The Post Office’s letter sorting office was once in the GPO but when the building was destroyed in the 1916 rebellion and later reconstructed, the sorting office was not reinstated. Instead sorting was done in a building in Pearse Street. When that building was deemed unsuitable, a new office was built in Sheriff Street and many Dublin postal staff will remember working in that building. Students too, who maybe got a job at Christmas, will remember its cavernous interiors, the mail sorting divisions, the machinery that sometimes worked and the loading platforms where the vans and lorries drew up.
Sheriff Street is greatly changed now and the IFSC has taken over from the Post office as the dominant employer in the locality but memories of the sorting office remain in the minds of the many staff – postmen, drivers, sorters, clerks etc. – who worked there from the late 1960s till it closed in the 1990s.
This week marks the 101st anniversary of the Easter rebellion in Dublin. The 1916 rebels had a strong appreciation of the importance of communications in warfare and this is one reason why the GPO became their headquarters, not because it was the country’s principal letter sorting office but because it housed the Central Telegraph Office. Control of the telegraph system would, they reasoned, be vital in their plans to disrupt Government communications and would increase the chances of the Rising’s being successful.
When they attacked the GPO on Easter Monday 1916, the telegraph room on the second floor was barricaded by staff and bravely defended by the unarmed military guard. One soldier was shot in the attack and when the room was occupied by the rebels and the Post Office staff instructed to leave, one woman, Miss Gordon who was the female supervisor, refused to leave until the wounded soldier had been attended to. This presented a delicate situation for the officer in charge of the rebel attack but he and Miss Gordon came to an agreement that the soldier might be brought to Jervis Street hospital provided he returned to become a prisoner. Unlikely though it seems, this is precisely what happened. The redoubtable Miss Gordon brought the man to hospital and a few hours later brought him back to the GPO to become a prisoner of the new republic!
This weekend is the actual anniversary of the Dublin rebellion which has had such an impact on the course of Irish history. Easter Monday was the 24th April in 1916 and that was the day a small group of rebels, determined to seek Irish independence through violent means, entered the General Post Office and made it their headquarters. The rebellion was deeply unpopular with most Irish people and it saw the deaths of close to 500 people and the destruction of the city centre. It has come to be seen, however, in a very different light and a good way of trying to understand something of what motivated the men and women who were involved in the Rising is to read the document they produced to explain and justify their actions.
A full-size facsimile of the actual copy on display in the GPO is available from the philatelic shop in the Post Office or online via