Homes for the Dead – 1916 – Holden Stodart

Art houses invoke the forgotten civilian victims of the Easter Rising
Public contribute installations to remember each of the 262 civilians killed in the Rising

First published in the Irish Times April 10,2016 

And also in a wonderful short video by Ronan McGreevy at the exhibition. Watch it here or below.

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A unique free exhibition celebrating 1916 is open in the National Botanical Gardens from this week until April 24th. The exhibition, called the 1916Sackville Street project, was developed to celebrate the largely forgotten and ignored civilian deaths in 1916.

Until this year, little was known about the civilian dead – indeed few people realised that the number of civilian dead exceeded that of the total military casualties on both sides. In all, 262 innocent men, women and children were slaughtered on the streets of the capital during the first week of fighting.

The 1916Sackville Street Art Project invited students, individuals and organisations to build art homes for the dead – to provide a final resting place. Indeed since many of the civilian dead were amongst the very poorest of the city some bodies were never claimed and to this day they lie in unmarked graves.

Former High School Dublin student Jillian Godsil was invited to assist in the project and with Laois public relations consultant Dave Delaney they voluntarily provided the PR and marketing expertise. This weekend project has featured on RTE news and Nationwide as well as the national press.

However, as both Jillian and Dave worked on spreading the word and finding people to build homes they became increasing interested in the personal stories of the project. Dave decided to focus on a young man called Paul Reynolds and during this research discovered that he had been twenty years of age and a journalist.

‘What really upset me was the fact that his body lay unclaimed in the hospital morgue until August when a Rev Reynolds claimed and buried him,’ says Dave. A journalist and artist himself, Dave built a house covered in newspaper. His house is now part of the exhibition in the Botanic Gardens – a permanent memorial to the young journalist.

Jillian too became more involved. As the names were claimed she saw one persistent name not taken. It was an unusual name – Holden Stodart.

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‘I looked at the name and tried to imagine the man. I too have a strange name and I was drawn to him,’ says Jillian. ‘I decided to claim Holden and make a house, indeed a home for him. Imagine my surprise then when it turned out Holden had attended my old school in Dublin, the High School. I felt an immediate connection.’

Further investigation turned up that Holden had been a St John Ambulance volunteer. Holden was in his 30s, and was married with a small child. As the Rising began, rumours of the fighting spread across the capital. In response more than 600 men and women of St John Ambulance turned up to volunteer for service. Holden was a senior officer in St John Ambulance service and he was responding to the terrible battle in Mount Street on Wednesday when he was shot dead trying to rescue the injured. He was the only St John Ambulance member to lose his life in the violence.

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Padraig Allen, St John Ambulance volunteer and archivist, dressed in the same uniform as Holden Stodart would have worn with Jillian Godsil

‘I found it very sad that his sacrifice in saving the injured has largely been overlooked in the last 100 years,’ says Jillian. ‘I approached my old school, where I was a President of the Alumni, and a super bunch of young people in Transition Year agreed to make the actual house. It was finally modelled on the old school building in Harcourt Street and now lives in the exhibition as well.’

In total there are 262 art houses on display in the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin. Entrance to the exhibition is free and in time a book of the houses will be available for sale. The exhibition runs until April 24, 2016.

 

 

1916 Sackville Project: Holden Stodart – the Team behind the Project

Research

We decided to base our project on Holden Stodart, who was born in 1883 and was a post pupil of The High School at no. 40 Harcourt Street. He worked as a clerk at Guinness before he volunteered with the St. John Ambulance Brigade. Holden became St. John Ambulance’s superintendent and was put in charge of Baggot Street Hospital to look after the wounded after the Easter week. Holden Stodart was shot near Northumberland road where he went with a stretcher party and other members of the brigade treated the soldier. Holden was killed instantly. Holden Stodart lost his life on April 26th 1916, aged 33.

We decided to base the house on no. 40 Harcourt Street as this was where Holden Stodart went to school. It also became a temporary hospital, used by St. Johns Ambulance to care for wounded soldiers during the 1916 rising.

The Manufacture of the Project

The class were split into four groups with four pupils and each group were given a different task.

Group 1

First we spray painted the walls a red brick colour. We then cut out the windows using a Scroll saw after marking them out on a piece of paper. We then got a scalpel and carved lines to imitate the brick patterns. For the top of the gable wall, we cut and sanded it so that the roof would fit on top. We then cut the window sills from plywood, painted them white and glued them in. We also added a handle and a letter box to the door.

Group 2

We decided to base the ground floor on the High School to represent the start of Holden’s life. We made desks to represent the school classroom. We were going to put carpet on the floor but then decided against it because we thought the school might not have carpet and only have floor boards during this time. We put posters and other pictures around the room to make it look like a school classroom.

Group 3

We decided to base the first floor on St. Johns Ambulance to represent the next stage in Holden’s life. To decorate our floor we made stretchers and some miniature figures out of plywood and stuck them down with superglue. We also made a miniature ambulance and stuck that down. For the walls of our floor we got some pictures related to St. Johns Ambulance off the internet and stuck them on the walls.

Group 4

We decided to base the second floor on the 1916 Rising where Holden Stodart lost his life on April 26th 1926 aged 33. We cut out different figures and guns from plywood and painted them appropriate colours. We stuck a picture of Holden on the back wall as a memory of his life. The mirror on the top represents the fact that it could have been anybody, including you, that lost a life during the Rising.

