Letter from Margaret Ruth Leslie to her cousin, Cecil George Leslie, 4 May 1916

The letter seen here is the second sent by Margaret Ruth Leslie, during the Easter Rising, to her cousin Cecil George Leslie. In her first letter (MRL to CGL 29 April 1916) Leslie described the events of the week up through 29 April 1916. Her letters are insightful as she describes the events of the Rising from a civilian, Unionist perspective. She continues the account of her experience during Easter week in this letter from 4 May 1916. Leslie describes being surrounded by the fighting that continued in the south side of the city on 30 April, 1916. She also writes of friends experiences during the week. She concludes with much criticism of the British Army’s handling of the uprising, along with criticism of John Redmond’s National Volunteers for their lack of aid. The full text of the letter is below. This is followed by a brief analysis of the contents that will help place the letter in proper context with the events of Easter week.

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1 Wilton Place
Dear Choppy
I think I wrote you an account of our
adventures up to last Sat. I don’t know if
you’ll ever get it but anyhow we’ve had lots
more since then. The family say I am to
tell you first that all is well with Cor-
-nelia Prettie’s “Portrait of a Boy” your future
wedding present, but little else in the
house is spared! However we are all alive
which is the main thing. On Sunday morning
at about 8a.m. the soldiers (no less)
started to bombard this house. In a very
brief period the top story (containing my
bedroom, the bathroom, where Nell was washing,
& the maid’s room) was being riddled from
side to side. We just got down stairs in
time as a second later the bullets were coming
in at the front windows through two walls &
into my room & the bathroom. At the
foot of our stairs I had by force to prevent
Margery from returning to the rescue of
the parrot! We then proceeded, with what I
really think was admirable calmness, to the
wing to report matters to Fane & Ina re-

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-ceived us well but flatly declined to leave her
room & dress in the passage. She is pain-
-fully intrepid & has nearly turned all our hairs
grey. No-one could control her except me
occasionally when I told her that if she
persisted in something particularly
foolhardy I should accompany her. She had a
sort of feeling that Ma would be vexed
with her if I got killed which was very
salutary. She just got out of her room
before they fired a volley into it! But that
was later. Fane received us very snappily
& obviously didn’t believe us. He said
perhaps a few spent bullets had hit the house
from somewhere else & that he couldn’t have
unclothed women about the house & that we
were to go back & dress – he was going to
take Jock out! We implored him not to
but he persisted & stalked majestically
downstairs until brought up short by a shot in
at the hall window straight across his face
& just missing him. He then decided not
We chuckled & as there was a slight
lull fled upstairs where I cleared some raiment
out of the mist of glass & plastic in my

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room & Margery rescued the parrot, a very
idiotic proceeding on both our parts as I
now perceive, for we only got down in the
nick of time, several bullets burying themselves
in the wall of the staircase as we
reached the bottom. After that things got very
lively while we finished dressing on the
landing outside Margery’s room, & pretending
we were enjoying ourselves, proceeded down to
breakfast. By this time we were all
badly scared, except perhaps Ina who is
abnormal & Fane, who is, his family tell
me, slow to absorb a new idea! Things got
hotter & hotter & Fane, who to our great alarm
had vanished, strolled into the dining room
looking as if he’d lost his galoshes or some such
valuable, & remarked that he thought he had
been hit! He had, slightly, on the leg & the arm.
The servants were now far from happy, all
except the redoubtable Cane, who remained
jocose throughout – so we all took to the
basement without our breakfast, after carefully
collecting the menagerie. There we
remained for two solid hours while the fire got
hotter & hotter & we pondered pleasantly on

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the subject of bombs (we knew several houses
had been bombed out!) Nelly, at considerable
risk to herself, got to the telephone & with
great difficulty as it is now reserved for
military use, got them to put her onto the
hospital across Baggot St. Bridge, which we
knew the soldiers on the bridge had been using
as H.Q. However at first she only got an
orderly who said he would send word to the
officer on the bridge. Nothing happened for
about an hour except more firing into the house & then, with even more
difficulty she got on again & luckily got hold
of an officer who informed her that shots
had been fired at the soldiers from our
top windows. Nell replied with some hauteur
that this rumour was quite untrue though of course
there might have been a sniper on the roof
without our knowledge. She further added that as the
house contained 11 harmless women & her
elderly male parent she’d be greatly obliged
if they’d take a rest & make a few enquiries
before proceeding further. Shortly after this
the firing stopped & we crept out & began to look
at the damage, though still not daring to
show ourselves at the windows. About lunch-

