1916 Easter Rising Series
I’ve never liked bus tours that much. They are the perfect illustration of how we ‘consume’ culture these days: on the go, in haste, without taking the time to really appreciate it. Sightseeing buses are like the McDonald’s of culture. You think it’s good value for money considering the little time you have to spend in the country, but then you leave with the feeling you haven’t been fed properly.
So when I signed up for the 1916 Ride the Revolution bus tour, my judgement was already reserved. The tour bus company’s website indicates however that our tour guides will be actors revisiting the 1916 Easter Rising events. Hope is not completely lost. So here I am, waiting outside College Green Tourist Office to hop on a customised-design double decker bus, not really knowing what to expect.
Rise of The Rebels Bus Tour
Departs from College Green, Dublin
Not Your Usual Bus Tour
Our bus finally arrives and our guides invite us to take a seat upstairs. The bus’ interior walls look like a barricaded rebellion base under intense shelling. Gunshots can be heard from the speakers all around us.
The bus departs promptly and heads towards Liberty Hall. Our first guide dressed in a green uniform joins us on the upper deck and sets the political background leading to the Easter uprising. When I think it is simply going to be an educational tour packed with loads of historical anecdotes, the tone of her voice suddenly changes and this is when the adventure begins.
A Theatrical Experience
She introduces herself as a member of Cumann na mBan, a women’s organisation whose members took part directly in the Rising as nurses, delivering messages but also fighting alongside men. She is then joined by her male counterpart in his own green uniform, a member of the Irish Citizen Army.
The tour is quickly turning into a theatrical performance. Our guides can now be better described as actors using the moving double decker bus as their stage. With the speakers still blasting sounds of gunshots, the spectator is slowly transported into the past, oblivious of the outside world.
Reliving Key Moments Of The Easter Rising
The bus makes three stops, with the actors constantly taking turns along the way in their passionate recollection, drawing a vivid picture of Dublin and its people during these dramatic events.
Our first stop is Dublin Castle and City Hall. Here occurred the first casualty of the Easter Rising and a missed opportunity to seize the headquarters of the British army for a very absurd reason that I won’t reveal here.
Our second stop is naturally the GPO (‘General Post Office’) on O’Connell Street, headquarters of the Easter Rebellion and the target of intense firing. The acting is still gripping.
Based on testimonies gathered from the Bureau of Military Archives and diaries written by first-hand witnesses, the script and the actors’ dialogues bring these events back to life.
With the sound of the telegraph beeping in our ears, we now reach our last stop, Richmond Barracks. Often overlooked for the benefit of the famous Kilmainham Jail, Richmond Barracks saw the rebels being subjected to inhuman treatments by the British army.
As our tour draws to an end, the executions of the 1916 Rising leaders are inevitably announced as a bleak but expected conclusion to our intense step back in History.
I was thrilled by this unusual experience. Better than a guided tour, this was a well played performance by two actors (on a moving bus!) who guided their public through the 1916 Easter Rising events. They had my attention all the way and I left the tour bus with the feeling that I had been well fed!
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