G. B.: Your name’s Tommy O’Reilly, can I ask you when you were born?
T. O’R.: 1900.
G. B.: You began to get involved in the movement because your father and brothers were involved in 1916?
T. O’R.: Father and brothers were. I was born into the movement, [is] the way of saying it. And we’d Fianna boy scouts, ever since 1912, or ’11 or ’12, then on after that…
G. B.: Can you remember much that your father would’ve told you, about 19...?
T. O’R.: Beg your pardon?
G. B.: Can you remember much about 1916, that your father would’ve told you?
T. O’R.: I remember long before ’16 when the father used to have them all up in the house. We were born… I was born on the North Circular Road, 181, and on a Sunday all the old vet[erans]… the old Fenians used to be up there talking to him. And they’d have a sing-song and... Now the brother that’s coming over from America, he’d give you more dope than I would because he was older.
G. B.: What involvement had your father got? He was in 1916?
T. O’R.: He was in the Volunteers in B-Company First Battalion, a father and four sons, and the other young brother was in the Fianna.
G. B.: Where would they have been fighting, during 1916?
T. O’R.: Well, the GPO mostly, the young brother was in the Four Courts and the GPO. That’s Donal O’Reilly, he was afterwards with the… the Irish Brigade in Spain, with Frank Ryan, wounded a couple of times. He died some few years ago.
G. B.: That was Donal?
T. O’R.: Donal.
G. B.: He was one of your brothers?
T. O’R.: The youngest.
G. B.: Can you remember much that they told you about 1916, any descriptions of what it was like, in the Four Courts or in the GPO?
T. O’R.: No, I don’t think, the only movement I had... we were on the North Circular Road at the bridges there, the railway bridge. North Circular Road, the Cabra Road and Fassaugh Road, three bridges. They were taken over, Jim Sullivan was in charge. That’s all I… And we took up stuff from the Broadstone and we put wire around the railings and the bridge and that. The tram was stopped there and we made a barricade, that’s all I can remember… Was mixed up with the IRB from an [unclear] years. Sean McDermott and all that crowd used to be up in the house, and em, I was down in Tom Clarke’s shop in Parnell Street several times with the father. We used to go into the back… he used to go into the back and talk in a little room at the back.
G. B.: Can you remember anything they would have talked about?
T. O’R.: It was always the movement. The movement, Ireland, that’s all, that’s all ever they spoke about then.
G. B.: Right. Did, can you remember any missions that your father would’ve been on and maybe told you about afterwards?
T. O’R.: He was never, as far as I know, I don’t know… missions, what...?
G. B.: You know where he’d be fighting, you know?
T. O’R.: There was no fighting before ’16, except they seized rifles, down at the North Wall. Well the brother who’s in America, he was on that thing. The Nationalists I think had the rifles, they were down at the North Wall, and they seized a lot of rifles there. That’s all I ever knew about that.
G. B.: Right. In 1916, you were involved in North Circular Road at the bridges?
T. O’R.: Yeah until they were attacked by the Fourth Battalion, the Dubs, on the bridges.
G. B.: Right, you were trying to hold them were you?
T. O’R.: Ah not me, no I was only sixteen years of age. [laughter]
G. B.: Right, right, still young, yeah.
T. O’R.: But they were there, they returned the fire and that then, they went back down… they went into to the post office.
G. B.: Did you go down to the post office?
T. O’R.: I went down, we all went down there, that was there in that time. I have a photograph of my other brother, a brother older than me, Dessie, in the post office. I have his photograph, actually, it’s the only picture ever taken in the post office of the Volunteers, I have a copy of it upstairs.
G. B.: Can you remember yourself what it was like in the GPO at the time?
T. O’R.: Well I remember going into it, I can remember the old clock at the centre, there was a big clock in the centre of it, and the men being around the windows and barricading. Now I was, sent down at the back with Jim Ryan, down to Jim Ryan. He was the medical officer, he was Dr Jim Ryan at the time, he was also a member of B Company, First Battalion. And I was doing, bringing up tea and… bringing up water and walking around, if anybody got hurt or, helping him out the best way we could.
