The Revolutionary Diary of Dr Kathleen Lynn

Dr Kathleen Lynn's diary offers a unique, first-hand insight into her experiences following the 1916 Easter Rising. 


Dr Kathleen Lynn was Chief Medical Officer for the Irish Citizens Army. On Easter Monday she was stationed at City Hall, from which post she treated the wounded. The position was re-captured by the British forces on the evening of Easter Monday and Lynn was arrested and imprisoned in Ship Street and Richmond Barracks, Kilmainham and Mountjoy Gaols.

Use the timeline below to read her diary entries made during the first three weeks of her imprisonment.

The entries are given as they are written in the diary. [          ] are used to indicate if there is some doubt over the original word, and to expand the names of individuals mentioned in the entries; Lynn often referrers to her friends by initials or nicknames.

For information on the people mentioned in the entry use our Who's Who glossary.

24th - 30th April

Easter Monday. Revolution. Emer [Helena Molony] and I in City Hall, [Sean] Connolly shot quite early in day. Place taken in evening. All women taken to Ship St about 8.30. Mrs [Kathleen] Barrett, [Annie and Emily] Norgrove, [Bridget] Davis & I joined later on by [Bessie] Lynch, [Jane] Shanaghan & [Bridget] Brady - we were locked up in a filthy store, given blankets thick with lice and fleas to cover us & some ‘biscuits’ to lie on, not enough to go round.

Easter Monday, 24th April 1916

Ship Street Barracks. [William] Halpin brought in, utterly exhausted having been in chimney, without food, since evening of 24th.

We objected to lavatory accommodation & heard it was good enough for us, that lice, fleas & typhoid should content us. Another officer had the W.C. cleaned & was quite civil. Had good dinner, same as soldiers.

Tuesday 25th April 1916

Saw Halpin this morning when M. O. promised to send him to hospital at once. Left lying on board till evening.

Asked M.O. for baths & exercise. Saw men prisoners with him, who were much worse off than we, about 30 in a small lock up room, with absolutely nothing in it but a wooden platform, no bedding, no washing apparatus – herded like a lot of swine, poor fellows, M.O. promised baths & exercise & was really kind.

Wednesday 26th April 1916

Heard Halpin died in hospital this morning. Last night had our first night visitor, a drunken prostitute, fired in on us, it gave those who were asleep a great fright. She quieted down soon.

Firing on & off all day – siege fare, bully beef & biscuits, tea without milk. Many tales of headquarters being gassed, burnt out, etc. Very heavy firing all night, we thought place would come down any minute. Much perturbation in barracks, sentries evidently every few yards, challenging passers to & fro.

Thursday 27th April 1916

Had sardines for dinner which kind hearted sergeant gave us. Molly Sullivan, the prostitute, got out early, she is a soldier’s girl.

Friday 28th April 1916

Two chaplains came, I.C. & R.C. The R.C. girls very sad theirs said they couldn’t have Mass, but he promised to say the Rosary with them. Ours said he would give Celebration at 8 a.m. for the two Norgroves & myself. Heard definitely that H.Q. had surrendered & that [James] Connolly was wounded. 

Saturday night/Sunday morning. Terribly excited drunken prostitute brought in, nearly mad, her brother shot Tuesday & she had gone to see body. We couldn’t quiet her. Two soldiers came in, one held revolver to her head, other twisted her wrists, Emer [Helena Molony] jumped up, told him to stop & had revolver turned on her. They were brutal. Deo Gracias they left I gave poor soul morphine hypodermic. She lay down & slept beside me. The remains of decent country women with husband & baby & she loved her brother so.

Saturday 29th April 1916

Our clergyman came early & said he couldn’t have Celebration, there was no place, I insisted & he had it, a very hurried affair, over in 10 min. I gave him note for L[izzie] Smartt, small hope he will deliver it. He said almost in same breath that we had all surrendered & that streets were impassable on account of our snipers, which can’t both be true. I asked him for prayer book, never got it.

