#OTD in 1868 – James Connolly is born to Irish parents in Edinburgh.

1916 rebel leader and ardent socialist James Connolly is born to poverty-stricken Irish parents in Edinburgh, Scotland. At age 14, he joined the British Army (Royal Scots Regiment) falsifying his age. He was posted to Ireland, serving much of his time in the Cork area.

Despite the fact he left school at age 11, Connolly was a fervent reader and astute social commentator who railed against the extreme poverty and disease which consumed working class society. In 1890, he married Lillie Reynolds and the following year deserted from a British Army he had grown to despise. He then spent some time in Scotland becoming Secretary of the Scottish Socialist Federation before moving to Dublin in a similar capacity and becoming a close ally of James Larkin.

Following the General Strike of 1913 which deteriorated into violent street battles between the authorities and striking workers, Connolly founded the Irish Citizens Army along with an ex-British Army officer Jack White. The initial purpose was to protect striking workers but after the strike ceased the Irish Citizen Army morphed into a militant nationalist movement which would be one of the main players during the 1916 rebellion.

Sentenced to death for his involvement in the 1916 Rising, Connolly was so critically wounded that he had to be strapped to a chair for his execution. The imagery of Connolly’s execution proved a potent rousing call for IRA recruitment soon after.

Photo credit: 1916 Easter Revolution in Colour

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