Sean Heuston – Easter Rising

On Easter Monday Sean Heuston was assigned command at the Mendicity Institution, a building on the south side of the River Liffey, to the west of the Four Courts where Daly and the 1st Battalion were based. Heuston’s function was to control the route between the Royal Barracks (later Collins Barracks, now the National Museum of Ireland) and the Four Courts for some hours so that Daly and the remainder of the 1st Battalion would have time to settle in. In the event, Heuston and his force of less than 30 men held out for over two days against far superior numbers on the British Army, estimated to be in the region of 300 to 400 men.

By Tuesday evening the British Army were encircling the Mendicity Institute and it was clear to Heuston the situation was looking grim.

On Wednesday two Volunteers were badly wounded, Liam Staines and Dick Balfe, both close friends of Sean Heuston. This was almost the last incident of the fight. The bomb burst in Staines’s hand as he rushed towards a window to hurl it back. He collapsed on the floor. Dick Balfe, who was behind him, was also severely injured by the explosion. The two men lay in agony on the floor, half-dying, and their companions know that within the Mendicity there was no hope of saving their lives. Apart from this, the garrison were spent with hunger and fatigue, surrounded without chance of retreat, so hopelessly trapped that they could not even fight their way out so dominated was every exit and point by the British snipers and machine-gunners, badly shattered in nerve by the din of bomb, rifle and machine-gun together. Heuston knew that the one hope of saving wounded and uninjured alike was to surrender. Nor was even this a clear alternative. It had been impossible for the last few hours for even a single dispatch carrier to leave. Human endurance and courage had reached their limit. After a brief consultation with his men, Heuston ordered the white flag to be hoisted from the windows, and marched out, with little more than a score of Volunteers – twenty to twenty-six in all, according to the reckoning of contemporary accounts and the memories of the survivors.