Dr Conor McAlister recalls the story of a dentist who was killed during the Easter Rising, with thanks to Maedbh Murphy and Fionnuala Jervis of RCSI for their assistance.
“Poor young Hyland, our dentist, was killed in his garden by a stray bullet.”
Letter to Emily Winifred Dickson, Fellow of RCSI, from her aunt who lived on Northumberland Road.
It is estimated that 485 people were killed during the Easter Rising of 1916. Of those who died, 262 were civilians. One of these civilians was a 29-year-old dentist from Dublin called Charles Hyland.
Charles Hachette Hyland was born in 1887, the eldest of five children. The Hyland family lived in number 5 Percy Place, close to Mount Street Bridge. His father, also Charles, was manager of the Gaiety Theatre. Young Charles was educated at Catholic University School in Leeson Street. He graduated in dentistry from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in 1907. As a dental student at the Incorporated Dental Hospital of Ireland, Charles won the senior prizes in dental mechanics and in dental surgery. On graduation, Charles set up practice at 3 Percy Place, next door to his family home and also joined the assistant staff of the Dental Hospital. At the Dental Hospital, his efficiency, modesty and courtesy gained the admiration and goodwill of all who were brought in contact with him (British Dental Journal obituary 1916).
Charles married Kathleen Slyne of Slyne Couturiers, 71 Grafton Street. They had one son, another Charles, in 1915. At the outbreak of the Rising, Hyland sent his wife and their young son to safety in Blackrock.
On Easter Monday 1916, a small detachment of the third battalion of the Irish Volunteers took up strategic ambush positions around Mount Street, Northumberland Road and Haddington Road. On Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, British reinforcement troops began arriving at Dun Laoghaire, then Kingstown. On Wednesday morning, April 26, two battalions of the Sherwood Foresters marched, in glorious sunshine, towards the city centre. Some 300 yards from Mount Street Bridge, the troops came under fire from 25 Northumberland Road initially and then other locations. The British suffered heavy casualties against the small number of well positioned insurgents. On the evening of Wednesday April 26, when the battle was at its fiercest, Charles Hyland donned his white coat and joined a number of nurses and other staff from Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital as they tried to help the wounded soldiers. Showing immense bravery, Charles moved from one wounded man to another, rendering what emergency aid he could. They used quilts as stretchers and, at one stage, Hyland enlisted the help of a young man with a cart to transport the injured men to hospital. Both sides withheld fire while the wounded were attended and assisted to safety and then the battle began again. In the course of the hours the battle raged, Hyland and the nurses intervened, again and again, to aid the wounded.
Charles Hyland emerged unscathed from this frightening ordeal. At 3.00am the next morning, Thursday April 27, it appears the military took possession of his house and ordered everyone in it to the lower rooms. Charles, who was anxious to join his wife and child in Blackrock, opened his back door at 4.30am. He was immediately shot by a single bullet from across the street. He was one of several civilians killed at the battle of Mount Street Bridge. His loss was mourned by his colleagues and ‘the host of friends he had gathered around him by his happy disposition.’
His gravestone in Glasnevin Cemetery and a memorial in St. Mary’s Church, Haddington Road read as follows: “Charles Hachette Hyland L.D.S. RCSI Accidentally killed during the Dublin Rebellion, April 27, 1916. May he rest in peace.”