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The students, led by Leslie Middleton, are William Anderson,
Sittha Bailey, Ben Chaloner, Alexander Chambers, Andrew Cloughley, Gerard Colman, Luke Diggins, Daniel Fagan, Oscar Higgins, Adam Lalor, Nikolai Leake, Alex Lin, Jude Lysaght, Sarah Morley, Jason Mullen, Loris Nikolov, Peter O’Leary, Alex O’Regan and Adam O’Rourke

The Tricolour

The Irish Tricolour, with its distinctive stripes of Green, White and Orange, is often viewed as a militant flag, a direct contrast and challenge to the British Union Jack and owned solely by one tradition in Ireland – the nationalist Catholic community. In fact, its origins could not be further from the truth and there is currently a movement to rehabilitate its image and indeed to encourage its widespread use in the same way that Americans, of whatever ethnicity, fly their national flag in backyards across the States.

tricolourThe Irish Tricolour was first flown in Waterford by Thomas Francis Meagher on March 7, 1848, at the Wolfe Tone Confederate Club at 33 The Mall. This was also of significance as Wolfe Tone a century before had fired up a movement that said: ‘Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter all unite under the common name of United Irishman.’  Meagher had just returned from France and wanted to realise a vision of a New Ireland from the wreck of the old sectarian Ireland. The band of white in the flag was the symbol of peace to join Irish Catholic with Irish Protestant and to forge a new unity and brotherhood between the two sides in a country that had been desecrated by the Great Famine.

 

Meagher went on to take part in the Young Ireland Famine Rebellion and subsequently sentenced to death for treason. This judgement was parleyed by Queen Victoria into deportation to Tasmania from which he escaped and moved to America. There Meagher continued to make a difference and this time joined the Union in the American Civil War. He raised a full company to fight with the 69th Infantry Regiment and went to head up the Irish Brigade. As a result of his involvement, the 69th Regiment became known as the Fighting 69ners. Following the war he was appointed Governor of Montana where he was institutional in bringing that territory towards statehood – the grant of which only happened twenty years after his death.  He is commemorated by statutes both in his native Waterford and in Helena, state capital of Montana.

A great orator, when he brought the flag to Ireland in 1848 he said:

…I trust that the old country will not refuse this symbol of a new life from one of her youngest children. I need not explain its meaning. The quick and passionate intellect of the generation now springing into arms will catch it at a glance. The white in the centre signifies a lasting truce between the “orange” and the “green” and I trust that beneath its folds, the hands of the Irish Protestant and the Irish Catholic may be clasped in generous and heroic brotherhood…” 

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But it was not until 1916 that the Tricolour was flown again, this time when it was raised at the GPO in Dublin during the Easter Uprising and it was not until 1937 that it was formally adopted as the national flag.

 

 

Six years ago visionary local historian James Doherty from Waterford recognised the significant of the Tricolour, its history and the links with the 69th Infantry Regiment in New York. The 1848 Tricolour Celebration Committee was established that reached out to the 69th Infantry Regiment which resulted in a delegation arriving in Waterford to cement the connections. Every year since, a delegation arrives and Meagher, the Tricolour and the 69ners are celebrated. This year, Waterford went one step further and on Thursday March 12 renamed the river Suir bridge the Thomas Francis Meagher Bridge. The river Suir bridge was completed in 2009, is part of the N25 Waterford bypass and the longest single-span bridge in the Republic .

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I was privileged to be part of the Island of Ireland Peace choir (formerly the Waterford Omagh Peace Choir) that sang at the Gala Dinner and subsequently at a formal military ceremony attended by full military honours and ambassadors, including this year Kevin Vickers, the Canadian Ambassador to Ireland. You may recall Kevin as he was the sergeant at arms that single handed stopped the lone terrorist attack on the Canadian Parliament last year.  Standing at well over six feet tall, Kevin commended the choir following its performance during the dinner. Our rendition of Oh Danny Boy had moved him to tears. The following day he joined in our singing, becoming an honorary member of the choir.

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Colonel Jim Tierney spoke at the dinner. He spoke in Gaelic, translating it afterwards into English for the non-Gaelic speakers and into English for the Gaelic speakers! He spoke about the impact of political correctness on the history of the Regiment. For much of the last quarter of the last century, the emphasis on diversity did not allow for the celebration of ethnicity. It was not until the Regiment got an invitation to come to Waterford five years ago that the links were refreshed and the Regiment had an emotional home-coming to Waterford. He and his men fully embraced the connection and wished to see it continue and grow year on year. He also spoke of the role of Irishmen in the American Civil War. Recent historians are now estimating that more Irishmen fought in the American Civil War than in World War One, with Meagher being an inspired leader, seeking justice for the repressed.

This talk was given in the Granville Hotel, originally the birthplace of Meagher and was a fitting location to lead such a tribute. And as for the breakfast – I am sure that Meagher would have been impressed with that too. A choir can only sing on its stomach and we sang like canaries after that!

One final interesting fact: the Tricolour when first flown outside 33 the Mall was raised back to front with the orange band next to the flagpole. The 1848 Tricolour committee spoke with the Irish Department of Defence for permission to re-enact this mistake but permission was refused. For those of you in the military you will already know the reason for refusal – a national flag flown upside down or the wrong way around is an international symbol of disaster or distress. And we were far from that in Waterford at the weekend.

Interesting links:

The Island of Ireland Peace choir in practice before the Gala Dinner

A RTE compilation

The Tricolour site