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Posts Tagged ‘James Connolly’

Dublin Fire Brigade Piper Bernard Mulhall at Liberty Hall

“O branch that withered without age!
Would we could see you where you’re missed
Step airy on the Abbey stage
Play there ‘The Revolutionist’
Or fill with laughter pit and stalls
With Bartley Fallon’s croak and cry
What led you to those castle walls?
We mourn you Sean Connolly”

Lady Gregory.

Another plaque in place, another important part of working class Dublin history marked.

The home of the Connolly siblings, at 58/59 Sean McDermott Street Lower, now boasts a new plaque from the North Inner City Folklore Project. Captain Sean Connolly and his siblings Katie, Joseph, George, Eddie and Mattie all fought with the Irish Citizen Army during the Easter rebellion. The plaque also pays tribute to young Molly O’ Reilly, who raised the green flag over Liberty Hall in 1916.

Among the crowd were historians, trade unionists, activists,relatives of members of the City Hall Garrison and members of the local community. The Dublin Fire Brigade were represented too, due to Joseph and George Connolly serving within its ranks. Joseph was a firefighter at the time of the insurrection. The Fire Brigade can therefore boast something very few others in the city can, in the form of a real connection to the Easter Rising.

Conor McCabe at Dublin Opinion has some more images worth a look over at their blog.

Speeches and audio

James Connolly Heron speaks at the site of the plaque. His speech covers not alone Sean Connolly and his siblings, but the campaign to save 16 Moore Street.

Las Fallon, of the Dublin Fire Brigade Museum, speaks of Joseph and George Connolly.

Dublin Fire Brigade piper plays outside 58/59 Sean McDermott Street Lower.

Wind, coughing, and all the other things nature/people can whip up when you’re trying to record something, but still….

Images

Dublin Fire Brigade members at Liberty Hall

Fittingly, a relative of James Connolly presents a relative of Molly O' Reilly with the green flag to raise.

The raising of the flag

The flag is raised.

Dublin Fire Brigade colour party

Citizen Army uniforms today, spot on right down to the red hand!

Dublin Brigade- Irish Republican Army

Las Fallon, Dublin Fire Brigade, speaks of George and Joseph Connolly.

Banner marking the role of women in the revolutionary years

A poem is read prior to the unveiling

A small selection of the fantastic collection of images from the period on display afterwards

The Starry Plough blows in the wind with the new plaque behind it.

Dublin Fire Brigade trade unionists pay respect. Firefighter Russ McCobb laid this on behalf of Impact workers.

Another snap of the brief talk on the Connolly connection to the Dublin Fire Brigade

The plaque itself

After the ceremony, we decided to visit Glasnevin Cemetery. There, we thought it only fitting to undertake a search for a particular grave with the day that was in it.

The grave was that of Captain Sean Connolly, Irish Citizen Army.

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“What was this Republic of which I now heard for the first time? Who were the leaders the British had executed after taking them prisoners, Tom Clarke, Padraic Pearse, James Connolly and all the others, none of whose names I had ever heard? What did it all mean?”

So wrote a young British soldier serving in Mesopotamia, or Iraq to you and me. Bemused by what had occured in Dublin, this one soldier had gone to war not lured by the recruitment posters featuring small nations (often personified in the form of female characters) but in his own words “..for no other reason than that I wanted to see what war was like, to get a gun, to see new countries and to feel like a grown man”. This young soldier would continue to serve that army afterwards, but in 1920 became a member of the 3rd Cork Brigade of the Irish Republican Army, rising through the ranks to become a flying column leader who inflicted terror on Auxiliary forces at Kilmichael and the Essex Regiment of the British Army and the Royal Irish Constabulary at Crossbarry. The young man, of course, was Tom Barry.

Tom Barry

Barry was not the only Republican leader who saw the Rising in an unusual manner. In Dublin,a young medical student named Ernie O’ Malley was taken aback by events, and vivdly described events on Sackville Street.

