The Murder of a Murderer – Part 2 – Revenge

Sackville Street and O'Connell Bridge.(A dark story from the Dublin Insurrection continued)

 It was the rebels in Kelly’s store that plotted just revenge for such a blatant murder of innocent Dubliners. The men near the smashed windows facing the river saw the flash of the soldier’s rifle, as he fired twice at the bridge. Men looking out the Sackville Street facade saw the death of Adams and Olds. They were not the least silent in their reaction to it; screaming colourfully and promising bloody murder against any Crown forces that they could get to fire on. The Bachelor’s Walk facade rebels had seen the window used by Tyler, but could not expose themselves to the McBirney party’s fire, in order to shoot at him. They sent a messenger back to the G.P.O. with news of the incident on the bridge. From there the runner made his way safely to the Hopkins & Hopkins outpost, where the Volunteers stationed there were as outraged as the Kelly party. Everyone was discussing how to get the British sniper. The roof rebels returning to the ground floor to eat said that it was suicidal to try. To raise their heads above the parapet was to draw fire from Trinity College, Tara Street and the Custom House, as well as McBirney’s. Volunteer Michael Darker was the only one that could view McBirney’s in relative safety, as he had a pocket mirror strapped to the end of a walking stick. Although it attached fire when he used it, he was put at little risk. He had spent most of the day looking at Aston Quay, although failing to see the shots that hit Adams and Olds. Now he looked again, but could see nobody at any of the windows. As they discussed tactics, a shout from one of the sentries caught their attention. “There is movement on the bridge!” As one, they moved to the windows, prepared to repel an attack. However, what they saw was an ambulance slowly driving onto the bridge. “Hold your fire, men. They are not who we are after.”

Across at McBirney’s, the soldiers followed the ambulance’s advance too. Stopping at the middle of the bridge, the driver stayed behind the wheel with the engine running. The rear doors opened and two medics jumped out. They reached back into the ambulance, extracting a canvas stretcher and a white sheet. They waved the sheet in the direction of Aston Quay. When satisfied that the British would not fire, they flew it towards the rebels and the north end of the bridge. With a large portion of hope, they stepped out from behind the vehicle.

1916 St John’s Ambulance.

They shared the stretcher under one arm, while waving the sheet with the other. They hurried to the corpses lying where they had fallen, minutes before. As quickly as possible, they separated the two men and loaded them onto the stretcher. They returned into the ambulance and banged on the driver’s compartment for him to go. He slammed the engine into gear and reversed off the bridge back to Westmoreland Street. Robert Adam’s coat and cane laid on the bridge for the rest of the week. Back in Hopkins, Volunteer Darker was finalising his plan against the McBirney sniper. He explained it to the John O’Neill, the messenger from Kelly’s.   “I see it like this, John. We can see McBirney’s, but the parapet of the bridge prevents us from firing at it except from the roof, which is too dangerous to be an option. You, in Kelly’s, can shoot there but dare not look because of the exposure you would suffer. So, let’s combine our positions; we will look and you guys will shoot. If we can time it, so that you shoot right after the sniper fires, you just might get lucky.” Agreeing with this plan, O’Neill left on the roundabout route back to Kelly’s. Meanwhile, Michael Darker arranged things at Hopkin’s end. They made a temporary flag out of a checkered tablecloth and a chair leg. This was given to a man stationed at a window on the Sackville Street side of their shop. “Face me, Tom. When I wave my hand, you wave the flag. They will see it in Kelly’s, even if you are not looking at them. Stay alert now!” The afternoon squad for the roof were sent aloft, with orders to keep their heads down when the shooting starts. Michael took the best available window position and, armed with his mirror, hunkered down facing the volunteer with the flag. The rest of the party took whatever window positions were left.

