"That Wall Was To Save Most Of Our Lives Later In The Week"

James Coughlan was a member of 'C' Company, 4th Battalion, Irish Volunteers. During the Easter Rising he fought under Éamonn Ceannt in the South Dublin Union. At 10 o'clock on the morning of Easter Monday, Coughlan received an order to mobilise at Emerald Square.

The South Dublin Union was a huge complex and was occupied in order to stop the British Army advancing into the city from Richmond Barracks, the Royal Hospital and Wellington Barracks. 

The garrison in the South Dublin Union were engaged in battle soon after the complex was occupied and as the week went on they took part in some of the heaviest fighting to take place during the Rising. 

Coughlan remembers his Commanding Officers, Ceannt and Cathal Brugha with the utmost respect but does state that he was also frustrated at times at their unwillingness to step back from danger. Ceannt he says was, 'inclined to lead by example'

I saw him with his tunic off and his shirt sleeves rolled up with hammer and nails and boards, commenced the building of a barricade in the porch. When finished was a virtual wall about six feet high...That wall was to save most of our lives later in the week.

The garrison were attacked from all sides by the British forces. The Volunteers in the Nurses Home and a dormitory nearby, as well as those in Marrowbone Lane Distillery, overlooking the South Dublin Union inflicted heavy casualties on the military. By Thursday British soldiers reached the Nurses Home and Coughlan describes what followed. Despite their efforts they could not get past Ceannt's barricade and began to attack the position with bombs. Cathal Brugha was seriously wounded. He ordered his men to leave the Nurses Home and go to Ceannt in the dormitory but as Coughlan says Brugha,

Had himself placed on the kitchen table near the back window...so that he could using his Mauser automatic contest any entry from the rear. 

Some time passed before Ceannt realised the Nurses Home was not taken and ordered his men to reoccupy the building where to their amazement they found Brugha barely alive, having held back the British soldiers single handed.  

Coughlan says that on Sunday 30 April the men were all called together in one room when Ceannt told them of the surrender order. The men were marched to the Ross Road and later brought to Richmond Barracks.

Coughlan remembers seeing the G Men coming to identify the leaders while they were all in the barracks Gymnasium. Éamonn Ceannt was executed on 8 May in Kilmainham Gaol. 

After his arrest James Coughlan was deported to Knutsford Prison, England and later Frongoch Internment Camp, Wales. He rejoined his company after his release. During the War of Independence he became a member of the Munitions Department, GHQ IRA and transferred to 'C' Company 2nd Battalion, Dublin Brigade as he was too well known in his own locality. He took the pro-Treaty side during the Irish Civil War.

James Coughlan died in 1974, he was seventy-seven years old.

James Coughlan was interviewed for the RTÉ Television project 'Portraits 1916' on 16 January 1966.