From first appearances the 1916 Rise of the Rebels bus looks like a fairly standard, Dublin Bus issue, double decker, albeit one wrapped with a gigantic copy of the Proclamation, however once you board the bus you realise its a lot different from the usual 41a.
The ground floor is decked out with early 20th Century era photographs, statues of the Virgin Mary and packing crates draped with what look like Lee Enfield rifles. When you take your seat upstairs you’re given the effect of being in a pretty bombed out GPO looking out at an equally devastated Clery’s.
As we set off from College Green we’re greeted by our enthusiastic tour-guide who identifies herself as a member of Cumann na mBan and proceeds to set the historical context for our journey. She is later joined by our second guide in the guise of an Irish Citizen Army volunteer although both of our guides change roles throughout the tour.
One of the great strengths of the tour is that the roles and performances of our tour-guide actors is taken directly from the witness statements of those who were involved in the Rising. At various points we are hearing the words of Rosie Hackett, Maeve Cavanagh, Oscar Traynor, Cathal Brugha, Eamon Bulfin and many more brought to life to great effect.
The tour lasts for about two hours and features three interesting stops when you can stretch your legs and learn about specific actions that took place during the Rising. The three locations are Dublin Castle, where we learn about the opening shots fired in Dublin and the actions of Sean Connolly, the GPO (from where the tour walks Henry Place and then Moore Street) and finally onto Richmond Barracks. While many will be familiar with the GPO and the Castle the remains of Richmond Barracks are tucked away in Inchicore, but it was to here that the participants of the Rising were marched after the surrender and before their short, and in some cases final journey to nearby Kilmainham gaol.
It’s a tour that can be enjoyed by both the history buff or by someone with little knowledge of the Rising or of the social and historical conditions of Dublin in the early 20th Century. The passionate and engaging performance of the actor-guides and the use of the original witness statements are the tour’s strongest selling points and really give it that immersive feel. It’s one we’d highly recommend.
The 1916 Rise of the Rebels Bus Tour runs every day from College Green at 11am, 2pm & 7.30pm. For a sneak preview of the tour check out the video here.