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The Easter Rising from Manchester and Salford

Submitted by on March 27, 2016 – 7:16 pmNo Comment

James-Connolly1

From the excellent Salford Star:

http://salfordstar.com/article.asp?id=3179

This weekend sees the centenary of the Easter Rising, when rebels occupied the centre of Dublin and proclaimed Irish Independence. The rebellion was launched by the storming of the city’s General Post Office – and one of the first men in there was Larry Ryan, born and bred in Seedley, Salford.

Larry Ryan and the other `Manchester Volunteers’ have their stories told in a new book and website, while there are talks on the subject in Salford and Manchester and beyond over the coming month.

The Irish fight for independence from Britain came to a head in 1916 with the now famous Easter Rising – an armed rebellion involving thousands of people from the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army.

The rebellion began on Easter Monday, 24th April, when key buildings were taken over around Ireland and in the centre of Dublin, including the General Post Office, where the Republican flag was hoisted and the Republic was proclaimed. The Easter Rising lasted six days before being brutally crushed by the British army. Its leaders, including James Connolly and Patrick Pearse, were executed but by 1918 Republican party, Sinn Fein, had won a majority of the Irish Parliamentary seats.

A year later Sinn Fein convened its own Irish Parliament, followed by the Irish Republican Army’s guerilla war against the British army which led to a cease fire and the establishment of the Irish Free State, a self-governing nation of the British Commonwealth.

On Easter Monday, April 18, 1949, the fully independent Republic of Ireland was formally proclaimed. However, the Easter Rising of 1916 was seen as pivotal in this process and Easter 2016 will see huge celebrations and parades all over Ireland.

While leaders such as Connolly and Pearse will be revered, few people know about the role of Salford and Manchester people in the Easter Rising, recently uncovered by a project which has been studying the history of local volunteers who travelled to Ireland to take part in the Easter Rising.

One of those men was Larry Ryan, born and bred in Seedley. He came from a strongly nationalist family who completed the 1911 Census form entirely in Irish. Before 1916 he worked as a clerk for J Roscoe and Sons, a canal haulage business on the Ashton canal at Meadow Street Wharfs, Piccadilly.

Together with William Parr, Gilbert Lynch and Redmond Cox, of the Manchester Company of the Irish Volunteers, Ryan travelled to Ireland in early 1916. They would have done this in secret as they knew that they were liable to be conscripted in England and would have been arrested for treason had their plans been discovered.

In Dublin, Larry Ryan and Liam Parr both joined about a hundred other ‘refugees’ (as they were known), from England and Scotland in the Plunkett family mill at Kimmage. On Easter Monday, Parr and Ryan both marched to the General Post Office (GPO), Ryan stating that he was one of the first three to storm the building.

He was to spend the following week behind sandbags guarding the windows of the GPO, probably on the first floor. Parr was sent across the road to buildings where the rebels were setting up a radio station to transmit news of the proclamation of Independence. He remained there until heavy fire forced them to retreat back to the GPO. Redmond Cox and Gilbert Lynch were behind barricades near the Four Courts. All the Manchester Volunteers were surrounded by vastly superior forces as well as by fire, as much of the centre of Dublin burned out of control.

When the rebels surrendered, Parr, Ryan and Cox were arrested and imprisoned in Knutsford, Stafford and then Frongoch in Wales. Lynch had been slightly injured and was in hospital at the time of the surrender; he was spirited out by sympathetic medical staff so escaped imprisonment and was able to return home. He spent the next few years in Stockport campaigning for Ireland and for workers’ rights as a member of the Stockport Independent Labour Party and helped organise demonstrations in favour of the new Russian Revolution.

The other Manchester volunteers stayed in Dublin after they were released, so they were there in the midst of the conflict with the infamous Black and Tans. Larry Ryan worked as a merchant seaman on the ships between Liverpool and New York. He helped smuggle famous Irish republican leader De Valera across the Atlantic, together with weapons to be used against the Black and Tans in Ireland.

It was while attempting to smuggle arms that Ryan was arrested by the New York police and imprisoned there. He spent his sentence in the notorious Tombs prison in Manhattan, which was well known for housing gangsters during the prohibition years.

After the treaty, Larry Ryan worked as a clerk for the Irish Army, but his health never recovered from his period in prison in America and he died aged only 30 in 1924. Now he and the other Manchester Volunteers are being remembered in a book, website and in talks around Greater Manchester.

“This project began with us trying to discover the truth of family rumours told us by my wife’s father about his cousin from Manchester” explains Robin Stocks author of Hidden Heroes of Easter Week “These claimed that this man, William (or Liam) Parr had been in the GPO during the rising, had been imprisoned and that he had died young as a result of hiding in ditches. He also told us that none of it might be true as the family were great story tellers.

“This launched us on a long voyage of discovery which resulted in us being able to confirm the truth of the family tradition and discover the true history of this man and the other Manchester volunteers of 1916″ he adds “We now know that many of those who took part in the rising didn’t talk about their experiences, either because they remained perpetually in fear of arrest for treason, or because some of their memories were too painful. Yet the snippets that have been passed down through the families have been confirmed by newly released Irish Government pension files.

“With the help of relatives of the Volunteers, archivists and historians from Manchester to Dublin and even America, we feel confident that we can now finally tell the story of the lives and experiences of our relative and his three comrades from Manchester and Salford” he says “Until now very few people in Manchester even knew that local people took part in those events so it gives us great satisfaction to be able to tell the relatives that, after a century, their ancestors will finally be remembered by history.”

- Robin Stock’s book Hidden Heroes of Easter Week: memories of volunteers from England who joined the Easter Rising is out now £14.99 from all major bookshops.

- There is an event on Wednesday April 13th from 2pm at the Working Class Movement Library, 51 the Crescent, M5

This article also features in the new print issue of Salford Star – out now. Visit http://salfordstar.com

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