Interview For History

Published in Personal History

My great, great,Uncle was James Connolly. He was born on the 11th of September 1897 in Kinlough, County Leitrim. He was the Captain of the Third Western Division in the IRA and he was killed in action at Finner Camp on the 29th of June 1922.

He came from a long string of IRA members in his family. He was a very well respected and trusted member of the IRA and was nearly always on the run from the British. He was so well respected that he was elected as a member of the Leitrim County Council.

During the war of independence he fought on the Irregular side which was the Anti-Treaty side. The treaty had been signed in 1922. The withdrawal of the British forces followed. Military barracks such as the one at Finner, Co. Donegal were handed over, with little regard for whether it’s succession was in the hands of the Pro or Anti side of the debate on the treaty. James Connolly was killed that same year when the Pro-Treaty side surprisingly attacked. The other Anti-Treaty soilders retreated to the sand dunes behind Finner Camp.While Connolly was making sure that everyone was safely out he was shot by machine gun while retreating. He was the only soldier to die that day.

He was thirty five years of age. On the day of his funeral it was raining heavily but that did not stop the huge crowd coming out in support for him. In 1950 a memorial was errected in his memory in Kinlough Cemetary which still stands today.

An interesting aspect of his death that has always intrigued me related to the death of his father before him some two years earlier. He too was a staunch I.R.A man and was shot as he stood on his doorstep by the ‘Black and Tans’. It is said that a person who delivered an oration at his graveside was among the group of pro treaty soldiers who attacked Finner camp on that fateful day and killed his son. The story illustrates the stark reality of how families and communities were massively divided in the Civil War.

 

 Michael Christie

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