Robert Woods (b. 1946)
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Robert Woods (b. 1946)


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Robert Woods initially explains that the Woods family lived at No. 39 Merrion Square in Dublin from 1897, when the house was purchased by his grandfather, until the date of their departure in 1952. He himself lived at the house for the first six years of his life. From 1953 the British Embassy leased the house until it was attacked and destroyed by fire in 1972. Some photographs taken in Merrion Square during the 1916 Rising are examined, including some which show the front of Numbers 39 and 40. A group of nurses are photographed in the doorway of No. 40, which was converted into a field hospital. Robert retains a clear memory of the coal-holes in the street in Merrion Square, and the excitement, as a small child, of seeing the coal being poured down these holes. Another memory is that of the private park in the centre of the square which was for the sole use of the residents of the square. Robert describes a long and detailed letter from his aunt, Molly Woods, to her brother Thornley, (aged 19), who was serving with the British Army in the trenches in France in 1916. A further document was written by Molly’s younger brother, Jack Woods, and published on May 20th 1916 in The Salopian, the magazine of Shrewsbury School where he was a pupil. Robert reads from this article, and explains some remarks in it and considers his uncle’s reliability as a witness to the events described. The family retains Jack’s letter in which he writes about his article in the magazine. (This article is printed in full in the printed catalogue of this Collection.) The letter from Molly Woods to her brother Thornley in France is dated May 2nd, 1916, and was written at 39 Merrion Square. She posted the letter from Cambridge where she was a student. After Thornley’s death the letter was returned with his personal effects. Robert discusses the reasons why Molly wished her brother to know about the events in their home town. Molly was a student at Newenham College, Cambridge, where she became a graduand (at that time women could not become graduates). Her nephew Robert reads from the letter. He explains that in 1953 the building in Merrion Square was leased to the British Embassy and occupied by it until 1972. He clearly recalls the day on which the building was attacked and burnt down, and he stood in the crowd and watched his old family home being destroyed. Many issues ensued. The ESB made an offer to purchase the site which was accepted by the family. Robert discusses his aunt Molly’s future husband, Gilbert Waterhouse, a lecturer at Trinity College at that time, and his actions during Easter Week. A sword was presented to him by the grateful shopkeepers of Grafton Street for his role in the protection of their properties and has been kept in his family. Robert recalls Molly Woods’ emphasis of the fact that the rebels did not fire deliberately at Red Cross personnel during the Rising, an accusation which has been made by some. The Woods family members are recalled. The younger two children were Robert’s father Bobby and his aunt Patricia, and the older siblings were Molly, Thornley and Jack. In 1916, Molly was 20 years old and Jack was 17. Robert Woods and Molly’s daughter, Dorothy Dunlop, were recorded for this project to represent the Woods and Waterhouse families. Extracts from a recording compiled in 1980 by Robert Woods with his late aunt Patricia Woods are also included in the audio element of this project. At Easter 1916 she was a student at Alexandra College, and she explains that it took three hours to travel from the College in Earlsfort Terrace to her home in Merrion Square during the hostilities. She had to dodge around back streets, crossing and re-crossing the canal. Encouraged and advised by soldiers and civilians she finally arrived at the lane behind her home where a kind youth scaled the wall and let her in by her own back gate. (The printed catalogue accompanying this Collection includes excerpts from Molly Woods’ letter and copies of the diagrams that she drew to explain events described in the letter. The printed catalogue also includes photographs.)

Additional information


Disk, MP3

Audio series:

The Merrion Square Field Hospital and the Defence of Trinity College at Easter 1916 Oral History Collection


128 kbps

Download time limit:

48 hours

File size(s):

44.8 MB

Number of files:


Product ID:



The Woods family

Recorded by:

Maurice O’Keeffe – Irish Life and Lore