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Saturday 23 September 2023 Dublin: 5°C
# going going gone
The handwritten order to call off the 1916 Rising sold at auction for €30,000
The handwritten note reads “Volunteers completely deceived. All orders for tomorrow Sunday are entirely cancelled”.

A COPY OF the ill-fated order by Eoin MacNeill to call off the 1916 Rising sold at auction for €30,000 today.

The handwritten note, which reads “Volunteers completely deceived. All orders for tomorrow Sunday are entirely cancelled,” had had a guide price of between €30,000 and €50,000.

The note is dated Saturday 22 April 1916 and is signed by Eoin Mac Neill, who was the head of the Irish Volunteers force.


MacNeill had asked for the order to be delivered to local commanders around the country after he found out about plans by the Irish Republican Brotherhood to begin the rebellion against British rule in Ireland on Easter Sunday. Pádraig Pearse had issued orders for “parades and manoeuvres” to begin on Easter Sunday, which was a signal to volunteers to begin the rebellion.

MacNeill asked men he trusted to deliver the order to as many commanders as possible. He himself brought a longer version of the note to the Sunday Independent newspaper, where it was inserted as an advertisement.

MacNeill’s prevarication over whether or not to go ahead with the rebellion, combined with the late notice, meant that the message caused confusion among rebels, especially in areas furthest from Dublin. Members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, led by Pearse, James Connolly and Tom Clarke, delayed the Dublin rebellion by 24 hours, and instead began on Easter Monday.

The Rising started early on Easter Monday morning, 24 April 1916, when around 1,200 rebels took over buildings in Dublin city centre. However it was quickly subdued by British forces, and the rebels surrendered on Saturday 29 April.

The surrender note, written by Pearse, said that they were stopping to prevent the further slaughter of Dublin citizens and to save the lives of the rebels who were “hopelessly outnumbered”.

The note

It is not known how many copies of MacNeill’s letter were made, with estimates of between 12 and 20, but very few copies of the order have survived.

The auctioneers described it as “with the exception of the Proclamation itself, it is probably the most important and influential document of the period of the Rising”.

The auction at Adam’s Auctioneers in Dublin city centre saw a number of lots from Ireland’s political, literary and military history go under the hammer.

A copy of the original Proclamation of Independence from the same month sold for €90,000 at today’s auction.

Read: Taoiseach: I would like to see the Queen visit Ireland for 1916 Rising commemorations > 

Read: 1916 Rising conference to take place in Dublin > 

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