John Connolly – grandson of James Connolly of the Easter Rising

John Connolly, grandson of James Connolly

John Connolly

John Connolly is the grandson of James Connolly, one of the leaders of the Easter Rising 1916. John is the son of Roddy Connolly, who also took part in the Rising. John was born in 1947 in Bray, Co.Wicklow and was educated at Presentation College Bray.

He ran an engineering company before retiring in 2009. He is one of the leaders of the campaign to save Moore Street, one of the most important locations from the Easter Rising 1916.

He still lives in Bray, Co Wicklow. He is an active supporter of the Save Moore Street Campaign

Here John shares his thoughts on how being the grandson of James Connolly has influenced his life and his thoughts.

John Connolly speaks about the roles his grandfather James Connolly and father Roddy Connolly played in the Easter Rising. Image copyright Ireland Calling

My first recollection I have was when my Father mentioned to me sometime around Easter time in the year 1957/58 that at around this time of the year in 1916 that he and his father James Connolly had been fighting in the GPO in Dublin. I had not reached that part of history in my school history book, and was not really aware that a Rising had taken even taken place in 1916.

This was one of the few times that I had heard my father Roddy, mention anything about the Rising and his father and their part in the fighting in the GPO in Sackville Street as it was known as then. He had acted as a “runner” for his father James and Patrick Pearse.

My father seldom ever spoke about his activities in the Rising, my older brothers Seamus, Ross (RIP) and Rory (RIP) have confirmed this to me. My two sisters were not at home, Maggie my eldest sister was in London working, Maura my other sister was staying with my mother’s sister in Hull in Yorkshire, and we had little or no interaction. Very occasionally, if asked a direct question, Roddy would give us a brief answer to the question.

John Connolly - grandson of Easter Rising leader James Connolly - with Martin McGuinness

John Connolly (right) with Martin McGuinness

We have concluded that Dad had suffered possibly from some sort of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) , due to the fact that his father James was to be executed.

At the time, I really don’t think it made any great impression on me as I was only a young pre-teen boy who had other things on his mind, such as Airfix models of ships, aeroplanes and such like activities.

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It was not so much my parents that told me about James Connolly, but mostly friends of my father and my older siblings, I was the youngest of the family. As I grew up, a great friend of my dad’s, a certain Hedley Desmond Wright who was a partner with my father in a photography business that the two of them ran from the basement of my family home. My father was the first photographer to import into Ireland two Polaroid Cameras from America, one of which I still have.

Roddy Connolly

John’s father Roddy Connolly

This enabled them to give a picture to any of their customers on the spot, when they were plying their trade during the summer months when my father was on holidays from his post as a teacher in Bray. (Hedley Desmond Wright was also a driver for my father during his terms as a T.D., ie, a member of Dail Eireann as my father’s constituency was up in County Louth, near the border with Northern Ireland and there was a lot of travelling involved) Hedley used to allow me to help him in the “darkroom” where they developed the films . I have great memories of Hedley telling me about my father and James Connolly and the “troubles” as they were known as.

He told me about the Rising, the Civil War and the War of Independence, and my father’s role in the Civil War where he fought on the side of the Republican forces. My mother Peggy was completely uninterested in politics, which I thought as odd, as she had met my father at a Socialist rally or convention in Scotland.

Her only interest was the card game called Bridge, as also was my father, who reported for the Irish Independent newspaper on some of the International Bridge Tournaments, where he met that wonderful actor, now sadly recently deceased, Omar Sharif. He said that was one of the highlights of his career as a columnist for the Irish Independent.

The one iconic story about James Connolly that I cherish the most is that wonderful story told by the priest who was attending to my Grandfather just before he was executed by the firing squad.

James Connolly - Socialist who joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood and became an Easter Rising leader. Image copyright Ireland Calling

The priest asked my grandfather if he would say a prayer for the men who were about to shoot him, and my grandfather replied: “I salute all good men who do their duty”. I cannot imagine myself or anyone else saying something like that, I would have cursed them to hell and back.

It was not something that was discussed a lot in our family a lot, because as I have mentioned before, my father seldom spoke about his earlier life. My mother was only interested in Bridge and in keeping the family afloat financially as a teacher’s salary was buttons in those days.

My mother ran a bed and breakfast type of operation in the 1950’s and the 1960’s as Bray was the premier holiday resort in Ireland for all the Northern Irish, English and Scottish workers during that period. It only fell away from that when the car ferry arrived in Dublin and Dun Laoghaire, as well as cheaper air fares to resorts in Spain and Portugal.

The following two videos were created by Dublin film maker Marcus Howard as part of his Easter Rising Stories series.

James Connolly Documentary A Working Class Hero For The World

A documentary told by Connolly’s grandchildren James and John Connolly, great grandchildren Joanna Connolly Brady and Sean Connolly. This film focuses on Connolly’s rise from the slums of Edinburgh to the largest halls in New York.

A working class man urging working class people to unite and arise, this is the story of James Connolly’s full life. Many unheard personal stories reveal a witty and determined man who overcame personal tragedy to better himself and others.

James Connolly Documentary The Easter Rising

This documentary follows on from the first video and chronicles the events of 1916 and James Connolly’s subsequent execution.

Some of James Connolly’s grandchildren and great grandchildren give a powerful testimony to the events of this time and the impact it had on the family.

Did one of your relatives take part in the Easter Rising? If you would like to tell your story in our Easter Rising relatives section we would love to hear from you.

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Easter Rising Descendents

This series of interviews with the descendants of the Easter Rising rebels is made with the help of independent Dublin film maker Marcus Howard who has also created an Easter Rising series.

Find out more about Marcus Howard.


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