The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, a large medical school to train doctors and surgeons, has stood on St Stephen’s Green, Dublin for over 200 years.

On Tuesday the 25th April 1916, the nationalist rebels were forced to flee under heavy machine gun fire from St Stephen’s Green Park to the nearby large, imposing medical school.

Countess Constance Markievicz had managed to gain access to the college by threatening the college porter with her gun. He and his family were locked up in their quarters as Commandant Michael Mallin’s company took over the building. They put snipers up on the roof and raised the Irish tricolour flag.

The medical college was closed for the Easter holidays so there was very little food or supplies in the building. Commandant Mallin, a former British soldier who had served in India, organised his garrison in an orderly military fashion. The garrison however came under immense fire as the British moved three heavy machine guns and gunners on to nearby roofs to attack them.

Desperately short of food, Nellie Gifford and the other women in the garrison kept up a constant search to find new food supplies, raiding nearby buildings.

Margaret Skinnider was shot during an attempt to disable a nearby British machine gun post and was brought back to the college for medical treatment for her wounds.

As the situation worsened, Chris Caffrey and Nellie Gifford were dispatched to the Jacob’s Biscuits factory to request much needed food and ammunition supplies for their garrison.

A cache of sixty rifles belonging to the college’s Officer Training Corps was found in the college, but the exhausted and hungry men and women in the garrison were under constant heavy attack from the surrounding British forces.

On Sunday morning, 30th April, Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell – carrying a white flag – came to the college with orders from Britain’s General Lowe and the surrender order signed by Padraig Pearse and James Connolly. She told them that the GPO had fallen and that they must agree to surrender.

With heavy hearts and great reluctance, Michael Mallin and Countess Constance Markievicz agreed to surrender. They took down the Irish flag from the college roof and hid it inside Margaret Skinnider’s coat before she was transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital.
As they left the college building, Major De Courcy Wheeler could not believe such a small group had manged to withstand such heavy attack from his forces.

A hostile crowd jeered and taunted them as they were marched through the streets to Richmond Barracks, led by Michael Mallin.

St. Stephen’s Green

St. Stephen's GreenMany 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.

St. Stephen's Green aerial viewCountess 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 sculptureCountess 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.