Friday, 19 February 2016

The Gleesons and 1916

Carrying firewood salvaged from Sackville St, 1916
What were your Gleeson ancestors doing in 1916? 

Why not write about it and send it to us? We can publish it here on the website, or even include it in the book that will follow the Gathering (for now, snappily titled: Proceedings of the Gleeson Clan Gathering 2016).

This year marks the centenary of the Easter Rising 1916 and the events surrounding it. It also presents us with a real opportunity to look to our own family histories and examine how our ancestors interacted with the events of this turbulent time. Were they involved in the Rising? Did they fight at the Battle of the Somme? How did they react to or contribute to events around this time? What influence did it have on the lives of ordinary people? These are fascinating questions and exploring them can reveal some exciting surprises.

The Royal Irish Regiment
In April 1916, my own grandmother was 7 months pregnant in Moore Street, Dublin when the Rising kicked off around the corner in the General Post Office. One of the local children was sent out to see what time it was on Cleary's clock and came running back a minute later shouting that the Germans were shooting everyone in O'Connell Street! It didn't take long for granny to gather her belongings and scuttle around the corner to her sister-in-law's house on Parnell Street where she stayed for the rest of Easter week.

Another of my family died of injuries sustained from artillery fire in the trenches in France in May 1916. He was only 19. He and 49,000 other Irish men died in World War One (that's about 25% of the Irish soldiers who went out to fight).

You can really get a feel for what was going on in 1916 (and how people reacted to it) by reading the newspapers of the day. And the good news is that these have been made freely available online by IrishNewsArchives. You can access all the regional and daily titles in their collection from 1916. This is for a limited time only so check it out while there is still time.

Letter to younger brother of Thomas MacDonagh
(from Cloughjordan, Tipperary) who was executed
in Kilmainham Gaol in May 1916.
The Irish government has set up a dedicated website for the 1916 commemorations ( It includes a good overview of the history behind the Easter Rising as well as a Programme of Events planned for around the country. We'll keep you informed of any events that are happening around the time of the Gathering on our Things To Do page. In addition, Google recently launched an interactive tour of the Easter Rising, narrated by Colin Farrell, and focussing on the events in Dublin which sparked subsequent events all around the country. How did these events affect your Gleeson ancestors? 

Trinity College Dublin has a fascinating project called Letters of 1916 that you should check out - it is the first public humanities project in Ireland and is creating a crowd-sourced digital collection of letters written around the time of the Easter Rising. They are building an online collection for the public that will add a new and intimate perspective of the events of the period, providing a glimpse into life in Ireland at this time. There are several featured letters such as the one on the right from James Stephens to Thomas MacDonagh's brother John, a native of Cloghjordan.

If you want to explore more about the history of 1916, there are some great resource available. The Irish Revolution is a collaborative online project between University College Cork and the Irish Examiner. The project aims to "inform and engage readers with a wide variety of authoritative and entertaining content, become a unique educational and research tool for all ages and interests, record the social, cultural and political events that shaped this defining period in our own and wider geo-political history and stimulate debate among all ages - in both English and Irish - as we consider the shape and aspirations of our nation for the next 100 years". Worth checking out.

Another brilliant resource is a completely free online course run by Trinity College Dublin through FutureLearn - Irish Lives in War and Revolution: Exploring Ireland's History 1912-1923. This first ran last year and is about to run again from 14th March. The course asks some pretty tough questions: How do people experience war and revolution? How does political change, violence, total war, affect life in its most basic ways? Looking at Ireland through war and revolution, this course considers these and other questions about Irish life between 1912 and 1923. The course looks beyond the familiar names and the famous faces – the traditional histories can tell us about them. Instead, it explores how the events that shaped the nature of modern Ireland - the Great War, the Easter Rising, the Irish war of independence and civil war - were experienced by the people who lived through them or in spite of them.

There is also an ongoing series of lectures (entitled What were your family doing in 1916?) being held in various local libraries around Ireland, courtesy of FindMyPast and Eneclann, followed by one-on-one consultations to help you discover what your ancestors were doing in 1916. The complete schedule of talks is below.

(click to enlarge)

And finally, another wonderful resource is the 1916 Easter Rising Historical Society on Facebook. There are some fantastic photos and it is a great place to share stories and ask questions.

I'm sure there are many fascinating stories of how 1916 influenced the lives of our Gleeson ancestors and it would be great to hear them and post them here on the Gathering website. Some Gleesons may have achieved a modicum of fame around that time, others will just be ordinary people trying to get on with their lives, when 1916 intervened. If you would like to submit a story, send it to Include a few photos as well and we will draft a post for you to review. If you are happy with it, we will publish it here.   Why not make a start by leaving a comment below about how 1916 affected your own Gleeson family?

And if you are coming to the Gathering, you may also want to create a poster of your story and bring it along with you. We will hang it up on the walls of the Scouts' Hall so that everyone can read it.

What better way to commemorate the impact of 1916 on your Gleeson family.

Three women volunteers in Duckett's Grove Training Camp

Send your stories to:

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