Musings – The 1916 Sackville Street project

Many of the civilian bodies lay in City Hall for several days after the Rising, but they were never claimed because their relatives lacked the financial means to bury them. “These were the poorest or the poor.”

If you live in Ireland or have any interest in Ireland then you will know that the country is right in the middle of commemorating the events on Easter 1916. State, Church and civilians are all involved in the celebrations and in remembering the events of those days over Easter, one hundred years ago.

This is a condensed one paragraph overview of what happened in 1916:

The Easter Rising (Irish: Éirí Amach na Cásca),[2] also known as the Easter Rebellion, was an armed insurrection in Ireland during Easter Week, April 1916. The Rising was launched by Irish republicans to end British rule in Ireland and establish an independent Irish Republic while the United Kingdom was heavily engaged in World War I. It was the most significant uprising in Ireland since the rebellion of 1798, and the first armed action of the Irish revolutionary period.

There are acres and acres of pages you can read on the Rising and I am not going to repeat them here.

My focus in this blog are the civilians who were killed in the 1916 Rising. Late last year  I did an interview on the weekly arts show which I produce and present each Wednesday on Kfm radio in Kildare. My interview was with Ciara OKeeffe and she told me about her idea to commemorate the civilians who were killed. Her project was called the 1916 Sackville Street Art Project. Sackville Street was the name for O’Connell Street before it was changed.

The aim of 1916 Sackville Street Art Project was to hold an exhibition of houses in any 3D art form commemorating the lives of the ordinary civilians that were killed in the 1916 Easter Rising. 485 people were killed in the Easter Rising 1916, 262 of these were civilians. The objective of the Art Project is to tell their story by constructing 262 3D art form houses representing each of the civilians killed. It was hoped that this art project will in some way contribute to commemorating these innocent souls who died during the conflict of 1916 Easter Rising. Ciara and her colleagues needed 262 people of 2016 to create a house to remember a civilian who was killed in 1916. They set up a website and when you clicked onto it, you selected a civilian you wished to remember. There would only be 262 pieces to create.

I don’t do art. I can knit a bit (as long are there no curves in it or complicated things like sleeves). But, in the middle of the radio interview with Ciara I said that I would create a house for one of the civilians.

It was only after the interview was aired that I said to myself ‘what were you thinking’.

I registered for my civilian in an optimistic moment. I chose Margaret McGuiness aged 50. She died from wounds received during the fighting in Dublin. Her death is recorded on 3 April 1916 and she is buried in Deansgrange with her husband  who had passed away two years before her. She lived in 3 Pembroke Cottages in Dublin. Additional research did not throw up a lot more information on her so I was on my own when it came to inspiration for the house.

I chose her because she was the closest in age to me. I will be fifty in a few years time. I was thinking about what she would have been doing back in 1916 and the type of crafts that might have formed part of her day to day life. I knew I wanted to knit some aspect of the house.

I parked the idea after that. I was delighted to read a few weeks later that all the civilians had been matched to a 2016 civilian and that all 262 houses would be made.

Christmas came and went and a sudden realisation came over me at the end of January this year that I had a house to build. The dimensions were quite small so it was not going to be a massive construction project, but still, I had made a promise to 1916 Sackville Street and to Margaret McGuiness.

I got to work. I used some wood templates, some cork board, some buttons from my own button box, some thread, some measuring tape, some pins and some spools of thread. There was a lot of superglue used and fingers stuck together and to the buttons, as a result.

Little by little it all came together and this is my house in memory of Margaret McGuinness.

I am surprised and delighted that it all came together for me. I have never done anything like this before do it has been a joy toSackville Street House in the Exhibition do.

The exhibition is on at the moment in the Botanic Gardens in Dublin and it will run there for another two weeks until 24 April. I think the houses are coming to Kildare then for two exhibitions and there is talk too of finding a permanent home for this wonderful exhibition.

There are so many beautiful houses and the feedback from those who have attended the exhibition has been emotional and moving. There is a special quality to this unique exhibition.

Fine out more about the project and see more of the photos on their website and social media pages:


Twitter @1916sackvillest

Facebook 1916 Sackville Street Art Project

This is my house in situ in the exhibition. Thanks to Eleanor Swan for taking this and sharing it.

Go see it!






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