As 2016 is the year of commemoration for the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, which has been marked as the first strive towards Ireland’s freedom, my interest was sparked to look into my own town’s local history in relation to the events of the rising. I was unaware of any contribution from the small village of Donabate, what I discovered was that not only were there men from the village that joined the leaders in the city centre but also a “battle”, if you can call it that, right in the centre of Donabate itself.
On the Wednesday of Easter week 1916 the Irish Volunteers were involved in fierce combat with the British Army, in various outposts across Dublin City, in locations such as, the GPO and Boland’s Mill. At the same time the Fingal Brigade of the Irish Volunteers engaged in some armed activity between Donabate and Swords.
The local armed republicans had been active in Fingal since Easter Monday when they originally assembled at Knocksedan Bridge at the back of River Vally. By the Wednesday the Republicans, led by Kerryman Thomas Ashe, had planned to seize the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) police barracks in both Swords and Donabate, as they were acting under British command.
In Swords the surrender of the police was quick and uneventful. However, things were quite different in Donabate and the attack on the original RIC barracks, which was located behind what is now Keeling’s pub, would be the first instance of the Fingal unit coming under British fire.
The following is an account from Irish Volunteer Charlie Weston (who’s grandson still lives in Donabate);
‘We were ordered to take a pickaxe, sledge and crowbar and burst in the door. Six of us rushed up to the door and shouted at the police to surrender or we would break in the door. The answer was a revolver shot fired out of the top window. Immediately the window was riddled with bullets from our men. We proceeded to break in the door. After a few seconds the door frame gave way and the door went in. There was an inner iron door with a chain on it. When the door went in they immediately shouted they would surrender. They could not get the iron door open, but one of them threw a rifle through the top window as a token of surrender.’
Captain Charles Weston
The RIC Constable Thorpe had been shot in the hand when the RIC police surrendered. After the brief shootout and prompt surrender, the republicans seized all the available arms in the police station. While in the RIC station Thomas Ashe discovered the intelligence files which had notes with information on local republican volunteer’s names and activities.
After this encounter the volunteers returned once again to their billets at Kileek (near Saint Margaret’s) for camp. Until joining with the republican forces to capture Ashbourne, the only town “freed” during the 1916 Rising.