Update: the recordings are no longer available, links broken.
I’ve always remembered the brilliant dramatisation “Insurrection” (written by Hugh Leonard) and wished I could see it again. There are several excerpts from it online now. (Why don’t they put the whole thing up?) Although it looks different, naturally dated somewhat, I still think the clips are great.
The RTÉ archives also contain marvellous interviews with survivors such as James Connolly’s daughter, recalling her and her mother’s visit to him before he was shot. Every day of the week has a separate page with a list of the special schedule for TV and radio and clips, though it’s a pity how many have been lost. (I know, one could say that about people as well.)
Here is a clip from an interview with Kathleen Clarke widow of Thomas Clarke, one of the seven signatories of the Proclamation of the Republic (all shot). “You must make your goodbyes as casual as possible…I didn’t really ever see that he’d come through, I must say.”
Kathleen Clarke is also in this clip, talking about P. H. Pearse. One gathers that she remembers him not with any fondness, as an exceptionally silent type.
Former president Seán T. Ó Ceallaigh recalls the looting in O’Connell Street and his failed attempt to deal with it under orders from General (James) Connolly. Connolly subsequently talks about sending somebody to shoot some of the looters: “Shooting over their heads is useless. Unless some of them are shot, they won’t stop.” Ó Ceallaigh requests and is allowed to be excused from that duty. He doesn’t know if it was actually done. Here he is again, talking about the release of Bulmer Hobson.
“In this [vivid] extract, Norah Connolly O’Brien recalls making her way back to Dublin and her concern to find out how her father was.” She recalls a friend telling her, “They’re all dead and slaughtered. She battered us with words…” In another extract, she describes her [and her mother’s] final visit to her father before his execution.” Very beautiful, the words, but heart-rending. Because of Connolly’s injuries his execution was worse, if that is possible, than the others: they shot him sitting in a chair.
After the surrender, the hostility of other Dubliners to the rebels as they were marched away, is recalled by one of the prisoners. He thought that there was nothing left of Dublin, it was all fire, “still burning.”
There are other recollections of the leaders, people and events as well as coverage of the opening and closing ceremonies, the march in Belfast, and speeches by that sanctimonious old prig De Valera, who was largely responsible for the miseries of Ireland after 1916.
I was 11 in Easter, 1966. For the fiftieth anniversary of the rising, we had three giant new flagpoles installed by the entrance to the De La Salle primary school in Finglas, and we’d been practicing for weeks to sing on the occasion of their inauguration: The Foggy Dew and Roddy McCorley. About the hemp rope on his neck, the golden ringlets clung.
We were then all bused into O’Connell Street on Easter Sunday and marched to Croke Park for an extraordinary pageant. There were parades and displays by hundreds of variously costumed people portraying Irish history. Here’s an archive recording about the ‘Aiséiri’ [rising] pageant. The whole effect of the commemorations was an inoculation of nationalism that never needs any booster shots. The next time I marched from O’Connell Street was the Wednesday after Bloody Sunday in 1972, with 100,000 in protest to the British Embassy.
Perhaps I should close with the special version of the national anthem that was used at closedown every night for the week, with drawings of the seven signatories ending up with Pearse, proving again that the writing of poetry is no guide to good character.