If you will bear with me I would like to briefly tell you why the Easter Rebellion by Max Caulfield will always remain on my "books to keep" list. A long time ago when the "troubles" in Northern Ireland were at their height, bombings were a frequent news headline and tourism in Eire at such a low that a visitor could stay in a top Dublin Hotel for the cost of a guest house, I made my first trip across the water to the Irish Republic. My name had been given to a dog training club by our own Kennel Club when enquiries were made for someone to write them an article for a Newsletter on Working Trials. Subsequently I flew to Dublin on what was to be the first of regular excursions to teach. I was to make many good friends and learn to feel about this beautiful, kindly and hospitable country almost the love I have for my own. Courtesy meant that the political situation was not mentioned and it was with deep shock that I learned what it was to live in this atmosphere. When I was asked if I would accompany some of my new friends to Downpatrick in the North for a dog show on the race course I was delighted. During a relaxing picnic I accidentally handed over an Irish pound note in exchange for raffle tickets. The immediate reaction was raw unadulterated hatred viciously directed at me by a group of nearby women and children after the child I had handed it to dropped it in disgust yelling that it was "dirty freestate money". When as we re-crossed the border at Newry I found guns trained on our car held by soldiers only just out of nappies, I was no longer a complacent bystander. Now it was possible to talk about the hitherto unmentionable and then no more was said. As I said my "au revoirs" on my final day my hostess' husband handed
me the book I am reviewing and we smiled at the thought that I would take it through security at the airport. Particularly as any mail I received from Ireland which was other than a thin letter was already being opened before I received it. The Easter Rebellion was not to and did not affect any views the reader may have had, but its hour by hour recording of the events of that short period in Ireland's history and the immediate aftermath lent understanding. Max Caulfield's account of events in Dublin during the Easter Week of 1916 although amazingly detailed is in no way the dry stuff of much historical reading. It tells of an uprising with such ordinary beginnings that onlookers at just past noon on Easter Sunday morning thought that it was no more than illegal parade of the Citizen Army - until a detachment broke off and took the Dublin Castle guardroom before leaving to join the main force. The objective was the impressive GPO building which was intended to become the headquarters of the Irish Republic; and the author's description of a small army ( some of whom didn't know they were on anything other than an exercise) making its way to O'Connell Bridge where it formed up to march towards the Post Office is a classic and memorable piece of writing. Among the miscellany of weapons held were rifles, home made pikes and a hotch potch of ancient guns. Some were in the uniform of the Citizen Army or the Volunteers, others had dressed as best they could to appear uniformed. A group of Kimmage men, who had returned to Ireland to avoid conscription in the British army at war with Germany, boarded a tram and asked for 57 tuppenny tickets to O'Connell Bridge. When the driver at gunpoint realised what was happening he happily drove them without charge.
9;es, there is humour but never patronising. Women and boys as young as 12 and 15 followed and the beautiful Countess Markievicz boldly led her women and boy scouts as much of the procedure was watched with indifference by passers-by who were used to such goings on. So began a week in Irish history the aftermath of which was to free Ireland. Max Caulfield reminds us of the causes of unrest during the 19th century as the Anglo Irish lived in idle pleasure and the main Irish population had neither employment or wages. They lived exclusively on potatoes grown on their own small patches and, when blight destroyed the crop, thousands either died of starvation or emigrated to America. Yet by the turn of the century this was already in the past, although poverty was still rife. It was in 1905 that a move to withdraw Irish MP's from Wesmiinster and set up an Irish Council - although accepting the English monarchy, was begun. So Sinn Fein (We rely on ourselves) came into being. When the quest for Home Rule was greeted by the Ulster Volunteers being prepared to fight the British to remain British things began to fall apart again. Even the closely researched political cause and effect has an effect of immediacy as it leads us back to Easter Sunday 1916 and all that followed. The author brilliantly introduces the leaders of the rising; Patrick Pearse, James Connolly, Thomas Clarke, Edmund Kent and John McDermott and brings them to life for us. More than this though, by giving us the names of ordinary foot soldiers and onlookers as he recounts small incidents, he takes us into the thick of things and we march and and fight and live that week with them. Here I would like to say that I am recommending the Muller edition as this contains photographs am
ong which are those who led the revolt as well as the English Commanders and scenes of the totally wrecked GPO and surrounding area after the seige. This book gives a detailed account of the battles and the aftermath and I, who can normally sustain no interest in such a subject and rarely even read non- fiction, was totally absorbed. I came to know the personalities of the protagonists, appreciated the telling of each small and human incident, sometimes humurous, sometimes sad, other times tragic and grimaced at the mistakes made by both sides. The biggest mistake was made by the British and was to be compounded later to an extent which was to lead directly to further turbulence and the eventual freeing of Ireland in later years. What I have not told you is that the bulk of the Dublin population did not support the uprising. Far from it. They had lived through fierce battles and watched the destruction of part of their fair city; and the eventually captured rebels had to pass through an angry gauntlet of Dublin citizens. So this unhappy period may well have become a faded memory, a footnote in the history books had the British not once again taken vengeful, shameful and unnecessary reprisals. Max Caulfield's account is so detailed that he recounts actual conversations and remarks as well as moving descriptions remembered by eye-witnesses. If this was a fictional story sections would be considered unbelievable. With argument among the Volunteers' leaders days before the start of the rebellion, commands and counter-commands were made in announcements in the Sunday Independent. This is an eminently readable book which splendidly and accurately tells without bias or prejudice for either side just how it was; and I was unable to put it down until the final page was reached.