In August 1916 two large silver cups were presented to the College in recognition of the services rendered by the Officers’ Training Corps (OTC) during the Easter Rebellion. Speaking at the ceremony Provost Mahaffy expressed his regret that the College had to be defended from ‘the dangers of home rebellion’. His words echoed the conflict that must have existed within those Irishmen who were as firmly opposed to the rebels’ ideals and actions as they were saddened by the whole situation. Many of those involved in the defence of the College (including academics, students and College employees, as well as soldiers in the British army on leave in Dublin) were, after all, Irish, and the ‘enemy’ were their fellow countrymen and women.
From the informal reports written by Elsie Mahaffy, John Joly and George Crawford, who witnessed the body of a Volunteer – Gerald Keogh – brought into College, it is clear that they were affected by the young rebel’s fate. An official report written by the OTC officer in command in TCD, EH Alton, dismisses the incident as ‘one brush with a small body of the enemy’; yet his colleague, Professor Rev AA Luce, gave Keogh a Christian burial in the Provost’s garden.
Another paragraph in the OTC reports refers to a communication from Richmond Barracks on 6 May 1916 to the OTC headquarters that 2nd Lt Wylie was to be retained in connection with the work of ‘dealing with the rebel prisoners’. This was the barrister William Evelyn Wylie, a TCD graduate, member of the OTC, and King’s Counsel. He was appointed as prosecuting counsel for the courts martial of the rebels. Although he had unionist sympathies, he was deeply uncomfortable with certain aspects of the courts martial proceedings. He apparently attempted to help those on trial in their defence, and was later to express his sorrow at the executions, referring to Clarke and Pearse as ‘decent people’. The personal sentiment of these Irish people, who were ideologically opposed to the Rebellion does not fully tally with line taken in certain official records and documents, such as military reports and newspaper articles.
The deed of gift that accompanied the silver cups is in the form of an illuminated scroll designed by the artist James McConnell. It includes a Celtic border, with the arms of the OTC at its head, and its text abounds with references to gallantry and pride. The confident air of such pronouncements belies the complexity of emotions engendered by the Rising in Irish of all allegiances. The souvenir booklet produced for the presentation ceremony asserts that the deed ‘will be preserved by the College Authorities with the Cups – an historical record of the Irish Rebellion of 1916 and the defence of the University which so many illustrious Irishmen claim as their Alma Mater’. Although several examples of the smaller replica cups are known to exist throughout the world, the two large cups were melted down and made into nine dinner plates in 1953. They form part of the College’s silver collection; the original deed of gift is kept in the College Archives.
Manuscripts & Archives Research Library