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"On Easter Monday morning I was walking past Dublin Castle," wrote Corporal Alexander Don in a letter to his father that was published in Dunedin’s Evening Star, on July 21, 1916.
"Everything seemed all right when a couple of shots rang out and two Tommies, who were in front of me, fell over.
"I thought I must be dreaming and went over to where they were lying and saw that one had got it through the head and the other through the neck.
"Then I looked up and saw a couple of men in green uniforms and slouch hats, rifles and bandoliers regarding me from the housetops. It was my hat that saved my life because it seemed to puzzle them, being so very like their own, although, of course, not green."
Within six days, the British squashed the insurrection. In the course of the fighting, 3000 people died or were seriously wounded and more than 200 buildings were destroyed. During the next few weeks, 14 of the rising’s leaders were executed.
But the uprising, the way it was dealt with and subsequent events turned the tide of Irish public opinion in favour of independence.
"It’s hard to explain how important the 1916 rising is in Irish history," says Dr Rory Sweetman, an Irish-born New Zealand historian, who has spent two years researching the Easter Rising and its surprising antipodean connections.
Roll into one ball the significance for New Zealand of women getting the vote, Sir Edmund Hilary summiting Mt Everest and every All Black tour there has ever been. By comparison, the Easter Rising is "way bigger than that" for the Irish, Dr Sweetman says.
"It is seen, wrongly, as the event that all Irish history led up to and, after the rising, that all Irish history is stemmed from."
To discover, then, that five New Zealanders played a pivotal role in such seminal events is astounding, he adds.
"It's a bit like discovering a Maori contingent storming the Bastille, in Paris, in 1789. Or Kiwi soldiers in the Winter Palace, in Petrograd, in 1917."
For more than a century, Irish historians have chided the rebels for not attacking and trying to capture Trinity College, Dublin, a strategic landmark in the heart of the city.
But that is simply wrong, says Dr Sweetman who has recently published Defending Trinity College Dublin, Easter 1916 — Anzacs and the Rising.
The rebels did attack. They fought a three hour gun battle with a small contingent of colonial soldiers who were led by New Zealanders.
Cpl Don, of Dunedin, was the son of well known Otago Presbyterian Chinese Mission leader, the Rev Alexander Don. The younger Don had fought at Gallipoli, contracted typhoid and been sent to a hospital in England. At Easter, 1916, he was in Ireland on a convalescent holiday.
After seeing the two British soldiers shot dead in front of him, Cpl Don took a couple of shots at the building-top snipers and then hurried on to Dublin’s General Post Office where he bumped into two other New Zealand soldiers, Sergeant Frederick Nevin, of Christchurch, and Cpl John Garland, of Auckland. Sgt Nevin and Cpl were on leave from the hospital ship Marama. As the three rushed past Trinity College, a porter called them inside to relative safety.
Also inside the college walls were more colonial soldiers — two Kiwis (Lance-Corporal Finlay McLeod, of Wellington, and Private Edward Waring, of Auckland, both of whom had served at Gallipoli), an Australian, six South Africans and a couple of Canadians. There were also a handful of Irish soldiers and up to 20 Trinity students and staff with little, if any, military training.
The decision was taken to defend Trinity College against probable attack.
"They get up there at midnight. At exactly the moment the rebels attack. It’s incredible serendipity," Dr Sweetman says.
A three-hour gun battle ensues. It ends when the rebels pull back.
If Trinity College Dublin had fallen to the rebels it would not have changed the outcome of the uprising. But the college and the treasures it contains would likely have been lost.
Founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I, Trinity College Dublin, which is a sister institution to England’s top universities, Oxford and Cambridge, is Ireland’s oldest surviving university.
Among its priceless collections of books and manuscripts, Trinity is home and guardian to Ireland’s greatest cultural treasure and the world’s most famous medieval manuscript, the 9th century Book of Kells.
"I argue very strongly," Dr Sweetman says, "that had the rebels occupied Trinity, as they tried very hard to do on the first night of the rebellion, then the British would have shelled it to smithereens.
"The two generals involved, Lowe and Maxwell, would have seen only ‘the nest of the rebels’. They wouldn’t have taken into account the treasures of the library, the beauty of the museum ...
"And the rebels wouldn’t have surrendered. They would have fought to the death."
But, instead of being a celebrated piece of Irish history, the attack on Trinity and its defence by the Anzacs has been lost, even denied, Dr Sweetman says.
Dr Sweetman was born in Kildare, Ireland, and moved to New Zealand with his family when he was 9 years old. He grew up in Auckland but returned to Ireland to study history at Trinity College Dublin. He completed his doctorate at Cambridge.
