The Story of Easter Week 1916
RTE 273 CD
Participants accounts of the Easter Rising
from RTE Libraries & Archives.
"The album is a valuable and fascinating audio documentary, whose wider availability outside of Ireland should be welcomed by anyone
with an interest in modern Irish history".
David Granville, The Irish Democrat
We are delighted
to announce our release of this fine recording.
The Story of Easter Week 1916
THE STORY OF EASTER WEEK 1916 is a CD of historic recordings from the RTÉ Sound Archive released to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising. The CD is a day by day chronicle of the events of the Easter Rising using interviews with, and the reminiscences of, participants in the week-long rebellion. The CD comes with a four page booklet illustrated with images from RTÉ's Cashman Collection of photographs.
The Story of Easter
Week 1916 is released on the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising in 1916 and
is part of RTÉ Radio's contribution to the commemorative events taking
place throughout Ireland during April this year. It is officially launched in
the GPO at the end of April 2006 by Cathal Goan, Director-General of RTÉ.
It is difficult now co imagine, or for some of us, remember exactly how central the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the 1916 Rising was. There were few voices raised in protest at a celebration of the central myth of at least one part of this island. There was Fr. Shaw's unpublished
essay and perhaps the Ballyfermot singer Liam Weldon's song, Dark Horse on the Wind but for the vast majority of people it was a time when history seemed within touchable distance. Proinsias O Conluain, who was one of the radio producers involved in making programmes that were broadcast
that week also had the chance to see his father take his place amongst the veterans of The Rising. Proinisas's father, Bernard Conlon, was one was one of the volunteers met by Nora Connolly in Coalisland, Co. Tyrone - an episode that is at the beginning of this CD.
The CD itself is a compendium of eight radio programmes that were broadcast by RT£ during Easter 1966, beginning on Easter Sunday. The programmes were called The Week of The Rising and were produced and narrated by Proinsias Mac Aonghusa.
Mac Anonghusa began his first programme by saying that he made no claim to tell the whole story of what happened that week - what he wanted to do was to present some of the memories of those who took part, in their own words. This CD seeks to do something similar.
The voices on this CD are, for the most part, those of the volunteers who took part in the righting that week. When it has been at all possible the original narration is included, however for reasons of simplicity it has been sometimes necessary to abbreviate what MacAonghusa had said
- this extra narration is voiced by Peter Woods. Again, as in 1966, the CD follows the events chronologically, on a day by day basis, beginning with
the events of that Monday.
Many of the voices on this CD have not been heard for some time. Beasley, for instance, was a regular broadcaster on radio during that era -
although he had died in '65 - particularly in Irish language programmes. Nora Connolly, who became Nora Connolly O'Brien, remained something of
a public figure. Others though, even then, were less well known.
The overwhelming feeling, listening to these tapes over and over again, in an effort to edit them together, is how young they all were - and how
young some of them still managed to sound 50 years after the event. Regardless of any arguments about the rights or wrongs of what happened that week the bravery of these people is beyond doubt. Also beyond doubt is their humanity as they looked on in awe at what they'd involved themselves in. Peter Woods, April 2006
The Irish Democrat
AN AVID devotee of the vinyl record, one of my prize possessions, acquired for a mere bagatelle in an Oxfam shop in Sheffield in the days before they got internet savvy, is a BBC Home Service production entitled The Easter Rising 1916.
Featuring the voices of several prominent 1916 veterans, with narration by Robin Holmes and additional readings by Michael Mac Liammóir, the album was released in Britain on the Fontana label to coincide with 50th anniversary of the Rising.
Both the BBC and Fontana were undoubtedly hoping that the album would appeal to the large numbers of Irish living in Britain, while generating strong 'overseas' sales on both sides of the border in Ireland.
Whatever the marketing strategy, the importance of the commemoration in Ireland and the historic contributions from Bulmer Hobson, Piaras Beaslai, Desmond Ryan, Cathal O'Shannon, Helena Moloney, Major Florence O'Donoghue Sean T. O'Kelly and others, ensured that the album had widespread appeal.
Some of the veterans heard on the Fontana album, Beaslai, who saw action in Church street, Desmond Ryan (GPO), who went on to write an account of the rebellion and a biography of James Connolly, and Liam O'Briain (College of Surgeons), also featured in a series of eight radio programmes broadcast in Ireland by RTÉ, during Easter 1966.
Superbly narrated by the writer, broadcaster and Irish language activist Proinsias Mac Aonghusa, the programmes are now available as The Sory of Easter Week 1916, with additional presentation by Peter Woods. Covering events from each day of the Rising, the programmes were to be a significant part of the Irish state broadcaster's contribution to the 50th anniversary commemorations.
In addition to the three veterans mentioned above, the programmes also featured the voices of James Connolly's daughter Nora, Simon Donnelly (Boland's Mill), Paddy Buttner (St Stephen's Green), Tom Walsh (Clanwilliam House), Jim Ryan (medical officer GPO), Cormac Turner (O'Connell Street)
As if to emphasis the proximity of this momentous event in modern Irish history, Bernard O'Conlon, the father of one of the programmes' producers, Proinsias O Conluain, was one of the volunteers who met Nora Connolly in Coalisland, Co.Tyrone on Easter Monday. The episode is retold by the great Irish revolutionary's daughter early on in the CD.
The programmes were not an attempt to provide a definitive history of the Rising and offered no judgements. The programmes did, however, allow some of the participants of Easter Week to tell their own story in their own words. They did so movingly and with tremendous dignity.
Their tales are periodically punctuated by the haunting uilleann piping of Neillidh Mulligan, whose rendition of The Foggy Dew is as striking, memorable and moving as the words of the veterans themselves.
Originally released in Ireland in 2006 to coincide with the 90th anniversary of the Rising, The Story of Easter Week 1916 has recently become available in Britain through the auspices of the ever-excellent Copperplate Distribution service.
The album is a valuable and fascinating audio documentary, whose wider availability
outside of Ireland should be welcomed by anyone with an interest in modern Irish
history. David Granville