Dunlavin reacts to the Easter Rising and its aftermath by Chris Lawlor

Tynte Park House
www.independent.ie 2007
Report of the attack on the Sherwood Foresters
Source: Nationalist and Leinster Times, 06 May 1916.

Power of the elite shaken

There was an air of political and social change in the Dunlavin region in the early twentieth century. The late nineteenth century had witnessed the Land War, and by the end of the century the Tynte family held on to social control in the Dunlavin area precariously. In the early twentieth century they inherited the neighbouring Saundersgrove estate, but both resurgent Catholicism and growing Nationalism threatened their position. The death of Joseph Pratt Tynte in 1896 marked the end of an era, and coincided with the death throes of landlord control in Dunlavin. The power of the elite was shaken, and though more remained to be done, such as the finalising of land purchase agreements, it was essentially a detail (albeit an important one) as the inexorable rise of nationalism continued into the twentieth century. Joseph Pratt Tynte was succeeded by his son Fortescue, who died in 1907. Fortescue’s brother Mervyn then took over the reins at Tynte Park House. The Tynte estate papers were never left in any public repository, but the rent rolls of Colonel Mervyn Tynte from the years 1909 and 1916 are extant.[1] The 1916 rent roll is of particular interest because it post-dates the 1911 census.[2] Strictly speaking, the 1916 document is not actually a rent roll at all as the properties were being bought rather than rented, but the title on the cover is ‘The estates of Colonel Mervyn C. S. Tynte, counties of Cork, Dublin, Kilkenny, King’s County, Leitrim, Meath, Wexford, Wicklow and North Wales, rental and account for half year to 1 May 1916’, so ‘rent roll’ is a term of convenience. Many of the purchasers listed in the 1916 rent roll were nationalists, but they could not have foreseen the events of Easter week in Dublin and their aftermath, which utterly changed the political situation in Dunlavin and the rest of Ireland by the end of that pivotal, fateful year.

Dunlavin and the Rising

Those events originated because there was a small minority of ultra-nationalist Republicans who viewed the Great War as an opportunity to stage a rebellion. Their activities eventually culminated in the Easter Rising of 1916 in Dublin. News of this event filtered through to Dunlavin late on Easter Monday and at least two local men left the village to join the rebels on Easter Tuesday. Brothers Patrick and Arthur Lawlor set out on bicycles for Dublin. However, the unusually large and active military presence in Naas convinced them of the futility of their plans. They deliberated for a while in the Five Lamps public house before deciding to return to Dunlavin.[3] Another Dunlavin native, Joseph Byrne was actually involved in the rising. His place of origin has been pinpointed as the townland of Crehelp.[4] According to the 1917 Rebellion Handbook he was 32 years old and was killed in action at Boland’s Mill.[5] However, this is problematic, as the only possible Joseph Byrne from Crehelp to appear in the 1901 census was a 13 year old boy, the son of Joseph senior (aged 51), who was the head of household in house number 23, Crehelp, in Tober District Electoral Division. The 23-year-old Joseph had left the family home by 1911, but he would have been only 28 in 1916.[6] Moreover, Martin Timmons has identified Joseph’s inclusion in the Handbook as a mistake,[7] which has caused errors in subsequent records and later secondary sources.[8] The man in question, Joseph John Byrne, originally from Crehelp (but living in Dublin in 1916), was actually a member of the Jacob’s Biscuit Factory garrison.[9] He was arrested after the rising, but released in the summer of 1916. He was involved in the War of Independence in Dublin and served as an officer in the national army during the Civil War.[10] However, a different County Wicklow native, Andrew Joseph Byrne, was indeed a member of the Boland’s Mill garrison,[11] but he was incorrectly named as Joseph in the 1917 Rebellion Handbook.[12] Andrew Joseph died of wounds received in action on 27 April 1916.[13] He is buried in Deansgrange cemetery and his name appears as ‘Andrew’ on the roll of honour there.[14] Another almost forgotten casualty of the Easter Rising with a Dunlavin connection was Alfred Warmington. He was the only son of Naas Munster and Leinster bank manager Alfred Warmington senior, who had supervised the bank’s Dunlavin operations in the late nineteenth century.[15] Warmington joined the Royal Irish regiment and, having fought through the Boer War, re-enlisted in 1914 and fought in Flanders. He had just returned and was serving with his regiment when was killed by rebels at the South Dublin Union.[16]

