Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Commemorating 1916

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This talk is one in a series under the 1916 banner. This particular one is actually dealing with how 1916 itself has been commemorated in the Republic down the years and it is the last in the series of 1916 talks. It was given in the Dublin Library and Archive on 23 June 2016.

Tara Doyle

The speaker was introduced by Tara Doyle who is one of the librarians working on the 1916 Commemorations for Dublin City Council.

Donal Fallon shuffling his notes.

This talk is being given by Donal Fallon who is a social historian with a great familiarity with this area. Donal is one of the team of three who produce the Dublin blog Come Here To Me! and he has written a great book on that other event which overshadowed the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Rising, the blowing up of Nelson's Pillar in March 1966.

Liberty Hall Banner 1917
"James Connolly Murdered May 12th 1916"

Straight into the first anniversary of the Rising in 1917. The Rising itself was commemorated at Easter, which in that year fell on 8th April (Sunday). The authorities were expecting trouble and banned public assemblies. Nevertheless, lots of people turned out to commemorate the Rising.

Later, on 12 May 1917, a banner made by Helena Moloney and some other ladies was put up on Liberty Hall reminding people of the murder of James Connolly the previous year. This was taken down by the police, an action which incensed the ladies who promptly made up a replacement banner. This was attached to the building higher up than the first one and remained there long enough to remind a good few passers by of the previous year's execution.

Eater Lily, introduced in 1926

The next big event was the tenth anniversary in 1926. This saw the introduction of the Easter Lily in opposition to the WWI poppy which was still widely worn on Armistice Day. The Lily got off to a slow start and tended to be worn by members of the then current republican movement as opposed to those who participated in the Rising.

Remembrance Sunday, Wellington Monument, Phoenix Park, 1926

By my day, there was little talk of commemorating WWI and even less about those who fought for the British Army. In fact, they did not "come down from the attic" until the 1990s and subsequently, in no small part due to the efforts of the two Marys (Robinson & McAleese) to restore those who fought, and those who died, to their rightful place in the memory of the nation. However, in earlier years, as the above photo shows, there were fairly massive turnouts on Remembrance Sunday.

Mrs Kathleen Clarke

The year 1926 also saw the formation of the National Graves Association, whose aim was to maintain the graves of republicans and erect appropriate plaques and headstones where these were lacking. This was a very widely based organisation, with, for example, Kathleen Clarke, widow of Tom Clarke and a founder member of Fianna Fáil, as its treasurer.

There was a certain amount of violence associated with commemorations through the 1920s and 1930s. While the earlier period saw conflicts based on Irish/British identities, those in the later period were more left versus right with the Catholics rooting out the Commies.

A last glimpse of Nelson from the viewing platform before the fall

The next major commemoration was the 50th anniversary in 1966. This saw an outpouring of patriotic fervour but was dominated by two events.

First the screening of the television series, Insurrection, which re-enacted the Rising. This was hugely popular and was populated with well known actors of the day.

But the event which stole the show was the toppling of Nelson from his pillar beside the GPO just as major preparations were under way for the big national march past at this iconic site.

Donal had good things to say about the current centenary commemorations which have attracted participation by a wide spectrum of factions and elements across society.

He ended with the hope that this community spirit carries on into the upcoming commemorations of the War of Independence, and more particularly the Civil War.

Hard to say, when the dead from that latter period still have their guns out of their holsters.

You can hear Donal's talk here in full.

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