“Other shops had just been looted: Lawrence’s toy bazaar and some jewellers. Diamond rings and pocketsful of gold watches were selling for sixpence and a shilling, and one was cursed if one did not buy…. Ragged boys wearing old boots, brown and black, tramped up and down with air rifles on their shoulders or played cowboys and Indians, armed with black pistols supplied with long rows of paper caps. Little girls hugged teddy bears and dolls as if they could hardly believe their good fortune”

Ernie O' Malley

While literally seeing the outbreak of the rebellion, O’ Malley would also encounter a student he knew who told him they were arming themselves in case Trinity College would be attacked. O’ Malley informed the student that while he was off home, he would return later(The fact O’ Malley was a UCD Student would no doubt lead to cries of ‘Sacrilege!’ from some even today). Largely indifferent at first to what was occuring, O’ Malley would quickly turn towards the rebels, even making his way down Moore Street and towards Nelsons Pillar one night, where he discussed the rising so far with a uniformed officer of the Irish Citizen Army. Amazingly, O’ Malley and a schoolboy friend would take it upon themselves to assist the rebels, through taking potshots at soldiers with a rifle his friends father had been given “as a present by a soldier who brought it back from the Front”

In his memoir, On Another Man’s Wound he went on to note that after the rebellion he purchased a copy of James Connolly’s Labour In Irish History. History would see Ernie O’ Malley remembered as a leading republican anti-treatyite, and a key intellectual within the movement.

James Stephens

In Dublin, James Stephens was surprised by the outbreak of the insurrection, in fact to the extent that he did not notice at first and went about his business. A novelist and poet, his account of the week, The Insurrection in Dublin, is well written and oft-humourous.

“This has taken everyone by surprise. It is possible, that with the exception of their staff, it has taken the Volunteers themselves by surprise; but,today, our peaceful city is no longer peaceful; guns are sounding or rolling and cracking from different directions, and, although rarely, the rattle of machine guns can be heard also.

Two days ago war seemed very far away- so far, that I have convenated with myself to learn the alphabet of music”

Stephens would seek confirmation of the Risings continuation from his own window, and the Republican flag flying over the Jacob’s Garrison, under the command of Thomas MacDonagh, but including a diverse band of individuals like Peadar Kearney (author of The Soldiers Song), Major John MacBride and the actress Máire Ní Shiubhlaigh, a member of Cumann na mBán, the womens auxiliary force to the Irish Volunteers.

“It is half-past three o’clock, and from my window the Republican flag can still be seen flying over Jacob’s factory. There is occasional shooting, but the city as a whole is quiet. At a quarter to five o’clock
a heavy gun boomed once. Ten minutes later there was heavy machine gun firing and much rifle shooting. In another ten minutes the flag at Jacob’s was hauled down.

Many had believed that the country would rise after Dublin, and create a national uprising out of a regional one. This was not to be, with contradictory orders from national leadership leading to mass confusion. Liam Mellows mustered a force of several hundred in Galway who were involved in several attacks on police barracks’ yet did not have the capability to sustain any sort of campaign in the region. Men of the ‘Fingal Batallion’ of the Irish Volunteers would find themselves active in Ashbourne, County Meath with Thomas Ashe, where they inflicted real damage on local Royal Irish Constabulary forces. Still, the significant forces available to the Volunteers nationwide were not used, as many had obeyed the order of Eoin MacNeill and word did not travel from Dublin at a speed to allow for a nationwide insurrection.

Dan Breen, front row.

The frustration of some Volunteers outside Dublin can be clearly felt in Dan Breen’s account of news reaching him in Tipperary, and his attempts to establish contact with Sean Treacy, a leading figure of the Third Tipperary Brigade and a close friend.

“Sean had left his home on the first news of the Rebellion and cycled from one centre to another, urging the Tipperary Volunteers to take action….

