Enniscorthy town will recall one of the most famous events in Irish history and its part in the 1916 Rising during the annual 1916 Conference, which will take place in the town this weekend on Saturday, April 13.
This year’s conference entitled ‘A Decade of Commemorations’ will delve into the town’s history and involvement in the Rising. The principal speakers at the 2013 conference include, joint editor of Irish Historical Studies, Dr. Fearghal McGarry, author and historian, Dr. Eve Morrison, Enniscorthy Castle’s Kieran Costello and author Kevin Galligan.
Commenting on the upcoming conference Kieran Costello of Enniscorthy Castle said, “This conference offers a real insight to the towns unique rolls in the Rising, Enniscorthy was the only town captured by the Rebels and the Castle, itself was occupied by the Irish Volunteers in 1916, The Castle tells the story of the Easter Rising in the 1916 Room with original artefacts of the period which help bring the Rebellion to life, including firearms, medals and a photographic retrospective of the 50th anniversary commemoration in the town in 1966.”
During the 1916 Rising, 97 years ago next week, the town of Enniscorthy was the only Irish town taken over by the Irish Volunteers.
Unlike the rest of County Wexford, Enniscorthy was the nucleus of separatist activists; there was a strong Irish Republican Brotherhood presence in the town and in as well as the local two companies of Irish Volunteers. In 1913, there were over 100 sworn-in IRB members in Enniscorthy and when the Irish Volunteers was formed in 1913, they, like other IRB circles where the organisation had a presence, joined and took over the organisation from the inside.
In Enniscorthy in the early hours of Easter Thursday the Roche family were forced to vacate their home at Enniscorthy Castle, around 100-200 hundreds of Volunteers took over the town’s Atheneum and the castle and surrounded the RIC barracks in the town, to which they cut off the supply of gas and water. The insurgents’ armament was meagre though – only 20 rifles and 2,000 rounds of ammunition. Many carried only pikes, which, effective enough in 1798, would have been useless in an encounter with either armed police or British troops in 1916.
Whereas in Dublin, the rebels were initially highly unpopular with the general public, in Enniscorthy the reaction to the Rising seems to have been largely positive. Even two of the local priests were anxious to join the Enniscorthy volunteers, but were persuaded otherwise and left after blessing the men.
On Saturday, the RIC County Inspector reported, “the rebels are concentrated at Enniscorthy and are stated to be entrenching themselves there, the Police are still holding out. The approaches to Enniscorthy within a radius of three miles of the town were blocked with felled trees and in one case by a telegraph pole, which has been brought down. The damage to the Barrow Bridge on the Dublin and South Eastern Railway is now reported not to be serious.”
Meanwhile, the War Office sent a telegraph to Lieutenant-Colonel G.A. French, a retired British Army Officer who lived about two miles outside Wexford Town, instructing him to take over the command of the British Forces in Wexford and advising that reinforcements were on their way from Waterford along with an armoured train with a field gun.
Patrick Pearse had in fact already surrendered on Friday afternoon on behalf of the Republican forces in Dublin, “to prevent the further slaughter of the civilian population and in the hope of saving our followers, now hopelessly surrounded and outnumbered”.
The British assembled a column under French of 1,000 men, 2 field guns and a 4.7 inch naval gun at Wexford town, “with a view to engaging the rebels at Enniscorthy”. The poorly armed Volunteers could not have taken on a force with this kind of firepower in a pitched battle. The Volunteers held the town for almost a week before surrendering on May 1st.
For details of this weeks 1916 Conference see visitwexford.ie