Mollie Black’s letter
I was given this letter by a neighbor, Lucinda Isabella Bright, many years ago. Lucy was sorting out some old correspondence and because of failing eyesight she asked me to check that she was not throwing out anything important. Included in this was the following letter. Lucy was originally from Portrush and Jim and Mollie Black were friends and gave her the copy of the letter.
The letter is fascinating. Mollie’s Husband Captain (later Major) James Black was serving in the Army in France and Mollie sent him this letter detailing her experiences in Dublin in the days immediately following the Rising – or as she described it the Rebellion!
To get to Dublin, Mollie had to obtain a pass from the local RIC Sergeant to get to Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire). Her excuse was that she had three old aunts living in Donnybrook who was worried about. In Kingstown she had to get another pass to get into Dublin.
Once she got to Donnybrook and found that the aunts were safe she decided to go and see some other friends in Dublin and off she went to have a look around the city. She was certainly a very brave woman to travel around the city amidst the aftermath of the shooting when everyone was still very edgy. She could very easily have been shot by accident. With the amount of walking she did in the couple of days she must have been exhausted!
This account of her adventures, give a very explicit description of her experiences and the conditions in Dublin immediately following the Rising.
I often wonder about the reaction to her letter when it reached her husband in France. It was probably the first real news that the soldiers received on the situation of Easter Week in Dublin in 1916.
About Peter Brown:
My name is Peter Brown living in Donabate. I have been married for 40 years to Ann (nee Finnerty) and have two children Susan and Ruth and 4 grandchildren Eva, Alex, peter and Harry. I am now retired having spent my working life in the employ of Bank of Ireland.
My interests are golf (badly), campanology (St. Patrick’s Cathedral), Freemasonry and Genealogy.
My interest in genealogy started in 1990. Unfortunately by this stage most of those who could have helped me had passed on to their reward. However with the help of Sean Murphy’s genealogy course in UCD I was able to make good progress in my research. I was also helped by research carried out by an ancestor who published research on my mother’s side, before the Four Court’s fire, that traced the family back to the 1630’s in Northern Ireland and possibly back to the Huguenot’s in Aix La-Chapelle circa 1550! . This research included 75 family extracts form the 1821 census, that were destroyed in the fire, that he lodged in the National Archives in Dublin and PRONI in Belfast.
I am also involved in market research, and am presently involved in a research run by Trinity College called TILDA that is researching ageing in Ireland.
Page 1 – Pass
Pass 30th April; Kingstown 30/04/16 to 01/05/16
Permission is granted to Mrs Black to travel from Kingstown to Monkstown to Ballsbridge
The bearer Mrs Black Avondale Rathdrum leaves here this evening by Rail in order to see three old ladies named Buckley; 4 Morehany Terrace Donnybrook who are friends of Mrs Black.
Mrs Black is a thorough loyal subject and her husband is a Captain in the Army
(To all concerned)
May 3rd ‘16
My Dearest Jim,
I haven’t had a word of news from you for more than 10 days. Enabt [sic] what I have heard indirectly from Mr Clarke we have had the most alarming stories going about. Friday’s news was dismal but on Saturday night an engine came down the line bearing a message that the rebels in Dublin had surrendered. Saville motored out to Forbes to tell him and Mr Forbes came over at about 12 pm. W_tell me. We had been talking of going up to Dublin on the first opportunity as I was very anxious about the old aunts at Donnybrook. I heard of people being shot on Morehampton Rd and that Dublin was starring. We had only rumour to go on as we saw no paper or received no letters from Easter Monday. I walked in everyday to see the cue train come in, after Wednesday it only went as far as Arklow, as the Rebels-had Enniscorthy.
On Sunday I got ready for church but went to the train first. Gill was on it he had sent a message to the Comerfords to meet him about sending flour to Dublin. I presume he was going on to Fogarty on the same errand to Aughrim. Some man had for out of Dublin from Ringsend and told ghastly tales of starvation, fires, devastation, etc etc. Bell, the King’s brother in law was in the train and the news he added decided me to start at once with money and provisions to rescue the three old aunts. The train was to return from Arklow in a couple of hours for Kingstown so I darted home, met Mr Forbes and told him there was an up train (He was dressed to cycle to Bray to get news) and he ordered a car and I gathered up bread, milk, sugar, eggs etc all I could carry, also all the £.S.D I could get. (I had got money from the bank on Thursday in preparation for the expedition). I travelled with Forbes in the carriage next fill in hopes of getting a lift at Kingstown!! Our Gill was staying in Kingstown I think-
-or had no one to meet him. Anyway he lookd rather sick and although he lives in Fitzwilliam St he knew absolutely nothing about the Offices on Merrion St.
