1916 Rising Eye-Witness Account

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Eden Quay in the aftermath of the 1916 Rising. Image reproduced by kind permission of the estate of T.W. MurphyBy Joshua C. Manly, Town Clerk, Pembroke Urban District Council
Dublin City Archives: UDC/2/Mins/14

Editorial note: This eyewitness account of the 1916 Rising was written by Joshua C. Manly, who held the post of Town Clerk to the Pembroke Urban District Council, a position approximating to the modern Chief Executive. The Pembroke Council was a small local authority, independent of Dublin City, which had responsibility for the south Dublin suburbs of Ballsbridge, Donnybrook, Irishtown, Ringsend and Sandymount, along with parts of Milltown. The Council’s headquarters was at the Town Hall, Ballsbridge, but it also owned premises at 18 Merrion Road (the Rate-Collector’s Office); the Pembroke Technical Schools at Shelbourne Road and Ringsend; and the Electricity Works at Londonbridge Road. Each of these premises would be affected by the 1916 Rising.

Manly’s account was written in the week beginning Monday 15 May 1916 to outline to his employers, the members of Pembroke Urban District Council, the progress of the Rising in the district and the measures taken by him and his staff to ameliorate matters. It was almost certainly generated from his own contemporaneous notes but the finished version was typed on foolscap sheets and inserted into the Minutes of the Pembroke Urban District Council, giving it official status.

Manly was painstaking and thorough in his approach to his responsibilities and his first entry reveals that he was at work on Easter Monday 1916, even though it was a Bank Holiday, and on the following day, which was a holiday for public servants. He therefore was made immediately aware of the Rising through a Proclamation placing the city and county of Dublin under Martial Law. As events unfolded, the Town Hall was seized by the British Army (Wednesday 26 April) and Manly had to seek alternative premises so that the Council could continue its work. Items of particular concern to him included making arrangements for his staff to have passes so that they could move about the district and carry out their work; protecting the Electricity Works at Londonbridge Road, which were under fire; arranging for his staff to receive their wages; ensuring that local shops were stocked with bread and other basic necessities and that Post Offices could continue to function; and arranging for the burial of civilians, British soldiers and Volunteers who had been killed in the fighting. Finally, Manly made arrangements for a Relief Committee to be set up for the emergency distribution of food supplies within the Pembroke area, and obtained a grant of £100 from the Local Government Board for this purpose.

Even though the district was still under martial law, and the British Army were still in occupation of the Town Hall at Ballsbridge, a semblance of normality returned when the Pembroke Urban District Council was allowed to hold a special meeting in the Technical School to strike the rates on Monday 15 May 1916, and this concludes Manly’s account.

Joshua Manly’s account provides a specific view of the 1916 Rising, coming as it does from an eyewitness whose only concern was to manage an unprecedented situation as it unfolded before him. The very fact that it was written and incorporated into the official records, indicates that both he and the Pembroke Urban District Council were aware that this was a momentous event.

Download a transcript of Joshua Manly's Account of the 1916 Rising (PDF, 112KB)