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Loyal and Gallant Conduct

That Trinity College took a side in the 1916 Rising should be of surprise to no one. Her links with the British establishment began with the foundation by Royal Charter of ‘the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin’ in 1592, and continued throughout the centuries in the form of regular re-affirmations of loyalty and gratitude on the part of the Board (especially when petitioning for funding) to the Crown or the Government or both.

Any one of a large selection of entries – including that which referred to the setting up of the Dublin University Officers Training Corps (OTC) – in the minutes of the meetings of the College Board in the five years before April 1916 demonstrates to the reader where the loyalties of the University’s authorities lay. However, the steps taken in the wake of the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 finally cemented Trinity’s reputation as a Unionist institution. These included the College’s active encouragement of students and staff to support the war effort by joining the British Army, the suppression of the Gaelic Society in November 1914, and the facilitation of the OTC and, shortly thereafter, the British Army in their occupation of the campus in response to the outbreak of the ‘Sinn Fein Rebellion’ on Easter Monday 1916.

TCD/MUN/V/5/21 p 182 TCD Board Minutes 8 May 1916
TCD/MUN/V/5/21 p 182 TCD Board Minutes 8 May 1916

Trinity’s politics is nicely summed up in a resolution proposed by the Provost at the Board’s first meeting since the Easter Rising:

“The Board desires to thank the O.T.C. and the Graduates and other friends who associated themselves with them for the vigor and ability with which they secured the safety of the College and indeed of the neighbouring streets at the outbreak of the Sinn Fein Rebellion, and for their hearty co-operation with His Majesty’s troops”.

TCD/MUN/V/5/21 p 183 TCD Board Minutes 13 May 1916
TCD/MUN/V/5/21 p 183 TCD Board Minutes 13 May 1916

Over the following months entries recorded further declarations of gratitude to other staff members who played a role in the defence of the College, including the porters of both the Front Gate and Lincoln Place gate, who helped to secure the campus against rebel invasion, as well as discussions by the Board regarding claims for compensation by students and societies for losses and damage incurred during the military occupation.

Were further proof needed of the College’s position, along came the offer of a gift of a silver cup for the OTC from the Right Honourable Sir Edward Carson M.P. in July of 1916. The Board minutes of 11 July refer to legal difficulties surrounding such a presentation, and it was decided that the cup be given to the College in trust for the OTC. It now forms part of the College’s Silver Collection, along with nine dinner plates re-made from two other cups presented to the OTC by the Commemoration Committee.

The minutes of the meetings of the Board of Trinity College from the early 17th century to the present day are recorded in bound volumes, forming an important series within the College Archives.

Ellen O’Flaherty
Manuscripts & Archives Research Library

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