The History Show Sunday 24 March 2013
How a 1916 Myth Lives On by Joe Duffy
When I compiled a list of 30 children killed in the Easter Rising in for a fund raising project for the Jack and Jill Foundation , little did I know that the reaction would help unravel one of the great misunderstandings of 1916.
A number of people contacted me to tell me that I had left out one child- "Gerald Playfair, the 14 year old son of a British solider killed in cold blood by the rebels in the Phoenix Park ."
Indeed nearly every history book about the Easter Rising published here in the last two decades- has referred to the the killing of the "14" year old ,Gerald Playfair- some refer to him as 17 - all are wrong , in name and age.
His name and age also appears in newspaper columns, blogs, tweets and postings about the Rising -often being cited as evidence of the"blood lust " of the rebels.
But in truth , Gerald Playfair ,the 14 year old boy who many historians and commentators have recorded as the "first fatality" of the Easter Rising in 1916 , in fact was not shot or wounded but went to live in Canada where he was married in Toronto in 1923 .
Gerald Playfair was not one of the the fatalities of the Easter Rising , he was not killed. I have discovered this week that it was Geralds older brother ,George (23) who was shot and killed during the raid on the Magazine Fort .
His family lived in the Magazine fort -where their father ,George R was commandant-a British Army munitions depot-in the Phoenix Park , a key target on Easter Monday morning by the 1916 insurgents.
Newspapers at the time reported that the "eldest son of Mrs Georgina Playfair " was killed by insurgents the when he tried to raise the alarm.
They assumed that the eldest child was Gerald.Indeed the 1911 census records that there were 5 children resident with their father , George Robert Playfair-the Commandant of the Magazine Fort- and Gerald was the eldest boy on the census form.
But it also revealed in small print that there were 6 children still living !
So I went this week to track down the death certificates for the period and discovered that there was indeed a G.Playfair killed in the Easter Rising.
But when I retrieved the death certificate in the General Register Office it revealed a different story. George Alexander Playfair, a 23 year old clerk in Inland Revenue ,died from "bullet wounds to the abdomen" nine hours after he was shot in 1,Park Place, beside the Islandbridge Gate to the Phoenix Park.
There are a number of reasons for the confusion , firstly the insurgent who shot "Playfair" said he looked about 17 ,while the census did not record George as the eldest child as he was studying in England at the time.
George Alexander Playfairs death is recorded in the Irish War Memorial -"Ordinance department",indicating that he may have been in the reserve forces of the British Army.
Joe Duffy © 2013.
Joe wishes to thank Hugh Comerford of Dublin City Libraries for his help.
GRO SECOND QUARTER
WITNESS STATEMENTS GARY HOLOHAN NO 328 P 60
IRISH TIMES 6 MAY 1916 ' GEORGE ALEX PHOENIX PARK
GEORGE WAS BORN HALIFAX NOVA SCOTIA CANADA, SON OF GEORGE ROBERT AND GEORGINA MARY MOORES PLAYFAIR- SHE WAS IRISH SISTER SMABEL AND RITA ALSO BORN THERE
1901 GEORGE A WAS 7 IN PORTSMOUTH
HAROLD BORN INUK AGE 2
1901 GERALD BORN IN PORTSMOUTH
1909 MARJORIE BORN
1911 FAMILY IN DUBLIN EXCEPT GEORGE AGE 17 LIVING IN BOARDING HOUSE 32 BELMONT ST WORCESTER, PROFESSION ; BOY CLERK CIVIL SERVICE
ISLANDS MEMORIAL RECORDS 1914
GERALD PLAYFAIR MARRIED ST MICHAELS CHURCH ,SYDENHAM ,GREY COUNTY ONTARIO TO ETHEL IDA GODFREY DAUGHTER OF EDWARD GODFREY OF AMMAN ONTARIO ON 29 SEPT 1923.
The 38 children killed during the Easter Rising 1916 compiled by Joe Duffy
1.Bridget Allen (16) 27 Arran Quay- bullet wound.
2.Christopher Andrews ,(14) 8 Stephens Place , Mount Street- bullet wound.
3.Mary A Brunswick, (15) 57 Lwr.Wellington Quay -laceration of brain.
4.Christina Caffrey (2) 27 Corporation Buildings. Bullet wound ,outside home.
5.Christopher Cathcart,(10) 28 Charlemont Street. Gunshot wound.
6.Moses Doyle (9) & Whitefriar street. Shot at his home.
7.Charles Darcy (15) 4 Murphys Cottages, Gloucester st.Member Citizen Army.
8.Patrick Fetherstone (12) 1 Long Lane,Dorset street. Bullet wound.
9.John Francis Foster (2) 18 Manor Place ,Stoneybatter. Shot in his pram.
10.James Fox (16) 74 Thomas street. Member of na Fianna.
11. William Fox. 13, 6 Holycross Cottages.Clonliffe Rd.
12.John Gibney (5) 16 Henrietta Place - died as a result of "cannonading"
13. John Healy(14) 188 Phibsborough Rd. Messenger boy for Na Fianna.
14. Christopher Hickey (16) 168 North King Street - shot with his father .
15.Patrick Ivors,14, 15 Cumberland street.Gunshot wounds Mater Hospital.
16. James Jessop (12) 3 Upr. Gloucester Street.
17.Charles Kavanagh ,(15) 4 North King street. Bullet wound.
18.Mary Kelly (12) 128 Townsend street. Bullet wound.
19.James Kelly (15) 205 Phibsborough road,Mater Hospital death cert.
20. Patrick Kelly ( 12) 24 Buckingham Buildings ,Gunshot wound to neck.
21. John Kirwan,15, 3 Lower Erne place.
22. Brdiget McKane , 10 Henry Place -killed during Rebel retreat from GPO.
23. John H McNamara (12) 45 York street . Died Mercers hospital.
24. William Mullen (9) 8 Moore Place. Shot thorax, during rebel retreat.
25 Joseph Murray,16, 2 St Augustine st. Gunshot wounds, died at home.
26.William O'Neill, (16) 93 Church street .
27.Male O Toole,14, Adelaide hospital , gunshot wounds head ,chest.
28.Mary Redmond ( 16) 4 Marys Abbey.
29.Patrick Ryan (13 ) 2 Sitric Place.
30.George Percy Sainsbury (9) 54 south circular road-killed in Haroldville Tce.
31.Walter Scott (8) 16 Irvine Crescent (north dock)
32.Bridget Stewart (11) 3 Pembroke Cottages . Gunshot.
33.Margaret M Veale ,(13) 103 Haddington Road-Shot at her window
34.Philip Walsh,(11) 10 Hacketts Court. Gunshot to abdomen.
35..Eleanor Warbrook (15) 7 Fumbally Lane .Shot in head.
36.Christopher Whelan (15) 30 North Great Georges Street.
37.Boy unidentified 4 may . Killed by gunfire.City morgue.(MJ Russell )
38.Infant unidentifed, 4 may,Killed by gunfire. (MJ Russell,83 SCR assisted.)
Sources; Census 1911. Death certificates GRO. Newspapers.Cemetery records.
Books; Rebellion Handbook 1917; Renegades , Dr Ann Matthews.Nat. Museum of Ireland.
Thanks to ; Dr Ann Matthews,Shane Mc Thomais ,Hugh Comerford DCC Libraries. Brenda Malone , National Museum of Ireland.
If you have information, additions or queries, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Joe at Liveline, Donnybrook, Dublin 4.