From 2004 to 2011, Dr Sweetman taught history at the University of Otago. In 2007, his book Bishop in the dock: the sedition trial of James Liston in New Zealand won the Sir Keith Sinclair Prize for History.
He says the true story of the defence of Trinity College "dropped into my lap".
As a history student at Trinity in the late-1970s, he was aware of the involvement of New Zealand soldiers during the Easter Rising. He assumed it would be an acknowledged part of the college’s history. But the 400-page official history of Trinity, written in 2015, "just dismissed the idea that Trinity was in any danger".
"That was so shocking to me, and eventually so angrifying — to use an Irishism — that I decided to write a really critical review."
Several factors contributed to the true history being lost, Dr Sweetman says.
"I’m almost embarrassed to admit, it took me about a year to figure out what had gone on."
Directly after the rising, the colonial soldiers returned to wartime duties. Trinity students, cadet soldiers, were given the lion’s share of the credit for defending that part of Dublin.
The understanding was that they had not defended Trinity itself but the surrounding businesses.
Even the Kiwi soldiers thought that was what they had done.
In Cpl Don’s published letter home he wrote, "That night we kept the rebels from taking the Royal Bank of Ireland, firing from the top of Trinity College".
"These lads," Dr Sweetman says, "in the middle of the night, defended the college without realising it. It’s an absurd thing."
That they were defending the college became irrefutable when Dr Sweetman examined written records of testimony by rebels captured after the 1916 rising; records that were declassified in 2007.
Thornton says he was told to occupy buildings overlooking Trinity to provide covering fire for rebels attacking the college.
"From the dispatch I understood that we were to act as a covering party on both sides of the road to enable a force from the GPO to attempt to capture Trinity College," Thornton said in testimony.
"This job was abandoned and on Easter Tuesday morning I was instructed to evacuate the position and return to the Post Office."
Dr Sweetman believes he was meant to write Defending Trinity College Dublin.
"Because I’ve been able to marry the Trinity sources — I spent six months going through them — with the New Zealand sources — I found the New Zealanders’ letters in Papers Past.
"And then the clincher was the rebels’ witness statements. And what do all of them say? We attacked Trinity."
It is no mystery why Cpl Don and his compatriots took such an active role opposing the Easter Rising, Dr Sweetman says.
"It helps put the rising in an Imperial, a global, context.
"They had travelled across the world to fight for King and empire ... They were keen to demonstrate their loyalty and commitment."
Cpl Don’s letter home spares readers the nasty details.
"I won't say too much about the things we did, because the whole affair was just about 10 times worse than even the people of England knew ...
"But from Monday to Thursday one could hear all the time the rattle of rifles in every part of Dublin and the boom of our artillery.
"I had seven hours' sleep from Easter Sunday night to the following Friday, as we were shooting from the roof the whole time and house-to-house searching.
"It was very dangerous, work, too, and if information came to the officer in charge of the Dublin University to the effect that a sniper was on the roofs opposite, the cry was for the ‘Anzacs’ — numbering five New Zealanders and one Australian!"
Within a week, the Anzacs who had defended Trinity College had left Dublin.
Sgt Nevin and Cpl Garland returned to duty on the Marama where they were soon "plunged into the horrors of the battle of the Somme". After the war they returned to New Zealand, Cpl Garland to Auckland and Sgt Nevin to Christchurch.
Pvt Waring, who had been shot in the leg at Gallipoli, worked as a army cook in Wiltshire, England, and was then sent back to New Zealand. He died of pneumonia during the influenza pandemic, in 1918.
Cpl McLeod was stationed in France, where he was badly gassed during the Battle of Messines. He was sent back to New Zealand and then emigrated to be with family in Australia.
Cpl Don, despite more illness, served in France and was selected for officer training just before the war ended. After returning to New Zealand he established Hadlow Preparatory School for Boys, in the Wairarapa. He liked to tell stories about his exploits quelling the Irish rebellion. He committed suicide in 1954 after being arrested and charged with the indecent assault of a pupil.
Dr Sweetman’s book, Defending Trinity College Dublin, has been well received in Ireland, on the whole. Some Trinity College authorities, however, have not been so welcoming of the revision it demands.
"Trinity itself has commissioned this big history that basically says ‘Oh, you thought we were on the British side? No, no. We were a confused, conflicted bystander’."
The college, along with the country, should own its history, he says.
"As a Trinity graduate myself, and as a New Zealander, I think these men should be put back in their rightful place in Ireland’s history, for what they accomplished.
"The Irish should acknowledge how important these New Zealanders, and other colonials, were in saving this most precious institution."