1916: Looters turned anything they could into weapons on O'Connell Street

A cast iron toffee axe — normally used to break up large slabs of toffee in confectioner shops — became a weapon in the hands of a looter in O’Connell St.

It was thrown at a policeman during the chaos of the 1916 Rising.

Just before 12pm on Monday April 24, Patrick Pearse stood at the front of the GPO and read the Proclamation declaring the Irish Republic. Shortly afterwards, the looting in Dublin’s main street began.

At almost the same moment as the Proclamation was being read, Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) Constable James O’Brien was shot dead by the rebels in Dublin Castle Yard, and Constable Michael Lahiff was shot at St Stephen’s Green.

The DMP were immediately withdrawn to their barracks. Being an unarmed force, they would have been targets for the rebels and, with only their standard issue wooden batons, they would have had no way to defend themselves against the rebels’ rifles.

This left the streets without their normal law enforcement at a time when the city was descending into chaos.

Most of the looting took place in the first three days, amid the crossfire between the rebels and the British, but before the fires took firm hold in the central streets.

Lower Sackville St was a focal point, with clothes, sports, and toy shops proving popular. Noblett’s and Lemon’s confectioners shops were looted for chocolates and sweets; the toffee axe may have come from one of these.

The Cable Shoe Company had its windows smashed, and contemporary newspapers reported that people were seen trying on boots and shoes, and returning for another pair if the first selection failed to fit correctly.

Lawrence’s Photographic and toy emporium was also cleared of its contents. Fireworks were taken, and The Irish Times described the scene: “Rockets rushed up in the air and burst with a sound like a cannon, and all the smaller sorts of fireworks were thrown whizzing about among the crowd. Finally the premises were set on fire and burned to the ground.”

It was these fires, started by looters and spread from building to building, which caused the massive destruction of the city centre.

Brenda Malone is a curatorial researcher for the National Museum of Ireland’s ‘Proclaiming a Republic: The 1916 Rising’ exhibition, which opened at the Collins Barracks museum in Dublin on March 3.

 

Read more about items in the museum collection in Ms Malone’s blog, ‘The Cricket Bat that Died for Ireland’.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

Email Updates

Receive our lunchtime briefing straight to your inbox

Related Articles

Latest: President lays wreath at GPO to commemorate Easter Rising

Here is how much was spent on the 1916 commemorations

More in this Section

Luxury liner bonanza for Port of Cork

Cabinet unanimous in making Frank Clarke chief justice

People's Republic of Cork flag to orbit 400km above Earth

Call for tougher probes of emergency and asylum housing


Breaking Stories

Gardaí search for missing man John Burns

Gardaí asked to interview Michael Hayes about Birmingham pub bombings

Youth group welcomes Government decision to set digital age of consent at 13

GAA star urges Government to curb gambling advertising

Lifestyle

The night's sky is a long way from Tipperary

Pulling the strings at Cork Puppetry Festival

Mother charged for illegal sale of fruit smoothies at summer stall set up in Kildare

When you think of the word cougar, what does it conjure up?

More From The Irish Examiner