Over in McBirney’s, acting Corporal Tyler was also taking a break to eat something. He had moved down to the first floor, which the soldiers were using as a rest area. There was total support for his accuracy as a crack shot sniper. “You don’t like wasting ammunition, eh Alf!” “No, although they are making it too easy for me. I got three yesterday and already two today!” Nobody challenged the legitimacy of his victims. After half an hour of small talk, Alfred rose with two new bandoliers of bullets to use during the afternoon shift. “Do you not want a break? We can send someone else, if you want to catch some shut-eye.” He declined, saying that he did not want to keep the Irish waiting. The men had opened a book on how many he would hit over the whole day. Alfred put himself down for six and, in jovial mood, headed back up to his position on the top floor.

When John O’Neill arrived back at Kelly’s shop, the Citizen Army volunteers were cowed in the corners, away from all the windows. A fairly regular stream of bullets was hitting the front facade, with a number of them getting through the broken windows, to ricochet around the rooms. He crawled to where Laurence Corbally was lying, reading Padraig Pearse’s latest newsletter. “How is it looking, Richard?” “I’m Laurence, John. Richard is upstairs.” “I’m always mixing you up! Can’t one of you grow a beard, or something?” It was a running joke that Laurence Corbally was happy to play on. “Sure we will be celebrating the anniversary of an Irish Republic before Dick could grow a beard!” His smile grew as John O’Neill outlined the plan they had concocted in Hopkins. He let out a low whistle, before asking if it could really work. “Certainly, sure haven’t we the best soldiers to do the job. Now we have to get organised before other fighting distracts us. Who is our best shot?” “Me, of course!” “No can do. You will be in charge of taking these men, when General Connolly instructs you to move back to the G.P.O. building. I am being sent to join Brennan-Whitmore’s platoon to defend against an Abbey Street attack. What about Richard?” “He okay, John. Hell, he’s as good as me. Yes, he’ll do fine. He is on the third floor, front right.” John ordered Laurence to stay put and began to crawl up the stairs, calling a warning of his imminent arrival; safety against any jumpy volunteers. He stopped on the third floor landing to familiar himself with the layout. The front facing McBirney’s was actually divided into three rooms, with a single window in each. There was also a return beside the stairwell which had a small storeroom on it, full of empty sandbags and a few belts of ammunition. Most upsetting for their plans was that there was no window looking towards Hopkins. They would have to break a hole in the outside wall. Holes had been broken through all the internal walls, providing a safe crawling route around the building. He shouted into the front right room and stuck his head through the hole. Surprisingly, most of the window glass was still intact and the window was closed. Richard Corbally was sitting beside the window facing the hole that John O’Neill was coming through. “Hi Richard, we have a plot to get the sniper in McBirney’s.” “This wouldn’t involve me getting my head shot off, would it? That bastard is very good at doing that.” “Nothing like that, I assure you. We have a fool-proof plan organised with the volunteers in Hopkins. Now they will be our eyes and we will take their shot. What I mean is you will kill him, Richard.” Richard Corbally broke into a wide smile. “My pleasure, John. How do we do this noble thing?” John again explained their plan and that he would first have to gather specifically talented men to this floor. “We need two men with bayonets to break a spy hole in that wall. They need to be able to see the flag in Hopkins. We also need the man with the clearest voice. What I mean is a loud, clear singing voice that can call to Hell when needed. Lastly, we need to find a mirror for signalling to Hopkin’s with. We need it all done double-quick.”

With such a satisfying goal, there was no shortage of volunteers trying to take part. The mirror was attached to part of a door frame, as the bayonets opened the hole in the Sackville Street third floor wall. Using the mirror to flash sunshine at Hopkins, a communication channel was created. The singer would be located by the hole, looking at the reflection of the Hopkins’s flag in the mirror. When the flag was waved, the singer would scream a high ‘A’ sharp. This was to indicate the exact moment when Alfred Tyler had shot. Instantly, Richard Corbally would respond in a singular movement into position, aim and fire. He would drop to the floor crawling back to his original position. If necessary, everything would be reset for another try. A couple of trial runs, without Richard Corbally, were tried and worked fine without teaching the soldiers anything. Then O’Neill decided that it was time for the real thing. As per their agreed arrangement, the ‘mirror rebel’ flashed at Hopkins for a full minute. John looked at Richard, who gave him the thumbs up. Hopkins waited. Kelly’s waited. Richard waited. Acting Corporal Tyler wiped his lips and looked again through his gun sight. He swept along the north quays for any rebel movements.