Shift in nationalist opinion

Initial opposition to the rising and overt hostility for the rebels, which gradually changed to admiration for their bravery and support for their cause, have been well documented at national level. This shift in nationalist opinion may also be traced at local level, particularly in the case of Dunlavin by scrutiny of the columns of local newspapers in counties Wicklow and Kildare.[17] The rising took everyone by surprise, and on 29 April initial press reports read by Dunlavin residents indicated that:

‘On Monday last a rebellion… broke out in Dublin. So far as we can gather, hostilities began by the leaders of the Irish Volunteer movement proclaiming an Irish republic… the volunteers are now in possession of four or five different parts of the city. Soldiers have arrived from the Curragh and the situation is well in hand’.[18]

Another media source went with the headline ‘Outrageous riots in Dublin’.[19]

Towns close to Dunlavin were adversely affected. For example, Naas and its ‘commercial business’ were reported on the same day to be in a ‘serious state of dislocation owing to the trouble and consequent discontinuance of train and postal services’.[20] An unexpected effect of the rising reported elsewhere was that many cases at Dunlavin Petty Sessions ‘on the application of Constable Farrell were all adjourned, as the police concerned in the cases as prosecutors or servers of the summonses, were all absent on special duty’.[21] Evidently, in addition to the soldiers from the Curragh, police reinforcements were also needed in Dublin during Easter week.

Reaction in the press

A week later on 6 May, with the rising safely quashed, local press reaction to the event reflected the revulsion with which it was greeted by almost all sections of society in west Wicklow and east Kildare. The Wicklow People sharply criticised the rising and slammed its leaders, stating that: ‘It was guided by feather-heads and dreamers, hence only mischief and worse than mischief could attend it’. In an editorial entitled ‘The Dublin horror’, the Kildare Observer reported that the rising ‘left ruin, havoc and outraged the feelings of the vast majority of the Irish people’. The Leinster Leader echoed these sentiments, expressing horror on the outbreak of domestic war and stating ‘now that the rebellion has been crushed… [we hope] we may soon revert to that state of order which only peace, prosperity and mutual goodwill can give’. [22] In addition to the righteous indignation of the editorials, the local papers were now providing more information about the events of Easter week and the state of the capital in its aftermath. Dunlavin’s residents were reading of ‘the heavy losses suffered by the Sherwood Foresters [which] were inflicted by ambushed [sic] rebels as the battalion advanced along the road towards Dublin from Kingstown on Tuesday’. When learning that ‘the Stephen’s Green insurgents surrendered at three o’clock on Sunday’, Dunlavin readers were informed that ‘The notorious Countess Markievicz (nee Gore Booth), who has been taking an active part in the revolt wearing a man’s uniform, was in this contingent of Sinn Féin snipers and went with them to the barracks’. Obviously the blame for the rising was already being erroneously placed on Sinn Féin, and a report of that organisation and its brief history was published in the same edition of the newspaper, noting that ‘the National Volunteers have sent a good many thousand into the army, but the Irish Volunteers, the Sinn Féin organisation remained aloof… The Irish Volunteers may be taken as Sinn Féin in its active aspect’. Evidently, inaccuracies regarding Sinn Féin and its role in the rising were not going to be allowed to spoil a good story! The ‘architectural defacement of the capital of Ireland was lamented and denounced, and ‘Sackville [later O’Connell] Street and its adjacent thoroughfares’ were referred to as ‘full of bricks and masonry, over which you have to climb if you wish to make any progress. “Just like Belgium” was the favourite ejaculation of the people as they moved about. The four walls of the post office still stand, but the interior is gutted and open to the sky’. Also on 6 May, under the headline ‘Sinn Féiners shot’,  the people of Dunlavin read about the early executions of the rebel leaders, learning that ‘P. H. Pearse, T. J. Clarke and Thomas MacDonagh, three of the Irish rebel leaders who had signed the Republican proclamation had been tried by court martial. They were found guilty and sentenced to death, and the sentence was duly carried out yesterday morning’.[23] Many people in Dunlavin, including the majority of nationalists, were probably glad that retribution was being visited on the upstarts who had sullied the nationalist cause in Ireland.