G. B.: Right. How many men would’ve been in there do you think?
T. O’R.: Oh, now I…
G. B.: Any idea?
T. O’R.: I, I’ve no… I’d say there’d be only… I’d say about two or three hundred at the most, now that’s in the whole building. You see the GPO Garrison took in Abbey Street, the Imperial Hotel, the GPO, and all that area around. That was called the GPO Garrison, just the same as the Four Courts took in North King Street and all that area and Church Street. See the people said there was eight and nine hundred people and where did they all fit? Well the GPO Garrison I think went all the way out to Fairview, out to the Annesley Bridge, I think that garrison come into…
G. B.: So they would have been spread all over the place, that eight hundred?
T. O’R.: Spread out, yeah.
G. B.: At the end of, at the surrender of the GPO, when the GPO was taken, were you still in it at the time or did you manage to get out?
T. O’R.: No I was… On the Thursday night, I was sent… I was told to go home. I was told to get out, go home, and I can remember going over into Henry, Henry Place, and we cut through a laneway I know – there was, there was laneways on Moore Street and we got… I remember running across Moore Street and across Cole’s Lane. And we went on down, down into Denmark Street I think it was. Then I got up… and I went up, got into Dominick Street and I spent me night, that night in a… sleeping in the hall of a tenement in Dominick Street. Next morning I come down and I looked and I, Post Office, they were there still... Friday morning, they were... Cole’s Lane I was looking at them firing down at Arnott’s, Cole’s Lane faced Arnott’s at the time.
G. B.: Was it hard to get out of the GPO?
T. O’R.: Well no at that time, there was all the people were evacuating Moore Street and they were running across, and they were putting out flags and bits of sheets, you know? All the people around that area, that lived in that area, ’cause it was… it was fairly well populated at the time.
G. B.: What were they putting the bits of sheets out for?
T. O’R.: Beg pardon?
G. B.: Why were they putting sheets, out?
T. O’R.: A white flag.
G. B.: White flag, and...
T. O’R.: That’s what, when I say sheet, a white flag. There was no… I don’t think there was any coloured sheets in them days. [laughter]
G. B.: Right, right, true enough.
T. O’R.: …Just after the 1916 Rising, because one brother was released and, I think it was August Dessie was released, and Sammy and the father were released in December.
G. B.: They were in the GPO when it was captured?
T. O’R.: They, yeah, they were captured in the GPO After they were captured in the GPO I went off looking for them and I couldn’t get down near. I was told that they were down in the Rotunda Rink, the old Rink. So then I was told they were moved over to Richmond Barracks. And I remember walking from the North Circular Road over to Richmond Barracks, that’s away up off the South Circular Road, Inchicore, afterwards Keogh Barracks, but I couldn’t get in to see them. I heard they were in there, and I remember one morning hearing where they were all marched down the North Wall and put onto a boat.
G. B.: Over to, Liverpool? The boat over to Liverpool?
T. O’R.: Oh yeah the boat over to... over to… Well, the father, the father was in… and Kevin, were in Wandsworth, Sammy was in Knutsford, and Dessie was in Stafford, they’re the prisons they were in.
G. B.: When they came back, did they tell you much about what it was like, being in prison over there? You know, did they describe what it was like to be in Wandsworth or that?
T. O’R.: No, they didn’t mention much to me.
G. B.: They didn’t tell you whether they were well treated or…
T. O’R.: Beg your pardon?
G. B.: They didn’t tell you whether they were well…
T. O’R.: But no, I don’t think they were badly treated, I don’t think they were badly treated. Maybe in the beginning. I know in the beginning going down the North Wall they got an awful time from the women of… the ‘Separation’ women.
G. B.: Right.
T. O’R.: They gave them an awful time of it going down the North Wall.
G. B.: Right.
T. O’R.: I was told that, several of them.
G. B.: Would they have been throwing things at them or just jeering them?
T. O’R.: Beg your pardon?
G. B.: Would they have been jeering them?
T. O’R.: Yes, jeering them, but sure they were all separation; they were what they called the ‘Separation’ women. They used to get the allowance, their husbands or their sons were out in France, with the… with the Dublin… the Dublin Battalion [laughter].
G. B.: Right, right, right. In the First World War there.
T. O’R.: Aye.