‘Paddy Joe’ (1895-1960): a tribute to a 1916 fighter

‘I Was There’: Radio Eireann broadcast, Easter 1955

Paddy Joe was featured in the programme, ‘I Was There’, talking about the Mendicity garrison’s brave fight under Capt. Sean Heuston.

... His youngest son Sam was able to obtain copies of the programme on Wax 33 records, after Paddy Joe’s death in 1960, and it is thanks to Sam that Paddy Joe’s voice can still be heard, speaking of his part in The Rising in 1916: click below to hear Paddy Joe in 1955!

Click to play paddy joe on Radio Eireann 1955

The next section is a transcript of Paddy Joe’s contribution.

[Transcript of a programme broadcast on Radio Eireann, introduced by journalist and fellow Volunteer Piaras Beaslai and featuring Paddy Joe along with 5 other participants in the Easter Rising. Transcript feautures Paddy Joe's part in the programme.]:

Piaras Beaslai…..

‘Today you have 6 persons who took part in the Rising of Easter week 1916 to tell you of things they saw - and things that happened them during that fateful week, when a small handful of Irish fought for the freedom of their country against the forces of the powerful British Empire.

As another 1916 veteran I have been selected to introduce the programme and I feel very proud of the task - and the company in which I find myself.

We have P.J. Stephenson who was one of those who took part in the gallant fight to hold the Mendicity Institution on the Southern Quays, with a handful of men against vastly superior British forces.

They fought under the leadership of the heroic Sean Heuston, whose statue you must have seen in the Phoenix Park. Sean Heuston was first in the Fianna before joining the volunteers - was very young at the time, - and so was P.J. Stephenson.’


Patrick Stephenson …..

‘When speaking to Fianna Erin, the Irish National Boy Scouts, in Feb 1914, P.H. Pearce said “Two occasions are spoken of in ancient Irish history, upon which Irish boys marched to the rescue of their country when it was sore beset. Once when Cuchulain and the boy troop of Ulster held the frontier until the Ulster heroes rose, and again, when the boys of Ireland kept the foreign invaders in check on the shores of Ventry, until Finn had rallied the Fianna.

And Pearce gave us another example of his powers to see into the future when he finished his address with these words “It may be that a similar tale shall be told of us, and that when men come to write the history of the freeing of Ireland, they shall have to record that the boys of Fianna Erieann stood in the battle gap until the Volunteers armed”.

Now there is such a tale to be told, - in the story of Sean Heuston and the Mendicity Institution on Ushers Island - in Easter Week Nineteen Hundred and Sixteen.

It was about 11o’clock on Easter Monday morning when Dublin born Captain Sean Heuston marched away from Liberty Hall in Beresford Place, at the head of 13, of a possible, 40 members of D Company of the 1st Battalion, Dublin Brigade of the Irish Volunteers, and a boy of Fianna Erieann.

He had been ordered by James Connolly to occupy the Mendicity Institution before 12 o’clock noon. At all costs he was to prevent the British troops entering the city along the line of the river until his commandant Ned Daly had captured the Four Courts, and the Irish Republic had been proclaimed by Pearce reading the Proclamation at the General Post Office on O’Connell Street.

As the small band of which 5 were boys marched along the South Quays, it was joined by two men of C. Company, and with this small force Heuston took over the Mendicity Institution. Swiftly it was put into a state of defence; glass was smashed of the wood sashes, sofas and chairs piled into the windows with curtains and cushions rammed in for sand bags. Tables and chairs barricaded the large front entrance doors, buckets were filled with water in case of fire, vases and flower pots were smashed into the fire place to prevent wounds from flying pieces of china. The front iron gates were closed and locked, the line of retreat planned.

Heuston was just in time because at a quarter past twelve orders were sent to the 10th Royal Dublin Fusiliers in the Royal and now Collins Barracks to move out to the defence of Dublin Castle, which was being attacked by the citizen army.

As the four hundred men of the Royal Dublin’s marched onto the Quayside they were ambushed from the Mendicity and after a sharp engagement they were driven back in disorder.

They were reformed in the barracks and later in the evening made their first attack against the Mendicity from Queens Street, but for some unexplained reason, although the Royal Dublin’s had reached the front garden wall, under the cover of the barrage of rifle and machine gun fire, so heavy as to prevent Heuston’s small band firing a single shot in reply, they made no attempt to rush the building and drive the garrison out but retreated to the barracks. As the last of the British soldiers disappeared from view over the Watling Street Bridge, the garrison heaved a hearty sigh of relief at their incredible escape from being overwhelmed by sheer weight of numbers alone, for the odds against them were 30 to 1.

The rest of the evening passed in quietness but the garrison kept a sharp look out by listening the sound of shooting in the distance. Picking out the sharp crack of the Lee Enfield rifle, and deep boom of the Howth gun, and the waves of sound, rolling over Dublin and announcing to the world that for the 7th time in 300 years Ireland was asserting her right to national freedom and sovereignty, in arms.

Tuesday came after a sleepless night of watching, just after day break Heuston inspected his position and apparently decided to hold on, a messenger was sent to report to GHQ at the Post Office and confirmation of his decision came early in the afternoon, when lead by the young Fianna scout 12 men of the Fingal Brigade under Lieutenant Dick Coleman ran the gauntlet of the encircling British Forces and reached the Mendicity without loss.

Except for a slight skirmish after the arrival of the men from Swords, Rush and Lusk there was little to be seen from the British Soldiers throughout the day. But the noise of the soldiers punching through from house to house on the Kingsbridge side of the Mendicity made it clear that they were closing in for another attack. So Tuesday was another sleepless night for the garrison.

The final assault came on Wednesday afternoon, from the high houses on Thomas Street the back of Heuston’s Fort was raked with continuous rifle fire. On the riverside, rifle and machine gun fire lashed the front and under cover of the front garden wall mortar shells and hand grenades were fired in through the windows.

The position became desperate. With little ammunition and outnumbered by superior forces, the garrison had but two alternatives. To hold on until they were wiped out or to surrender and like a good soldier who retreats from a hopeless position, Captain Heuston decided to surrender. He had accomplished his task and even more than his task. His original orders were to hold this house for three hours and he held it for three days. He prevented reinforcements reaching the castle for the day and delayed the attack on the four courts from the west until Thursday.

After the surrender the garrison were all tried by court marshal in Richmond now Keogh Barracks, and sentenced to death. With the exception of three boys who were sentenced to twelve months hard labour. All the death sentences, but one, were commuted to hard labour for periods of two to three years. The one death sentence was carried out when Sean Heuston, a pupil of the Christian Brothers at Great Stand Street and North Richmond Street, railway clerk at Kingsbridge, Captain of D Company, Director of Training Headquarter Staff Fianna Erieann was executed in Kilmainham Gaol on the 8th May Nineteen Hundred and Sixteen. His body lies in Arbour Hill and an Irish limestone monument to his memory, by the Dublin sculptor Laurence Campbell was erected in the Peoples Gardens, Phoenix Park in 1943.

When Heuston learnt he was about to be called to join the high company of Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet, he wrote to his sister, a Dominican Nun: “Let there be no talk of foolish enterprises, I have no vain regrets and if you really love me, teach the children the history of their own land and teach them that the cause of Cathleen Ni Houlihan never dies”

To Fr Albert who attended him during his last moments here on this earth he said “Remember me to the Fianna”

[Transcribed by Maria Stephenson from a recording of the original programme, Sheffield 2006]