Two views of the Easter Rising

The 1916 Diaries of an Irish Rebel and a British Soldier

Editor Michael O’Farrell is the author of three previous books about 1916, on the 50th anniversary of which he was born in Dublin.

This book provides a front line view from two participants taken from the diaries, or rather journals, that they kept. Though the notes themselves are often brief and hurried, the editor has done a great deal of research to fill out, not just the general backgrounds, but minute points of detail about the people, the places and the events that his two diarists record. A slightly larger page size would have allowed the complicated text to be more attractively presented.

This book shows what the experience was like. Seosamh de Brún was in Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, commanded by Thomas McDonagh, the poet and university professor-turned-soldier. Company Sergeant Samuel Lomas was one of the Sherwood Foresters hurriedly shipped to Dublin – rather than the Dardanelles as Dublin legend had it – who was faced with fighting in the streets of Dublin. He fought in Moore Street and so saw the Rising at close hand at its major post. Later he was the senior NCO of the execution squad that shot Pearse, Clarke, and Thomas McDonagh, de Brún’s commander.


But both men are liable to error: Lomas gives Pearse a heartbroken wife, when he was unmarried, and recorded McDonough as MacDonoghue. Readers will have to take care in accepting every recorded detail of the diaries; but that is where O’Farrell’s notes help out.

“It was sad to think,” Lomas recorded, “that these three brave men who met death so bravely should be fighting for a cause which proved so useless and had been the means of so much bloodshed.”

But the words might easily be applied to the Great War as a whole.

Perhaps over the coming decade we should come to see the Easter Rising not as an aspect of Irish, but European history, and to reflect upon the nationalism that was the outcome of Versailles and the cause of WWII.

We should reflect too that Ireland in its modern history has been luckier than many other members of the European Union, established to prevent further internal wars on the continent.