James Connolly

1868 - 1916

James Connolly
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

James Connolly

Irish nationalist and socialist. Born in the Cowgate district of Edinburgh to Irish parents. Connolly left school at 11 and joined the British army at 14, having lied about his age, and was stationed in the Curragh in Dublin. Having left the army in 1889, he settled in Dundee where he joined the Socialist League. The following year he married in Perth and returned to Edinburgh. Regarded as one of the most enlightened socialist thinkers of his day, he spoke in Edinburgh and Dublin, linking the themes of socialism, Roman Catholicism and Irish nationalism. He set up a newspaper and toured the USA (1902-10) promoting his ideas. He organised the labour movement in Dublin, founding the Irish Socialist Republican Party (1896) and the Irish Labour Party (1912). By 1916 Connolly was an influential union leader, strongly opposed to the First World War. In the same year, he was a leader of the Easter Rising against British rule in Ireland, which was quickly suppressed. Especially given its timing during the First World War, which was costing Britain dearly, this rebellion was considered treasonous by the authorities. Despite being badly wounded Connolly was arrested and executed. He was sufficiently weak that he could not stand and was therefore shot while sitting in a chair, becoming a martyr for the Republican movement.

His socialist legacy was influential in Scotland, and those with Irish-Republican sympathies still hold an annual march in Edinburgh in Connolly's memory. There is a memorial under George IV Bridge in Edinburgh's Cowgate.

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