“Providence sent the potato blight but England made the Famine… We are sick of the canting talk of those who tell us that we must not blame the British people for the crimes of their rulers against Ireland. We do blame them.
-James Connolly, co-leader of the Easter Rising against British Rule, 1916” (qtd. in O’Connor IX)
James Connolly was born in 1868 to Irish Catholic parents in Edinburgh, Scotland, 21 years after the events of Star of the Sea. He joined the army at age fourteen, and deserted seven years later, while stationed in Dublin. He married Lille Reynolds, an Irish servant, in 1890, and the couple moved to Edinburgh (Wallace 147).
In 1896, Connolly earned the position of organizer in the Dublin Socialist Club. In short order, he founded the Irish Socialist Republican Party and began to publish a weekly magazine, Workers’ Republic, in which he marked the hundred-year anniversary of the 1798 Irish Rebellion by arguing “that the principles of Wolfe Tone could only be realized in a socialist republic” (Wallace 147). He spent a brief period in the U.S. during which he “helped to found the International Workers of the World in 1905” and the Irish Socialist Federation in 1907 (Wallace 147).
Upon his return to Ireland in 1910, Connolly joined the Socialist Party of Ireland and began to publish political tracts, including Labour in Irish History, which named the working class “the incorruptible inheritors of the fight for freedom in Ireland” (Wallace 147). Further political involvement in the Irish struggle resulted in Connolly leading the Dublin members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood during the 1916 uprising. His leadership in the rebellion resulted in his death; he was shot and killed by a British firing squad in a Dublin jail on May 12, 1916 (Wallace 148), so wounded from the rebellion that he had to be strapped to a chair before he was shot.
Within Star of the Sea, James Connolly doesn’t appear as an actual character in the novel, but a quote (reprinted above) is one of the novel’s four epigraphs. Connolly, along with John Mitchel, condemned England's role in the potato famine, and quotations from these men are contrasted with quotes from Charles Trevelyan and Punch magazine, which blame the Irish for the famine and compare the Irish to savage beasts, respectively. Connolly’s quotation dates from the 1916 Easter Rising, which he helped to lead, demonstrating that the famine and Ireland’s colonization continued to be issues far after Star of the Sea concludes.
Wallace, Martin. 100 Irish Lives. Totowa: Barnes & Noble Books, 1983. Print.
O’Connor, Joseph. Star of the Sea. Orlando: Harcourt, 2002. Print.
Researcher/Writer: Audrey Gunn
Technical Designers: Lindsey Atchison and Sarah Liebig
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