Victor reflects on 1916 Easter Uprising after Ireland trip
VICTOR Attwood was probably born 100 years too late.
That is the sense you soon get when you talk to the former Ipswich councillor about his recent trip to his homeland of Ireland, where the 100th anniversary celebrations of the Easter Uprising were in full swing.
The Easter Uprising of 1916 was pivotal in Ireland's quest for nationhood and the heroes of the rebellion, and leaders of the subsequent independence war against the English from 1919, are feted today in Ireland as iconic figures.
Sixteen of the leaders of the 1916 uprising, including Patrick Pearse and James Connolly, were executed by the English.
But that could not extinguish their quest. 1916 survivors, future Prime Minister Eamon DeValera, and IRA intelligence director Michael Collins, continued the fight and are now part of Irish folklore.
Mr Attwood journeyed with his family to Ireland in June and stayed for a fortnight, visiting mostly Dublin and the surrounding areas.
The subject of the 1916 uprising was one he embraced.
"A lot of the shops you go into in O'Connell St, the main street in Dublin, have remained in the same ownership for over 100 years and they have the diaries that the owners or employees kept of what happened at the time and how they thought about 1916," he says.
"It is interesting to compare that with how they are celebrating it now.
"Back 100 years ago they were vilified and treated as murderers and brigands for leading the uprising, but within months they were touted as heroes across the country, because of what the English did."
Now that hero status is etched not just in the memory, but on points of interest the people of Dublin see daily.
"There are suburbs, streets, train stations and whatever you can think of named after them," Mr Attwood says.
"There is Pearse and Connolly railway stations, Collins St and other streets where the names were changed and named after (1916 heroes)."
As reported last year by the QT, when Victor was an Ipswich councillor he named many of the streets of Collingwood Park after heroes of the 1916 Easter Uprising and legends of the Irish war of Independence, including IRA members.
Hence we see Collins, Connolly, Pearse and DeValera with streets named in their honour in Ipswich.
On reflection - Mr Attwood wishes he'd named a couple more after Countess Markievicz and Roger Casement.
The Spanish Civil War saw tens of thousands of people, from all walks of life and from all over the world, descend on Spain to fight against fascism.
Constance or 'Countess' Markievicz was one of the many who embraced the Irish struggle.
Of Anglo-Irish heritage, she had married a Polish Count and later moved to Dublin and became a member of Sinn Fein and the Irish Citizen Army (ICA). She was one of the first women in the world to hold a cabinet position.
"Countess Markievicz saw how the Irish people were treated so she signed up for the cause and was one of the commanders in the rising of 1916," Victor says.
"I wished I'd named a street after the Countess, and also Roger Casement who was a knight of the British Empire.
"He was Sir Roger Casement, but was hung for treason by the English when he ran guns into Ireland and tried to negotiate help from the Germans to fight the English."
Victor is 59 now, and left Ireland as a nine-year-old. His trip home was perfect timing.
"It is 50 years since we came to Australia so we thought we would go over as a family celebration," he says.
"The fact that it was the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising was an added bonus. As an avid lover of Irish history I was really intrigued by it all.
"1916 was a pivotal moment in Irish history where Ireland finally stood up to the English and said 'we are going to be our own country.
"It was done in the middle of the First World War when England was purportedly campaigning for the right of small countries to be free and not dominated.
"I don't think they saw the irony of Ireland wanting to do the same. 1916 meant a lot to me as a child growing up in Ireland and I can vividly recall the 50th anniversary in 1966 before we came out here.
"I remember the old IRA people going around to visit the schools and talking to people about it.
"They were the old soldiers who fought against the English, but also in the civil war after the treaty was signed in 1922."
It was a homecoming in more ways than one as he returned to the places dear to his heart as a youth.
"I visited where my parents got married, where they spent their honeymoon and where I lived as a child in Fairview in Dublin.
"I went to the house I was born in which is in Buckingham St near the GPO.
"I was talking to the neighbours and all of the houses were full of (1916) memorabilia. It just felt good to be back."
Victor revisited the Christian Brothers school he attended and the park he used to play in.
"Growing up in Dublin in the 1960s was different to what people might imagine," he says. "It was quite disadvantaged.
"The year we left the unemployment rate was 36%.
"I used to think we were poor, but talking to other people probably not as poor as I thought we were.
"We had a little corner store that used to provide enough income for the family.
"We lived behind and above it, so when planners in Ipswich talked about active street life I knew all about it."
Down the road from the hotel Mr Attwood was staying was the Sinn Fein store where he bought memorabilia and books about 1916.
"Sinn Fein was the political arm of the IRA, a bit like the Labor Party being the political arm of the union movement," he says.
"In the (1918) election in Ireland Sinn Fein won most of the seats. They were the first government in Ireland and set up parliament in Dublin and refused to go to Westminister."
It wasn't unusual for women to be involved in the armed struggles of the Irish republican movement
"The IRA became one of the first organisations to use women in warfare in modern times, against the wishes of some men," Victor says.
"One of their top marksmen was a woman. She set herself up on top of Boland's Flour Mill with a vantage point of the Liffey River and anyone who put their head up she would try to take it off."
The 'true' history of the era is being rewritten as the period becomes examined by scholars and authors.
"A book I am reading tells how there was a story about Countess Markievicz walking up to an English officer and shooting him in cold blood, but there was never any evidence of it," Victor says.
"All the eyewitnesses who were with her say it never happened, and it has been debunked as just propaganda put forward by the English to besmirch her name and the names of other women who fought in 1916 and beyond."
One thing is for certain, Victor won't forget his trip. But again, he probably should have been around in 1916 to lend a hand to Connolly and company.
"Talking to people in Dublin they were proud to be alive and celebrating the centenary," he grins
"Speaking to people at Sinn Fein they were amused how the people who formerly opposed commemoration or mention of the IRA...were now fellow travellers and want to be part of it.
"If I was alive in 1916 I would have been involved in it. There isn't any doubt about that."