Despite the glorious weather, of a fine Easter Monday. Not every citizen of Dublin had the opportunity to revel in the day.
For, on the south side of the city, in- patients and staff of the South Dublin Union were to spend that fateful day, under siege and witnessing some of the most brutal fighting of the Rising.
The South Dublin Union, by 1916, was a place of refuge & safety for the destitute, infirm, elderly and insane. A workhouse and hospital, it housed the most vulnerable in society.
But as a strategic position, the rebels lay claim to the sprawling grounds and buildings. Despite the fact that there were over 3,000 vulnerable patients housed within its walls, it was to be the scene of one of the most vicious battles of the Rising.
The rising had come as somewhat as a surprise to the British Army and the British troops who were sent to quash the rebellion at the Union, were ill-equipped for the might of the rebels, many only had Bayonets & not all of their guns were loaded, but by god rebel rifles were fully stocked up, and they were ready for every eventuality.
What ensued was a running battle involving, vicious close contact, hand to hand fighting.
To sum up the extent of the viciousness of the fighting, one rebel is said to have become “Mentally Deranged” after witnessing the death of one of his comrades, his derangement, of such seriousness, he was disarmed immediately and kept safely under watch for the rest of the week.
A British Soldier, who after witnessing the brutal reality of this particular battle decided he would not participate in any form of heroics and managed to smuggle himself out of the building in a coffin containing his dead comrade. He was lucky to escape.
But for the patients and staff, there was no escape, especially not for Nurse Margaret Keogh who was to become the first civilian death of the Easter Rising.
Despite the hospital & workhouse being occupied by rebels and a full-scale battle taking place, Nurse Keogh knew she had to stay and face this sudden brutality, for she was a nurse and duty came first, she decided she would stay where she was, even in the face of grave danger, she would stay to tend to the injured and dying.
And when she saw a wounded rebel, collapsed at the door of the hospital, without a second thought for her own safety, driven by her sense of duty, she dashed outside to the man, as she reached him, she leaned over, a shot rang out, she suddenly slumped forward… having been shot by a British Sniper, she was killed instantly.
She was to be the first civilian to die, but many more civilian deaths would follow over the course of the following few days and nights and their stories are as equally as horrific as they are gallant and brave.