…We were bitterly dissapointed that the fighting had not extended to the country. We swore that, should the fighting ever be resumed, we would be in the thick of it, no matter where it took place”

Perhaps fittingly, on the 21st of January, 1919, Sean and Dan would play no small part in resuming the fighting with the Soloheadbeg Ambush, an action that has found a place in Irish history as the event which essentially kick-started the War of Independence. Anyone new to the period should seek out the ‘Wanted’ poster for Dan Breen, which is sure to raise a chuckle, highlighting his “sulky bulldog appearance” among other things.

Events in Dublin would have a ricochet effect far beyond the city or even Irish countryside. In Wales, Captain Jack White would find himself arrested too.

Captain Jack White

White had drilled, and in fact dressed (disagreeing with Sean O’ Casey on the matter of uniforming such a workers militia), the Citizen Army long before the insurrection.

In his memoir, Misfit, White noted that “In short, I am arrested in the South Wales coalfield for trying to get the Welsh miners out on strike. Why? To save Jim Connolly being shot for his share in the Easter Rising in command of the Citizen Army. Had I succeeded I would have crippled the coal supply for the British Fleet”

Years after the insurrection, White would find himself an anarchist in Spain,and in an article published on November 11th 1936 titled “A Rebel In Barcelona: Jack White’s First Spanish Impressions” White would once again speak of the Easter Rising.

“You will have heard no doubt about the Dublin Rising of 1916. That rising is now thought of as purely a national one, of which the aims went no further than the national independence of Ireland. It is conveniently forgotten that not only was the manifesto published by the “bourgeois” leaders concieved in a spirit of extreme liberal democracy, but, associated with the “bourgeois” leaders was James Connolly, the international socialist, who some regarded as the great revolutionary fighter and organiser of his day. In command of the Irish Citizen Army, which I had drilled, he made common cause with the Republican separatists against the common Imperial enemy.”

The article was printed in the CNT-AIT Boletin de Informacion, and White concluded by stating he greeted the working class revolution with “..the voice of revolutionary Ireland”

Not all former comrades of James Connolly and the Irish Citizen Army were as kind. Sean O’Casey had walked from the Citizen Army (where he held the situation of Honorary Secretary) with maintained a belief that the Citizen Army had aligned itself too closely with what he saw as reactionary nationalist forces.

Sean O' Casey

In his ‘Story of the Irish Citizen Army’ (available to read free online over at Libcom) O’Casey wrote of the raising of the green flag over Liberty Hall, stating that in his opinion “Labour had laid its precious gift of Independence on the altar of Irish Nationalism…”

Concluding Book 3 of his own autobiography, Drums under the Windows, published in 1945, it becomes clear he did not change his views with regards the new and secondary role the Irish labour movement had taken to Irish nationalism:

“But Cathleen, the daughter of Houlihan, walks firm now, a flush on her haughty cheek. She hears the murmur in the people’s hearts. Her lovers are gathered around her, for things are changed, changed utterly.

A terrible beauty is born.

Poor, dear, dead men. Poor W.B. Yeats”

Lastly, it is worth taking a brief look at a story that is personal and not political. In Portrait of a Rebel Father , Nora Connolly O’ Brien, daughter of James Connolly, describes the initial reaction of the family to their fathers execution.

Nora Connolly O' Brien

“Mama, we must go back to the Castle and ask for daddy’s body”
“They won’t give it to us”
“We must ask”
It was refused.
“Mrs. Connolly”- a nurse came to them as they stood in the hall not knowing what to do- “before Mr. Connolly left us I cut this off for you” On her hand was a lock of daddy’s hair. Mama took it and held to her cheek all that was left of him.

Of course, the above opinions and reactions are just a small sample of what is out there. This Easter Week, we should look at the event not just as a week long insurrection, but as an event that would ricochet on through the troubles that followed and continue to spark debate long after the last bullets whizzed through the Dublin sky.

A fantastic snap from life.com from one of the the 2006 commemorations at the GPO,Dublin.

