Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Easter Rising 1916

1916-2016: Remember, Reflect, Reimagine

In 1916 a rebellion took place in Dublin, Ireland that catapulted the country toward civil war and eventually the formation of the Republic of Ireland. This year marks 100 years since that pivotal event, also known as the 1916 Easter Rising, which began on Monday of Easter week, April 24th. The Commemorations offer a wonderful opportunity to introduce Irish history to middle-grade readers.

Bisto Book of the Year Award 1997
EilĂ­s Dillon award - 1997

A good place to begin is with The Guns of Easter by Gerard Whelan. Through the eyes of 12 year old Jimmy Conway, an impoverished boy with big dreams, Whelan immerses us in the world of 1916 Dublin. It is a complicated setting, shaped by Ireland's long history, which includes loyalists, nationalists, unionists, those indifferent to any cause and those caught in between. Whelan's sequel, A Winter of Spies, follows Jimmy's sister Sarah during the War for Independence.

"There are too many people willing to die for Ireland," said Skeffy. "Why can't more people just live for it?" Molly's Diary, The Easter Rising 1916, p. 36

Molly's Diary is another middle-grade historical fiction on the Easter Rising. It is packed with information, and although I found it to be a bit too packed, Molly is an engaging character who readers will find fun and lively. 

The Aftermath

Kilmainham Jail photo my Michele Hathaway
The Easter Rising was over in 6 days with a total of 485 dead and the majority of the leaders executed. The largest percent of casualties were civilian. At least 40 were under the age of 16. Nothing may have come of the Rebellion if the British had not so harshly executed the leaders and some innocent civilians. Most of the population was not in favor of the Rebellion to begin with, but the martyrs soon gained sympathy for the cause, setting the trajectory inevitably toward an independent republic.


I write it out in a verse --
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born. 
-- William Butler Yeats

Remember, Reflect, Reimagine

The Republic of Ireland is framing the 1916 anniversary as a commemoration, respecting the diverse groups of people who played a part in the history of this event. Because the Irish have a long and painful history of division and violence, they are careful to recognize that violence is costly for all. The commemoration websites stress that this is a time to remember history, to reflect on what has been learned, and to reimagine--to imagine an Ireland with a future of peace and prosperity for all. 

Further Resources:

  • "To mark the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, a gift for the people of the world, a free eBook of 1916 Portraits and Lives, has been produced. From 11th March to Easter, the eBook of the beautifully illustrated 1916 Portraits and Lives is available as a free download*. eBook for Kindle available as a free download here."



  • Easter Rising in 8 Minutes:

  • 1916 documentary narrated by Liam Neeson. This documentary aired on March 16th 2016 in Ireland and is set to air soon in the United States. It looks to be excellent. 

For more historical fiction for middle-grade, see my January 2016 blog post here.

Michele Hathaway is a writer and freelance editor. She has an M. A. in Social Anthropology and has worked in libraries in California, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania. She writes stories set in culturally diverse, historical and contemporary periods.

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  1. I'm intrigued by this historical event!

    1. I know you'll find it to be fascinating, Mary Louise, a pivotal event in Irish history.