This is a glossary of the main people, places and organisations involved in the 1916 Easter Rising. Many of the entries enable you to click through to full articles giving more detailed information about the more important names.
Make sure to visit our Easter Rising Home Page which has links to more than 50 articles providing overall summaries of what happened during those six eventful days in 1916, biographies of the main characters and analysis of the main organisations. You will also find articles on the centenary commemorations, videos on the Rising, the views of modern politicians and historians, and interviews with the relatives of those who fought in 1916.
An Claidheamh Soluis
The newspaper of the Gaelic League. In 1913 it published an article entitled the North Began, written by one of its members, Eoin MacNeil. The article called for the formation of a paramilitary group to fight for Home Rule. This led to the formation of the Irish Volunteer Force, or Irish Volunteers, who later provided most of the troops that took part in the Easter Rising.
The British Prime Minister at the time of the Easter Rising. He had steered the Home Rule Bill through the British parliament and promised that it would come into effect at the end of the First World War. He was succeeded in December 1916 by David Lloyd George, the man who would negotiate the Anglo-Irish Treaty with Michael Collins, Arthur Griffiths and others.
The ship that carried 20,000 guns from Germany to arm the Volunteers. It was intercepted off the coast of Kerry and the arms were lost.
Boland’s Mill (Bakery)
One of the sites occupied by the rebels at the start of the Rising under the command of Éamon de Valera. It was shelled several times by the British but the rebels fought on until they received the order to surrender.
Captain J. Bowen-Colthurst
A British Army captain during the Rising. He was responsible for the murders of at least five innocent civilians, including Francis Sheehy-Skeffington. His actions, and the fact that he went unpunished, helped turn Irish public opinion away from the British and towards the nationalists.
The commandant stationed with a small unit at the Pillar Café (next to Nelson’s Pillar) on Sackville Street, which is now O’Connell Street. His mission was to barricade the street against an advance by British troops and to defend the nearby GPO where most of the leaders of the Rising were stationed.
Mounted troops who retreated after coming under fire from rebels in the General Post Office within a few hours of the start of the Rising. The withdrawal gave the rebels a morale boost but it was short lived; the British started shelling the GPO a few days later, eventually forcing the rebels to retreat. One unfortunate consequence of the retreat of the Lancers is that one of their horses was shot dead. The weather was unseasonably warm and the horse was left to decompose outside the GPO, creating a sickening smell for the rebels inside.
College of Surgeons
The building occupied by the rebels under the command of Michal Mallin after they were forced to retreat from St Stephen’s Green.
One of the Irish Volunteers serving under Éamonn Ceannt at the South Dublin Union. He became an inspirational figure to his fellow rebels when he single-handedly defended a barricade against advancing British troops. He survived the Rising and went on to become a leading figure in the Irish War of Independence and President of Dáil Éireann. He was killed in the fighting in the Civil War in 1922.
An infamous document purporting to show that the British authorities in Dublin Castle were planning to clampdown on nationalists, including the Irish Volunteers. It was in fact a forgery created by the IRB Military Council to pressurise the leader of the Volunteers, Eoin MacNeill, into supporting the planned Rising. When he discovered it was a forgery he was furious, and ordered the Volunteers to stand down. The ensuing confusion meant the Rising went ahead with thousands fewer soldiers than originally intended.
Sir Roger Casement
The former British diplomat who arranged for Germany to supply a shipload of guns for the rebels. The ship was intercepted and the weapons were lost. Casement was hanged at Pentonville prison.
One of the organisers of the Howth gun-running operation in 1914 to bring in 900 Mauser rifles to arm the Irish Volunteers. The arms were shipped into Howth on Childers’ yacht, the Asgard. He wrote the popular novel, the Riddle of the Sands. He was executed by the Irish Free State during the Civil War.
A key rebel base in the Battle of Mount Street Bridge in which the Irish Volunteers fought against a battalion of Sherwood Foresters sent over from England as reinforcements for the British troops. Clanwilliam House and Mount Street were strategically important as they controlled one of the main routes into Dublin. The site provided such good cover for the rebels that only 15 of them were able to kill or wound more than 200 Sherwood Foresters before they ran out of ammunition and had to surrender.
