Grangegorman and the 1916 Rising

With 2016 being the auspicious year that it is in Ireland we thought it would be apt to examine (somewhat) the role played by Grangegorman in the events of Easter 1916.

At first the task of uncovering information about Grangegorman is made somewhat more difficult by the fact that its namesake, the Grangegorman Military Cemetery comes up a lot more in Google searches around the rising. The reason for this is that many British soldiers who were killed during the rising are buried there. Even using its correct title at the time, the Richmond Lunatic Asylum, does not reveal much.

Thanks to two books however, some information has come to light. Reading through extracts from Michael McNally’s book Easter Rising 1916: The Birth of the Irish Republic it appears that the Grangegorman site was the location for a British Army artillery battery, which arrived in Dublin as part of a total detachment of 4 guns from Athlone Artillery Depot on Tuesday 25th April. Two of the guns went to Grangegorman and two crossed the Liffey and followed the British advance from the west of the city.

The guns in Grangegorman began firing at a rebel barricade on the North Circular Road near Phibsborough at 3pm along with machine guns, which were previously covering Broadstone Street and at 4.30pm the British Army took the position from the rebels. McNally states that the guns “initially deployed in Grangegorman”, which probably means that after this position was taken the battery moved on to different location.

While this appears to be the main reference to the Grangegorman Lunatic Asylum and the rising, there is some further information about what went on on the site during Easter 1916. In his book about the history of Grangegorman and entitled Grangegorman, Joseph Reynolds includes a very brief but very interesting quote from the monthly report of Dr. John O’ Connor Donelan, Deputy Medical Superintendent, to the hospital Board. The quote is copied in its entirety below.

Since last meeting we have passed through a rather anxious period. A rebellion has come and gone, and now that we are able to review the situation it is gratifying to find that our institution has not suffered by the incident…. It is a matter of satisfaction at being able to state that neither amongst the patients or staff was there a single casualty, nor did the buildings suffer in any way, although the belligerents on both sides were constantly firing through the grounds. Immediately we found we were in the danger zone we removed the patients from exposed positions; at night their mattresses were placed on the floor, and, of course, they were confined to the house during the disturbance. The gate lodge at Brunswick Street and the grounds in the neighbourhood were occupied by the insurgents for a day and a half, but further than constructing a barricade they did no damage.”

This post is the result of a brief and mainly online google search, apart from the information in Joseph Reynolds book which the GDA has in hard copy. We would be delighted to be provided with any further insight into Grangegorman and the 1916 Rising that real historians might be in possession of. Feel free to email communications@ggda.ie .