New Zealanders at Trinity College Dublin Easter Week 1916

//New Zealanders at Trinity College Dublin Easter Week 1916

Your readers may be interested in research I am doing on the 5 New Zealand soldiers who assisted in the defence of Trinity College Dublin during Easter Week 1916.

The 5 New Zealanders are listed in the 1916 Rebellion Handbook published by the Irish Times soon after the Rising, but their involvement has never been widely acknowledged in subsequent publications. In most accounts of the Rising they are described as ‘Anzacs’ and are assumed to be Australians. The 1916 Rebellion Handbook lists only 1 Australian soldier who served in the Trinity College garrison.

The New Zealanders were Sergeant Frederick Nevin NZMC from Christchurch, Corporal Alexander Don NZFA from Dunedin, Corporal John Garland NZMC from Auckland, Lance Corporal Finlay McLeod NZE from Milton and Private Edward Waring NZR from Northland. All five men were in Dublin on Easter Monday when the shooting began and they were directed to Trinity College where the university staff and OTC cadets were defending the buildings against the rebels.

Don, McLeod and Waring had served on Gallipoli and were convalescing in Great Britain before rejoining their units on the Western Front. Nevin and Garland were medical orderlies from the New Zealand Hospital Ship Marama but their non-combatant status did not prevent them from picking up rifles with other Dominion troops to help defend the university. Garland had previously served in the New Zealand occupation of German Samoa in 1914. Letters by Garland, Don and McLeod were published in New Zealand newspapers soon after the Rising and these provide interesting eyewitness accounts of events.

The letters recount the initial shooting by the rebels was directed at unarmed British soldiers on the streets of Dublin. The slouch hats worn by the New Zealanders appeared to confuse the rebel marksmen and they managed to escape being hit. The letters describe the chaos on Dublin streets as the rebels rushed to occupy buildings, with civilians being hit in the crossfire. Garland claims he was shot at by Countess Markievicz as she sped past in a motorcar!  Don recounts how he saw the rebels barricading buildings and he observed James Connolly standing with arms folded on the steps of the GPO.

There were 14 Dominion soldiers in the Trinity College garrison by Monday evening. The other Dominion troops present were 6 South Africans and 2 Canadians. An Anzac sharpshooting squad was soon formed comprising the 5 New Zealanders and the 1 Australian present, Private Michael McHugh, 9th Battalion, AIF. All 5 New Zealanders must have been handy with a rifle as they were often called upon to counter rebel snipers. The university was reinforced on Tuesday by British troops and later that week it became the Headquarters of Brigadier General W.H.M. Lowe.

For 3 days the Anzac marksmen occupied the roofs of the university and exchanged shots with the rebels. They shot and killed Irish Volunteer Gerald Keogh as he cycling past the university early Tuesday morning with 2 other comrades. On Friday the Anzacs ventured from the university to clear nearby buildings, including the belfry of St Andrew’s Church and Westland Row Railway Station. Both Garland and McLeod claim that the Anzacs killed around 30 rebels, however this tally is suspect given the total rebel deaths for Easter Week is 64. It is probable in the smoke and haze the Anzacs misjudged how many rebels they accounted for.

Irish Commandant W.J. Brennan-Whitmore describes the compassion shown to him and other rebel prisoners by a cheerful ‘Australian sergeant’ from Trinity College. Frederick Nevin was the only Anzac sergeant at Trinity College so it must have been him who gave the prisoners a tin of biscuits and a jug of cold tea before they were marched off to imprisonment. Brennan-Whitmore also congratulated the Anzacs on the accuracy of their shooting.

Film footage of the Easter Rising on the Imperial War Museum website clearly shows Sergeant Nevin and Privates Waring and McHugh walking from the gates of Trinity College soon after the surrender carrying rifles and smoking cigarettes!

After the Rising the New Zealanders travelled back to England to rejoin their units. In August 1916 they were each sent a small silver cup commemorating their role in the defence of Trinity College. Edward Waring later served on the Western Front with the 6th Hauraki Company, Auckland Regiment and was invalided back to New Zealand in early 1918. He succumbed to influenza in November 1918 aged 26.

Frederick Nevin and John Garland rejoined the Hospital Ship Marama for a return sailing to New Zealand. Nevin was a machinist with the New Zealand Railways and he died in Christchurch in 1953 aged 58. John Garland was still living in Auckland in 1950.

Alexander Don served on the Western Front with the New Zealand Field Artillery and was ‘reduced to the ranks’ in 1917 for striking a superior officer!  He was selected for officer training in 1918 but the Armistice prevented this. He returned to New Zealand in 1919 and became a school master in Wellington. Don served in the Home Guard during the Second World War, dying in 1954 aged 57.