A founder member of the nationalist youth organisation Fianna na Éireann. He was the commander of a group of Volunteers stationed at Watkins Brewery. He was later executed.
A captain stationed in the GPO during the Rising. He was the aide de camp to Joseph Plunkett. Collins was a relatively minor figure at this time but went on to mastermind the fight against the British during the Irish War of Independence, and later helped negotiate the Anglo-Irish Treaty. He was assassinated during the Irish Civil War.
Leader of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union and the Irish Citizen Army. He was one of the main driving forces of the Easter Rising and the overall military commander. He was wounded during the fighting in the GPO and was so weak that he later had to be tied to a chair in order to face the firing squad during his execution.
Countess Constance Markievicz
The most prominent woman involved in the Rising. She was a member of several nationalist organisations including the Irish Citizen Army. She was second in command to Michael Mallin at St Stephen’s Green
The Irish League or Council of Women – a nationalist organisation prepared to use force if necessary to achieve Irish independence. It provided both female soldiers and ancillary services during the Rising. Countess Markievicz and Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell were among the best known members.
A veteran Fenian based in the United States. He helped organise the shipment of arms from Germany aboard the Aud. The ship was intercepted by the British and the arms were lost.
A pub landlord who fled from his premises when it caught fire during the fighting. Together with his wife and daughter, he waved a white flag as he tried to reach safety. However, the family were all shot dead by British machine gun fire. Patrick Pearse is thought to have witnessed what happened and it may have helped persuade him of the need to surrender to prevent the further loss of innocent lives.
The centre of the British administration in Ireland. Dublin Castle or ‘the Castle’ is often used as shorthand for the British authorities in Ireland. It saw the first death in the Rising when the rebels shot a police officer, Constable James O’Brien, who refused to yield to them while standing guard on 25 April, 1916.
An industrial dispute that paralysed Dublin for much of 1913. It happened when businesses started to lock out employees who wanted to belong to a trade union. The subsequent clashes between police and union members led the leader of the Transport and General Workers Union, James Larkin, to form the Irish Citizen Army (ICA) to provide protection against police brutality. The lockout politicised many ordinary workers, including members of the ICA. About 200 of them went on to fight in the Easter Rising.
Dublin Metropolitan Police
The police, including the Royal Irish Constabulary, were part of the British establishment in Ireland. They were opposed to the Easter Rising but unwittingly had an influence. In 1913, during the Dublin Lockout and in the months afterwards, the Dublin police were often called into break up union meetings led by the leader of the Transport and General Workers Union, Jim Larkin. Larkin responded by forming the Irish Citizen Army (ICA), a volunteer paramilitary group, to protect his members from police brutality. The ICA later came under the control of James Connolly when he took over as leader of the union. About 200 ICA members went on to take part in the Easter Rising.
The commander of the rebels at the Four Courts. He was one of the 16 leaders to be executed.
A term often used to denote the Irish Republic Brotherhood and its partner organisation in America, the Fenian Brotherhood. It is also often used more loosely to describe anyone with nationalist or republican views.
One of the major sites occupied by the rebels under the command of Edward Daly. The fighting was not as intense as in some other rebel strongholds.
Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA)
An organisation set up in 1884 by Michael Cusack to promote Irish traditional sports and pastimes. It was not overtly political but most of its members had strong nationalist sympathies. The GAA as an organisation played no part in the Rising but many of its members took part as members of other organisations like the Irish Volunteers. So many GAA men were arrested following the Rising that many games had to be cancelled because so many players were missing.
An organisation set up in 1893 by Douglas Hyde and others to promote Irish culture and language. It was not a political organisation and it played no part in the Easter Rising. However, it is significant because many of the leaders of the Rising were members, including Patrick Pearse, Joseph Plunkett, Éamonn Ceannt and Thomas MacDonagh. For them and many other prominent republicans, it was their first their first introduction to Irish nationalism.
General Post Office (GPO)
The main site taken by the rebels during the Rising. Five of the seven signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic were stationed here – Patrick Pearse, James Connolly, Seán MacDiarmada, Joseph Plunkett and Tom Clarke.
