Many visitors to Dublin’s beautiful city centre park are unaware that it too played a part in the 1916 Rising.
On Easter Monday the 24th of April 1916, Michael Mallin’s company, made up mostly of the men and women of the Irish Citizen Army, marched from Liberty Hall through the city streets to St Stephen’s Green, the large 22 acre public park located in the very heart of Dublin city.
The former resident’s park had reopened to the public in 1888 following the generosity of Arthur Guinness-Lord Ardilaun, who had it re-designed, creating a lake, waterfall and large herbaceous borders.
On that warm sunny Easter bank holiday Monday, the park was filled with families and visitors, who were ordered by the rebels in the name of the Republic, to leave the park immediately. The park superintendent refused to leave as he wanted to take care of the park’s water fowl.
Countess Markievicz arrived in her car to inspect the garrison and Commandant Michael Mallin asked her to stay as he needed sharp shooters and she was an excellent shot. She was his second-in-command.
A Red Cross station run by Madeline Ffrench-Mullen was set up in in the bandstand for the wounded and the glass house and pavilions were used for the wounded and as an army kitchen. They dug trenches and set up barricades around the roads outside of the park. There was some firing, but as night fell it began to rain and the garrison tried to find shelter to sleep.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning, they came under heavy attack from British machine gunners located up on the roof of the Shelbourne Hotel, which under cover of darkness had been taken over by the British army who had positioned a heavy machine gun there.
The park provided little cover for the rebels from such an onslaught of firing. A number of men died, some were wounded. Commandant Mallin tried to carry some of his men to safety. Realising that their position was far too open and untenable he gave the order to evacuate St Stephen’s Green.
Countess Markievicz led a party to the nearby Royal College of Surgeons, the large medical school on the west side of the park and they managed to gain entry there. As the whistle sounded, the men and women under his command fled to the safety of the college building. They left their dead in the park and much of their supplies as they escaped under intense enemy machine gun fire.
During the week of the Rising both the British soldiers and the Rebels agreed to a twice daily truce or cease fire to enable the ducks, swans and birds to be fed and to swim and dabble in the water.
In St Stephen’s Green there is a statue of Countess Markievicz. Information panels to mark the Centenary of 1916 Rising were unveiled in March 2016.