Finlay McLeod was gassed on the Western Front in 1917 and was invalided home to New Zealand.  He was still living in 1967 when he claimed his bronze commemorative Gallipoli Medallion and Gallipoli Veteran’s lapel badge from the New Zealand Government.

The New Zealanders Army Service files make no mention of their unofficial ‘Active Service’ in Dublin during the Easter Rising.   However, there is a letter on Waring’s file from his nephew on the 50th anniversary of the Rising in 1966 seeking confirmation from the Ministry of Defence that his uncle was in Ireland in 1916.  I  would be keen to hear from any of your readers who may have more information on these 5 New Zealanders.

Hugh Keane
Hamilton
New Zealand

By | 2013-04-12T02:51:00+00:00 December 5th, 2012|British Forces, RIC, Auxilaries, Black & Tans|10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. mick February 6, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    Hi to Hugh and Raymond.
    You may be interested in an account by a man named Michael Taaffe, a TCD student who went into the college soon after the firing started. He wasn’t in the OTC, but describes seeing Gerald Keogh’s body an hour after the shooting. His memoirs were published as “Those Days are Gone Away”, in 1959, and a soon-to-be-published anthology from Mercier Press will include the full chapter of Taaffe’s experiences during the Rising – cheers, Mick O’Farrell.
    ==========
    ‘What can I do to help?’ I muttered uncertainly, feeling that the words severed my last link with the haven of civilian life.
    ‘Well, you’d better come up to the Regent House and see Lawford,’ said Boyd-O’Kelly. ‘No! Wait a minute – have a look at our corpse first!’
    He threw open a door beside the porters’ lodge.
    Eight months in the Medical School had made me familiar enough with death as exemplified by the mummy-like subjects that had once been human beings. …
    The young man on the floor of that stone-walled niche was different. He rested as quietly as any of the subjects in the dissecting-room, but he was new to death and looked as if he might get up off the flags at any moment and go about his business. His drab uniform melted into the colourless stone so that his hands with their fingers upcurled and his face, startlingly white in the gloom, seemed to have no true connection with the rest of him, like those figurines carved of wood with ivory extremities. His mouth was slightly open, showing regular, discoloured teeth; long lashes rested on the pallor of his cheekbones, and there was a small black hole in his temple. Beside him lay his hat with its draggled plume.
    ‘What happened?’ Boyd-O’Kelly seemed to expect me to say something.
    ‘They came through an hour or so ago on bikes, heading towards the GPO,’ he said. ‘Didn’t expect anyone to be here, I dare say. We got this chap and winged another, I think, but he kept on going. Daly and I brought him in. Come on up to the Regent House!’
    Daly, the porter with the Kitchener moustache, clicked his tongue gently against his teeth and closed the door on the remains of the young man who had set out from somewhere unknown that morning to help in the conquest of Dublin. Climbing the stairs to the Regent House, I wished that wars could be fought without casualties.
    =============

    • Raymond M. Keogh February 8, 2013 at 11:30 am

      Dear Mick,

      Many thanks for this information which is new to me.

      • Hugh F.X. Keane February 12, 2013 at 9:52 am

        Thank you Mick for posting Michael Taaffe’s description of the laying out of Gerald Keogh – a stark and sobering account of the waste of a young life.

        While the New Zealanders’ letters home do have a certain ‘Boys Own’ bravado, I’m sure they later reflected on the tragedy of Easter Week, where Empire soldiers were required to fire on fellow Empire subjects.

        Regards

        Hugh F.X. Keane

  2. Raymond M. Keogh January 16, 2013 at 8:22 am

    Dear Hugh

    I appreciate your sensitive and tactful introduction. This is, indeed, a sad description of Gerald’s last moments.

    What is also sad is that this young Volunteer has, for so many years, been known simply as “a despatch rider” in the literature of the 1916 Rising, with no other details – not even his name. It strikes me that one of the reasons for this is that the Anzacs are, as you say, also not acknowledged in most publications on the Rising. If they had been studied in greater detail, Gerald’s story would surely have been more widely known.

    With regard to a brief biography of Gerald: I wrote a short article about him entitled “Well Dressed and from a Respectable Street”, which appeared in 2009 in History Ireland; Vol. 17 (2): 32-33. The title comes from the diary of Elsie Mahaffy, daughter of the Provost of Trinity. Her observation about Gerald is fitting in that he came from a Gaelic Dublin family with strong links to the tailoring and clothing trade in the city. Whilst researching the records for my book Our Own Identity, which is at the final draft stage, I discovered that his wider family, known as the Keoghs of Ranelagh, were part of a native middle-class stratum, which appears to have originated amongst the middle ranks of Gaelic society. Their path from tribal roots to an urban platform is a fascinating story (more untold history here!).

