must have been arrested unjustly.


Rebel forces took up positions elsewhere, including at the Four Courts. The Four Courts building was later occupied by Republican forces during the Irish Civil War in 1922. The building suffered heavy damage during the subsequent bombardment with a massive explosion in the west wing of the building resulting in the destruction of the Irish Public Record Office.

More than 2,000 were killed or injured and the leaders were executed.  The Rising is often seen as a key catalyst in the foundation of the Republic of Ireland.

The Special Collections contains two substantial collections of papers relating to the Irish estates owned by the Temple and the Parnell families. As well as a rich source for the study of estate management, these two collections provide a wealth of material relating to the politics, social and cultural history of Ireland. Further Irish political material can be found in the semi-official papers of the first Duke of Wellington, who was Chief Secretary, 1807-9, and Prime Minister, 1828-30. Two other small collections, those of the Earls of Mornington and Richard Wellesley, first Marquis Wellesley, contain complementary material on estate management. For further information about all these collections, please see our research guide.


One response to “Centenary of the Easter Rising

  1. Pingback: 2016: Year in review | University of Southampton Special Collections

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