James Connolly


Home Thrusts


Workers' Republic, 22 October 1898
Recently republished in Red Banner, No.1 (PO Box 6587, Dublin 6).
Transcribed by Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

I am a great admirer of the British Army.

Probably you have noted that trait in my character, as manifested in my writings. I do so dote upon the gallant red-coated gentlemen who promenade our streets at night, and enrich the vocabulary of our servant girls with their choice expressions.

It does my old heart good to see the principal streets of our cities lined with young buxom Irish girls, fresh up from the country, leaning upon the arms of ‘the soldiers of the Queen.’ It does.

And then to see the ‘bould sodger boys’ on a review day, marching gaily out in all the pomp, pride and circumstance of glorious war to the Phoenix Park, there to learn the quickest and most scientific way of cutting the throats of the brothers, fathers, or other relatives of the Irish girls with whom they were cavorting around the previous evening. Ah, it is a stirring sight.

Yes, a stirring sight. It stirs my blood, and if the majority of our public teachers were not the double-dyed hypocrites they are, the blood of all Irishmen and women would long ere this have been so stirred at the sight that the Irish girl who had so far forgot her dignity as to consort with those hired assassins would find herself ostracised as completely as a leper.

Then people would begin to believe in our desire for freedom. But our Home Rule leaders and journalists have so emasculated our patriotic movements that in the minds of thoughtful men patriotism has become a mere synonym for humbug.

We find Sir Charles Beresford [1] – who blatantly declared his readiness to lead the forces of Orangeism in rebellion if Home Rule was granted – praised as a patriotic Irishman by our Irish Independent, because being hard up for recruits, he addressed a few fulsome compliments to Irishmen as sailors.

We find Sir Herbert Kitchener, who presided over the cold-blooded slaughter of 10,000 Arabs (including the wholesale murder of the wounded) [2], frantically hailed as an Irishman by the whole Irish ‘patriotic’ press, because, forsooth, he was born in Kerry, though his father was an Englishman.

Not that I believe it makes much difference where a man was born.

The one thing certain about it is that no sensible man can take a pride in being born an Irishman. What had he to do with it that he should be proud?

He did not carefully sketch out beforehand the location in which he desired to be born, and then instruct his mother accordingly. Whether he was born in Ireland or in Zululand, in the Coombe or in Whitechapel, he most certainly was not consulted about the matter. Why then, this pride?

The location of your birthplace was a mere accident – as much beyond your control as the fact I was born so beautiful was beyond mine. Hem.

And you don’t see me putting on airs.

Let me see, what did I start with? O, yes, the army. My opening remarks were inspired by reading in the papers an account of the hanging of the seven men concerned in the death of two British soldiers at Candia, Crete.

These seven men were hanged in due process of law, and the hangman’s work was performed by amateurs selected out of forty-nine men of the Highland Light Infantry, who had volunteered for the purpose.

‘Hangman’s Light Infantry’ would describe them better.

Now then, ye Irish youths, hurry up and join the noble British Army, and in course of time – by strict attention to duty and obedience to your superiors – you may arrive at the honour and dignity of being promoted to the post of – hangman.

I hope the War Office will strike a medal in commemoration of this glorious achievement.

I wonder if any of those volunteer hangmen were Irish. If they were and somebody will kindly furnish their names I will gladly publish them. Or make a gift of them to the Home Rule newspapers.

The names of such heroes ought not to rot in oblivion. They ought to be emblazoned side by side with the Sirdar [3]. Joint products of British military chivalry.

Rudyard Kipling would now be in order with a poem glorifying his soldier hero, Tommy Atkins, in his new capacity. I would suggest the poem be entitled:–

“Thomas Atkins, Esq., Soldier – and Hangman.”

It is to be hoped this regiment will be quartered in Dublin on its return. Surely that would cause a slump in the value of red-coats on Brigid’s night out.

The Ballinrobe baton-charges [4] suggest reflection. In the first place it is well to remember that on the occasion of the jubilee baton-charges in Dublin [5], when not a dozen or so as at Ballinrobe, but over 300 persons were treated in hospital for bruises inflicted by the police, the Freeman’s Journal said next morning that:– “The Dublin Metropolitan Police are to be heartily congratulated on the tact and temper they displayed last night.”

The same journal holds no such language over the far more trifling affair in the West. Why? Was it because the anti-jubilee procession in Dublin was organised by the Socialist Republicans, and the Ballinrobe meeting was organised by the politicians?

Again when the Duke of York visited Dublin four meetings of the Socialist Republicans were forcibly suppressed by the police, and no Dublin newspaper denounced this infringement of the right of public meeting.

Had the meetings in question been summoned by any of the Redmonds or Dillons [6] or by shrieking patriots of the William O’Brien [7] type the wide world would have heard of it, but as it was only Socialists who were interfered with, the Home Rule journalists entered into a conspiracy with the Castle to represent Dublin as effusively welcoming the Royal Duke.

One thing I would ask our friends in the West to note. The Weekly Freeman devotes a large part of its space to catering for the Constabulary, giving Constabulary news and information on how to enter the Constabulary. Probably among the men who broke your heads at Ballinrobe were men who owed their position in the Constabulary to the advice to aspirants given by the Weekly Freeman.

Wednesday’s papers contain reports of evictions in Tyrone and Tipperary. Union of classes, you see. Home Rule Ideal.

The only Union I see in the business is the Unions we pay rates to support [8], and which, unless things alter, I see waiting at the end of life’s pathway for a





1. British naval officer and Tory politician.

2. At the battle of Omdurman in 1898, when resistance to British rule in Sudan was crushed.

3. The commander-in-chief of the British army in the Middle East (Kitchener) was known officially as the Sirdar.

4. A United Irish League meeting in Ballinrobe, Co Mayo, had been proclaimed, and the police attempted to prevent it taking place, but a large crowd successfully defied the ban.

5. Police launched an attack on those protesting against the diamond jubilee of the British queen in 1897.

6. John E. Redmond and John Dillon were leaders of the Home Rule party.

7. Leader of the UIL.

8. The Poor Law Unions.


Last updated on 11.8.2003