P. B.: But James Connolly… these men adored James Connolly, and… well, when the time came he was a man of his word, he brought them out, he marched them out, in front of them, and he went in to the fray. He didn’t tell you what to do and go and let you do it, he went and done it himself. That was the type of man he was. He wouldn’t tell you to do this if he couldn’t do it himself, same as us. There was one of our boys Charlie Darcy, he adored Connolly, and in Palm Sunday 1916, the Citizen Army had a parade and they came back to Liberty Hall, and when they did, they had a ceremony. A flag was to be raised at the corner of Liberty Hall building, facing up towards the quays and up into Tara Street. And we had a… the Fintan Lalor pipers band was with us, and he got the two tenor drums and put them on the ground and he put the bass drum on top of them, and on top of them he put this flag which was wrapped up.
And he selected a girl – there were girls in the Citizen Army too, remember, and women. This girl’s name was Molly O’Reilly, she was a beautiful girl, young girl. She’d a mass of red, curly hair which hung down on her shoulders, lovely face. She was dressed in a white blouse, and a saffron kilt and a saffron trail with a Tara brooch there and she had a Tricolour over there. And he called her out and he gave her this, and she clutched it to her breast, and she went over to Liberty Hall, up the stairs, and was brought up the stairs, and Captain Toole was on the roof, he brought her down along to where the flagstaff was. Now when this was taking place, as soon as the flag was being… ready to be raised, the Citizen Army men presented arms, to salute and a bugle was sounded… The salutes you see, the royal salute as the flag went up. That was on Palm Sunday.
When that was done, Connolly ordered every man into the barracks, and Liberty Hall was the barracks. Then we went into the concert room, there was a concert room at the back, men lying [or] sat on the stairs, and… the stage was here. And the boys was hanging around the stage, and I was hanging around the stage looking up at these men. On the stage was James Connolly, Commandant Mallon, the Countess and a few other Captains – Captain Toole and Captain Seán Connolly, and Doctor Kathleen Lynn.
Connolly looked at the men who were all facing downwards with their rifles between their knees, leaning on them, and he said, ‘Men’, he said, ‘and women of the Irish Citizen Army. We’re going soon’, he said. ‘Soon, we’ll be going into battle’. And he said, ‘many of us, may never return’. Now I was looking up at him saying this. Up to this I was after spending two years in the Citizen Army, day and night, every time I could get it I was with them. And it was a heaven on earth, it was a beautiful time, it was a wonderful time, the comradeship, knowing every man and woman, and knowing every girl and every boy, and everyone knowing you it was a wonderful thing, and it was heaven on earth to me. And when I heard this words ‘some of us may never return’, I got a sort of sick – I was a young lad mind you – I felt a sickening feeling down me stomach. Something struck me, there was something serious going to happen. And I looked back at the men’s faces, and they were looking at him, they were staring, they was sort of weighing up and thinking what… There was no such a thing as ‘Here here!’ or clapping, none of that, just listening.
Countess got up and gave us a speech of telling us what to do, how to arm ourselves. You have a jackknife. If you can’t do anything you can stab a sentry, or you know, have something to protect yourself. And, no matter what happens, if you’re going into fight she says, ‘if you have a rifle and a bayonet and you’re facing an enemy, go into it, because you may never come out, but make sure you do something about it, before you come out. Go into it’, she said, ‘and don’t be afraid, you know you’re up against it, and if you stop, you’ll be killed. So get in and do it.’
So, now Doctor Lynn gave us a lecture. Doctor Lynn, she was a wonderful lady. She said, ‘every man should have a kit in his bag: a bandage, a three inch bandage, a large handkerchief, two little bits of stick, a bottle of iodine and some wadding, and these are very necessary and essential, though you might not know where you’ll be, you may need them’. And she told us, she’d already given us lectures on how to stop a wound, how to plug it and all that. And now… I knew now that something was going to happen.
So the men was confined to barracks but Connolly said, ‘Now, married men go home’. Here’s the point I want to emphasise on. When James Connolly said those words, this is the point I was nearly missing. He said ‘Very soon we’ll be going into battle’, he said, ‘and some of us may never return. But’, he said, ‘I will expect you all there’. Now, he didn’t say, ‘you be there, I want you there, I’m ordering you there’, he said, ‘I’ll expect you’. That’s a different meaning you know? So there was the kind of a man James Connolly was.