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
After all the excitement of the centenary commemoration of the 1916 Rising last year, this year should be a little quieter. Tipperary County Council’s exhibition on 1916 covered the events clearly and incorporated people with local connections but for me one of its attractions was the clever GPO backdrop, complete with Ionic columns and statues on the roof!
This year marks the 350th anniversary of the birth of Jonathan Swift and various events have been planned both at home and abroad to commemorate the life and achievements of one of Ireland’s greatest writers. As an illustration, I’ve selected from our archive one of the stamps issued by the Post Office in 1967 on the 300th anniversary of his birth.
Born in Dublin, he was educated at Kilkenny College and Trinity College and was ordained a clergyman. He found his life in rural parishes in Ireland dull and hoped for more advantageous appointments in England where his abilities were put to use by both the Whig and Tory politicians of the time. His appointment as Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin was not what he had in mind but when he began to advance the cause of Ireland through his writings, he established himself as a popular local patriot. His work on debasement of Irish money (Drapier’s Letters) and the grievances of the exploited poor (A Modest Proposal) earned him a reputation as a daring and effective critic of Government policy.
Gulliver’s Travels (1726) is the book everyone knows about, largely because it has long been sold, in a shortened and censored form, as a children’s book. The story of Gulliver in the lands of giants and little people has obvious appeal to children but the book is really an adult one, a witty if rather bleak commentary on human nature. Swift’s own nature was a complex one and mystery still surrounds his own personal relationships, especially his love life. Did he ever marry and what was the nature of his association with “Vanessa”, that is Esther Vanhomrigh, and “Stella”, Esther Johnson, the woman he first met when she was just eight years old and beside whom he was buried in St. Patrick’s? Whose was the lock of hair found carefully wrapped in his desk and bearing the words “Only a woman’s hair”?
Swift’s later years were sad. He is believed to have suffered from Ménière’s disease, which caused dizziness and nausea, and added to this were loss of memory, a stroke and senility which led to his being seen as mad. His friends, for his own protection, had him declared “of unsound mind and memory”. He had long had a horror of losing his wits and an appreciation of the terrible indignities suffered by those who endured mental illness. In his will, he left the bulk of his money for the establishment of a mental hospital, St. Patrick’s, which continues to help people to this day.
Priest, politician and patriot, a man whose character blended personal ambition and practical humanity, Jonathan Swift’s insight and style make him one of the greatest of all satiric writers.