James Connolly: A Biographical Essay by Tony Nicoletti


Plums of soot from chimney stacks paint the sky slate grey, as quite cobblestone roads glisten in the twilight of dawn. The clanking and clanging of iron rims on a wooden handcart shatter the silence, a slim figure of a man slowly emerges from the shadows. One of his fists is clenched tightly, and the other, wrapped firmly around the handle of a spade. His beady eyes scan the road with pin point precision. Homing in on his target he levels the shovel towards the ground and with great finesse, scoops up a large pile of manure, heaving it over his shoulder and into the small wooden handcart behind him. Carefully placing the spade back inside the cart he removes a handkerchief from his inside jacket pocket and wipes the sweat from his brow. Adjusting himself by the belt, a young James Connolly, unhurriedly, moves along to the next pile of manure on the road.

Image result for james connollyJames Connolly, Irish Patriot, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. He lived in abject poverty in what where some of the worst slums in Europe. Poverty was rife and hostilities towards the Irish refugees there was at times, volatile. Connolly, like his father before him, had made his business by collecting horse manure from the streets of what were known back then as ‘Little Ireland.’ A name giving to this section of Irish diaspora, direct decedents of an Gorta Mór, who, having made their new home here, were trying to evade economic hardships back in Ireland.

It was widely believed that James Connolly was born in Monaghan, Ireland, but this turned out to be untrue as recent evidence suggests that he was, as a matter of fact, born in Edinburgh, Scotland. Connolly had only a basic primary education, he left school when he was just fourteen years of age. He joined the British army at a very young age too and was stationed in Ireland for a short time. In later years Connolly would go on to condemn the British Armed Forces and express his disgust at what he described as ‘economic conscription’ where he saw many young men forced to join the army in the face of starvation.

Fighting at the front to-day there are many thousands whose whole soul revolts against what they are doing, but who must nevertheless continue fighting and murdering because they were deprived of a living at home, and compelled to enlist that those dear to them may not starve.
(Connolly – 1915)

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

James Connolly arrived in Dublin from Scotland with his wife Lille and their three children sometime in May 1886. They rented a single room in a tenement slum at number 75 Charlemont Street, directly across from where Tom Kelly Flats are situated now on Dublin’s Southside. Like Connolly’s original place of birth, these were some of the worst slums in Europe; at the time Dublin was in serious decay, overflowing with poverty, death and disease.


No.72 Charlemont Street. The last remaining tenement house on the road. Connolly lived at No.75

Connolly was an avid socialist and spent some time in the US working as a union organiser for the Industrial Workers of the Word, or the ‘Wobblies’, as they were more commonly known. He formed the Irish Socialist Republican Party (ISRP) while living in Charlemont Street and began publishing socialist material in his newspaper the ‘Workers Republic’.

Connolly is most notably recognised here in Ireland for his role as co-founder and organiser and Acting General Secretary of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU), and as co-founder and Commander of the fighting arm of the workers militia; the Irish Citizens Army (ICA).

The Great Lockout of 1913 was a turning point in Irish history. Epic street battles ensued as workers were baton charged by the Dublin Metropolitan Police force (DMP), resulting in the deaths of some of the workers. In response to this Connolly co-founded the Irish Citizen Army, whose aim it was, to protect the locked-out striking workers from being attacked by the DMP.

During this period and the years thereafter, Connolly saw how starvation was being used again as a tool against the working man.

The great lock-out in 1913-14 was an apprenticeship in brutality – a hardening of the heart of the Irish employing class – whose full acts we are only reaping to-day in the persistent use of the weapon of hunger to compel men to fight for a power they hate, and to abandon a land that they love. (Connolly – 1915)

In the long drawn out years that followed, worn-down and tired, the workers finally conceded to the capitalistic economic embargos wrought upon them by the hands of men like William Martin Murphy.

Only three years later another epic historical turning point would unfold changing the course of Irish history for future generations to come.

In the years up to 1916, Connolly wrote many publications. He had a very unique style in that he wrote short, concise pieces. It was an art itself and very effective. He had a way with words and could sum-up the mutual feelings at the time in society into compact, hard-hitting prose.

Connolly was under no illusion that an insurrection was on the horizon. Many times the Irish rose up in arms against British occupation and this time was no different. But Connolly, unlike some of the other leaders, didn’t see this as he put it, an opportunity to simply ‘replace the crown with the harp’ (Connolly – 1899).

