The events of the 1916 Rising are unfolding on Twitter as never seen before

26 Apr 2016

The 1916 Live project transforms telegrams into tweets. Image via Shutterstock

From “mischief brewing” to the execution of rebels, one Twitter account has been captivating users with a minute-by-minute account of the Easter Rising in 1916.

The week of 24 to 29 April 1916 was a transformative one in Irish history. Now, 100 years on, historians and enthusiasts are using digital media to tell the story in a variety of new ways.

A fresh perspective offered through new media comes via 1916 Live on Twitter. This account is tied to the 1916 Live project, which is releasing a cache of documents from Dublin Castle exactly 100 years since they were logged.

These documents – which include telephone messages, call records, telegraphs, letters and secret communications – were taken from Dublin Castle to England by Matthew Nathan, who, in 1916, was under-secretary for Ireland, a key role in the British administration of the country.

Nathan and chief secretary Augustine Birrell faced criticism from a royal commission of enquiry following the Rising, and these documents, providing a detailed and vivid account of what transpired, were valuable evidence.

The documents were kept in Nathan’s private papers until 1961 when they were given to the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library. Now, a team of volunteers has transcribed each document for release online, making them freely available worldwide for the first time in history.

From the early suspicions to the full-on outbreak of rebellion, different divisions of the Dublin Metropolitan Police were all reporting messages back to Dublin Castle, then the British seat of power in Ireland. Outside of Dublin, telegraphs were transmitted from the Royal Irish Constabulary’s county inspectors, updating the administration on developments outside of the capital.

Each document that has been tweeted is also hosted on the 1916 Live website with full transcriptions. (And should you spot an error in one such transcription, you might find yourself on the site’s Roll of Honour.)

The website also provides a glossary of terms and abbreviations used in the documents, which also add a bit of cultural context to the 100-year-old events, reminding us that there was Sackville Street, Kingstown and Westland Row Station before there was O’Connell Street, Dún Laoghaire and Pearse Station.

Other helpful notes aid readers in understanding the divisions of the Dublin Metropolitan Police and what districts they represented, and a rough diagram outlines the chain of communication.

Now into the third day of tweeting, credit must be given to Naomi O’Leary, Bill Hollingsworth, Kit RickardMichael Lanigan, Rory O’Regan and Rachel Rose O’Leary, whose painstaking transcriptions have given us this incredible blow-by-blow account of events that paved the way for Ireland’s independence and heralded the decline of the British empire.

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Telegram image via Shutterstock

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.