Lillie Connolly

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Lillie Connolly née Reynolds, was born in Carnew, County Wicklow, a Protestant. She was the wife of James Connolly, the Irish revolutionary who was involved in the 1916 Rising.

Early life[edit]

The Year of Lillie's birth remains uncertain but it is widely believed that she was born in the year 1867 or 1868 in Carnew, in the rural county of Wicklow. She was a member of a Protestant family which indicated that she came from a good family background and lived a wealthy life. Her father was John Reynolds, a farm labourer, and her mother's name was Margaret. Lillie was the fourth child in the family and she had an older sister named Maggie who was born in 1861, and identical twin brothers, Johnny and George who were born in 1863.[1]

Education and Career[edit]

Lillie Reynolds was a member of the 'Girls Friendly Society' in the Church of Ireland. This society, organized by the church itself, was set up to help girls particularly from rural Ireland to find some sort of employment. This organization had found Lilly an occupation as a domestic servant with William Wilson and his Wife Anne. Mr Wilson was a stockbroker and notary public, and his family lived at 35 Merrion Square East. During the time that Lillie worked at this address for this family she had risen from her position as a maid, to a governess to the couple's younger children.[1]

Family Life[edit]

Lillie Reynolds and James Connolly were married in St John the Baptist Church in Perth on 30 April 1890.[1] This was when James resigned from the army and Lillie decided to move with him to Scotland. Lillie supported and encouraged her husband to chase after his dreams. In the spring of 1890 they moved to Edinburgh and lived at 22 West Port with 30 other people. He scraped a living as a labourer and then as a manure carter with Edinburgh Corporation. Their daughter Nora was born on 14 November 1892. At the invitation of the Scottish Socialist John Leslie Connolly returned to Dublin in May 1896 as paid organiser of the Dublin Socialist Society. He founded the Irish Socialist Republican Party in May 1896, and in 1898 The Workers' Republic newspaper, the first Irish Socialist paper, from their house at number 54 Pimlico, where Lillie and James Connolly and their three daughters shared the house with six other families, a total of 30 people. Their sixth child, Roderick, was born in February 1901.[2][3]

They moved back to Dublin in May 1896 as James was an organizer of the Dublin Socialist Society. James was busy spending most of his time promoting Irish causes and then became the founding editor of The Socialist Newspaper, which then left Lillie the job of minding their children. Then in 1903, James thought that he and his family would be better off living in America due to the little progress the Irish Socialist Party was making. Also after the tragedy that happened to their first born child, Lillie again trusted her husband and thought it would be a great way to start life again. Then in 1910, the Connolly family decided to move back to Ireland and James got a job as Larkin's right-hand man in Transport and General Workers Union. He lived at Countess Markievizc's home while Lillie lived in Belfast with their children and James would travel up the north every weekend. In 1913, James Connolly was put in jail which left Lillie the only to raise and took care of their children for 3 years, yet Lillie stood strong for her children and never left her husbands side.[2] As reported in the Census of Ireland in 1911 they were living in 70 Lotts Road, South (Pembroke West, Dublin) with their 6 children.[4]

Lillie and James Connolly had seven children (six daughters and one son), but only six of them reached adulthood. The couple's eldest daughter Mona was born 11 April 1891, their second daughter Nora was born 14 November 1892, their third daughter Aideen was born 3 March 1895, their fourth daughter Mollie was born in November 1896, their fifth daughter Moria Elizabeth was born 1 January 1899. and their sixth daughter Fiona was born 22 August 1907. The couple's only son Roderick James, known as Roddy, was born 11 February 1901. Mona died 4 August 1904 after an accident where her apron caught fire when she was baby-sitting one of her sisters. Lillie and James never recovered from this tragedy. Nora became interested in politics as an adult and she and her husband Seamus worked with the Labour Party. Roddy also become interested in politics while their other siblings remained outside politics.[1]

The Connolly family immigrated to the United States in 1904, passing through Ellis Island like many other Irish Immigrants.[5] There is record of the family living in the Bronx, New York in the 1910 United States Federal Census. Lillie and her husband James lived on East 155th street with their 6 surviving children.[6]

Later life[edit]

Lillie Connolly was born a Protestant but after James's execution she became a Catholic on 15 August 1916.[3] James had been a Roman Catholic and before his death he had asked Lillie to become a Catholic.[1] May 12 was the day James was executed. Three months later Lillie received £50 from the Irish Volunteer Dependents Fund. Lillie made the most out of this in order to get her children to live a normal life.[2]

Lillie Connolly attended a children's dancing festival towards the end of 1937, which became her last public event.[1] On December 23 she was reported ill from the Irish Press and doctors had been attending her at her home in Rathmines.[7] Eventually, Lillie died 22 January 1938 at the age of seventy-one.The Irish Times wrote an article on 29 January 1938 about her funeral reporting "Throughout her life the late Mrs Connolly appeared but rarely in public. She was of the most retiring and modest disposition, home-loving and devoted to the welfare of her family".[8] Lillie Connolly had a state funeral.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g McCoole, S (2015). Easter Widows. Dublin: Doubleday Ireland. 
  2. ^ a b c "Thats Just How it was". The Wild Geese. Retrieved 23 November 2016. 
  3. ^ a b "Fiona Connolly". Gone but not forgotten. sinead mcCoole. Retrieved 23 November 2016. 
  4. ^ "Irish 1911 census records". The National Archives of Ireland. Retrieved 23 November 2016. 
  5. ^ "Passenger Search". The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Foundation Inc. Retrieved 23 November 2016. 
  6. ^ "U.S Federal Census 1910". HistoryQuest. Retrieved 23 November 2016. 
  7. ^ "MRS Connolly`s conditions unchanged". Irish Press. 23 December 1937. Retrieved 21 November 2016. 
  8. ^ "FUNERAL OF MRS. L. CONNOLLY". Weekly Irish Times. 29 January 1938. Retrieved 3 November 2016.