Connolly wanted more for the people, he wanted a reorganisation of society based on socialism and explained the futility of armed rebellion without it. But nevertheless, Connolly would lead a small band of ICA men to the GPO on Easter Monday, 1916, alongside the Irish Volunteers and Cumann na mBan and strike a blow for Irish freedom.

Connolly was a fearless leader. During the fighting, he was hit in the ankle by a bullet. Badly wounded and with gangrene quickly setting in, he asked to be brought back out to Central Command where he continued commanding his troops in battle while laid-out on a stretcher inside the headquarters of the republican revolutionary forces, the General Post Office (GPO).

With civilian casualties mounting, on April 19th, 1916, Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell, under the white flag, delivered the surrender letter that would end all hostilities on Easter week, bringing the Easter Rising to an end.  

Connolly, for his role in the revolution, was executed. He was brought from Dublin Castle to Kilmainham Gaol, strapped to a chair, and shot. They buried him, unceremoniously, in an unmarked quicklime grave in Arbour Hill.

James Connolly lived a hard life faced with severe poverty and destitution, yet he was charismatic, full of life, a powerful orator and a skilled tactician and agitator. He showed us a way to a better place, a place where we all become masters of our own destinies, owners of our cities and collective custodians of our natural resources.

The Proclamation of 1916 remains unfulfilled. And although Connolly is gone the legacy he left behind lives on in the hearts and minds of those who seek a better Ireland through the fulfilment of the ideals of the men and women of 1916, for all or for none!


Tony Nicoletti.



Collins, L. (2012) 16 Lives: James Connolly. Dublin: O’Brien.

Come Here To Me (2009) James Connolly’s Dublin Addresses
Available at: https://comeheretome.com/2009/12/23/james-connollys-dublin-addresses/ 

Connolly, J. (1915) ‘Economic Conscription’, Workers’ Republic.

Connolly, J. (1899) Let Us Free Ireland!, Workers’ Republic.

Connolly, J. (1900) The Coming Generation, Workers’ Republic.

Cox, C. (2016) ‘Elizabeth O’Farrell: The woman airbrushed from history’, Independent, 2nd February.

D’Aarcy, F.A. (2016) Connolly, James. Available at: http://dib.cambridge.org/.

Available at: https://ansionnachfionn.com/tag/an-gorta-mor-the-great-famine/. 2016.

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Rebel Charlo’s Hidden History: Michael Cullen

Interview with Breda Cullen
Transcribed by Tony Nicoletti

On Sunday the 21st March, 1920, having left his sweetheart home to her house on Charlemont Street, Michael Cullen was making his way home travelling up by Gordon Place lane and out on to Richmond Street.

These were some of the last known steps Michael would ever take and exactly what happened next we will never know. But what we do know is that on this ill-fated date a young man and a woman, Eilen Hendrick, would both meet their fate as their young lives came to a tragic end at the hands of the notorious Black and Tans.

In this transcribed interview we talk to the niece of Michael, Breda Cullen, of her recollections about the incident and the tragic circumstances which unfolded that led to the death of the man who she fondly remembered as, Uncle Mickey.


Breda Cullen

Breda Cullen . . .

“Our story was,”

That Sunday night there was some film being shown in the Regal Rooms, now you mightn’t remember where that was . . . do you know where the department of health is now, in Hawkins Street? Well, that was what we called the Royal Theatre and beside it was a small picture house, the Regal Rooms. It was all Hatch Street, it’s where the busses all stopped now.

And there was some picture being shown of some battle that the British had won, I think it could’ve been 18 or whatever. But a group of the Tans were at it, and when they came out of there they were all cheering because they had won this battle, and of course this crowd was out cheering and OUR’s was waiting for them outside.

The Theatre Royal on Hawkins Street, pictured here c. 1910

The Theatre Royal on Hawkins Street, pictured here c. 1910

And that’s where the battle started. Now some of the high ranking (Black and Tans) got back into the theatre, but somehow somebody got away and up to Portobello, because there were no phones at the time as you know.

And there was a group (Black and Tans) coming from Portobello, whoever got up there was getting reinforcements. Now they could have went to another barracks as well.

But the Lord of Mercy on Uncle Mickey, in Charlemont Street there was a block of houses, small houses, he was after leaving from having been at the cinema and he had left a girl home to one of those houses.

The spot where Michael Cullen fell after walking the short distance from Charlemont Street down Gordon Lane.

