May 10th 1916

Nevil Norway

Mrs Sturt tells me that she and her husband have received a postcard from Mrs Norway’s sister to say that young Nevil Norway is now safely back at Shrewsbury School for the Summer Term. He visited his aunt on the way back from Dublin on May 5th and reported that the family are well but had lost a number of valuable possessions, which had been stored safely – so they thought – in his father’s office in the burnt-out GPO.

Mrs Norway has also passed on another story of Nevil’s work with the Red Cross:

30/4/16. “This week has been a wonderful week for Nevil, never before has a boy of seventeen had such an experience. Yesterday morning he was at the Automobile Club, filling cans of petrol from casks for the Red Cross Ambulances. In the afternoon he went round in an ambulance with the Lord Mayor collecting food for forty starving refugees harboured in the Mansion House, and then went out for wounded, and brought in an old man of 78 shot through the body. He was quite cheery and asked Nevil if he thought he would get over it? So Nevil said, ‘Good Lord, yes! Why not?’ and bucked the old man up.”

You might wonder at Nevil’s pluck, but nowadays at the Public Schools the Officer Training Corps are preparing the boys for war and Nevil will have had two years of training, so that he was in readiness for such events as occurred in Dublin.

Sackville St in Dublin after the uprising…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 5th 1916

A second letter from Mrs Norway has been received, covering the events of April 27th-29th in Dublin.

28/2/16. “Yesterday was the worst day we have had, as there was desperate fighting in Grafton Street at our back and the side streets and several volleys in our street. In the morning I was sitting on a big settee in the window of the Lounge, looking out, and listening to the firing in Grafton Street when some shots were fired just outside our windows, and the Manager rushed in and said “We must shut all the shutters, it is getting a bit too hot,” so all the shutters were closed and I moved up to the drawing room, which also overlooks the street. Just then, the Red Cross sent in to call for volunteers and several men, including Nevil, went off.”

The situation improved in the afternoon, although Mrs Norway witnessed considerable looting from a nearby fruiterer’s shop:

“I never saw anything so brazen: the mob were chiefly women and children with a sprinkling of men; they swarmed in and out of the side entrance bearing huge consignments of bananas, the long bunches on the stalk, to which the children attached a cord and then ran away dragging it along; other boys had orange boxes which they filled with tinned and bottled fruits, women with their skirts held up received from the windows showers of oranges and apples and all kinds of fruit, which were thrown down by their pals…”

The following day (April 28th) was a day of considerable stress for Mrs Norway:

“I am still rather shaky from a fright I got last night. It is too long a story to write in detail, but we had reason to think that Nevil, who is working with the Red Cross Ambulance, had fallen into the hands of the rebels, and we spent an hour I don’t even like to remember and that unnerved me more than I like to think possible. The thing was unfounded and we found out he was all right, and this morning he turned up to breakfast and has now gone off again.

He is, of course, safer attached to the Red Cross than roaming the streets making rescues on his own, but the risks are many and great: among other things, they enter houses where there are known to be wounded Sinn Feiners and bring them out. This Nevil was doing yesterday…”

Nevil has indeed shown a lot of pluck for a boy of his age – but having lost her older son already to the war, Mrs Norway’s resolve is also to be marvelled at.

The night of the 28th was no easier for Mrs Norway and fellow residents in the Royal Hibernian Hotel. Bullets came through windows in an annexe, which had to be evacuated. All of them had to take refuge in the hotel’s lounge, fearing all the time that the hotel might be set on fire by the rebels. Only later could they venture to bed:

“Things quieted down and about 11.30 we crept up to our room and lay down in our clothes.”

In the morning an officer visited the hotel to try to persuade everyone that it had been the military whose bullets came through their windows the previous evening. Mrs Norway felt this to be the case.

“People were constantly pulling up their blinds with the lights on, probably servants and residents, to look at the fires, and the military have orders to fire on anything that resembles signalling, without asking any questions, and I expect that this is the true version.”

Mrs Norway rounded off her letter with the news of the rebels’ surrender:

29/4/16 4pm. “Sir M. Nathan has just rung up to say that the rebels have surrendered unconditionally. We have no details and the firing continues in isolated parts, but if the leaders have surrendered it can only be a question of a few hours before peace is restored and we can go forth and look on the wreck and destruction of this great city.

And so end six of the most terrible days in the history of Ireland, comparable only to the Indian Mutiny.”

 

 

 

 

May 2nd 1916

Word has come from Dublin that the Norway family are safe. A lengthy letter written by Mrs Norway, chronicling the events she has witnessed, has been received by her sister Grace. She has kindly furnished Mrs Sturt with a copy of this letter.

It transpires that Nevil and his mother found themselves outside the Post Office only ten minutes after it had been taken by the rebels – they were expecting to meet up with Mr Norway for lunch nearby.

His mother writes (dated April 25th) “We were close to the GPO when two or three shots were fired followed by a volley and the crowd began rushing down towards the bridge and people calling out ‘Go back, go back, the Sinn Feiners are firing.” I told Nevil I was going back and fled with the crowd, but Nevil said he would go on.

I got safely back to the hotel and found consternation, every moment people coming in with tales of people being shot in the streets and the whole of St. Stephen’s Green being in the hands of the rebels. I was told that the Post Office has been stormed, the Guard shot and the Sinn Feiners were in possession and firing volleys on the police from the windows.

About 1.30 p.m. Nevil returned and we had an anxious lunch.”

Their anxiety was allayed by a telephone call informing them that, just before the attack, Mr Norway had been summoned from the GPO to a conference in Dublin Castle and, although he was trapped there, he was safe. Had he still been at his desk, he would certainly have been taken hostage.

Nevil witnessed the arrival on the scene of a troop of Lancers. As they drew up, the rebels opened fire and he saw four go down before he scattered with the rest of the crowd.

The following day (April 26th) Mrs Norway reported that “the military are pouring into the City and are in the Shelbourne Hotel and Trinity College. The rebels have barricaded Sackville Street… While I am writing now there is incessant firing in St. Stephen’s Green and we fear there may be street fighting in this street (Dawson St).”

St Stephen's Green

A rough sketch – the Norways live on Dawson Street.

Notwithstanding the rebel positions on St Stephen’s Green, Mrs Norway seems to have been happy for Nevil (still only 17 years of age) to leave the hotel to explore the situation further:

“Nevil did a very plucky thing… He walked up to St. Stephen’s Green and saw a little group of men peering through the railings from our side into the Green. He went to see what they were looking at and found an extraordinary sight. A small gate in the railings had been barricaded by the rebels by putting one of the garden seats against it upside down and on the top of that another garden seat right side up, and lying full length on the seat, face downwards, was a man with all his lower jaw blown away and bleeding profusely.

Nevil immediately climbed the railings and dropped down on the other side, and ascertained the man was alive; he then turned and fairly cursed the men who were peering in, and asked if there was not one man enough to come over the railings and help him move the poor creature, whereupon three men climbed over and together they lifted down the seat with the man on it, dragged away the other seat, and so opened the gate and brought out the seat and man without moving him.

Nevil escorted the men till they were close to Mercer’s Hospital and then left them to take him in. When it is possible I will go and find out if the man is alive, but Nevil says he does not think he could possibly live. It was a terrible case.”

The newspapers today indicate that although Sackville Street is in ruins and the GPO nothing more than a shell, the situation in Dublin is now well under control, the rebels having surrendered. We look forward to further news of the Norways nonetheless.