1916 – The hardware connection

As the country looks back on the 1916 Rising, we look at builder merchant involvement in the rebellion and its impact on the industry at the time.

The Irish Volunteers contingent from Maynooth was led by Domhnall Ua Buachalla, who owned a hardware business in the town. Lieutenant Eamonn O’ Kelly of the Volunteers arrived in Maynooth on Holy Thursday. O’ Kelly told Domhnall Ua Buachalla (later the Governor General of the Free State) to assemble his men on Easter Sunday in Maynooth town, and from there to proceed to Bodenstown Churchyard, to meet with other Kildare Volunteers.

The monument that commemorates the Volunteers who assembled in Maynooth in 1916.

Today, in the town square, a monument commemorates the Volunteers who assembled in Maynooth in 1916. Domhnall Ua Buachalla was elected a Sinn Féin TD for Kildare in 1918. The family hardware store in Maynooth, founded in 1853, remained in operation until 2005. Buckley’s Lane is named after him today (comeheretome.com).


The shooting of unarmed civilians during the Easter Rising arose from British orders that soldiers should not take any prisoners, according to War Office files released at the Public Record Office in London. A War Office document from June 1916, marked ‘very confidential’, written by Sir Edward Troup, who was permanent secretary to the Home Department, for the British prime minister, Herbert Asquith, refers to several cases of civilians shot by British soldiers during the Easter Rising in Dublin. One case referred to the shooting on April 28th of Peter Connolly, a member of the Redmondite Irish National Volunteers and the owner of a hardware shop ( The Irish Times , January 2001 ).


The Bureau of Military History 1913-1921 (BMH) Collection at Military Archives, is a joint initiative of the Military Archives and the National Archives. Part of the research and witness statements includes the following: WS Ref #: 1173, Witness: Michael Hynes, Member Irish Volunteers and IRA, Galway, 1915-1921: “Father O’Meehan addressed the company, saying that the Rising was on in Dublin and that our company would very soon be engaged in the fight and that very likely some of us would be going to our deaths. He then said that if any Volunteer wished to leave he could do so and that nobody would think bad of him for doing so. ‘Any man who now wants to leave’, said Fr O’Meehan, ‘let him step out of the ranks.’

“Nobody stepped out of the ranks. Fr O’Meehan then gave us General Absolution and told us to collect all the arms and ammunition we could in the town of Kinvara and neighbourhood. We marched into the town of Kinvara and collected all the shotguns in the town. Most of the owners gave them up willingly and Mr Johnson, a hardware merchant, gave us all the guns and ammunition he had in his shop – about half a dozen guns.”


One of the less obvious consequences of the Rising was a further slump in the already slack

Thomas Heiton established a coal and iron business in Dublin in 1818.

demand for coal. A history of Heitons, Heitons – A Managed Transition , written by Tony Farmar in 1996 records the following with regard to the events around the rising: “The Easter Rising came at a time of relatively slack demand for coal, though, not surprisingly, the staff committee minutes record a temporary hiccup in activity. For the week ending 20th April 1916 Custom House and Spencer Docks between them sold 2,631 tons of coal; there is no record for the following week, and for the week ending 5th May it was a mere 920 tons. By the next report, covering the week to 12th May, activity in the two docks was back to 2,978 tons. One W. Roache, a clerk in the George’s Quay office, was reported as ‘continuing absent’; the staff committee agreed that he had forfeited his job. In August, he wrote to the board, but he was not re-employed. No doubt many casual workers, politicised by the events of 1913, also took part.”


In the Irish Independent’ s reproduction of important Irish newspapers from that time, reprinted exactly as they appeared 100 years ago, The Revolution Papers , there were advertisements for several well-known hardware and builders merchants promoting their wares, but more importantly the fact that they were still in business or not! Among those lucky enough to still be open were:
• Brooks Thomas & Co Ltd, Sackville Place (reported that “Premises and Stock are intact”); • Dockrell Ltd, South Great Georges Street (“all departments working as usual”);
• Keenan & Sons Ltd, Fishamble St, Fence & Gate Iron Works and Stores;
• Baxendale & Co Ltd, Hardware, Lead & Paint, Capel St and Great Strand Street (“Premises intact and business as usual”);
• Maguire & Gatchell Ltd, Enamelled Baths and japanned Water Cans, 7, 9, 10 and 15 Dawson St (advised customers to “place orders early due to the War crisis”);
• T Henshaw and Co. Ltd, Garden Tools, 3-12 Christchurch Place; and,
• W & L Crowe Ltd, Timber, Slate, and Cement Merchants, 50 -51 South Richmond Street (“Premises and Stock escaped damage in the recent disturbances”).

Among those not so fortunate were:
• The Wallpaper Manufacturers Ltd, 94-96 Middle Abbey Street (“completely destroyed by fire”);
• P Donnelly & Sons, Coal Merchants, 16 D’Olier Street (“new address due to previous premises having been demolished” ); and,
• the Irish Commercial Travellers Association, which advised that all communication should go to The Secretary, Mr. J V Mac Conville, Glasnevin until further notice.