The spot where Michael Cullen fell after walking the short distance from Charlemont Street down Gordon Lane.

Now the funny part was all he had to do when he left the girl there, was to go back up to Charlemont Street, around onto the Mall and into his house. But instead of that he went back down Gordon’s Lane and as he came to the top of Gordon Place Lane, he heard a car. People were screaming and he ran across to the Golden Vale Dairy which was only across the road because it had a kind of an open doorway. But as he was running from them (Black and Tans), that’s where they must’ve (shot him) . . . and that’s where he fell, outside the Golden Vale.


Portobello House Nursing Home, now Portobello College

Now the girl (Eilen Hendrick) was coming out of a nursing home, Portobello House. I don’t think she was a nurse, but a maid. But that’s where she was coming out, and that’s where she fell.

Neighbours had heard (shots). When they looked out they saw the body and somebody, some neighbour, ran over.

But that was the way my mother and grandmother remembered it. They went to Kevin’s Church. We were all christened in Saint Kevin’s Church, and somebody ran around Lennox Street, Synge Street, and the priest came out and anointed the two of them.

But there would have been more causalities if the battle had of been on Richmond Street, there would have been more shot.

And by all accounts, I’ve never heard of another soldier been shot. There was, I think, a curfew but there wasn’t many out. People wondered what had happened.

My Mammy was married in eighteen (1918) and she lived over in Albert Place on the far side of the canal. But I don’t know whether she had left there and gone to Williams’s Place, or if she was back at her Mother’s, my Granny’s, for a while. My grandmother had three more in the family after Mickey, two of them were young men.

But Mammy had moved back over to Williams’s Place, now, it didn’t worry Mammy Cullen Mickey coming in Sunday night because he used to go to a pal. And Daddy Cullen was in that morning, reading the paper. But they said (the newspaper), I think they aged him at 40 (Michael) and he had red hair.[1] So needless to say, that was Mickey.

Mammy Cullen went to mass at 10 O’clock and of course they were all talking and the priest told her about Michael. It was the talk of the day as you know. So then Tuesday morning Daddy Cullen had the same paper and it was all something else and Mammy Cullen kind of knew because he didn’t come in on Sunday night.

But by say, Thursday, there was a photograph in the paper of Mr and Mrs Cullen coming out of the Meath Hospital after identifying their son.

But it was a different Mr and Mrs Cullen from Masterson’s Lane. They were after been in visiting somebody and other neighbours said, ah we’re sorry to hear about (Michael), they were saying to sorry to whoever they were visiting. And the cameras were outside the hospital.

While it went into Thursday morning Mammy Cullen was really getting worried about what happened, there was no word. And how they identified him was a little piece in the newspaper of a young man still waiting to be identified.

He had a patch on the left knee, or the right, I don’t know which, the size of a two shilling piece. Daddy Cullen read that, he looked around, the ramble (cloth) was on the floor, she’d (Mrs Cullen) only put it on that night.

She was very neat yarning and sewing, and she used to say, ‘a stitch in time will save nine’ and she’d put the little patch on, and that’s how they knew it was him. But it was definitely three or four days before he was identified in the Meath Hospital.

TN: Was there any inquiry into it Michaels Death?

Oh yes, there was a big inquiry and they got money out of it. What they got now how much, I don’t know. But Mammy didn’t get any, it was only Josie, Tom and Paddy, because they were single, and they got the few bob. Now, it wasn’t a lot, but a lot at the time, you know that kind of a way. To nowadays it was pittance, but it was a fortune to them.

Paddy was the youngest, Tom was the next, and Josie, but they weren’t married and that’s how they got the money, but Mammy didn’t.

TN: Where is Michael buried?

Mickey is buried in Glencullen, Johnny Foxes. If you want I’ll show you, but you would miss the grave if you wished to go out to Johnny Foxes. It’s a broken down graveyard, you can’t get any information because at the time you had to dig your own grave.

But, the lord of Mercy on Uncle Leo, he was the eldest, he was after burying a little girl, and he had opened a grave. Leo’s grave is just in from the wall and there’s a headstone on it. And Leo Cullen is on it, Mickey’s name is also on it.

TN: according to official records I think that they said he was shot on March 2nd?

On the 2nd, no, I think they have a mistake, I made it out and he was shot on Sunday the 21st, March, 1920. I’d say he would have been 21.

Later it always puzzled me was shot in 21, or was he 21 and he was shot in 20.