Nurse [Tresson] came in at dinner time & poor prostitute woman got out, with notes for E. Young & L[izzie] Smartt. She was very grateful - I had long chat with her – six of our men got out of Jacob’s early this morning & got unobserved by all but us down Ship Street.

Sunday 30th April 1916

1st - 7th May

Taken to Kilmainham. Miss O’Farrell came in prisoner at dinner time, she had been round all our centers, under British escort advising surrender, as Connolly’s prisoner, most centres very averse, doing well, why all gave in we can’t understand, some trick behind that. She was promised safe convoy home & taken prisoner at Ship Street so much for British honour. In afternoon about 50 men and we 12 women marched off via Thomas Street to Richmond barracks, great ovation as we marched along, only separation women hooted.

In Castle Yard officer told soldier to prod Nurse Treston with bayonet for not at once falling into line saying he had seen her shoot 6 police & others all in barracks since Monday. Saw Father Columba at Richmond, who got Miss O'Farrell released. Men stayed in Richmond and we went Kilmainham, 3 in cells, one bed. [Bridget] Davis, [Jane] Shanahan & I together. Gruel & dog biscuits for our supper. I can’t sleep, fearful irritated nightly.

Monday 1st May 1916

Saw M[adeline ffrench-Mullen] early this mg. Greatest joy. Emer [Helena Molony], she & I have cell together, such joy, cheerfully we do with one basin of water for washings, hog wash of cocoa & dog biscuits for breakfast. Madam Markievicz here in solitary. We had loan of her comb & soap. Day is breakfast at 7.30, exercise some time in morning for hour. When we are all together, about 70 Irish Citizens Army, Cumann na mBan etc.

Saw many we knew & heard much news – M.O. here absolutely useless, looks like drug maniac. Dinner 12.30, good soup – potatoes, dog biscuit, cheese nice change from eternal bully beef. Sleep after dinner. I searched & found body lice cause of my trouble. Supper 5.30 - porridge dog biscuit. Bed when dark, no candles.

(Image courtesy of Kilmainham Gaol Museum, 18PC-1B53-02)

Tuesday 2nd May 1916

Heard afterwards that Halpin did not die, but was recovering slowly in hospital. Miss Perolz here, arrested in her house on suspicion.

On Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday about 3 am. we heard volleys fired under cell windows. Tuesday 3, Wednesday 3, Thurs 1. We hear they have shot members of Provisional Government.

Wednesday 3rd May 1916

James J Walsh sentenced to death, commuted to penal servitude for life. Deported to Portland. Fine still, ever since Republic proclaimed weather has been glorious. M[adeline ffrench-Mullen] wrote to her mother, asking her to come & see her, governor objected to this, but said she might ask for clothes, religious books or food.

Thursday 4th May 1916

Wrote home & a card to Mlle, L[izzie] S[martt] & D[ora] Carleton to be passed on. To-day’s matrons very savage if anyone rings or disturbs them in the least. Other 2 are very different.

Friday 5th May 1916

Saturday. M[adeline ffrench-Mullen] & I asked to see governor, spoke to him about Church to-morrow, begged him to have young girls examined immediately & released- so far as we know none have been examined for 3 days. Heard our letters had not gone but would to-day. Thinking much of all at home. After a chaplain, Mr. Pearson, came, young, kindly, not understanding our position at all.

We are to have Mattins to-morrow at 12, followed by Celebration at my request. He says he knows Canon Carleton, thinks it a pity that ‘Protestants’ should be mixed up in Revolution. ‘Cross’ matron more civil since we spoke. Father Albert [Bibby], Church Street, came later & was nice & kindly.

Saturday 6th May 1916

Sunday. No breakfast till 9.30. I pitied the others. I wasn’t having any on account of Celebration at 12. M[adeline ffrench-Mullen] very disappointed because she wasn’t let go to Mass, not having made statement. We’re both called 11.30, only asked name, occupation, where taken, rank, corps etc. Papers must go to London to night, hence hurry, after a week’s idling. Whole 71 statements could easily be taken in 2 hrs.

Service = shortened Mattins, certainly hearty, many hymns, extraordinarily bad harmonium. Only E[mily] Norgrove & I communicated. Great improvement on last Sunday’s service. Was 1 ¼ hrs away. M[adeline ffrench-Mullen] was getting very lonely.

