Andrew McDonnell & Boland's Mill
1916 Easter Rising
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Andrew McDonnell's story is one of many in ClanDonnell: A Storied History of Ireland
Andrew McDonnell was typical of the men who fought in the 1916 Easter Rising and the two Irish wars that followed. But in many respects, he was an exceptional person.
He was born in Dublin in 1898 and was only seventeen during the Rising. He was one of eight children of James and Ann McDonnell. James died in 1907, leaving Ann and the children to fend for themselves. One of Andrew’s older brothers joined the British army in 1914 and fought in the first world war.
Andrew’s family was not especially political and he was not raised in a strong Republican household, but he enlisted in the Irish Volunteers in 1916. The Volunteers initially rejected him as too young, but he was so persistent and annoying that they eventually let him in. He became a member of “B” company of the third battalion and was known by his comrades as Andy.
Andy went through a variety of training exercises in early 1916. The company had a mixed bag of weapons, but Andy only had a .22 revolver and a six-foot pike. A pike is a long thrusting spear, often used by European infantry in the Middle Ages, and the only weapon available to most Irish in the 1798 Rebellion. Who knows where Andy got a pike in 1916?
Andy got word to report for duty on Easter Sunday. He thought it was for more maneuvers, but he came prepared anyway. He brought his revolver and pike, marching boots, three days rations, a first aid kit, a “green soft hat turned up at the sides,” and a trench coat. His company was organized and ready to go about noon. After a few hours of waiting around, the men were told to go home, but to be prepared to reassemble on short notice.
Notice came the next morning and Andy’s company was reassembled by 11:00 a.m. They marched openly through town, which seemed odd to Andy since he still thought the company was on maneuvers. He heard gunfire in the distance and his company was joined by a cart full of food. He then realized this was the real thing.
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