Community display, supported by Heritage Lottery Fund, reveals city's role
To mark the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, a display at the Museum of Liverpool explores the roles of the Liverpool men and women involved in a pivotal moment of Irish history.
1916 Easter Rising: the Liverpool connection opens on 20 April 2016. Developed by the Liverpool Easter 1916 Commemoration Committee, with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the display is part of the Museum's Our City, Our Stories programme.
On Easter Monday 1916, a group of Irish nationalists staged a rebellion against British rule in an attempt to establish an Irish Republic.
Though it had been planned across Ireland, the main unrest was in Dublin, where around 1,500 rebels seized key buildings within the city, including the General Post Office (GPO).
The Liverpool Irish Volunteers were approximately 50 young men and women from Liverpool who took part in the Rising. A mix of people who were Liverpool-born or had moved to the city from Ireland; they ranged from teachers and journalists, to clerks and dockers, but they were united by their commitment to Irish independence. Their role in the Rising was significant, to the extent that the Republican flag flying over the GPO is believed to have been raised by Joe Gleeson, a Liverpool man.
Janet Dugdale, Director of Museum of Liverpool said:
"Liverpool's connection to Ireland is deep-rooted and goes back many centuries. The Museum of Liverpool explores this history as well as the many ways Irish culture continues to shape life in the city.
"This year we are highlighting the Liverpool connection to this defining point in Irish history through the Museum’s Our City, Our Stories programme.
"The Liverpool Easter 1916 Commemoration Committee has worked closely with museum curators to create a display which explores the motivation and actions of the city’s men and women involved in the Rising, and gives insight into the significant role they played.
“It is an interesting Liverpool story and one that has resonance with Irish communities across the world."
1916 Easter Rising: the Liverpool Connection delves into this Liverpool story with a number of key objects, including:
- Tom Craven’s diary. Tom established a garrison for English Volunteers at Kimmage near Dublin early in 1916. He was one of the few to have kept an account of the events.
- New archive material. Many of the Liverpool Irish Volunteers travelled to Dublin with family members. The display features a particular focus on John, Patrick and George King, three brothers who took part in the Rising. Newly discovered photographs and documents, including George King’s court martial explore their story.
- Rose Ann Morgan’s (née Murphy) Cumann na mBan brooch. Rose Ann, from Parr Street, Liverpool, was stationed at the GPO during Easter week where she acted as a courier for Rising. The women of Cumann na mBan were heavily involved in the military action with some fighting alongside the men in the rebel garrisons.
- Patrick Reid’s medals. Patrick, often called Paddy, was only 16 when he fought in the Rising, based at the GPO. He also fought in the Irish War of Independence, three years later. England and Everton Mid-Fielder Peter Reid is Patrick’s grandson.
- O’Donovan Rossa’s Funeral programme. When Fenian leader Jerimiah O’Donovan Rossa died in New York in 1915 his body was retuned to Ireland for burial. The Liverpool Irish Volunteers escorted his coffin through Liverpool on its way to Dublin. Patrick Pearse, who went on to be a key figure in the uprising, gave a famously stirring speech at the funeral. Seen by many as the inspiration for the Easter Rising the following year, the speech ended with the final assertion: "Ireland unfree shall never be at peace".
The rebellion lasted six days and was finally crushed by better equipped British forces. Around 450 people died, including many civilians caught up in the cross-fire. All of the surviving rebels were arrested and imprisoned. Those not kept in Ireland for court-martial, were transferred to a former German Prisoner of War camp at Frongoch in North Wales. The camp closed in December 1916, by which time most of the prisoners had been released.
Some of the Liverpool Irish Volunteers went on to take part in the Irish War of Independence (1919-21) and the Irish Civil War (1922-23). Most returned home to resume their lives in Liverpool. Veterans of the Rising continued to meet each Sunday at the Irish Centre in Mount Pleasant until the 1980s.
Dr Kevin McNamara from the Liverpool Easter 1916 Committee, responsible for the programme, says:
“The archive material that has been unearthed from descendants, families and in the libraries of Liverpool shines a spotlight on what is a forgotten chapter in the city’s history.
“Tying in with the Irish commemorations, the collection will provide a focal point enabling people to explore the motivations of the men and women who travelled to Ireland and the reactions of those in Liverpool when they returned. It is a significant chapter both in Ireland’s history but also in the shared heritage this city has with Ireland”.
Peter King, great-nephew of the King brothers featured in the display, said:
“Although I was aware that my great uncles played some part in the Easter Rising, it is only in recent years that I have discovered the full extent of their involvement.
“Through my own involvement with the Liverpool Easter 1916 Commemoration Committee and in particular, my role in the creation of a new play called Liverpool Lambs, I have discovered much about my own family background and our links with the historic events of 1916.
“I hope that others might be inspired, whether through drama, or some of the many other events planned for the coming year, to follow a similar journey of discovery and understanding about one of the most important facets of our shared history.''
This display is part of a wider programme of events in Liverpool to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising in Dublin. Full details are on the Liverpool's Easter Rising 1916 centenary events website: http://liverpooleaster1916.org/
The display has also been funded by the Embassy of Ireland.
1916 Easter Rising: the Liverpool Connection is part of Museum of Liverpool’s Our City, Our Stories, a partnership programmewhich enables local people to represent their own interpretation of the Museum’s themes and objects.
Notes to Editors
Heritage Lottery Fund
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Museum of Liverpool
The Museum of Liverpool is one of the country’s most visited museums outside of London. It is the largest newly-built national museum in Britain for more than a century, demonstrating Liverpool’s unique contribution to the world. The first national museum devoted to the history of a regional city, it showcases popular culture while tackling social, historical and contemporary issues. It has attracted more than two million visitors since opening in July 2011. The prestigious Council of Europe Museum Prize for 2013 was awarded to the Museum for its commitment to human rights as well as its work with children and families from all backgrounds.
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About National Museums Liverpool
National Museums Liverpool comprises eight venues, including some of the most visited museums in England outside of London. Our collections are among the most important and varied in Europe and contain everything from Impressionist paintings and rare beetles to a lifejacket from the Titanic. We attract nearly 2.7 million visitors every year. Our venues are the Museum of Liverpool, World Museum, the Walker Art Gallery, Merseyside Maritime Museum, International Slavery Museum, Border Force National Museum, Sudley House and the Lady Lever Art Gallery.