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time we beheld an officer & about 6 men
advancing on the house – the officer clutching
a revolver & the men with their bayonets
ready. We flung the door open & greeted them
with enthusiasm. Fane & Ina were more
than genial so thankful were they that we
were all alive. The men were mostly dispatched
to the kitchen to feed while Fane conducted
the officer over the house, He was a little startled
when he saw the damage but seem chiefly
concerned because he had not got a chance to
use bombs – a pursuit at which he fancies
himself it seems. He informed us that he got
the message just in time as he had sent for
rifle grenades!!! He seemed to be feeling the
disappointment a good deal. His name is
Howard & he is a 2nd Lieutenant in the Lincolns
(terriers) – quite a decent man but very
English. He told us he was a barrister by
trade & not a soldier. We had not suspected
him of being the latter but did not mention
this to him. He will never see 30 again I’m
certain so is old enough to have more common
sense than he displayed. Margery & I at one

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juncture during the bombardment had wanted
to try & escape down the back-lane & reason
with the soldiers, but were not allowed as
it was considered a certainty that we should
be shot at sight by sentries as bolting Sinn
Feiners. From Mr Howard we learnt that
there were no sentries on the lane – he had
never thought of their being such a thing
as a back exit apparently! Isn’t it pathetic?
I should have thought any fool would assume
that there was some kind of a bolt hole at
the back of a block of houses like this.
There was a sergeant with them – a very
decent man apparently, who told us he fired
the first shot as he was certain he saw
a shot fired from the maid’s window.
This is an absolute impossibility as she
was just going down to call the girls when
the first shot came into her room & we
promptly locked the door on the outside
to prevent her going in again & getting
shot & the door was still locked when the
soldiers came to search it so they must have
had the jumps very badly. I think they
should have made some enquiries at the
hospital about a house so near. They said

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they had been watching the house for some days
but they must have done it very badly as
Fane & Ina were at the hospital every day
enquiring after various wounded people.
Also they said they had been told the house
was empty, with only a caretaker in it,
so could not understand all the lights
being turned on & off at night & thought
we were signalling!!! As we were all going
in & out all day I don’t think they
could have watched very carefully or they
might have perceived that the house was
not empty. Personally I don’t wonder at
their being a bit jumpy. They had had an
awful time of it, being shot into Dublin
with no maps, very short rations, unable
to trust anyone & sniped at all day
without seeing anyone to shoot at
themselves. Also they were mostly extremely raw
troops. Mr Howard told us some of them had
never fired a shot before. All the same
I don’t think he will ever make a brilliant
strategist though doubtless a young man of
immense intellect. I think he thought we
were all cracked, as by the time he arrived

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we had recovered from our alarm & begun
to see the humour of the situation. We were
very nice to him & he has been back since
for meals & baths (I’d never have faced
the family again personally) but I took care to
point out to him that though as a means of
wrecking furniture etc. his methods were
excellent, as a means of exterminating
Sinn Feiners they were a distinct failure,
because after 3 hours of them, 12 people,
2 dogs, 1 cat & 1 parrot had sustained no
casualties whatever. He didn’t like me at
all. You can’t imagine what the house
looked like. The drawing-room has got
off quite lightly, a few prints smashed
etc. & the dining-room isn’t touched
but the top floor was a wreck the schoolroom
also & Ina’s room, which is full
of beautiful furniture are in a fearful
state. All of Ina’s clothes & most of the
girls’ are are in ribbons. Undoubtedly
the British Army is given beautiful
ammunition. Nothing seems to stop it!
The furniture in Ina’s room was really
very valuable I believe & there is an awful

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lot of damage done one way & another. All
the windows are smashed & they are plate glass
which is a distinct item nowadays.
The idea is that Fane will get no compensation
at all. One highly humourous
touch is that a certain Mrs Falkiner a
most wearing lady who had been ageing
us all a good deal was refugeeing here
as she was frightful about her own
house, & she came in for the bombardment.
She has now left us!
I hear Tommy Burrowes is wounded. I
gather he has been playing the ass as
usual but we don’t know for certain.
It appears he was coming back from playing
golf & got tired of being challenged by sentries
so refused to show his pass & was shot
in the leg. I gather he is quite bad. It happened
somewhere near Baggott St. Bridge so he
walked into the hospital there & report says
started off by giving a wrong name