It has rained incessantly for 3 days. We didn’t get out at all & food etc. much worse than other days. No visits from Padres.

Sunday 7th May 1916

8th - 17th May

Heard 3 shots this morning, told later on Mallin, Ceannt & Colbert had been shot. That makes 7. What other country shoots its prisoners in cold blood! God bless them, they did not fear to die for Ireland. All had exercise this morning. Delighted to see Emer [Helena Molony] again. Heard Madam [Markievicz] came back last night (was taken away yesterday) and that she has a maid to attend her & tea & egg for breakfast. They say she has had life sentence.

Afternoon some appeared before 2nd tribunal but Madeline [ffrench-Mullen] & I were reserved for the General. Later saw Father Albert [Biddy]. He was with Mallin, Ceannt & Colbert this morning. They were wonderful in their consciousness of the Unseen & went to deaths with prayers on lips. He could have wished to be in their place. We were so sad after he left. We looked out on the hills and thought of psalms which have been such a comfort to us.

When all in bed great [racket] began – all unimportant people to go – hurry & scurry to get them out & in a very short time all were back again, it having just struck governor that young girls couldn’t go alone through streets at that hour.

Monday 8th May 1916

The girls got off about 7.15, some came to say goodbye at our door, but soon the dragon, Barrett saw & stopped them. All gone now of our special set but Emer [Helena Molony], Miss [Nellie] Gifford, Madeline [ffrench-Mullen] & myself. There are 8 others, some recently taken – here now, Countess upstairs is Plunkett not Markieviz who is in Mountjoy. Heard Grace Gifford & Joe Plunkett were married in his cell on Sunday & that he was shot next morning.

Little chap [Cain] came with [Lavengero] & kind message on Carletons but had cheek to advise me to give up my Republican friends, told him I would follow my conscience. Heard very pitiful crying, it was Miss [Nellie] Gifford, her brother told her that 2 brothers in law were shot, MacDonaghPlunkett. Kind matron let me go to her for a little. Just at bedtime we were scurried off in Black Maria to Mountjoy, travelled with Countess Plunkett. Went by bye streets for fear of a rescue.

Tuesday 9th May 1916

Mountjoy clean & comfortable, but I’d give £10,000 for Kilmainham & Madeline [ffrench-Mullen].

Matrons very kind. Hot bath with M[adeline ffrench-Mullen]G[ifford]. Dinner soon after. Heard F[ather] & L[izzie] Smartt were here to see me. I am so sorry he came, it is hard to grieve one’s Father, but I could not do otherwise. He didn’t look too bad, I thought. N[an Lynn] was there but didn’t see her. Had to talk through gratings with passage between. Heard Carruthers was all right. Glad Jane keeps house at No. 9. Good Jane. Exercise in afternoon. Allowed to talk, such a comfort. Good messages from Deutchland. N[ellie] Gifford looks better, Emer [Helena Molony] very well, M[adeline ffrench-Mullen] not bad.

Wednesday 10th May 1916

Heard McBride, Maeve’s [Maud Gonne] husband really shot this time. Busy all day mending my combinations.

Thursday 11th May 1916

A very black Friday. Fardie [Father] & Nan [Lynn] were here, oh, so reproachful, they wouldn’t listen to me & looked as if they would cast me off for ever. How sorry I am for their sorrow! Erin needs very big sacrifices. I am glad they go home to-morrow. Why do they always misunderstand me? Had dear little sympathetic note from N. Whitley this morning & sweets & marmalade from [Courry]. Their message gave much joy. Heard that Sean McDermott, the lame boy & Connolly have been shot & that Asquith is here, that Dillon has upheld us in Parliament.

Friday 12th May 1916

There hasn’t been much to note, nothing happens here, but everyone is kind (not governor etc.) & we have many gifts of fruit, flowers etc. from kind friends. Saw D Maguire yesterday & Dora Carleton, both very disapproving - Lizzie Smartt to-day the same.

Wednesday 17th May 1916