Rory Sweetman’s new book challenges the historical orthodoxy that Trinity College Dublin was never under serious threat of rebel capture and occupation during the Easter Rising. It reveals how five New Zealanders, acting as the core of a small squad of colonial troops, provided a vital shield to protect Trinity from capture by the rebels. Had the College fallen to a surprise attack on Easter Monday or Tuesday, its 324th year may well have been its last. In this case, nothing less than heavy and prolonged artillery fire or a long siege would have sufficed to dislodge and defeat the occupiers.
This book offer a rich new source in the shape of letters written home by several of the New Zealanders caught up in the Rising. Their contents give fresh insight into important aspects of the insurrection and allow us to test some controversial claims made by the Anzacs against both Trinity’s own record of its Easter Week experiences and the various rebel accounts contained in Bureau of Military History witness statements and military service pension application files. More importantly, they help to answer questions left unasked in previous studies: how close did Trinity come to being a central battleground in the Rising? How and why did it escape this grisly fate? And – not least – what might have happened but for the intervention of the colonial troops?
Dr Rory Sweetman is a Kildare-born New Zealander who holds history degrees from Trinity College Dublin and Cambridge University. He has published extensively on aspects of the Irish abroad and is the author of Bishop in the Dock: the Sedition Trial of James Liston in New Zealand (Dublin, 2007), which won the Sir Keith Sinclair Prize for History.
The event is free and can be booked here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/defending-trinity-college-dublin-anzacs-in-the-1916-rising-tickets-94614016069