Dr Frederick William Kidd (1857-1917), a professor of midwifery and gynaecology at the Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin, spent Easter 1916 attending Rugby fixtures at Lansdowne Road and entertaining visitors at home at 17 Lower Fitzwilliam Street. Three of his four sons were then serving in the Great War, and he often wrote to keep them informed of events at home. M&ARL holds two extraordinary letters written by him during Easter week 1916. They offer a dramatic, as-it-happened account of the unfolding rebellion.
The first of the letters, TCD MS 9932/135/1, addressed to his son Frederick William, known as Eric (1890-1972), was written between the 25 April and 2 May 1916. Passages were written in the heat of the moment; ‘more shooting going on now seemingly at the green! 3pm’ is typical of the asides which interrupt the flow of the letter. The second letter, TCD MS 9932/135/2, to his eldest son George Montgomery Kidd (b.1889), was started on 29 April, runs to 21 pages and was clearly intended as a more considered record of events, even containing instructions to post on to other family members. Kidd’s letters touch on a number of themes common to contemporary accounts of the Rising; the lack of newspapers and general information, absence of servants, looting of shops, commandeering of cars, fuel and food shortages, blackouts, the imposition of martial law etc.
In TCD MS 9932/135/1 Dr Kidd gives a vivid eyewitness account of how the Rising began on Sackville Street (O’Connell Street) on Easter Monday. He initially describes an unremarkable journey to visit a patient in Drumcondra, and notes, ‘there were a number of the Sinn Fein Citizen Guards apparently going route marching – some in squads with rifles and bandoliers – others in ones and twos and some on bicycles…’. He then came across a dispatch rider corps on Drumcondra Bridge, but still did not notice anything amiss. However, ‘coming back through Sackville Street about 12.45 there was a turbulent crowd outside the P.O. and rifle shots were being fired in the street as I passed in my cab. The first time I was under fire!!…crowds of young men were hanging about the corners of adjacent streets…there was an excitement and a kind of electricity…evident everywhere’.
Later in the letter he describes how his third son John Armstrong Crozier, known as Jack (1893-1977), was sent off to verify a report that the Post Office had been regained: ‘Jack was down to Sackville Street this morning and says he saw men in the building in plain clothes also upon the roof and that there was a flag up on it declaring the Republic of Ireland. They have barbed wire across Sackville Street at Abbey Street and Post Office to prevent Cavalry charges and barricades of bicycles in crates across the streets too’. On Tuesday 2nd May he writes, ‘I went to Sackville Street yesterday words fail me to describe the ruin. Not a house left between O’Connell Bridge and the Pillar on the right side and for a considerable distance down the side streets’.
The letters also convey the family’s anxiety over the whereabouts of the youngest son, William Sidney Kidd, known as Sid (1895-1918), who had arrived in Cork before the Rising to join the ‘Irish Regiment at Home Service Unit at Beggars Bush’. He eventually made contact to re-assure them of his safety. Unfortunately Sid was later killed in action on 21 March 1918 in Epehy, France whilst serving with the 2nd Royal Munster Fusiliers and has no known grave. As a TCD graduate, his death is commemorated in the Hall of Honour at Trinity College and appears on the War List.
Dr Kidds’ letters, along with a selection of photographs of the family, were donated to the Library in 2005 by his grandson, and are as yet un-published. For further information on the collection, please see the MARLOC online catalogue.
Manuscripts & Archives Research Library