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He is now at some nursing home where
Fane called to see him & was told he
was “to be kept quiet”. The general
impression seems to be that he is off
his head. He started off in the beginning
of the week by trying to borrow Fane’s
motor to try & get to Stradone. When next Fane
saw him he was on a bicycle
going off to play golf. It seems odd
he didn’t try & take a more active
part in suppressing the rebellion. Every
other soldier on leave that we have heard
of has been making himself useful.
We had a Captain Kirk here last
night, sniper-hunting & he with
his leg in irons. Fane says the impression
at the Club is that Tommy B. really
is queer in the head. Bergy Tombe has

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been most undefeated. He has been up
from Wicklow 3 or 4 times with his car
loaded with food for the hospitals etc.
He really is a decent soul. No difficulties
with passports seem to stop him
& he carries messages for everyone.
We heard to-day that Jack had got
your job all right. He seems much
pleased. We had letters to-day for the
first time for 10 days except for a line
from home which was sent up the
line. Ma had received none of my
P.C.’s till the day before yesterday &
was in a fearful state I’m afraid. Every
thing is being very carefully censored
but I hope you will get this all right.
Most of the shops are open again today.
I go home on Monday & Nellie comes
with me I think. Mariel & Rose being both
away Margery will have a lovely time
coping with the growing peevishness of
her papa, who is getting each day more

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fretful as he ponders on the injury done
him by the British Army. Erne Hill
is heavily insured against civil commotion
but this house is not! Fane is really a very
odd man. When it was discovered that Jock was
not in the basement Nellie went to look
for him & I don’t think it ever occurred
to her papa that he was hardly worth being
killed for. There were numerous other highly
humourous incidents but I can’t write
them all.
Uncle Cecil turned up unexpectedly this
morning & has now gone to Glenburne.
He had been stuck at Holyhead for a week.
He went to see Tommy B. this morning
says he found him quite sensible & coherent.
He said it was all his own fault. I expect
it will be some time before he tries to
be funny with a sentry again. Uncle C. only
saw him for a couple of minutes but says he
was looking somewhat shook & had a fine
growth of beard. I expect he’s not any madder
than usual really!
It is really rather sickening the way the English
papers are patting dear Mr Redmond’s National

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Volunteers on the back & commenting favourably
on their loyal behaviour. The
fact being that all over the country they
were just waiting to see which way
the cat jumped in Dublin. If things
had gone wrong here there would
surely have been battle, murder, &
sudden death all over Ireland. We have
heard that they were sitting ready.
In Drogheda there are 230 N.V.’s & as
things were looking bad there the local
authorities suggested that they might
turn out & help the police. It was found
that 200 had joined the Sinn Feiners &
the other 30 were indisposed! We were told
this, as a fact, by Mr Cairns, the Dep.
Chairman of the G.N.R. who lives at
Drogheda. The Government is very busy
trying to make out that this affair
is a purely German scheme into which
the loyal Irish have been led blindly!
I don’t think.

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I’ve never seen the like of Sackville St, but
I expect you have so I won’t describe it!
I wonder what you are doing. Are you
in supreme command of the 3rd Army
or is there a nominal leader, guided
by you???
Best love & I hope you will have time &
ability to read all this. The Vernon family
are rather rude about my writing. I think
it is rather good myself, but I admit I
can’t always read it!
Yrs ever

**Additional Note on side of document**
Letters from & about C.G.L. & F.K.L.
Also copies of letters re C.G.L.
& cutting
& old letters of mine kept by

The first four pages of Margaret Ruth Leslie’s letter describe how the house she was in was fired upon by British soldiers carrying out the last of the fighting in the south side of Dublin. She starts off her letter by informing her cousin that his wedding present is safe, however much of the rest of the house is destroyed. Leslie will again speak about the damage to the house later in her letter on pages eight and nine. This is important to note, as it shows how civilians were affected by the fighting. Soldiers began targeting her house on 30 April 1916, as they continued to fight against Irish Volunteers on the south side of the city who had not yet surrendered. The soldiers believed that bullets were being fired from the upper windows of the home, and therefore, began returning fire and targeting anyone seen in the house.