Charlemont Mall

Charlemont Mall

Mickey was going with this girl and I used to say it to mammy, she then said after as time went on, needless to say mammy was broken hearted, but as time went on she would say well it was meant to be that he came this way. All he had to do was come up where Charlemont Street is. I don’t know if you remember Mary Blacks Mother, well it’s in one of those houses he left the girlfriend, because I remember the shops and Masterson’s Lane.

There was Dinny Burns and there was a chemist. Now Dinny burns shop was like an off-licence and a grocery, a big shop. Then there was the opening for Masterson’s lane, then there was a shop called the Golddriffs, now I don’t know what it was at that time. Then there were a couple of other shops and houses that went in with a garden, and that’s where he (Mickey) was leaving.


Spot on Richmond Street where both Michael Cullen (nearest) & Eilen Hendrick were killed.

Now over there (on Richmond Street) when you come down a bit on this side as you turn around from Quinlands the shops went in a bit. There was a little bootmakers and then here there was a vegetable shop. My younger brothers and the other young fellas they used to call he Juicy’O, they’d nicknames on them all. There was Doyles paper-shop and then came saint Ultan’s.

Gordon Place Lane leading out onto Richmond Street, where the final steps taking by Michael Cullen

Gordon Place Lane leading out onto Richmond Street, where the final steps by Michael Cullen were taking

Then beyond that then there was the big Georgian houses that went in, they were called Terro terrace, then you came up to the bridge. That’s how I always remember them, coming around from Searsons, Searsons and what we called the tenements. There was the pawn office then there was the houses down as far as what we called the cabbage gardens.

Some of them neighbours, it was Mrs Carroll who laid out Mickey and my grandfather. Grandfather and grandmother and also in Glenncullenn.

There’s a new graveyard a few yards up, they keep it, and Leo’s wife is buried up there with her son, she didn’t go into the old grave. They all had to dig their own grave. When they went out it was an awful hike. At the end of the hill we all had to get out of the mourning couches, as the men had to push the hearse up and the lord of mercy on my grandmother, she didn’t go to daddy Cullen’s funeral, she said no, because she didn’t want to see Mickey’s grave.

When it came to uncle Leo, he died in 1946 and she didn’t want to go to his funeral, she said no, so I had another another uncle Jack and his nephew was after getting a car and he said if we get a car will you come, she said yes, so he brought her and they were able to get right up to the graveyard. There were no morning funerals, believe it or not the mass was said later after the funeral.

But when she came home from Uncle Leo’s, she said ‘I’ll be the next for Glencullen, Mickey is waiting for me.’

That is my end of the story.

[1] Michael’s hair was fair, not red, the red was blood.

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A map of Charlemont Street with some points of interest regarding the history surrounding the area.


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REBEL CHARLO: Civilians Killed 1916-1920

A chairde, we’re looking for some help with this one. As some of you may well know we’re planning a plaque unveiling for James Connolly here in Charlemont Street. We’re also planning another plaque unveiling for the civilians killed around the area too from 1916-1920. If possible, we would like to track down any living relatives to ask them for their support, inquire their thoughts into this endeavour, and invite them along to any ceremonies we have planned.

Any help greatly appreciated.

Their names are:
1. Annie O’Neil, 8 years old.
2. Christopher Cathcart, 10 years old.
3. Michael Cullen, 20 years old & Eileen Hendric, 19 years old.

1. Annie O’Neil: On the 13th of November 1920 an 8 year old girl was shot dead by a British Army officer as he, with another Officer, chased some young men they had challenged. Annie O’Neill was playing outside her house when the incident happened. Annie’s mother, hearing the shots, ran outside and picked up her daughter. Newspaper reports on the shooting differ as to weather Annie was dead when her mother reached her or her mother had taken her inside the house before realising she was dead. Annie was buried in Dean’s grange Cemetery, her grave is unmarked.

2. Christopher Cathcart (10), 28 Charlemont Street. He was killed on Easter Monday. He died at Portobello barracks and death cert states – “probably haemorrhage from a gunshot wound”. His father Patrick was a coachbuilder. In the 1911 census his family of 11 shared the 6 roomed house with 3 other families – 27 people. His niece Mary tells me that he was shot dead in crossfire at Portobello Bridge. He had gone to play in Palmerston Park in Ranelagh that morning. Work was sent for him to come home immediately as the Rising had started – but he rambled off on his own and was accidentally shot.

