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Saturday 19 August 2017

16-year-old rebel who played key role in crucial firefight at City Hall

Rebel Stories

William Oman
William Oman

William 'Bill' Oman was born in 1900 and grew up in tenements in Back Lane, Merchant's Quay and High Street, beside Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin's south inner city.

His father, William Edward Oman, was involved in the nationalist Irish-Ireland and trade union movements.

Bill joined the Irish Citizen Army in 1913 and was present at Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa's funeral at Glasnevin Cemetery in August 1915. He sounded the Last Post after Patrick Pearse's oration that day.

Bill's older brother George was also in the Citizen Army, while their uncle Robert 'Bob' Oman was in the Irish Volunteers.

On Good Friday 1916 Bill kept guard, alone, outside a shop on Amiens Street where the leaders of the Rising met to consider their plan of action in the wake of the loss of a shipment of weapons from Germany.

On Easter Monday 1916, Bill used his bugle to sound the 'fall in' at Beresford Place, outside Liberty Hall, as the rebels prepared to march on the GPO.

During Easter Week he fought with three different garrisons - City Hall, Jacob's Biscuit Factory and the Royal College of Surgeons.

At City Hall he engaged British soldiers coming out of Ship Street Barracks. He recalled: "When I attempted to move out a few yards from where we stood, I was fired on by a single sniper."

With their position untenable Bill held off the British soldiers whilst his comrades escaped.

Mob

He then narrowly avoided capture after he was chased by a mob of enraged Dubliners - taking refuge that evening at his grandmother's house in Blackpitts.

The following day Bill reported to Jacob's where Thomas MacDonagh appointed him as his orderly until Bill was sent to help reinforce the Royal College of Surgeons garrison under Michael Mallin and Countess Markievicz.

Bill later stated: "Due to the fact that there were so many injured in the College...no noise or hilarity was allowed. We had to observe a certain amount of quietness, whereas in other posts there would have been singing and laughing".

When Pearse's surrender order came Mallin intended to send Bill out, under a white flag, to notify the British but this ultimately proved unnecessary.

When the Rising ended he was held with others, including Tom Clarke and Sean MacDiarmada, at Richmond Barracks - narrowly avoiding a mob attack while being taken there.

Bill was eventually released due to his young age, of 16 years.

He later joined the IRA and fought in the War of Independence and Civil War.

Bill Oman passed away in 1976 and is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

Details submitted by Niall Oman (great-grandson)

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