Fane and Ina, two other guests in the house apparently did not feel threatened by the bullets and continued to carry on with their day until they were both almost killed. Fane was eventually grazed on the arm and the leg. Leslie stated that the firing became hotter as the day went on, which was likely due to the continued movement of people in the home, and the jumpiness of the British soldiers by this point in the week. One woman in the home named Nelly was finally able to telephone the nearby hospital which had been commandeered by the military. After two phone calls she convinced the officers there that there were no Irish Volunteers in the home, but instead “11 harmless women & her elderly male parent.” Nelly requested that the soldiers ceased firing and instead investigated the area. Nelly’s struggle to get the soldiers to understand that there were no Irish Volunteers in the house can be seen as an example of their untrustworthiness of the local population and Irish Volunteers. They likely felt that the occupants of the home were trying to trick them into thinking there was no danger so that they could attack them by surprise at a later time.

On page five of Leslie’s letter, she recounts that the firing did cease and that an officer in command of six soldiers came to their home to investigate. The officer, named Howard, was concerned about the damage of the home, but also stated that he had been preparing to utilize rifle grenades to clear out the perceived threat when he was notified that civilians occupied the home. Leslie is quite critical of his ability to lead and comments that he “is old enough to have more common sense than he displayed.” She is also perplexed at how Howard had chosen not to place sentries at the back lane of the homes, as he did not believe that they had rear exits. Leslie concludes page 6 of her letter by stating that she believed that the soldiers “had the jumps very badly.” By this point in the week, many soldiers were likely suffering from PTSD due to the house to house fighting. Many of the men sent to Dublin were also new recruits who had not experienced combat before. Leslie sympathizes with their jumpiness on page seven of her letter as she describes that many were young recruits sent into Dublin with no knowledge of the city or it’s people, and forced to fight while being sniped and ambushed.

On page nine of her letter, Leslie describes how Tommy Burrowes was shot in the leg after he became irritated with the numerous sentry stations and refused to show his pass. She then criticizes him for going to play golf during the uprising instead of helping the soldiers work to clear the city. Burrowes is proof that for many, daily life carried on the midst of the Rising. On page 11 Leslie mentions Bergy Tombe again, who she wrote about in her first letter, stating that he had traveled to Wicklow numerous times throughout the week to bring food back to the hospitals in Dublin. This again is proof that people were able to carry on with their lives despite the conflict. Tombe was able to maneuver out of the city and obtain supplies and get back into Dublin again, despite the fighting. Too often historians discuss the Rising as an event that brought all life in Dublin to a halt throughout the week, however that was not the case for everyone in the city.

Leslie concludes her letter by discussing the aftermath of the Rising. By 4 May, the shops were beginning to reopen, and while Dublin was under martial law many people began to return back to their normal daily lives. She is also highly critical of John Redmond’s Nation Volunteers at the end of page twelve. This shows that while the National Volunteers had sided with Britain and pledged to serve for home rule, many people on both sides of the conflict did not view them favorably in the wake of the Rising. The Unionists were angry at their inaction and the Irish Volunteers felt that they had betrayed the cause of Irish Independence by not joining them in the Rising. Leslie states on page thirteen that she cannot believe that the government is trying to make the Rising seem like a “scheme” carried out by the Germans, in which the Irish were led blindly. Leslie does not seem to believe this is true, and history shows that Germany was only slightly involved by agreeing to supply arms, which never reached the Volunteers.

Leslie’s letter provides historians with a glimpse into the civilian experience of the Easter Rising. Her discussion of the home being destroyed and a friend wounded illustrate the toll that the conflict took on the civilian population. Other stories such as a friend traveling to golf and another about the shops re-opening, show historians that despite the fighting and widespread destruction in Dublin, many people did try to maintain some sense of normalcy in their daily routines. Historians must continue to examine accounts like Leslie’s if they wish to fully understand the civilian experience during the Irish Revolution. The accounts are perhaps the most important of all, as the vast majority of Ireland was not involved in active combat, or active political campaigning during the Irish Revolution. Most Irish citizens carried on with their normal daily activities throughout the period. While history has often depicted the Revolution as being violent and having a great affect on the entire population, civilian accounts like Margaret Leslie’s may perhaps show us that some individuals were gravely affected by the Revolution, while others were essentially untouched by it.