3. Michael Cullen & Eileen Hendric: On Monday the 2nd of March 1920 at 9.30pm 120 soldiers of the Royal Berkshire Regiment were returning from a performance at the theatre, the soldiers were singing Rule Britannia and God Save the King, when they were attacked by a hostile crowd on South Richmond Street Dublin.
A man and a woman were killed by revolver shots and another man was injured by a bullet wound in the wrist. One soldier was shot through the chest and four soldiers wounded by missiles. The two dead civilians were taken to the Meath Hospital, they were identified as:
Eilen Hendrick aged 19 of Francis Street. It had previously been believed that the dead girls name was Margaret Dowling.
Michael Cullen aged 20 a van driver from Charlemont Mall, Charlemont Street, Dublin



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REBEL CHARLO: What’s in Store


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Dr.Kathleen Lynn, and Madeline fFrench-Mullen

Dr.Kathleen Lynn

Dr.Kathleen Lynn

On international women’s day, Rebel Charlo remembers Dr.Kathleen Lynn, and Madeline fFrench-Mullen.

It was Dr.Kathleen Lynn, a member of the Irish Citizen Army, and chief medical officer during the 1916 revolution, and her colleague, Madeleine fFrench-Mullen, a member of Cumann na mBan and later the Irish Citizen Army, who were both responsible for establishing Saint Ultan’s Hospital for Infants, on Charlemont Street, a fist of its kind here in Ireland. Two remarkable woman indeed, whose, role, progressiveness, contribution, and accomplishment, in society, supersedes by far the repugnant ambitions, and injustices, by the Gombeen capitalist class in today’s society. May their noble deeds never be forgotten.

“Dr. Mary McAuliffe tells us about the truly remarkable life of Kathleen Lynn, a women who dedicated her life to the people of Dublin. A truly inspirational woman, who deserves to be celebrated as a national hero.”

Kathleen Lynn, and Madeline fFrench-Mullen

Kathleen Lynn, and Madeline fFrench-Mullen

Former Charlemont Street resident, James Connolly.

The Re-Conquest of Ireland

Chapter VI

REBEL Charlo-connolly

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Charlemont’s Former Resident, James Connolly


Tenement Slums, Charlemont Mall

There are many people from Charlemont Street who have come and gone, but there is one name that stands out among them all. He was a revolutionary trade unionist/syndicalist; a socialist agitator and Irish republican. He arrived on these shores with a desire to make a better life for his family, and with a fiery determination, set in motion the struggle for the attainment of social justice, and national, and economic liberation, for the working class; that man was none other than—James Connolly.


James Connolly, his wife Lille, and children

Moving to Ireland with his wife Lille and their three children, they arrived here in May 1886. Once here, they rented a single room in a tenement slum at 75 Charlemont Street, directly across from where Tom Kelly Flats are situated now. These were some of the worst slums in the country; at the time Dublin was in serious decay, and overflowing with poverty.

Some say that it’s the environment in which one live that shapes, and determines the outlook in life for man, and if the life of James Connolly is anything to go by, surely then this is the case.


Doorway to a tenement slum on Charlemont Mall

Having arrived from abject poverty from his place of birth in Edinburgh, Connolly was no stranger to living in harsh conditions, indeed, it could be said that for the most part of his life, he, like so many of the millions of other working class toiling for the grinding capitalist around the globe, had to struggle very hard in life to make ends meet.

Connolly cut his teeth in socialism while in Scotland, where he was active in a number of left-wing organisations. When he finally moved to Ireland in 1886, in May of that year, he formed the Irish Socialist Republican Party (ISRP) while still residing in Charlemont Street at the time.
In later years he move to America and was active in the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies) and the Socialist Labour Party of America.

Connolly is most notably recognised here in Ireland for his role as organiser of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, and as its Acting General Secretary, and a co-founder, and Commander of the fighting arm of the workers militia; The Irish Citizens Army.

And of course as Vice-President of the Provisional Government of the Republic, and the Commandant General Dublin Division Army of the Irish Republic. Connoly was executed for his role in the revolution on May 12th, 1916.


The residents of Charlemont Street will see fit that one of our former neighbours is commemorated in the proper manner fitting our patriot dead. And have begun organising a plaque unavailing to mark the spot where this great man once lived.

This citizen’s led initiative is non-party political, and is welcome to everybody.

Further details such as a time and date to be announced soon.


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