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Early motorists and those who availed of motor transport had tended to be wealthy men, usually medical doctors who valued cars as vehicles for utility or wealthy former competitive cyclists who were keen to acquire even greater speeds than those possible on a traditional bicycle.
The Irish Automobile Club (IAC) and their members, which included the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and Sir John Boyd Dunlop (inventor of the pneumatic rubber wheel), were heavily involved in the organisation and recruitment of motorcars to act as Red Cross ambulances both within Ireland and abroad on European battlefields.
By the end of the First World War in 1918, it was estimated that over the course of the four previous years, the 20 ambulances active in Dublin (in addition to an unverified number of private cars) had transported over 24,000 wounded soldiers across Ireland.
While the outbreak of the First World War did witness a reduction in the number of motor vehicles registered on Irish roads as motorists and motor fuel became scarce, motorcars remained relatively plentiful, especially around Dublin.
This was because many of them were utilised to transport wounded soldiers from war ships moored in Dublin’s quays to military hospitals and convalescence homes.
Historiography relating to the Easter Rising tends to focus on the personalities, places and politics involved in the rebellion.
As motorcars sped members of the Secret Military Council towards Liberty Hall on Easter Sunday, few could have imagined that their next motor journey would be by military lorry – when their bodies were taken for burial to Arbour Hill after their execution.
However, one obvious certainty – even among the confusion of Easter Sunday – was that motor vehicles, specifically the car would play a pivotal role during the upcoming Rising.
Understanding the role played by the motorcar as the Irish Volunteers prepared for the Rising and the manner in which cars were utilised by the British authorities and Irish civilians caught up in the six days of fighting alongside the Volunteers, allows us to recognise how the car acted as an agent for change during the conflict.
Mainstay of Irish Life By 1916, motorcars had become an accepted mainstay of Irish life for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, they were relatively familiar sights on Irish roads.Two years earlier, in April 1914, the Irish Local Government Board had estimated that 19,554 motorised vehicles (predominantly motorcars and motorcycles) were registered within Ireland.