Citizens in Conflict, 1916.
What better place for a 1916 exhibition than on Pearse Street? Patrick Pearse, 1916’s most iconic leader, and the man who read the Proclamation outside the GPO, was of course reared almost across the road from the library, at his father’s stonemason workshop and the family home, both on what was then Great Brunswick Street. Patrick and William (Liam) Pearce were educated locally too, by the Christian Brothers, just yards away.
This small but very worthwhile show is in the exhibition space just to the right as you enter the library. They have some good artifacts, including diaries, letters, and contemporary newspapers. A flag on loan from the Imperial War Museum in London is one highlight. There is a sobering map of the O’Connell Street area after the Rising, which used a pink-red colour to shade in and show which buildings were destroyed. 85% of this map is shaded pink.
There are very good, illustrated profiles of the executed leaders of the Rising, brief, clear and balanced. Good clear accounts of the various key organizations involved too. There is an excellent reproduction of a very useful map showing the positions and deployment of British and rebel forces during the Rising. (Details below, all images copyright Pearse Street Library & Archive and DCC)
For me however the most rewarding item here is not a graph, or map, letter or flag. It’s the voice recordings, using the words of witnesses to (and participants in) the Rising. This is easy to miss. It’s to the rear of the room, behiund some of the other displays and is simply carried on 5 earpieces, which you hold to your head to listen. The recordings are all on a loop, titled according to areas of activity during Easter week. I chose the earpiece labeled “Boland’s Mill” as i was especially looking for accounts from the Battle of Mount Street Bridge. It had plenty. The snobbish British officer, describing his own men as “typical specimens of the English slums” was not attractive. But he was totally illuminating of attitudes of the time. (And attitudes not by any manner confined to British, or English people; Ireland including Nationalist Ireland had plenty of snobbery too) Worse was when the same officer then describes one of his men coming forward to shamefacedly admit shooting two small girls. I didn’t find the Irish Volunteer’s gleeful account at killing so many Sherwood Foresters, particularly heartening or uplifting either. Just all very, very sad. Yet important and illuminating. The voice recordings are the best part of this exhibition, lifting it to a far more interesting, more immersive level. Most definitely worth a visit.
Location: Dublin City Library and Archive. 138-144 Pearse Street, Dublin 2 Opening Hours:
Monday to Thursday: 10.00am – 8.00pm
Friday, Saturday: 10.00am – 5.00pm
Sunday: Closed. Tours are available. See website, here.
Feature image, directly above, images from the front page of the Daily Sketch, 1916. From Dublin City Library exhibition, Citizens in Conflict. all images copyright of and enquiries to Dublin city Library and Archive.