by ehistoryadmin on January 9, 2015

Picture emerges of Naas fatality of the Easter Rising … April 1916 

Liam Kenny

A photograph has emerged almost 100 years after it was taken of a Naas man who was killed in the opening minutes of the Easter Rising in April 1916. Local historian and collector Brian Mullaney purchased a number of photographs of military groups at an auction in 1992. The formally posed photographs appealed to him because of their quality but they did not seem to have any particular local significance. It was only some months ago – more than twenty years after he purchased them – that Brian took a closer look at the captions and spotted gazing out at him was the pleasant countenance of Alfred Warmington, son of the manager of the Munster and Leinster Bank in Naas. The photograph is dated October, 4th 1915 taken in England and featured a group of Royal Irish Regiment officers who judging from their care-free faces were most likely on their way to the carnage of the Western Front. Within seven months of posing for the photo Alfred Warmington was dead – not on some far foreign battlefield but on the streets of  Dublin.

Alfred Ernest was the only son of the long-serving bank manager (between 1885-1917) – also Alfred Warmington — of the Munster & Leinster Bank (now the Allied Irish Bank) in Naas. He had lived in the Bank House with his parents for some time. Although not born in the town his name is on the 1911 Census as resident with his parents at Bank House in South Main Street, Naas.

His father had moved to different parts of Ireland in his career as a bank official. He had worked in Cork, Kerry and Queen’s County (Laois) in the 1870/80s. It was in the latter that Alfred Ernest was born in the early 1870s. The family moved to Naas when his father became Manager of the Munster & Leinster bank in South Main Street in 1885.

Alfred Ernest was in his late teens when he left Ireland to seek his fortune in South Africa. He arrived as the tensions were building between the Dutch settlers (Boers) in and the British colonial administration. When the tensions boiled over into all-out war in 1899 Warmington joined Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry, a militia brigade which was in the front line as the British attempted to dislodge the Boers.

Thorneycroft’s Infantry was involved in a mountain assault at the hill known as Spion Kop (think Liverpool F.C.) in January 1900. It turned into a humiliating defeat for the British and Warmington was fortunate to survive the withering fire poured down by the canny Boers. His experience of war did not put him off South Africa and when the fighting stopped he enlisted in the CapePolice force in 1902.

However some time after he returned to Ireland and was in Naas in 1911 when the census was taken. His occupation at this time is uncertain but a strong clue is evident from a plaque at Heuston Station (formerly King’s Bridge) which lists him as one of the employees of the Great Southern & Western Railway Company who died in the period 1914-18.

When war drums again sounded with the outbreak for the “Great War” he returned to the colours and, no doubt, based on his distinguished service in South Africa was given an officer rank as a Captain in the Royal Irish Regiment. He most likely saw some fighting as the initial fluid phase of the war gave way to the stalemate in the trenches. He was posted back to Ireland for rest and recuperation and there is evidence to suggest that he had only come back to Dublin in late March 1916 just weeks before the Rising was to break out.. He reported to a Royal Irish Regiment depot unit quartered at Richmond Barracks in Inchicore.

After the heat and dirty fighting of the Boer War and the mud and carnage of Flanders, Alfred Warmington must surely have felt safe back in the capital city of his own country. However having survived two wars his luck was about to run out.

Close to noon on Easter Monday, 1916, a battalion of Irish Volunteers occupied the South Dublin Union (now the area of St James’ Hospital) in parallel with the takeover of the GPO. The volunteers were under the command of Eamon Ceannt, Cathal Brugha and W T Cosgrave.

The British troops in Richmond Barracks were on band parade that morning– the volunteers could hear the music from their positions in the South Dublin Union. Suddenly the music stopped. A message had been sent from Dublin Castle to Richmond Barracks to say that the rebels had taken over key positions in the city and reinforcements were needed.

A party from the Royal Irish Regiment set off from Richmond Barracks towards James Street on the way to tackle the rebels in the city centre. But they were stopped  by fire from Ceannt’s men in position behind the high walls of the South Dublin Union. The Royal Irish commander, Lieut-Colonel Owens decided to try and take the Union from another direction. He instructed Warmington to take a company around to the back gate of Union at the Rialto end of the boundary wall.

A party of eight oIrish Volunteers under the command of George Irvine had taken occupation of tin sheds inside the gate. The sheds had been occupied by patients and a nurse but they were hustled out by the Volunteers.

The British troops took cover behind the perimeter wall of the Union as they searched for a way to attack the Volunteers inside. According to the testimony of one of the Volunteers a British officer was seen to clamber up on the wall for a better look. He was shot down. This first fatality was a Lieut Alan Ramsey, a British officer from Donnybrook. It appears that within minutes Alfred Warmington, most likely enraged by the death of his comrade, had rashly burst through the gate but he met the same fate and was shot down. His death came very early in the timeline of the rising. He was buried temporarily but later exhumed and buried in the military cemetery at Blackhorse Avenue.

Word of Warmington’s death filtered back to his parents in the Bank house in South Main Street, Naas, where it, no doubt, caused great grief to the household. And despite the shift in public opinion to support of the rebels in the weeks after the Rising there was still sympathy in the town for the Warmington family. Both of his parents had been active members of Naas society, participating in charity and civic groups and well regarded in the locality.

At its meeting the following month the Naas Board of Guardians (local council) passed a vote of “deep sympathy” to the Warmington family. One of its members, Mr. Gogarty, summed up the irony of his death when he said that it was “regrettable that having gone through the South African campaign he should meet his death in his own country.” 

Thanks to the observant eye of local historian Brian Mullaney, a photographic image of the pleasant looking officer has been discovered and adds another dimension to the story of a Naas man struck down in the first hours of a rebellion which would transform Ireland.

Some corrections from last week’s article about the 150th anniversary of Alexandra Bridge in Clane. The earlier article by Brendan Cullen appeared in the Clane History Group’s journal “Coiseanna” and the church of St Patrick and St Bridgid is this year marking its 130th anniversary. Leinster Leader 8 April, Looking Back Series no: 376.



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