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Who was the first man shot that day?
The player Connolly,
Close to the City Hall he died;
Carriage and voice had he;
He lacked those years that go with skill,
But later might have been
A famous, a brilliant figure
Before the painted scene.

From mountain to mountain ride the fierce horsemen.

W.B Yeats.

This Easter Monday sees a new plaque unveiled in Dublin, a plaque to the memory of Sean Connolly and his siblings ( Joe, Mattie, George, Eddie and Katie, who all served with the Irish Citizen Army during the Easter Rising) and young Molly O’ Reilly who raised the green flag over Liberty Hall in April, 1916.

In The History of the Irish Citizen Army, by R.M Fox, he wrote that:

In front of the hall itself the Citizen Army cleared a space and formed up on three sides of the square. Inside this square was the women’s section, the boys scouts’ corps under Captain W. Carpenter, and the Fintan Lalor Pipe Band. Captain C. Poole and a Colour Guard of sixteen men escorted the colour bearer, Miss Molly O’ Reilly of the Women Workers’ Union who was also a member of the Citizen Army.

….. “I noticed” said a member of the Colour Guard, “That some men, old and middle aged,and a great number of women were crying. and I knew then that this was not in vain and that they all realised what was meant by the hoisting of the flag

Sean Connolly famously starred in a play by James Connolly entitled ‘Under Which Flag?’ a week before the insurrection, which went hand in hand with the symbolic raising of the green flag over the hall. He was shot on the roof of City Hall on Easter Monday by a British Sniper who had taken up position in Dublin Castle. His brother, Mattie, was with him as he died. Sean is remembered not only as a captain within the Citizen Army but also as an actor at the Abbey, with Lady Gregory writing a poem in his memory after 1916.

James Connolly himself wrote in an article titled The Irish Flag published on the 8th April 1916 in the Workers Republc newspaper, that

For centuries the green flag of Ireland was a thing accurst and hated by the English garrison in Ireland, as it is still in their inmost hearts. But in India, in Egypt, in Flanders, in Gallipoli, the green flag is used by our rulers to encourage Irish soldiers of England to give up their lives for the power that denies their country the right of nationhood. Green flags wave over recruiting offices in Ireland and England as a bait to lure on poor fools to dishonourable deaths in England’s uniform.

On Easter Monday, April 5th the flag will be raised at Liberty Hall by a relative of Molly O’ Reilly. This flag will be presented by the great grandson of James Connolly. This ceremony will begin at 12 noon. After this, the crowd will move on to Sean McDermott Street where the plaque will be unveiled on 58/59 Sean McDermott Lower, where the home of Sean Connolly once stood.

There will be a photographic exhibition of images from the revolutionary years in the nearby Community Hall at Killarney Court.

This is all being carried out by the North Inner City Folk Project, the people behind fantastic events like the commemoration of the forgotten women of 1916, and promises to be a good one. I look forward to it!

Update: Images and audio from the launch can be found here

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Edit: Here is the translation.

A 1902 election leaflet for James Connolly, Wood Quay ward

Serious praise is due to Tomás O’Riordan and all involved with the University College Cork MultiText Project in Irish History , which has become an online home to many rare Irish historical photos and texts from the revolutionary years, ranging from characters like Jim Larkin and James Connolly to WB Yeats and Hanna Sheehy Skeffington.

The above find is undoubtedly one of my own personal favourites.

Some great insight into the election of 1902 can be found in Samuel Levenson’s fantastic biography of Connolly.

“As usual, Connolly’s campaign consisted for the most part of open air meetings, his favourite location being in New Street. The support of the Trades Council did not do much to make Connolly respectable, he recieved the usual amount of vilification. Sermons were preached in which he was termed an anti-Christ, and Catholics were forbidden to vote for him under pain of excommunication. It was charged that his children attended Catholic school only to camouflage his own beliefs”

Connolly was one of three Irish Socialist Republican Party candidates. None of the three managed to get elected on the day, with the other two candidates losing by decisive majorities. Connolly ultimately polled 431 votes, while the winning candidate achieved 1,424 votes.

