“James Connolly”


"Where O where is our James Connolly? Where O where is that galland man? He's gone to organize the Union." Conolly's Union and a citizen army fight for freedom, but he is wounded, imprisoned, and killed; Ireland buries and mourns him


James Connolly (1868-1916) was one of the first labor organizers in Ireland. Brought up in Scotland, and a veteran of the British army, he was interested in Marxism and believed that Ireland's political freedom was linked to the strength of her labor movement.

In 1913, Connolly and James Larkin (1876-1947, for whom see "Jim Larkin, R.I.P.") organized a great strike against the United Tramway Company. It eventually spread to most of Ireland, but some political blundering cost them support in Britain, and the strike fizzled in 1914. Larkin fled to America, not to return until 1923, leaving Connolly as Ireland's leading labor figure.

Incidentally, the reference to a "citizen army" is probably not a reference to the 1916 rebels. according to Robert Kee, _The Bold Fenian Men_, being Volume II of _The Green Flag_, p. 199, "A so-called 'Irish Citien Army' was officiallly formed on 23 November 1913 (in reaction to an army crackdown on August 21).

By 1916, Connolly was leading rebels in Dublin; he commanded the assault on that city's GPO which ended with Padraic Pearse proclaiming the Irish Republic. Connolly was one of the signers of the proclamation. But less than a week later (April 29), Connolly was directing his forces to surrender to the overwhelming British forces.

(It should be noted that the failure of the rebellion was expected, at least by Pearse and some of his associates. In a way, they didn't even want to succeed. They thought Irish independence could only be achieved by a sort of mystic sacrifice -- and set out to make it. Their timing was bad, as well; with millions of British troops fighting in France, Britain had to end the rebellion with all possible speed -- i.e. with great brutality.)

In the process of the fighting, Connolly received an ankle wound which turned gangrenous. He was executed on May 12, 1916, already so ill that he had to be strapped into a chair to be shot. He had had to be taken to the site of the execution in an ambulance (see Robert Kee, _Ourselves Alone_, being volume III of _The Green Flag_, p. 6).

Kee also notes (p. 57) that Connolly's influence lasted after his death. The Dail -- the Sinn Fein congress elected in 1918 had as one of its early acts "the unanimous adoption of a so-called Democratic Programme containing vague socialistic phrases which claimed to emanate from 'our first President, Paraic Pearse,' but were more truly an acknowldegement to the memory of Connolly." - RBW

Historical references

  • 1916 - Execution of James Connolly, Irish patriot, union leader, and socialist


  1. PGalvin, pp. 99-100, "James Connolly" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. DT, JMCONNLY (JIMCON -- probably a sequel to the remainder, but not part of the original poem)
  3. ADDITIONAL: Frank Harte _Songs of Dublin_, second edition, Ossian, 1993, pp. 82-83, "James Connolly" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Roud #12495
  5. BI, PGa099


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1962 (Galvin)
Found in: Ireland