Micheal Darker signalled to his flag holder to stand by. He raised his mirror and trained the image onto the correct window. Once located, he moved the mirror upwards to prevent a reflection being seen by the sniper. Everyone was on tender hooks. People tried to stop breathing. It was time. The sniper continued to sweep the buildings north of the river, eventually stopping on Kelly’s building, his best hunting ground. No one could try to hit him while his attention was trained on Richard’s window. It was still closed, with only a single hole through it. Would they have to reconsider their plan? Was it all for nothing? A man in the squad on the roof of Hopkins’s decided to act. His name was never recorded, despite surviving his heroic act. In a smooth action, he raised his shoulder, fired his Howth rifle in the very general direction of Aston Quay and falling back to the floor of the roof. Tyler reacted instinctively, swinging right and firing at the Hopkin’s roof. In a blurred moment, Richard Corbally, in Kelly’s, presented and fired at the sniper’s window. That second held the complete audience of combatants on both sides of the river, despite them not realising what was happening. There was a slight clink of breaking glass instantly covered by the sound of a bullet entering Alfred Tyler’s head. He was dead before his body hit the floor. There was a sudden explosion of sound, as the rebels whooped at the death of Robert Adams’s killer. The soldiers screamed at the death of their star sniper and friend. These sounds continued, as the news of Tyler’s murder spread through both sets of combatants. They ended in a long volley of bullets fired by both sides, across O’Connell Bridge. The British send another sniper to replace Tyler, with the primary target of killing his murderer. However, the artillery replaced the sniper as the preferred weapon to defeat the rebels. Following the start of the shelling of Sackville Street, both the Kelly’s and Hopkin’s outposts were evacuated. McBirney’s party never killed another rebel, although remaining in place until after the surrender on Saturday. The rebel out-posts were successfully evacuated on Wednesday evening, rejoining the headquarters garrison in the G.P.O.

The parents of Robert Adams were called to identify their son in the morgue of The Royal City of Dublin Hospital, in Baggot Street. His son’s body was buried in a common Rising grave in the grounds of St Stephen’s Hospital, across the road from what was then called the Kingstown Railway Station. Acting Corporal Tyler was temporarily interred in the grounds of Trinity College, before being returned, in May, to his parent’s in Peterborough, for re-internment in their family plot. A hundred years later, we can safely say that they had all done their duty, lived to their principles and even dying for what they and their countrymen believed in. Their descendants can take some satisfaction from the knowledge of the treads that their loved ones added to Dublin City’s rich tapestry.

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2 Responses to The Murder of a Murderer – Part 2 – Revenge

  1. NR says:

    Not right about the return of the body. Alfred Tyler was my great uncle. He is buried in Dublin. He wasn’t from Peterborough either, but from Rutland, specifically the village of Exton.

  2. NR says:

    Alfred Tyler, son of George and Mary Tyler of Exton, was born around 1895 in the village. He was a farm labourer working for the Earl of Ancaster on the Hardwick Farms before being called up aged 21. He joined the Leicestershire Regiment on January 27th, 1916 and transferred to the 2/6th Sherwood Foresters. The battalion was sent to Ireland at the time of the Easter Uprising and, on April 27th, 1916, Private Tyler was shot dead by a sniper in Dublin. His Captain wrote: “Although he was only a soldier for a short time his progress was most excellent, and he was one of the very best lads.” At least two of his brothers served in the army and survived the war.

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