    Gerald’s family was large; he was one of 10 children. The eldest boy was J. Augustus Keogh who became an actor. J. Augustus was stage manager at the Royalty Theatre, London, when Gerald was killed. He immediately made moves to return home. Being aware of the trouble which was brewing in the Abbey Theatre between the board and its manager Mr St John Ervine, J. Augustus offered his services. The Abbey was facing financial ruin at the time. At a meeting of 14th July 1916 Mr Lennox Robinson’s reappointment in place of Ervine was favoured by W. B. Yeats but Lady Gregory resisted. Ezra Pound was briefly floated as a candidate but discounted. As a result J. Augustus was engaged by Gregory for the 1916-1917 season. J. Augustus’ desire to become director of the Theatre was clearly motivated by Gerald’s death. It would allow him to work at home and support his widowed mother who had to contend with this loss. At the same time several other brothers were detained or on the run. It seems that three of them including Cyril, Leo and Frank were all involved in the rising. Cyril was sent to prison in the UK after the surrender.

    However, before concluding that the family had complete rebel leanings it is interesting to note that the second eldest brother, John Baptist, enlisted in the Royal Irish Rifles in Dublin in 1914 and fought with the British Army in France. He was killed in action in October of the same year. J. Augustus and John Baptist differed in outlook from their four rebel brothers who were younger than them. It was felt, in family circles, that J. Augustus had little interest in politics. My grandfather, who was half brother of these boys and several years older than J. Augustus, was also politically neutral. It seems that the infectious spirit of rebellion only animated the younger boys. All of this shows that the Keoghs of Ranelagh defy simplistic definitions of their cultural perspectives. Furthermore, their outlooks were shared by many other Catholic and Gaelic families of Dublin.

    Gerald himself was born in January 1894; this means that he was 22 in 1916 (not 20 as suggested by the Rebellion Handbook). He became a pupil of Patrick Pearse’s school (Saint Enda’s), which he joined on January 11th 1909. The school account sheet is in the name of his father, James Keogh, who lived at 25 Elmsgrove Ranelagh and it is written in Pearse’s own hand. Gerald was involved in the Fianna (a type of national boy-scout movement) and later became an Irish Volunteer. Everything points to a young man who was engrossed in the nationalist movement.

    There are several versions about his activities in the lead up to his death in front of Trinity. It appears that he had been sent from the General Post Office by Pearse on Monday afternoon or evening with a message for the remaining reservists at Larkfield Mill in Kimmage. They should not be confused with the first contingent that had been ordered to mobilise in the morning after which they, famously, commandeered a tram into the city. Another version of Gerald’s movements states that he went with a message from Pearse to Countess Markievicz on St Stephen’s Green. I am inclined to think that there is truth in both versions; he probably went, first to Larkfield followed by a journey to Stephen’s Green.

    I’m not dealing here with the incident in front of Trinity itself as this is already covered by your input and my article. I would like to point out, however, that the event has been well documented by many different people including the Anzacs themselves; the provost’s daughter; James Glen – a British soldier; Mr John Joly, a professor of Geology in Trinity; a certain Gerald Fitzbibbons, member of the Officer Training Corps (OTC) Trinity College and Acting Porter George Crawford.

    After removal from the street, Gerald was placed in an empty room in the College but after 3 days he had to be buried in the grounds. He was later disinterred and sent to the city morgue. His death certificate is dated 16th June 1916. His remains were then sent to what has come to be known as the ‘1916 plot’ in Glasnevin. I am trying to establish why he was not buried in the family grave (also in Glasnevin); I would like to know if the authorities prevented family involvement in his burial (see request for information on this website – so far unanswered I’m afraid).

    Corporal Garland mentions that Gerald “… was a platoon leader and on him they found a list of names and addresses of the members of his platoon, and two dispatches …” Do you have any idea where this material may now be found? I imagine it was eventually archived. It could provide valuable background about his Volunteer contingent and his final mission.

    Finally, I would be interested in obtaining a copy of your article once this is ready.

    With regards,

    Raymond

    • Hugh Keane January 19, 2013 at 10:42 pm

      Thank you Raymond for posting Gerald’s biography. It answers a few questions I had regarding his involvement with the Irish Volunteers and where he now rests. You could post a profile of him under the ‘Irish War of Indepence Figures’ section, complete with that photograph of him in his Irish Volunteer uniform.