Change in sympathies

However, the protracted nature of the executions of the rebel leaders and the wave of arrests in the wake of the rising soon made the local nationalists pause and reflect, and prompted a different tone in the Leader’s next editorial. Entitled ‘Fixing the responsibility’, it stated that the leaders of the rebellion ‘have paid the penalty for their acts and over their graves we are silent; it will be for some historian of the future, removed from the passions and prejudices of our day, to enquire into the motives and estimate the culpability of these men’. Meanwhile, the Nationalist editorial pleaded with the authorities to order ‘a cessation of further executions. Justice tempered with mercy will be a sufficient deterrent to further trouble, and leniency at this stage will be less liable to leave behind the bitter feelings that result from the rigid administration of martial law’.[24] Press reports such as these were influential in changing people’s minds about the rising and its leaders, but they were also dictated by the opinions of their readership. They were both a cause and a consequence of a rising tide of sympathy with the leaders and an increasing nationalist identification with their ideals.

Sway of nationalist opinion

In the Dunlavin region as elsewhere, the sway of nationalist public opinion had begun. Press reports throughout the remainder of that month continued the process. On 20 May people in and around Dunlavin read that the Bishop of Killaloe thought that the rebels ‘had died bravely and unselfishly for what they believed’, while the Home Rule M.P. John Dillon spoke in parliament about how ‘loyal friends were becoming embittered by these executions’, and then outlined the outrageous behaviour of the military (including ‘the shooting of Mr. Sheehy Skeffington’). In the Dunlavin area, military searches for weapons and arrests were ongoing, such as the one in neighbouring Kilcullen on Friday 12 May.[25] A week later, the local press reported on the heroic part played by women and girls who ‘did their work with a cool and reckless courage’ during the rising, acting as nurses, despatch carriers and snipers. The priests made ‘an extraordinary impression on the volunteers… they rushed into buildings held by the volunteers under the heaviest of fire’.[26] The tone of admiration for the rebels and their actions was becoming more overt. In early June the Dunlavin magistrates ‘congratulated the police on the peaceful state of Dunlavin and district’ during the village petty sessions,[27] but Dunlavin residents were also being asked to ‘forward subscriptions’ to the new Irish National Aid Association, which had been recently established to help relatives of the rebels and of the ‘3,300 cases of imprisonment’.[28] By October, the people of Dunlavin were reading that it was ‘time for the Irish nation to unite in demanding the release of our fellow countrymen and women interned in English prisons without trial’.[29] The wheel of public opinion in and around Dunlavin had come full circle within six months.

Local press reports from the Dunlavin region in the year 1916 provide us with an insight into the process by which the sympathies of its nationalists began to change, and reading some excerpts from the actual texts of the provincial newspapers available in the village at the time allows one to trace the speed and breadth of this change. The executed leaders, the rebels and those arrested locally in the aftermath of the Easter Rising rapidly changed from villains to heroes. This change would lead to the inexorable rise of Sinn Fein, both in the Dunlavin area and (with the exception of parts of Ulster) at national level, which culminated in the party’s landslide win in the 1918 general election and, eventually, the following year, led to the outbreak of the Irish War of Independence.