Kingstown was glorious with soldiers – I did love it – The first thing on arrival I was told to go and get a pass at Town hall a fairly long queue was waiting all the men about were either in Khaki or the green of the Veteran Corps with GR on their arms (The Coreeks as they are called!) or somebodies with a red armlet brassard with MP on it (what for I don’t know), Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts all looking as if they were running the Empire. I waited ages outside and then another age inside before I for to the Pass Giver – a duck of a little English Officer. I produced a letter from the Sergeant here and talk to him nicely and he said he would give me a pass out. He would advise me not to unless it was ‘absolutely necessary’, ‘very unhealthy district’ etc etc. I said I would wait until morning & made out the pass for Monkstown then.
I had arranged to stop with Mrs Bell if I could not get into Dublin and for Ballsbridge next day. I stupidly said I would go that way as I expected to walk and just knew the main road, He said I would have to get another pass there and to get one to bring me out again as well!
In the meantime Mr Forbes who had airily left me at the first WGO and under car was chased back after a few yards and had to take his place miles behind me in the queue. So I said farewell to him and wished him luck (he thought it would be healthier in England and arrived in London that night). I then proceeded to find the Bell’s place at Salthill, as you are painfully aware I do not possess the bump of locality. I took the sea road which was paved with Tommies all English regiments & no one could direct me! At last a nice officer came to the rescue and hailed a coastguard and I got my bearings alright. My passport was getting dilapidated by this time as it was looked at every 50 yards
I was lulled to sleep (as I thought) by the music of the guns (but in the morning I found it was just the Rockets at the Kish Lighthouse) and a nice sound of motors and houses and the clanking of arms etc – (We had a picket at the gate so very safe). In the morning I decided the situation must be really desperate in Dublin and I determined to hire a motor and rescue the aunts. I set out for Cooks Garage Kingston and was truly glad I had my pass as now the queue from the Town Hall reached halfway up to George Street, that before 8:30 am. Cooks made a fearful fuss about the car I had to pay 30% down & engage only to keep her standing half an hour. The man (driver) said we would be all day if we tried to get through Ballsbrigde, and that he would take me the back way, so we got off the main road and did not dare call at Monkstown for the provisions (I decided it didn’t matter as I was going to take them out of the place) and upped round all kind of backways-
-and hoped Sinn Feiners wouldn’t commandeer the car & got into Donnybrook (no stopping to looks at passers there at all). I found the old ladies all well, most cheerful, with an extremely large amount of meat in the house and plenty of everything except bread. They had been out every day shopping and to Church but had not been in the city. To my suggestion if they would like to come anyway they only replied “how is the darling baby and Shanci etc etc”. So I said “goodbye, I’ll go back to Rathdrum.” I had no pass back, so the chauffeur said to say nothing and he would show his. So I sat in front beside him and tried to look innocent. He flew in but I just missed the 10 o’clock train at Kingstown by 3 minutes. I then returned to Mrs Bell divided the eatables with her, and left with the other portion for Donnybrook again on foot. I heard there was fighting of some kind about Merrion and Ballsbridge so I went up Merrion Avenue way. I got a short lift to Donnybrook in an old trap had-
-lunch with the aunts & I set out to look up Mrs Kings sister at South Circular Rd if possible. I walked up Marlborough Rd through Ranelagh and Rathmines. The population of the district was all out searching for provisions. Everyone had a parcel, or loaves of bread without any paper at all. One with a bicycle and had a frilled pillowcase with loaves in it over his shoulder. Portobello Bridge was guarded with soldiers and their [sic] were a few stray soldiers about Rathmines. I displaced my pass and told them as it was disturbed at Ballsbridge I had come by Donnybrook. The sentry said I would have to have a pass out but if I was only half an hour he would still be on duty and would let me out without one. I simply flew away but I found the house where Miss King lived was miles away Dolphin’s Barn End and a passer by told me she had been all through Sackville Street and it was quite quiet so I decided to risk the pass out and see the signal Miss Kelly was alright I felt sure as everything-
-was quiet and no sign of damage. I then began slumming [sic] and made for the Adelaide to see Theresa. I simply fell into Jacob’s Factory before I knew, it is there still, but all its glass is powder in the street and sand lays in the windows. There was some scare on at the Adelaide about turning some stray rebels out of a house close by and the nation was on the “jump”. This performance was given all the time Theresa says. They have kept jumping the patients from the top storey down to the basement & then up again when there was a lull. She says they have had a trule awful time there. I didn’t wanit to hear more lest I should get barricaded in and see no more and I then went through Bishop St, Georges St, Parliament St, Dame St, Westmoreland St, Sackville St and up to Dr Woods’ Gardiner St. On in the Sackville St, Abbey St, Eden Quay, Earl St, Henry St, Liberty hall is there real devastation. We climbed over bricks there and Lawrence Ruins were still smouldering; the right hand side of Sackville St from O’Connell Bridge to Lawrence’s is non Est.
