Lillie Connolly

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Lillie Connolly née Reynolds (1867 - 1938) was the wife of James Connolly, the Irish revolutionary who was involved in the 1916 Easter Rising.

Early life[edit]

The year of Lillie's birth remains uncertain but it is believed that she was born in the year 1867 or 1868 in Carnew, in the rural county of Wicklow. She came from a Protestant family. 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, organised by the church itself, was set up to help girls particularly from rural Ireland to find some sort of employment. This organisation found Lilly work as a domestic servant with William and Anne Wilson in Dublin. Mr Wilson was a stockbroker and notary public. He and his family lived at 35 Merrion Square East, Dublin. During the time that Lillie worked for this family, she rose from her position as a maid to that of a governess to the couple's younger children.[1] It was around this time that Lille met and became romantically involved with James Connolly who at that time was in the British Army stationed in Ireland.

Family life[edit]

James resigned from the army and with Lillie moved to Scotland around 1890. They were married in St John the Baptist Church, Perth on 30 April 1890.[1] In the spring of 1890 they moved to Edinburgh and lived at 22 West Port in the Grassmarket area. James scraped a living as a labourer and then as a manure carter with Edinburgh Corporation. They 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.[2][3]

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.

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. The Connolly family emigrated to the United States in 1904, passing through Ellis Island like many other Irish Immigrants.[4] 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.[5]

In 1910, the Connolly family moved back to Ireland when James was offered a job as organiser in James Larkin's Irish Transport and General Workers' Union. For a period, James lived at Constance Markievicz's home in Dublin while Lillie lived in Belfast with their children. James would travel up the north every weekend. As reported in the Census of Ireland in 1911 they were living in 70 Lotts Road, South (Pembroke West, Dublin) with their 6 children.[6]

James became more active in revolutionary politics and played a central role in the 1916 Easter Rising. Following the surrender of the rebels, James was sentenced to death and executed on May 12 1916. 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]

Later life[edit]

After James' execution Lillie kept out of the limelight and spent her time occupied with family and domestic affairs. Their daughter Nora became interested in politics as an adult and she and her husband Seamus worked with the Labour Party. Their son Roddy also become interested in politics while their other siblings remained outside politics.[1]

Towards the end of 1937, she attended a children's dancing festival which was her last public event.[1] On December 23, the Irish Press reported that she had fallen ill and doctors were attending her at her home in Rathmines.[7] She died four weeks later on 22 January 1938 at the age of seventy-one. She had a state funeral in Dublin on 29 January 1938.[1] The Irish Times reporting on her funeral wrote: "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 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]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g McCoole, S (2015). Easter Widows. Dublin: Doubleday Ireland.
  2. ^ a b "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. ^ "Passenger Search". The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Foundation Inc. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  5. ^ "U.S Federal Census 1910". HistoryQuest. Retrieved 23 November 2016.
  6. ^ "Irish 1911 census records". The National Archives of Ireland. 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.