Defending Trinity College Dublin

Defending Trinity College Dublin

As he had been prevented from travelling to the College during the first few days of the ‘disturbances’, he relied on reports written at his request by members of the OTC and others who had been present on campus, and who were central to the successful defence of the College in the days after the outbreak of fighting on Easter Monday 1916.

These reports detail the various tasks undertaken by the OTC members, other College employees and a handful of students who were on site when the rebellion broke out: the gates were locked and secured by the porters; OTC members were armed with service rifles from the stores in the OTC headquarters and put on guard duty; and provisions were requisitioned from the College Co-op. Early on the morning of Tuesday 25 April the OTC headquarters was transferred from near the Lincoln Place gate to the front of College.

From there snipers had a view of Dame Street, College Green and environs, and rebels passing in either direction were easy targets. During these first few days of fighting the military presence in College was augmented by soldiers of various regiments on leave in the city at the time, as well as some ‘Colonial’ soldiers (from South Africa, Canada, Australia and New Zealand).

MS 2074MS 2074 On the Tuesday afternoon the first body of regular soldiers arrived from the Curragh, and on the night of 26-27 April an Advance Party of troops from England succeeded in entering the College covered by the fire of the garrison there.

From Wednesday onwards these troops had effectively taken over the defence of College from the OTC, whose members they employed as guards, escorts and despatch riders, as well as in various other capacities; 6 cadets, for example, went out in mufti to dig emplacements for the guns detailed to shell Liberty Hall on the north side of the Liffey.

It would appear that by Thursday of Easter Week Trinity College was secured against any rebel incursion, and the following week Major Harris took over command of the OTC there. For the British the importance of the successful defence of the College during the rebellion cannot be underestimated.

As Harris himself stated in his report, it was at the centre of 2 important rebel ‘storm centres’: the GPO and St Stephen’s Green, and its ‘occupation’ impeded communication between them, and facilitated the infliction of damages on the other side. The defence of the College also protected the businesses in the surrounding streets from looting, and – more importantly from a strategic point of view – prevented the Bank of Ireland building in College Green from being occupied.

In speculating on the possible consequences had the College been captured by the rebels, he suggested that the buildings in College, particularly the Library, would have been destroyed, and asserted that such an outcome would be a ‘National calamity’.

MS 2074

MS 2074 Copies of the reports referred to above form part of a collection in the College Archives of OTC-related documents (dating from the foundation of the Corps in 1910 to its disbandment in 1922), which also includes enrolment books, parade rolls, nomination papers for commissions, photographs and correspondence (TCD MUN OTC).

Associated objects include a silver cup presented by a committee of the OTC Citizens’ Commemorative Fund to Cadet Robert N Tweedy, DUOTC, for his part in the defence of the College as well as a rifle, a sword, banners and a swagger stick.

Ellen O’Flaherty
Manuscripts & Archives Research Library
Article courtesy of