Roderick James Connolly took following in his father’s footsteps quite literally. He was born on this day in 1901 and was the only son of Lillie and James Connolly. James was a devout socialist, a revolutionary leader, and one of the men executed for leading Ireland’s Easter Rising in 1916. “Roddy” as he was known, was only fifteen when his father was killed which affected him for the rest of his life. Roderick was driven by the same devotion to socialism that his father had believed in and later in life he went into journalism and politics, just like his dad had before him.
Roddy actually fought beside his father in the General Post Office Headquarters of the Rising. Lillie and James hardly ever argued but they had a row over whether or not Roddy was old enough to join the revolution. His father allowed it. He was a “runner” for both James Connolly and Patrick Pearse and he helped with the meals in the GPO. Roderick remained with his father for as long as he could. When the headquarters came under serious fire two days later James sent his son on an errand, knowing it was unlikely that Roddy would make it back to the GPO. Roddy remembered later that as they parted his father was crying, but he didn’t realize why until after the fight. James Connolly had invented the errand that would send his son away from the GPO, and he probably knew that was the last time they would see each other. Indeed, it turned out to be their final goodbye.
Roderick Connolly was arrested after the Rising. He had ventured out to find news of his father but was rounded up with other rebels. He gave a false name, as Sean MacDiarmada had told him to do if he should find himself arrested. Roddy was being held in the Richmond Barracks under that assumed name when his father was executed. It was the first of Roddy’s multiple stints in jail.
In 1917 Roderick joined the Socialist Party of Ireland. Over the next few years he spent a lot of time in Russia forming an acquaintance with Vladimir Lenin. When he returned to Ireland, Roddy founded and presided over the Communist Party of Ireland in 1921. He founded a second Marxist party (the Worker’s Party of Ireland) when the first disbanded a few years later, and he was editor of both of their publications.
In honor of his father and his own beliefs, Roddy stood against the Anglo-Irish treaty. He was solidly against the partition of Ireland and he supported the Republican side in the Irish Civil War. He attempted to convince the Irish Republican Army to adopt the tenets of socialism, but did not succeed.
Over the next few years Roddy drifted away from strict communism and became a more moderate and democratic socialist. Even still, he always remained true to his own ideals and he considered his father to be Ireland’s greatest revolutionary. He continued to fight for socialism over the next sixty years or so. Roddy lived a much longer life of politics and activism than his father did, but it is clear that he kept his father’s lessons and spirit close for the rest of his life.