Founded the republican organisation Sinn Féin in 1905. The British thought the Easter Rising had been organised by Sinn Féin but they weren’t involved in any way. However, Sinn Féin became the focal point for the wave nationalist feeling which followed the execution of the Rising leaders. They swept to victory in the 1918 General Election and replaced the more moderate Irish Parliamentary Party as the voice of the Irish people at that time.
The gunboat used by the British to sail up the River Liffey to bombard key targets including Liberty Hall and the General Post Office.
A former member of Fianna na Éireann who took command at the Mendicity Institution with the task of delaying the advance of British troops into the city for a few hours. Heuston and his young soldiers managed to hold out for three days before running out of ammunition. Heuston was one of the 16 leaders to be executed.
Howth is a small harbour near Dublin. On 26 July 1914, it was used to smuggle in 900 Mauser rifles and 29,000 rounds of ammunition from Germany to help arm the Irish Volunteers. The weapons were brought in on board a private yacht owned by Erskine Childers.
Irish Citizen Army (ICA)
A paramilitary group set up by Jim Larkin during the Dublin Lock-out in 1913 to protect trade unionists from police brutality. About 200 ICA members took part in Easter Rising under the overall leadership of James Connolly.
A secret organisation formed by James Stephens in 1858. It was dedicated to establishing an Irish republic by force if necessary and together with its partner organisation, the Fenian Brotherhood in America, was responsible for the unsuccessful Fenian Rising of 1867. The Military Council of the IRB organised the Easter Rising 1916.
Irish War News
A small news sheet put out by the rebels during the Rising to explain their actions to the people of Ireland and to update them about how events were unfolding.
Jacob’s Biscuit Factory
One of the locations seized by the rebels under the command of Thomas MacDonagh.
The prison on the outskirts of Dublin where the leaders of the Rising were held before being executed within its walls in the Stonebreakers’ Yard. All except two of the leaders, Sir Roger Casement and Thomas Kent, were executed in the Stonebreakers’ Yard.
A name given to some of the young rebels who returned from England to avoid conscription into the British Army and to prepare for the Rising. The name came from the fact that they stayed with Count Plunkett at his farm in Kimmage, Dublin.
The founder of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. He didn’t take part in the Easter Rising but is significant because he formed the Irish Citizen Army (ICA) during the Dublin Lockout in 1913 to protect union members. The ICA went on to take part in the Rising, providing about 200 troops. Larkin was in America during the Rising. For while there was a rumour that he was returning with thousands of Irish-American troops to fight against the British. There was never any truth in this, but it did bolster the morale of the rebels for a while.
Ulster Loyalists smuggled in 25,000 rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition from Germany through the small port of Larne on the Antrim coast in April 1914. The weapons were to arm the Ulster Volunteers if they needed to fight against Home Rule for Ireland, which they bitterly opposed. The Ulster Volunteers had nothing to do with the Easter Rising, but their mere existence inspired Eoin MacNeill and others to set up the Irish Volunteers to fight for Irish Home Rule. The Larne incident inspired the Irish Volunteers to smuggle in guns from Germany through Howth Harbour near Dublin. Those guns were used during the Rising.
The headquarters of the Transport and General Workers Union led by James Connolly. It was used as a meeting place by the Irish Citizen Army, which had been formed by the union. Some meetings of the Military Council planning the Rising were also held there. The Proclamation of the Irish Republic was printed at Liberty Hall. It was the first building the British bombarded from their ship the Helga on the River Liffey. However, the rebels had anticipated the attack and the Hall was left empty.
The Long Fellah
A nickname given to Éamon de Valera, who was the commandant at Boland’s Bakery during the Rising.
During the fighting, many shops were bombed out or abandoned and became an easy target for looters. Their actions helped to discredit the Rising, with the British and Irish media dismissing it as mere rioting by criminals rather than genuine military action by political idealists.
Brigadier-General W H M Lowe
The British general who first took command of the operation to quell the Rising before the arrival of Lt. General John Maxwell. Patrick Pearse formally surrendered to Lowe to end the rebellion.
