Seán Heuston – The man behind the station

Over twenty-two thousand passengers pass through Heuston Station every day. For some it is the end of their daily commute, and others the beginning. For an unlucky few, it is possibly a midpoint.

But, how many of these people know about Seán Heuston, for whom the station is named? During my preparation for this article I posed the question to my family members and classmates who frequent Heuston Station, and only one classmate (who is a transport fanatic) knew of any information on Seán Heuston.  

Seán Heuston, born February 21st, 1921, was the Commanding Officer holding the Mendicity Institution (today known as Heuston’s Fort). Heuston and his team were responsible for delaying British Troops from getting further into the city, making the seizing of the larger buildings such as the General Post Office (GPO), more manageable.

For over two days, Heuston’s 26 volunteers held their position, eventually surrendering when they were hugely outnumbered, and the building was surrounded in its entirety. Despite having to eventually surrender, Heuston’s operation was a success in that it delayed British troops and allowed the rebels to prepare defences and strategies.

“Heuston was one of the youngest of those executed for their role in the Easter Rising and it makes sense that the train station formerly known as Kingsbridge now bears his name,” says John Gibney, who wrote a biography of Heuston. “He worked in it, as a clerk in the Great Southern and Western Railway, who ran the line west out of Dublin (and Heuston had previously worked in their depot in Limerick, which is where he began to get involved in republican activism).”

Kingsbridge Station was renamed to Heuston Station in 1966, during the half-centenary of the Easter Rising, and Heuston’s death.

‘One of the youthful faces of the Easter Rising’.

Dr John Gibney

“His role in the rising was tied to this area, and indeed to the station (which, ironically, was used to help British reinforcements from around the country get to Dublin). He and a small number of volunteers had been told to occupy the Mendicity Institution on the south quays to ambush any troops making their way down the north quays from the Royal (now Collins) Barracks,” Gibney says.

“After it was over Heuston was detained in Arbour Hill, where he is now buried and there is a statue of him in the Phoenix Park. It’s fair to say that his Easter Rising took place in the vicinity of his workplace. And now his name feature in how many commuter journeys?”

The cover of Dr.Gibney’s book (credit: John Gibney)

Heuston was killed by a firing squad on May 8th, 1916. Heuston had used the misspelling of his surname on the execution order as means for an unofficial appeal, but to no avail. In an Irish Examiner article, Gibney describes him as ‘one of the youthful faces of the Easter Rising.’

When reaching out to the Railway Preservation Society, I was informed that Heuston’s official personnel files lie in the Christian Brothers Museum. The IRRS are unsure as to how it wound up there, with all other files being in their own archive.

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