Growing up as a child in 70s Kilmainham, I had awareness from a early age of the family’s links to 1916, both my grandparents had brothers who fought in the rising….
My grandfather’s younger brother, was John Traynor, a tall, athletic young man of 17, who worked in Guinnesses’ as a messenger boy and played for the Geraldine GAA club . A pioneer , who wore his pioneer badge with pride, which wasn’t unusual for a 17 year old back then. He dreamed of Ireland that was free of British rule.
Eyewitness accounts taken in the 50s, by the Irish government, from volunteers who survived the rising give us great insight into what the days and weeks were like in the build up to the rising, One such statement came from Gerard Doyle, a volunteer from the 4th battalion, and friend of John Traynors.
The eyewitness statement from Doyle tells us, that on the weekend before the rising , my great uncle John, and a another volunteer from Wexford had to go visit Eamonn Ceannt to seek permission to go visit his sick mother in Enniscorthy, the Wexford man was told by Ceannt that unless your mother in dying, you don’t leave Dublin this weekend. The young men knew it would not be long before they were using their guns for real.
On Easter Sat, they got confession in the local church, and were told to collect their guns from a pub in James Street.
That night they attended a gathering in Donore Ave till late
On Easter Monday 24th April 1916, John Traynor told his mother he was going to play a GAA match, she didn’t realize the opposing team was the British Empire, he walked from Kilmainham to Emerald Square, off Cork street, where the 4th battalion had been instructed to meet . The brief, was to take control of the south Dublin union, as this was a very strategic position to hold, because the British army used south circular road as a main route to royal hospital Kilmainham, and Richmond Barracks.
From Emerald Square they marched along the canal, where the luas now runs and slipped into the south Dublin union by the Rialto entrance.
John and Gerard Doyle took up position in a corrugated metal shed. When they entered the shed like building there was a nurse, and some patients still in their beds. They were encouraged to move to another building for their own safety, which they did. The boys then pulled the mattresses from the beds, and pushed them up against the windows, and took up position. This shed had 4 volunteers, John, Gerard and 2 others.
Just after the Angelus bells rang out shooting started, and the metal shed came under attack from all directions. Little did the volunteers know that the British army had soldiers positioned in Rialto buildings to the left, and had a machine gun positioned on the union, from the Royal Hospital Kilmainham , and straight ahead south circular road had several houses with British snipers position and waiting. After some time they realized the shed was unsafe to remain in, so the decision was made to move back further into the union, as they moved from one shed to another John was shot In the eye, and died almost instantly, before he died he said , Lord have mercy on me, Jesus Mary and Joseph Pray for me.
His mother, and other family members were only 200 yards away , and heard the fierce gun shots, and worried that John was still not home. After some hours word got back to John’s family that John was dead. His body was buried temporally in the grounds of the south Dublin union for up to a week during the fighting. After the rising , my granddad , his oldest brother James Traynor, brought his brothers body home, and Johns body was placed in a oak coffin, and buried in Glasnevin Cemetery RIP, shortly afterwards, the house was raided by the black and tans.
Years later his mother was awarded a medal on her son Johns behalf from the Irish Government, and was given a small pension. One of his grandnieces who lives in Lusk Co Dublin is now in procession of the medal. On Easter Monday 2016, myself and several of Johns relatives from Ireland, England, and America will all gather in Dublin, to celebrate the bravery, and passion this young man showed on Easter Sunday 1916