An address made by Connolly “to the electors” and “fellow workers” of Wood Quay can be read online here

“…remember how the paid canvassers of the capitalist candidate – hired slanderers – gave a different account of Mr. Connolly to every section of the electors. How they said to the Catholics that he was an Orangeman, to the Protestants that he was a Fenian, to the Jews that he was an anti-Semite, to others that he was a Jew, to the labourers that he was a journalist on the make, and to the tradesmen and professional classes that he was an ignorant labourer; that he was born in Belfast, Derry, England, Scotland and Italy, according to the person the canvasser was talking to”

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Liam Weldons 'Dark Horse On The Wind'


“Yet there’s always hope in anyone singing as well as this man sings on this record, singing words as true and as deeply felt as these, in this voice both lonely and full of power. This is Dublin singing and Irish singing, as Dublin as the Easter Rising, as Irish as the Love Songs of Connacht or Flanders fields or the Limerick Soviet that got clobbered”

-Pearse Hutchinson on Liam Weldons ‘Dark Horse On The Wind’

James Connolly (Track 5)

Liam Weldons ‘Dark Horse On The Wind’ is one of the classic Dublin albums. Both my own parents are of Ballyfermot stock, and Liam lived opposite my mothers family home where she says a familiar face or two could often be seen. Ballyfermot played no small part in the ‘Folk Renaissance’ of the 1960s and 70s of course, with Downeys and other pubs in the area hosting fantastic singers nights and sessions, the Ballyfermot Phoenix Folk Night in particular. The Fureys of course were a huge part of the scene locally, as was Liam, but names and faces like Christy Moore would swing by on occasion too. Only quite recently I saw Andy Irvine upstairs in Downeys, so some of the tradition remains.

I’m rambling here however, back to ‘Dark Horse On The Wind’. A ’76 classic from Mulligan Records. A class act, thankfully brought back to us in 1999 with a star-studded launch in the Cobblestone (sadly on the other side of the city from Ballyfermot, but all is forgiven) An album that opens with a song reflecting on the troubles of the time in which it was written, lamenting our dead and cursing the nature of the “nation of the blind” that ensured yet more would join then. An album that closes with a beautiful song about, of all the innocent things in the world, the Jinny Joe. Between the Mausers and the Jinny Joes, we find songs of love and songs of class conflict. Blue Tar Road in particular dealing with, what Liam himself termed

“Travellers being pushed from pillar to post by the corporation and even some mortgage-minded vigilante type citizens”

Fintan Vallely, writing in the Sunday Tribune in 1999 about the songs of Liam Weldon, stated that


“Uncompromising, these challenged the middle-class complacency of the Irish Free State, and dangerously he trod ground shared with critics of a Irish national identity which he believed in”

That perfect Dublin mix, of the personal and political, the songs of love and the songs of liberty, is what makes ‘Dark Horse On The Wind’ the classic it is. Here, you’ll find ‘James Connolly’ (perhaps the best rendition I’ve heard, and a song of a man Liam termed “Irelands greatest socialist revolutionary”) and Smuggling The Tin, a nice short number on smuggling tin across the border into the free state.

While Liam was unsure who had written James Connolly, in ‘One Voice’ Christy Moore writes that he himself had

“…long since recorded it before I learned that it was written by Patrick Galvin, the Cork poet and writer. We have subsequently met.

….I did a subsequent recording for an album commemorating 100 years of the Scottish Trade Union council. The inclusion of the song caused anger among certain Scottish Trade Unionists who cared not that Connolly gave his life, living and dying, for all workers north, south, east and west. It was ironic uproar indeed, for Connolly was born in Edinburgh in 1869”

Liam Weldon passed away in 1995.


Smuggling The Tin (Track 2)

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James Connolly lived in a number of houses in Dublin during his time in the city. How many have plaques to mark this? None.