The Post Office is gutted, only the walls standing. Crowds were out sightseeing. The woods had a stirring time but had no leisure for fearfulness as the entertained 25 or 30 officers and soldiers and Addie went out in the thick of the fighting with a soldier to forage for provisions. They fired from the roof and of course they saw the fall of Liberty Hall from shell fire from the gunboat.
I had tea there and heard lots of news and came back by Eden Quay, Grafton St & the Green and intended to try my luck at Leeson St Bridge but we were shoved out of Leeson st as there was some sniping or something going on on top (the soldier was a youth who told me lots of news, he saw some of the fighting). The youth told me the Officers handled their men very badly at first without seeking cover others were picked off in dozens at one spot. Caresbrook Horse I think. Of course you have heard the Trinity Boys held the College and the Bank of Ireland, they are alright except for a few broken windows. Grafton St, Stephens Green, Shelbourne Hotel the same, only broken glass, no great destruction at all.
I parted from the youth in Leeson St and made for Richmond Bridge into Ranelagh all along by Earlsfort Terrace, Harcourt St (that’s alright too just a little glass broken) at Richmond Bridge there was a good many people at each side and a rough barricade was thrown up behind to stop cars getting out. I showed my pass in and the serjeants [sic] letter to a private. He said he didn’t think that would do, but to ask the serjeant. When I was speaking to him the other sentry (there were only 3) shot at a man a couple of times (they were fairly jumpy, as a sentry was shot in Kingtown by an old woman). The serjeant let me pass and I heard several more shots fired just after that. I had seen the sentry chase an oldish man back as I came up to the image.
Of course they were barging away at Ballsbridge wat all the time and their [sic] were enough Red Cross people motoring, cycling and walking to look after a whole division. I only stayed a few minutes with the Aunts and told them the news of how quiet Dublin was, and then continued by-
-journey back to Kingstown for the night. I tried to hire a car in Donnybrook, but a man with a pass wanted 15/- so I walked on and about halfway there, a cab overtook me and I got a lift back. They had a barricade of sandbags at Blackrock I saw guns being galloped out, for where I don’t know and they were digging trenches somewhere too. In the morning ten armoured motor cars with guns mounted on them left Kingstown and a lot of cavalry, a lot more soldiers came in on Monday.
I felt quite sorry to leave all the soldiers and excitement behind at Kingstown on Tuesday – every empty house at Kingstown was full of soldiers also the Marine Hotel, Royal Mail Hotel, Parlour Gardens etc. We had to sign our names on our passes also. My first pass did duty all through for me, but when we got to Dalkey. They searched the train, and there was great excitement. I was held I showed have got a pass to get back to Rathdrum and a man was very nearly kept back but he produced a sheaf of letters and an income tax receipt and railway pass.
I was so glad to see by todays Daily Mail (there are no Irish Papers now) that all is quiet in Cork. I had heard of a lady being shot there & the horrid way the Sinn Feiners picked off the Officers coming from the races on Easter Monday disgusted me & made me feel very anxious.
I expect by then the Ballsbridge district is cleared and all the rest of Dublin is quiet. And one would think from the stories [?] here at Kingstown that things were frightful but really except the Sackville St area I saw nothing appalling. The military regulations are very strict but when those soldiers alive can guard a lodge there are not many Sinn Feiners left.
Well much love. I am sending this letter in the hopes that it may reach you, as I understand no Irish letters are being delivered. Certainly I have had none, except one from Florence for 10 days. Do try and send me some communication soon.
Your loving wife