Posted by Mike Mulligan on May 19, 2016 in Ireland

The Dublin folk flock out to see the ruins of Sackville Street [Getty Images]
The ruins of Sackville Street after the Easter Rising [Credit: Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]
20th May 1916, exactly 100 years ago today, my great grandparents Edward Mulligan and Bridget Merrins were married in Dublin. It was a typical Irish wedding for the time.  There was one aspect of the wedding that was not typical however. Edward and Bridget were married just weeks after the 1916 Easter Rising. Dublin was in ruins and the mood in the city was extremely tense. Here is my grandfather Mick’s description of the wedding day as passed to him from his mother.

“My father arranged to go down to where my mother worked in Sandymount with a pony and trap. When they arrived at Donnybrook the British Army were on duty. So he and the pony trap had to wait up the road where the bus station is now. When my mother came up to the cross roads at Donnybrook she was stopped by the army. They questioned her as to where she was going so she told she was going to Sandyford to get married. She had a square box in her hand, so the army soldier stuck his bayonet into the box and destroyed her wedding cake.”

The destruction of great granny’s wedding cake has become one of those stories that has passed down our family. As a child the story fascinated me. As a grown up genealogist I wanted to know more.  Like many family stories, the full picture is more complicated than the story. The army checkpoint was at Donnybrook Church, just over a mile away from Mount Street Bridge which saw the single biggest British loss during the Easter Rising – 30 dead and over 200 wounded. The soldiers on patrol were now facing an increasing hostile population where sympathy for the rebellion had increased in the face of the Court Martials and subsequent executions. These soldiers were part of the Sherwood Foresters Regiment, raw recruits with minimum of training. On this particular Saturday morning, 20th May 1916, a young woman comes up to the checkpoint in her wedding dress ready to meet her future husband waiting on the other side of the road. Were the actions of that soldier some aimless act of revenge for fallen comrades? Or was it simply a scared young ‘tommy’ reacting to anything that might possibly be a threat? Perhaps he thought the box concealed a weapon instead of a wedding cake?

British Guards at the entrance of the Four Courts, May 1916
British Guards at the entrance of the Four Courts, May 1916 [Credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images]
For my great granny Bridget, the situation was also more complex than it might seem. She was born and grew up in Kildare. Her father, Michael, worked for the British Army in the Curragh Camp drawing coal from Kildare train station to the army barracks. Bridget also had family who fought in WWI and died in Belgium at the battle of Ypres. Hers was an experience growing up where the army was part of everyday life. And now suddenly here was a soldier from that same army who viewed her with such suspicion and contempt. It left such an impact that when she would speak of her wedding day to her son that is the moment she would recall.

Much has been written about those who took part in the Easter Rising.  But while a rebellion was going on, thousands of Dubliners were still getting on with their lives as best they could. The events of that historic week would affect them just as profoundly as it did those directly involved. In fact the greatest casualties of the rising were not the Irish Volunteers or the British Army but civilians caught up in the crossfire. Of the 485 deaths, 262 were civilians, 40 of those were children. As is most often the case throughout history those who suffer most in times of conflict are the civilian population caught up in events not of their own making. It seems fitting that we conclude our blog series on the events of 1916 marking the experience of those who simply lived through it.

Edward, Bridget and family
Edward, Bridget and family – my grandfather Mick is far left

My great grandparents married and went on to have five children. Great granddad Edward passed away in 1949 and Bridget some years later. In one of those curious coincidences in life Bridget died and was buried during Easter week of 1957. Of their five children, only their daughter Roisin is still alive (she is in Bridget’s arms in the photo above). Aunt Roisin is in her eighties now, but still has an amazing love of life and always takes the time to tell me the stories of Edward and Bridget’s life. Thank you Aunt Roisin.

The other blog posts in our 1916 series are:

Mike Mulligan

Mike is a Principal Product Manager at Ancestry, based in our Dublin office. Mike has been doing on family history since he was young growing up in Donegal surrounded by generations of cousins.


  1. Kris Fetter

    My ‘Irish’ family was actually descended from the Brixham, England fishermen who settled in Dublin in the 1700’s for the fishing. They married other ‘Torbays’ as the years passed-when the uprising happened my ggg-grandfather flew the English flag (his son (my ggf) served and was gassed in Germany during WWI) and consequently wasn’t popular is his small Dublin neighborhood. (gee, I wonder why). They moved to Liverpool shortly after, while many of their relatives stayed in Dublin, considering themselves Irish.

  2. Just took me about 15 yrs until I had ancestry. Watched youtube about Ireland. Don’t know what to say especially after the forgotten ten

  3. I believe ancestry is the greatest instrument to help find your roots.It is possible in helping why you have developed an illness that could be cured in knowing more about its history through Ancestry.Thank you.M.Gay

  4. sandra dzurek

    Searching for information about Christopher Murphy, my Great Grandfather on my Mother’s side. As a child I was told he left home in the North possibly PA. and fought for the South in the Civil War. DOB is somewhere between 1840 and 1847. Date of Death is 1934 in Abington, Montgomery County, PA. Thank you for your assistance.

    • Jessica Murray

      Sandra, We recommend visiting our military collections page at and selecting ‘Civil War’ to search our Civil War, both Union and Confederate records, for your great-grandfather Christopher Murphy. Additionally, you can visit this helpful video with tips on researching ancestors Civil War service here: – Good luck with your search!

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