      As for the dispatches he was carrying, one can only assume they were handed over to the British Army when TCD was reinforced by British troops during Easter Week. My own enquiries 2 years ago to the New Zealand National Army Museum seeking information on the New Zealanders’ involvement during the Easter Rising drew a blank; museum staff had no knowledge or records of New Zealand soldiers being involved in Dublin at all!

      Your political picture of the Keogh brothers mirrors my family. My grandfather Charles Keane (who was a young teacher in Cork at the time) was politically neutral, probably because his father was a retired RIC sergeant – yet his brother Michael allegedly ran a ‘safe house’ in Dublin!

      Regards

      Hugh F.X. Keane

    • Hugh F.X. Keane June 16, 2013 at 8:07 am

      Hello Raymond

      My email address is keanenz@windowslive.com. Please email me and I will send you a fuller account of the New Zealanders’ involvement together with a photograph of Alexander Don’s silver TCD cup which was found in a school jumble sale a few years ago!

      Dear Editor, I would be happy to post my article on the New Zealanders if you think it would appeal to the wider readership?
      Regards
      Hugh Keane

  3. Hugh Keane January 14, 2013 at 6:03 am

    Thank you Raymond

    I have copied the mentions by Corporal John Garland NZMC and by Lance Corporal Finlay McLeod NZE below – and I do so with respect to your great uncle, Volunteer Gerald Keogh.

    Corporal Garland’s account of Gerald’s death is similar to other published accounts and makes sad reading:

    ‘We got our first bag on Tuesday morning at 4:00 am when three Sinn Feiners came along on bikes evidently going from Shepherd’s Green [sic] to the GPO. The men on my left, as soon as they saw them coming told us to mark the last man and they would get the first two. We all fired at once killing two and wounding the other. When they brought in the chap we killed he had four bullet marks in him which meant that we all got him, and that he must have been killed instantly. A peculiar thing happened. After he was killed he still sat on this bike and continued on for about 30 yards on the free-wheel. In fact I thought we had missed him when all of a sudden the bike swerved and he came off. This chap was a platoon leader and on him they found a list of names and addresses of the members of his platoon, and two dispatches, togther with some money that he had evidently taken from the GPO.’

    Lance Corporal McLeod’s account of the incident is brief:

    ‘Tuesday, being Anzac Day, was well kept up, for the Sinn Feiners came riding towards us, and we dropped them.’

    One can summise thar the 6 Anzac soldiers, who had been on the roof of TCD all night taking pot shots at anything that moved, were probably a bit trigger happy when they spied the 3 volunteers hurrying along on early Tuesday morning.

    I am writing a fuller article on the NZers who are not acknowledged in most publications on the Rising. The NZers are of course listed in the 1916 Rebellion Book published soon after the Rising and Jeff Kildea’s publications, however most authors over the years have tended to ignore the NZ in ANZAC! Mind you, the Canadian and the South African soldiers rarely get a mention too.

    I would be very grateful if you could post a brief biography of Gerald to provide some balance to my story.

    Regards
    Hugh F.X. Keane

  4. Raymond M. Keogh January 12, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Many thanks for your clarifications. What you say appears to confirm that the Anzac marksmen did indeed shoot Gerald. I would be interested in obtaining the New Zealanders’ accounts (i.e. those of John Garland and Finlay McLeod). I am sure that other members and visitors to this website would also be interested.

    Regarding the IWM film footage, I was under the impression (incorrectly) that the third man from the left was Michael McHugh. I commend you for having established the identity of the other Anzac troops.

    Incidentally, the parents of Michael McHugh were also from Ireland. They were Michael Joseph McHugh and Bridget (Scully); both came from County Galway. They migrated to Australia soon after their marriage.

    I fully agree that we cannot make judgements in hindsight about either side. The song Digger in Dublin by Kevin McCarthy and Geoff McArthur, which I referred to, has no such qualms; but the sentiment is totally based on speculation. Kevin informed me that they wrote the song after reading Jeff Kildea’s book (Anzacs and Ireland). Kildea states: “What he [Michael McHugh] felt about being called to arms by the British military authorities and ordered to fight his ‘cousins’ has not been recorded and on his return to Australia he does not seem to have spoken much about it, if at all.” The songwriters did a little more research, including contacting a nephew of Michael McHugh before finally writing this catchy melody. A major inspiration was the irony that the incident took place on Anzac Day. Whatever about the individual views of each of the Anzac soldiers, the fatal shooting – and the song itself – does bring to the fore the many paradoxes and contradictions thrown up by conflict.