Major John MacBride
A former major in the British Army. He became disillusioned with the actions of the British in South Africa and fought against them on the side of the Boers in the Boer War. He thought the Rising had been cancelled following the order from Eoin MacNeill that the Volunteers should stand down. He only found out it was going ahead when he bumped into Thomas MacDonagh leading his men to Jacob’s Biscuit Factory. He immediately joined in became MacDonagh’s second in command. He was later executed.
One of the IRB’s best organisers and a member of the Military Council that planned the Rising. He was stationed in the GPO during the Rising and was one of the seven signatories of the Proclamation. He was later executed.
Michael Mallin – the rebel commander at St Stephen’s Green leading a unit of the Irish Citizen Army. He was one of the 16 leaders to be executed.
a poet and dramatist who joined the IRB Military Council a few weeks before the Easter Rising. He was in command of the Volunteers at Jacob’s Biscuit Factory. He was one of the signatories of the Proclamation and wrote the Marching Song of the Volunteers. He was later executed.
one of the leaders at the Battle of Mount Street Bridge in which 15 Irish Volunteers fought against superior numbers of British troops from the Sherwood Foresters regiment. Malone was shot dead during the fight but he and the other 14 rebels killed or wounded 216 Foresters before having to stop because they ran out of ammunition.
Lt. General John Maxwell
Maxwell over supreme command of the British forces sent in to subdue the Rising. The British government gave him emergency powers to hold military courts and impose the death sentence on the leaders of the Rising. A total of 90 rebels were found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. Only 16 executions were carried out as public opinion turned against the harshness of the punishments. Maxwell’s tough approach backfired and turned the executed leaders into martyrs, inspiring people to support the nationalist Sinn Fein in the 1918 General Election. Maxwell realised his mistake and has gone down in history as the man who lost Ireland.
A former poorhouse seized by the rebels, led by Seán Heuston, to control one of the routes into the city.
The Military Council of the Irish Republican Brotherhood was responsible for planning the Easter Rising. Its seven members were Tom Clarke, Éamonn Ceannt, James Connolly, Seán MacDiarmada, Thomas MacDonagh, Joseph Plunkett and Patrick Pearse.
the Rising leaders set up their headquarters at 16 Moore Street after they had to evacuate the burning GPO building a few hundred yards away. It was here that they had their last meeting and reluctantly took the decision to surrender.
Mount Street Bridge
The scene of the fiercest fighting in the Rising. Fifteen Volunteers led by George Reynolds and Michael Malone fought against vastly superior numbers of British troops from the Sherwood Forester regiment. The Volunteers had secured excellent vantage points and inflicted heavy losses on the Foresters, who suffered more than 200 dead or wounded. The battle only ended when the Volunteers ran out of ammunition and the British were able to force their way through. The battle has been described variously as Ireland’s Battle of the Alamo, and Ireland’s Thermopylae.
Na Fianna Éireann
The Warriors of Ireland. Named after the legendary army of Fionn Mac Cumhaill, they were a nationalist youth movement, similar to the Boy Scouts. They drilled and trained and learnt about Irish culture. Many of the Fianna went on to join the Irish Republican Brotherhood and take part in the Easter Rising. Con Colbert and Seán Heuston were two Fianna members who were executed for their part in the Rising.
North King Street
The scene of some of the most intense fighting as the rebels tried to fight off British troops advancing on the Four Courts. It took the British troops more than 24 hours to advance 150 yards; 14 soldiers were killed together with 15 civilians. When it was revealed after the Rising that most of those civilians had been killed by British troops, it helped turn public opinion towards the nationalist cause.
Constable James O’Brien
a police officer who became the first person to be killed during the Rising. He was shot by the rebels when he refused to leave his post outside Dublin Castle.
Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa
a veteran Fenian who died in 1915. He is relevant to the Easter Rising because his funeral at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin attracted hundreds a thousands of people in a major display of Irish nationalism. Patrick Pearse gave the funeral oration including the famous words: “the fools, the fools, the fools! – they have left us our Fenian dead, and while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.”
Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell
A member of Cumann na MBhan, the League of Women, an organisation with strong nationalist sympathies. Nurse O’Farrell served in the General Post Office during the Rising, administering to the wounded. She was the person chosen by Patrick Pearse to deliver the surrender notice to Brigadier-General Lowe at the end of the Rising.
