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Lecture At Former South Dublin Union Site

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St. James’s Hospital is considered the largest university hospital in Dublin and one of the biggest hospitals in Europe. Before St. James’s hospital was established in 1971 it was a poorhouse and later a workhouse called the South Dublin Union. Originally St. James’s were a combination of Federated Dublin Voluntary Hospitals and in the 1990’s  were joined by a few other smaller Dublin hospitals to become the “New St. James Hospital”.

The South Dublin Union was one of the battlefields where Irish Volunteers fought British soldiers during the 1916 Easter Rising. The Union served the community’s needy, sick and mentally insane. They were treated and housed here on the over fifty acres of grounds which used to be surrounded by a high stone wall. The complex consisted of many buildings connected by streets, alleys and courtyards.

On the 27thof April 1916 advancing Sherwood Foresters (a line infantry regiment of the British Army) were escorting a consignment of ammunition that had to be taken to the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham. As they were about to cross the Rialto Bridge snipers started firing at them. The snipers of course being the 4th Battalion of the Irish Volunteers under command of Commandant Eamonn Ceannt and Vice Commandant Cathal Brugha.

On the 24th March 2016 a lecture by Prof. Davis Coakley will be held on this site at the William Montgomery Lecture Theatre, Trinity Centre for Health Sciences at St. James’s Hospital Campus. The lecture will be outlining the history of the site from 1703 to the present day. There will also be a music recital in the former 4th Battalion Headquarters (Old Stone Building) and readings from the accounts given by eye-witnesses that were there during the Easter Rising.

Irish Military Historian, Paul O’Brien, describes the battle at South Dublin Union in one of his essays called “The Battle for the South Dublin Union” as follows: “The Volunteers had established their headquarters in the Nurses’ Home and had barricaded the doors and windows and turned the building into an impenetrable fortress. Rifle fire erupted from the building as Captain Martyn and his unit came into sight. Lance Corporal Chapman, gamekeeper to the Duke of Newcastle, was shot and killed as he advanced through the grounds. A British machine gun unit, positioned on the roof of the nearby Royal Hospital saw the advancing Foresters and laid down a covering fire against the Nurses’ Home. Bullets entered the rooms diagonally, splitting the brickwork at the sides of the windows, preventing the Volunteers from returning fire. This covering fire enabled a section of Foresters to gain entry to a ward directly fronting the Nurses Home. Smashing the windows they opened fire on the Volunteers. On the blast of a whistle the Foresters attempted a frontal assault on the building but suffered casualties as they were repulsed by heavy fire.”

The lecture will begin at 7pm until 8.30pm. Tickets are free, but you will need to register in advance to be sure you get a seat at: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/south-dublin-unionst-jamess-hospital-site-commemorating-196-tickets-22616947900.

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