  5. Raymond M. Keogh January 9, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    Attention Hugh Keane

    I am certainly interested in the research you are carrying out. As you may see from another posting to this website, my grandfather – Bartholomew Keogh – was half-brother of Irish Volunteer Gerald Keogh, who was killed by opposing forces within Trinity College on Tuesday 25th April 1916. It is reasonable to assume that Gerald was killed by the Anzac sharpshooting squad, though this is impossible to establish with certainty.

    I assume you are familiar with Jeff Kildea’s book – Anzacs and Ireland (Cork University Press, 2007). In it he quotes from James Glen who states: “One of the marksmen on the College roof shot and killed a … dispatch rider …”. Jeff also quotes from Gerald Fitzgibbon’s letter dated 10 May 1916 in which he says: “Three of their dispatch riders came pelting down on bicycles from Stephen’s Green, bringing dispatches to the Post Office, and we had twelve or fifteen men posted in windows and on the roof in front of College. They fired on the cyclists. Killed one, wounded another, and the third left his bicycle & rifle & bolted down a side street.” Fitzgibbon was a member of the college Officer Training Corps (OTC).

    Your observations that an Anzac sharpshooting squad was comprised of the 5 New Zealanders and Private Michael McHugh (Australia) and that they occupied the roofs of the university gives further credence to the suggestion that the Anzacs were responsible for Gerald’s death. However, Fitzgibbon states that: “The man they shot on the bicycle in the early dawn was riding fast, it was a hard shot at a downward angle from a high window, I believe they only fired four of five shots and he had two through his head, one through his right lung, and a fourth that hit [?] and winged the second man of the party. If they hadn’t concentrated so much they would have bagged all three.”

    If the shots came from a high window then it was not the soldiers on the roof who killed Gerald. Of course it is often difficult, even for witnesses to be precise about what happened in the confusion of conflict. If only 4 or 5 shots had been fired and 3 hit Gerald and another wounded the second cyclist, then the riflemen had to have been extremely accurate in their shooting. This would tend to shift the responsibility back to the sharpshooters.

    I have gathered a lot more information on Gerald. However, I am not sure who the two other Irish cyclists were.

    You mention that film footage of the Easter Rising clearly shows Sergeant Nevin and Privates Waring and McHugh walking from the gates of Trinity College soon after the surrender carrying rifles and smoking cigarettes. If I am correct, there were four uniformed men photographed in this party; McHugh is third in line.

    With regards,

    Raymond M. Keogh

    As an aside: the killing of Gerald is commemorated in song. The piece is called “Digger in Dublin” and was composed by Kevin McCarthy and Geoff McArthur in Australia. It laments the fact that an Australian (Michael McHugh) was involved in the killing of a freedom fighter on Anzac Day. I made contact with some of McHugh’s relatives. The outcome was that a grand-nephew of his visited Dublin in 2011 and met me!

    • Hugh Keane January 10, 2013 at 10:28 am

      Thank you Raymond for your feedback.

      Yes, I agree with you that it is difficult to establish which soldiers accounted for Gerald, however both Corporal John Garland NZMC and Lance Corporal Finlay McLeod NZE in their accounts are adamant it was the Anzac marksmen who shot him off his bicycle. Garland’s account of the incident in particular makes sad reading, but luckily the other 2 volunteers escaped.

      Regarding the Imperial War Museum film footage of the 4 soldiers walking from TCD, the 2 on the left are definitely New Zealanders from the cut of their uniforms, the first of which I feel certain is Sergeant Frederick Nevin NZMC going by his cap and collar badges. Interestingly, Nevin’s parents were from Co. Cork and Co. Tipperary.

      Next in line is Private Edward Waring NZR, because as he walks past the camera you can distinguish his 6th Hauraki Regiment badge on his slouch hat. I have also located a studio photograph of Waring and the facial features are a match.

      The third soldier is a mystery to me – he may be British, South African or Canadian.

      The fourth in line and at the rear is Private Michael McHugh AIF wearing his Australian-pattern ‘bush jacket’ and slouch hat. Again the facial features are very similar to his studio photograph which is featured on the Irish Volunteers website.

      I believe that we should not try to judge in hindsight the Dominion troops who assisted in the defence of TCD 97 years ago. As ‘5 bob a day tourists’ they would have had little knowledge of Irish Nationalist politics and the wider Home Rule debate. They would have considered it their duty to assist the DMP and the British Army to restore law and order during the ‘Dublin Riots’ (as it was termed in New Zealand at the time) – especially when one considers they were fired on first!

      Regards

      Hugh F.X. Keane

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