A novelist and journalist from New Ross in Co Wexford. He was nominally second in command to Thomas MacDonagh at Jacob’s Biscuit Factory, although this role was taken by Major John MacBride on the day the Rising broke out. O’Hanrahan was one of the 16 rebels to be executed.
Michael Joseph O’Rahilly gave himself the name the O’Rahilly to denote himself as the leader of his clan, as in ancient Irish tradition. He was a charismatic figure who organised the inaugural meeting of the Irish Volunteers at Wynn’s Hotel in Dublin. He drove to the south west of Ireland to deliver Eoin MacNeill’s order to the Volunteer units that all military manoeuvres (i.e. the Rising) over Easter had been cancelled. When he returned to Dublin he found the leaders had gone ahead despite the countermanding order. He decided to join in and fought in the GPO. He was shot dead while leading his men along Moore Street at the end of the Rising.
Óró Sé do Beatha ‘Bhaile
A popular marching song with the Irish Volunteers as they trained for the Easter Rising. It was an old song that originally emerged during the Jacobite Rebellion as a rallying call for Bonnie Prince Charlie. Patrick Pearse reworked the lyrics to focus on Granuaile, the Irish pirate queen. He wanted a symbol of Irish nationalism instead of Prince Charlie, who was Scottish, and more importantly, was associated with a rebellion that had failed.
Commander General of the Easter Rising and possibly its most important figure. He read the Proclamation of the Irish Republic outside the GPO building at the start of the Rising. He took the final decision to surrender and was later executed.
The younger brother of Patrick Pearse and a captain with the Volunteers in the GPO. He was not one of the major figures behind the Rising but was the only one who pleaded guilty to the charge of “the waging of war against his Majesty the King”. Had he not done so he may have been spared, prompting some commentators to speculate that he wanted to be executed along with his brother whom he idolised.
The father of Joseph Plunkett. He was a papal count and owned a farm at Kimmage near Dublin. He invited Irishmen living in England to return to Ireland and stay at his farm to avoid conscription into the British Army. They spent their time with the Count preparing for the Rising and became known as the Kimmage men.
A leading member of the Military Council that planned the Rising. Together with James Connolly, he developed the military tactics for urban fighting, including the building of barricades and the practice of breaking through exterior walls to create passageways and tunnels through rows of buildings. He was executed only hours after marrying his fiancée in Kilmainham Gaol.
The declaration of independence read out by Patrick Pearse outside to the General Post Office at the start of the Rising.
Provisional Government of the Irish Republic
The new government of Ireland as declared by the leaders of the Easter Rising in the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. It was provisional in the sense that it would only serve until elections could be held to create a government with an electoral mandate. The members of the Provisional Government were the same seven men who signed the Proclamation.
It was unusually warm during the Easter Rising in 1916. For many years afterwards, a warm spell might be referred to by Dubliners as ‘rebellion weather’.
The leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party who had won the promise of Home Rule for Ireland once the First World War was over. He urged the Irish Volunteers to enlist in the British Army to fight against Germany. Most of them did but about 11,000 refused and took part in the Easter Rising. Redmond was vehemently opposed to the Rising and wrongfully said it was planned and paid for by Germany. He realised he had badly misjudged public opinion when his party was swept out of office in 1918 as the electorate flocked to the nationalists, Sinn Fein.
One of the commanders of the Irish Volunteers at the Battle of Mount Street Bridge, in which 15 rebels held off vastly superior numbers of British troops, inflicting heavy casualties. Reynolds was shot dead in the fighting.
Now known as the Collins Barracks. It was the British Army base housing the 10th Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. Nearly all the troops stationed there were Irish, meaning they had to fight against their fellow countrymen taking part in the Rising.
Now known as O’Connell Street. It was the location of the General Post Office (GPO), the Pillar Café and other strategic buildings occupied by the rebels. Barricades were erected to stop the advance of the British but the rebels were eventually forced to retreat after the GPO caught fire following heavy shelling. Five of the seven signatories of the Proclamation, including Patrick Pearse and James Connolly, were stationed in the GPO.
Francis Sheehy Skeffington
A well-known and very popular pacifist and equal rights campaigner in Dublin. He had nothing to do with the Rising but was one of three innocent men shot dead by firing squad on the orders of Captain J. Bowen-Colthurst. His murder, along with the deaths of other innocent civilians, helped to turn public opinion in favour of the nationalists following the Rising.