[1] The estates of Colonel Mervyn C. S. Tynte, counties of Cork, Dublin, Kilkenny, King’s County, Leitrim, Meath, Wexford, Wicklow and North Wales, rental and account for half year to 1 Nov 1909 and The estates of Colonel Mervyn C. S. Tynte, counties of Cork, Dublin, Kilkenny, King’s County, Leitrim, Meath, Wexford, Wicklow and North Wales, rental and account for half year to 1 May 1916. I wish to place on record my gratitude to Mrs. Anne Tynte Irvine for allowing me access to these records.
[2] This is the last census from which information is readily available to researchers. Census data was presented in manuscript census returns forms and in printed reports. Most of the manuscript forms from the nineteenth century have not survived, but they do exist for the censuses of 1901 and 1911. There was no census in 1921, due to the War of Independence, and returns from 1926 onwards cannot be examined yet. This makes sources for the period after 1911 all the more valuable. The 1916 rent roll contains many monetary details regarding the purchase money being paid to Tynte. Gale days, arrears, income tax allowed and interest are all tabulated, but the document is primarily of genealogical and historical significance because it names the heads of households who were in the process of buying out their properties, and it places them in specific townlands or in Dunlavin village itself. For genealogists, the 1916 roll is a later source than the available census information, and even the 1909 roll may add to the information contained in census records, as it may record individuals and families who lived in particular areas between the census years. For example, a family who moved into Dunlavin in 1902 and stayed until 1910 would not appear in either the 1901 or 1911 census, but would perhaps be recorded in the 1909 rent roll. The names of the purchasers recorded in the 1916 roll are listed in Chris Lawlor, ‘The 1916 rent rolls of Tynte Park Estate, Dunlavin, Co. Wicklow’ in Irish Roots, no. 3 (2018), pp 6-7.
[3] Oral tradition. I am indebted to the late Patrick Lawlor of Dunlavin and the late Arthur Lawlor of New Eltham, London, for this information.
[4] https://the1916proclamation.ie/the-roll-honour/o/ (visited on 4 Mar 2016). Website now (2019) seems defunct.
[5] Sinn Fein Rebellion Handbook, Easter, 1916: A Complete and Connected Narrative of the Rising, with Detailed Accounts of the Fighting at All Points (Dublin, 1917), p. 260.
[6] Censuses of Ireland 1901 and 1911, Forms A, Byrne (Crehelp) household returns. No other Joseph Byrne was recorded in Crehelp in either the 1901 or the 1911 census.
[7] Martin Timmons, Wicklow and the 1916 rising (Greystones, 2016), pp 43-4.
[8]  For example, Joseph’s name was published in National Graves Association, The last post (3rd ed, Dublin, 1986). Later sources citing this work such as Henry Cairns (ed), Wicklow in revolt: a history of County Wicklow from 1913-1923 (Bray?, 2016), p. 29 also name Joseph as a fatality at Boland’s Mill.
[9] Irish Military Archive, Military Service Pensions Collection, SP9212, (W24SP9212JOSEPHJOHNBYRNE online pdf, visited 10 Dec 2019) and P.B. D62, (W24D62JOSEPHJOHNBYRNE online pdf, also visited 10 Dec 2019). See also Lorcan Collins, 1916 the rising handbook (Dublin, 2016), p. 133.
[10] Emails received on 15 May 2012, 29 Nov 2019 and 12 Dec 2019 from Brian O’Malley, descendant (through marriage) of Joseph Byrne, and telephone conversation on 7 Jan 2020 with Associate Professor Catherine Cox, Department of History, U.C.D. (also a descendant of Joseph Byrne). Joseph’s army service is confirmed in the army census of 1922. He was stationed in Portobello Barracks and living with his wife Mary in Dublin. His age (34 in 1922) corresponds to the age (13) given in the 1901 census. http://census.militaryarchives.ie/results.php?firstname=joseph&lastname=o%27byrne&age=&location=&button=Submit (visited on 28 Nov 2019). Note that Joseph’s surname appears as O’Byrne in the army census.
[11] http://www.irishmedals.ie/bolands.php (visited on 30 Nov 2018).
[12] Timmons, Wicklow and the 1916 rising, p. 43.
[13] http://www.irishmedals.ie/Rebels-Killed.php (visited on 30 Nov 2018).
[14] http://thebignote.com/2018/04/22/dublin-deansgrange-cemetery/ (visited on 30 Nov 2018).
[15] Leinster Leader, 22 Mar 1890.
[16] Kildare Observer, 6 May 1916.
[17] Dunlavin is only a mile from the county Kildare border. Provincial papers from both counties were widely available and read in the village. This continues to be the case at the time of writing (2019-20).
[18] Nationalist and Leinster Times, 29 Apr 1916.
[19] Wicklow News-Letter, 29 Apr 1916.
[20] Kildare Observer, 29 Apr 1916.
[21] Leinster Leader, 29 Apr 1916.
[22] Wicklow People, Kildare Observer and Leinster Leader, all 6 May 1916.
[23] Nationalist and Leinster Times, 6 May 1916.
[24] Leinster Leader and Nationalist and Leinster Times, both 13 May 1916.
[25] Nationalist and Leinster Times, 20 May 1916.
[26] Nationalist and Leinster Times, 27 May 1916.
[27] Leinster Leader, 3 Jun 1916.
[28] Nationalist and Leinster Times, 3 Jun 1916. For the Irish National Aid Association and its later amalgamation with the Irish Volunteer Dependents’ Fund, see Kevin Cullen, ‘The humanitarian wing of Irish Republicanism: the Irish National Aid and Volunteer Dependents’ Fund’ (M.A. thesis, St. Patrick’s College Drumcondra, a college of D.C.U., 2012).
[29] Nationalist and Leinster Times, 14 Oct 1916.


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