In 1896 when Connolly first came to Dublin the family lived in a one roomed tenement at 76 Charlemont Street. The following summer they moved to 71 Queen Street (beside Smithfield) and then to an end of terrace house at 54 Pimlico in the Liberties.

James Connolly with his wife, Lillie and daughters Mona, and Nora, c. 1895.

Before their move to the United States, they lived in a cottage in Weaver Square off Cork Street.

On his return to Dublin in 1910, James Connolly lived at 70 South Lotts Road, Ringsend. You can see the 1911 census return for the household here On his visits to Dublin in 1913 he stayed occasionally at Moran’s Hotel (now O’Sheas) at the corner of Gardiner Street and Talbot Street.

At back: Jim Larkin & James Connolly. In front: Mrs Bamber (Liverpool Trades Council) & Bill Haywood (IWW), 1913.

More frequently he lodged in 49b Leinster Road, Rathmines, (a.k.a Surrey House) the home of Constance Markievicz where several of her colleagues in the Fianna organisation also lived. (James Larkin hid in this house after he was arrested on 28 August 1913 and before he addressed the crowd from The Imperial Hotel on Sackville Street on 31 august. The house also served as Connolly’s and Markievicz’s office for The Spark and The Workers’ Republic which was also printed here.)

Some time before the Rising Connolly moved into Liberty Hall. During this time, his family stayed with Constance Markievicz’s in her cottage at the foot of Three Rock Mountain in South Dublin.

The houses in Charlemont Street, Queen Street, Pimlico, Weaver Square and South Lotts Road where Connolly and his family lived should have small plaques to mark their importance. If Dublin City Council can’t provide them, maybe all the left wing groups active in the city could raise the money?

[References:
Joseph E.A. Connell Jnr, Dublin in Rebellion: A Directory 1913 – 1923, Lilliput Press, 2009 and Donal Nevin, James Connolly: A Full Life, Gill & Macmillan, 2006.)

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the Plough And The Stars


“The only censorship that is justified is the free censorship of popular opinion. The Ireland that remembers with tear-dimmed eyes all that Easter Week stands for, will not, and cannot, be silent in face of such a challenge.”

The above words, amazingly, come from none other than Hanna Sheehy Skeffington. A feminist, suffragete and left-wing nationalist. The subject of her comments is Sean O’ Caseys play, The Plough And The Stars. When we think of the riots the play kicked off, often its easy to imagine a ‘mob’ of religious and conservative nationalists. Sheehy-Skeffingtons opposition shows things were a little more complex.

If anyone has read O’ Caseys book on his time in the Citizen Army, The Story Of The Irish Citizen Army, they’ll know he never held back with his criticism of what he seen as the failures of the movement (Normally, of course, with biting satire and wit)

Sean O’ Casey famously put a motion forward within the movement calling on the Countess Markievicz to “sever her connection” with the nationalist movement if she was to remain active in the labour movement, which fell. After this, O’ Casey resigned his position was Honorary General Secretary.

The motion read:

“Seeing that Madame Markievicz was, through Cumann na mBan, attached to the Volunteers, and on intimate terms with many of the Volunteer leaders, and as the Volunteers’ Association was, in its methods and aims, inimical to the first interests of Labour, it could not be expected that Madame could retain the confidence of the Council; and that she be now asked to sever her connection with either the Volunteers or the Irish Citizen Army”

While many of you have likely seen the play before, its return to the Abbey is most welcome and this promises to be a fantastic production.

For me, the prize moment is always Jack singing Nora to his wife. Nobody has ever come near to the late Ronnie Drews fantastic rendition.

Look here, comrade, there’s no such thing as an Irishman, or an Englishman, or a German or a Turk; we’re all only human bein’s. Scientifically speakin’, it’s all a question of the accidental gatherin’ together of mollycewels an’ atoms

I’ll see you there!

The Plough And The Stars Opens At The Abbey On July 27th,2010
Sean O’ Caseys ‘The Story of the Irish Citizen Army’ can be read free online at Libcom.org

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