One of the regiments sent over from Britain to reinforce the troops subduing the Rising. The fought a fierce battle against the Volunteers at Mount Street Bridge and suffered more than 200 casualties before finally breaking through.
The nickname given by the British to members of Sinn Féin, who at the time were thought to have organised the Easter Rising. In fact, Sinn Féin had nothing to do with it.
Lt Karl Spindler
The captain of the Aud, the ship carrying arms for the rebels from Germany. Spindler scuttled the ship rather than let it be taken by the British once it had been intercepted off the coast of Kerry.
The yard in Kilmainham Gaol where 14 of the leaders of the Rising were executed.
The Irish nationalist party founded by Arthur Griffith in 1905. At first the British thought the Easter Rising had been organised by Sinn Fein and many of its leaders were subsequently arrested. In fact the party had nothing to do with the Rising, although it did become the main beneficiary of the wave of nationalist feeling that followed the executions of the rebel leaders. Sinn Fein won a landslide victory in the 1918 British General Election. The winning candidates refused to serve in the British parliament in London and set up their own assembly, the Dáil, in Dublin.
St Stephen’s Green
The only open area, as opposed to a strategic building, occupied by the rebels. Michael Mallin and Countess Markievicz were in command. They may have made a strategic error by digging trenches as cover. The British occupied the Shelbourne Hotel which overlooked the Green and so were able to shoot down on the rebels with ease. Mallin ordered a retreat to the College of Surgeons, and the two sides fought out a sniper stalemate until the order came through for the rebels to surrender.
South Dublin Union
The green, white and orange flag that the Volunteers hoisted above the GPO at the start of the Rising. The green symbolises the Catholic community, the orange represents the Protestants and the white symbolises peace between the two. The flag was later adopted as the official flag of the Irish Free State and then the Irish Republic. It was formally confirmed in the Constitution as the national flag in 1937. Article 7 states: “The national flag is the tricolour of green, white and gold.” Before the Easter Rising the official Irish flag was green with a gold harp.
Ireland’s oldest university. Brigadier-General Lowe used it as the British Army headquarters during the Rising.
Ulster Volunteer Force
The Ulster Volunteers played no part in the Easter Rising and, as loyalists to the British Crown, were bitterly opposed to it. Ironically, however, they unwittingly had an influence. The Ulster Volunteers were formed in January 1913 by Sir Edward Carson to fight against Home Rule for Ireland. This inspired Eoin MacNeill to form the Irish Volunteers later that same year for the very opposite purpose: to fight for Home Rule. It was the Irish Volunteers who supplied most of the soldiers in the Easter Rising.
Éamon de Valera
The leader of the Irish Volunteers at Boland’s Bakery (Mills). He was sentenced to death but was spared when public opinion turned against the executions of the Rising leaders. The fact that he was an American citizen having been born in the United States may have also influenced the British decision to commute his sentence. He later became one of Ireland’s most important leaders serving both as Taoiseach and President.
Situated on Ardee Street, Watkins Brewery was one of the sites taken by the rebels during Rising, under the leadership of Captain Con Colbert. It had little strategic value so Colbert moved his men to Jameson’s Distillery on Marrowbone Lane, which was under the command of Seamus Murphy. It more important because it was better placed to help defend the South Dublin Union.
Historically important because it housed the inaugural meetings of both the Irish Volunteers and Cumann na mBhan. It was burnt down during the fighting but was later rebuilt and now has two plaques commemorating its role in the formation of two iconic nationalist groups.
One of Ireland’s greatest poets, Yeats had flirted with Irish nationalism nut never fully committed to it. He was in London at the time of the Rising and was shocked when he heard what was happening. He later produced the most celebrated literary work to come out of the Rising, called simply, Easter 1916. He listed most of the leaders, many of whom he knew personally, and wrote that much quoted line to describe the impact of the Rising…
All changed, changed utterly,
A terrible beauty is born.
This list covers most of the important people, organisations and places involved in the Easter Rising but no list can ever be fully complete when dealing with such a major event.
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