The lost story of Manchester and the Dublin Easter Rising.
Newly discovered revelations have shown that it was a Manchester man who was one of the first to storm the Dublin GPO at the start of the 1916 Easter Rising. This is one of a series of previously unknown facts linking Manchester and Stockport with the insurrection which started the process leading to Irish independence. The man was Larry Ryan from Tootal Road, Seedley, and his story and that of his fellows is told in a new book being launched in Manchester on Friday 20th November. It is called: ’Hidden Heroes of Easter week- Memories of Volunteers from England who joined the Easter Rising’.
Said the author, Robin Stocks, “These people who played their part in changing the course of history came from Manchester and Stockport, so it seems entirely right that the book was first launched in the City that they all knew so well. The launch took place at the Irish World Heritage Centre in Irish Town Way at the end of November and since then the book has generated considerable interest in the area and beyond.
The author, Robin Stocks
“The book”, says Robin,”is the result of a long detective story spent looking for the truth behind a family tradition. My wife’s father always told me about his cousin who fought in the Easter Rising, played the pipes for de Valera and died very young with his health ruined by his experiences. The family also believed they played a part in hiding de Valera in Manchester when he escaped from Lincoln prison.For many years we doubted the truth of these stories, but now we have seen previously secret documents from Ireland, which have shown that the family were right all along.
Liam Parr photographed in Manchester in the uniform of the James Connolly pipe band.
Not only have we found the truth about our relative, Liam Parr, but we have discovered the story of three other men from Manchester and Stockport who also join the Rising. One Gilbert Lynch was a close friend of Parr, who he met through the Gaelic League and was a cotton spinner from Reddish. Lynch was already an active trade unionist and socialist, having helped organise the huge meetings in Manchester when Jim Larkin and James Connolly came to the Free Trade Hall in 1913.
The four men from Manchester travelled to Dublin in early 1916, but Lynch barely escaped capture when his hotel was raided, and he had to rely on the help of Michael Collins to find him a hiding place. On the eve of the Rising the two friends were reunited and Parr took Lynch to a ceilidh held as cover for preparations for the rising. Here Lynch met Sheila O’Hanlon, one of the women also preparing to take part in the rising. Lynch said they danced till dawn and began a relationship that would later lead to their wedding.
Two days later, the four Manchester Volunteers and, Sheila were stationed behind barricades and in the GPO, under fire as the centre of Dublin was burned and shelled. Gilbert Lynch was the only one to escape arrest when the rebels surrendered after a week; he had been injured and was spirited out of hospital by sympathetic staff.
“It is a wonderfully vivid and gripping story,” said Robin Stocks, “because we can tell it in the words of those who took part. This isn’t a piece of dry history because we have the volunteers telling of their own personal experiences in their own words. They talk of the exhilaration and the terror, but also include details that would normally be forgotten such as capturing and milking a goat found in the street, being given an extra rasher of bacon before going out on the roof to face snipers, and complaining about their fellows’ snoring as they were sleeping on sacks of oats.”
“The stories of the Manchester Volunteers had been lost because they felt they could not talk about their experiences in their lifetimes for fear of arrest. For this reason, they have been forgotten and most people don’t realise the part they played. Yet they were so courageous and were prepared to sacrifice everything for what they believed in. Now, I think, after a hundred years it is time to give them back their place in history.”
The remains of buildings in Dublin which had been occupied by one of the Manchester Volunteers, photographed after the shelling and fires.
Not only have we found the stories of these volunteers, but with the help of so many people in Manchester and elsewhere, we have been able to talk to surviving relatives of some of the Volunteers. We have not just discovered the truth of the family stories, but have found new cousins we never knew existed, and have even been able to talk to the daughter of one of the Manchester Volunteers who now knows that her father will no longer be ‘Hidden from History’.
This book has been the result of a real cooperative effort among people who have pooled their knowledge and memories so we can finally tell this story. The Manchester Irish World Heritage Centre has been wonderful and we have been able to contact relatives of most of the people I’ve written about. I hope that as a result of reading this, or reading the book, people with more information or memories will contact us and we will discover even more. Together we can make sure that none of the hidden heroes of Easter week remain forgotten. Can readers help with this?