Monday April 24th, 1916
The sun glistened brightly against the murky canal. Margaret pulled her new green overcoat around her, fastening it’s brass buttons against the cold. She looked up Great Brunswick street towards Boland’s Mill. It was busy for Easter Monday. Busier than it had any right to be. She casually strolled towards the group of men arguing outside the building. A tall, angular-faced man barked orders at the soldiers gathered around.
“Quick! Get that ammunition inside. Reilly, take a squad and take positions down at Mount Street Bridge!” He growled at the young men.
Margaret watched them curiously. The Volunteers were prone to running drills in the streets but usually it was confined to doing silly walks and playing with hurleys. A column of men were marching up the road towards them. They stood to attention in front of the tall man and saluted.
“Very good men!” the Officer barked, “Begin clearing the street of civilians and setting up road blocks.” The men began to disperse around the street, one approached Margaret.
“Miss, you’d better take that coat off and get home. You don’t want to be mistaken for one of us,” he said with a light chuckle.
Margaret scowled at the man and turned on a her heel. She grumbled to herself as she wandered home. She was supposed to be meeting a friend in St. Stephen’s Green. There were other ways across the canal but it would take her well out of her way, particularly if she couldn’t get across Mount Street Bridge. She continued to wander and it wasn’t long before she found herself outside her home. Reluctantly she went inside. Her Mam was sitting at the table with her Da and Mr Conway from down the bottle works.
“Margaret!” her mother exclaimed, “I thought you were going to the Green for the day?”
“There’s Volunteers up by Boland’s Mill, they’re blocking the road,” Margaret said in a huff.
Mr Conway exchanged a worried look with her Da. “Do you think they did it Jack?”
Her Da turned to her. “Margaret were they armed?”
“Yeah, they had rifles and pistols, all done up in their green uniforms,” Margaret replied taking off her own green coat.
“Jack, you don’t think they’ve gone ahead with it?” Mr Conway asked Margaret’s father, his face going white.
Jack grimaced, he slowly tapped his pipe out onto a saucer on the table, “MacNeill gave the order to stand down. He wouldn’t have done it without a good reason.”
“Here, we best get to the bottle works. Buckley’ll do his nut when he finds out,” Mr Conway said hopping to his feet.
Jack slowly got to his feet and plucked his hat from its perch and his cane from beside the door, “Beth, make sure James doesn’t head out. You know what he’s like, if he hears the soldiers are out he’ll get curious. Margaret, you’ll have to go to the Green another day.” He gave his wife a lingering look before leaving. For a split second Margaret thought she saw fear on his face.
Margaret slumped into a seat at the table and sighed while her mother placed the kettle on the stove.
“Ah there’ll be other days to go to the Green dear,” her mother said soothingly.
“Couldn’t I just head further down the canal? I’ll just stay away from the Mill and go straight to Stephen’s Green,” Margaret insisted.
“It’s not safe, not with the Volunteers messing about out there. Your father doesn’t want you mixed up in it, and that’s final. Now do you want a cup of tea?”
Margaret sighed, “No,” she went upstairs to the small bedroom she had shared with her older sister, Mary. She had been training to be a nurse when the war broke out. She left months ago. Margaret didn’t know exactly where she was, just that it was somewhere in France. She dug out her sister’s letters and began pouring over them again. She took out the last letter that her sister had sent. It was stained with mud, and where it wasn’t, it had been heavily redacted. She lay on the bed reading over her sister’s words for what seemed like hours.
The front door slammed. The sun had begun to set. She lay there for a moment with the letters scattered around the bed. She was straining to listen to hear the hushed voices talking in the kitchen beneath her. She crept slowly out of her room to the top of the stair.
“They’ve done it, the bloody fools!” she heard her Da saying angrily.
“Hush Jack, or the children will hear. What is it?”
“They’ve taken the GPO, Boland’s Mill, and Jacob’s Factory, not sure where else. The foreman’s closed the works, said it was too dangerous to keep it open. I found a group of Volunteers near the Mill but they started to get nervous with me asking so many questions.”
“So it is the Volunteers?”
“Some of them, not all though. The Citizen Army is out as well. Bloody Fools!”
“Sorry dear, I almost didn’t make it back. Some British opened fire on them while we were talking. Then I nearly ran into a group of soldiers on my way back. Probably from Beggars Bush.”
“What will happen next?” her mother asked.
“Depends on when the Brits respond. It’ll get worse before it gets better.” The kitchen went quiet.
Margaret crept back up to her room. She went to her window and opened it. In the distance she heard faint cracks and snaps sounding out over the dark houses. The war had come home.
- Written by Cillian Fearon
Illustration by Daisy Kinahan Murphy
This piece originally appeared in Volume 29, Issue 7. Published February 2nd 2016.