Despite sharing a famous name, this James Connolly sadly lived and died in relative obscurity.
If we rely on newspaper reports of the time for any details, initially they got them all wrong. James was originally said to be aged 37, a labourer and father of five from Gardiner St. (very close to the Custom House). Or a 63 year old quay labourer.
James Connolly did work on the Liffey quays for Heitons (an old well-known Dublin builders providers). Aged about 50 when shot dead near the Custom House, he was living at 26 Lr Gardiner Street.
During the street battle after the Auxies arrived, James was killed either at Beresford Pl-Gardiner St junction or near the Loopline Railway bridge.
Probably just going home for lunch (dinner as known to old Dubs). An uninvolved passer-by, collateral damage in an urban conflict….James was shot in the back, close to the heart. Brought to King George V Military Hospital on 25 May 1921, he was dead on arrival.
The military inquiry decided “accidental death, shot by persons unknown”.
The papers reported little on that and nothing about his funeral.
Ordinary working men like James didn’t feature in those days. Unless they died in a work accident or were in court on some charge. “Lucky enough” to have any job, they’d no property. Certainly no tax, voting or employment records. Not even an entry in street directories.
There are death and burial records for James, so we know his wife was Maryanne, their address at his death and his grave location.
James was a Dubliner, married 20 years with one child who hadn’t survived (from the most likely 1911 census return). The man left behind no one but his widow. And probably little if anything of material value.
Even his unmarked grave in Glasnevin was covered by concrete in the 1960’s (NGA 1916 memorial, St Paul’s Section, Glasnevin).
The fate of his wife Maryanne remains unknown. As the illiterate widow of a ‘labouring man’ in those times, she didn’t have any golden parachutes let alone a welfare safety net.
All we can do is acknowledge and respect James Connolly as an innocent casualty at the Burning. And try to keep alive the memory of this particular Connolly couple who also lived, loved, worked and died in Dublin.
RIP James & Maryanne.