James Connolly

A reflection on what one member of the British Army Firing Squad, which executed James Connolly in Kilmainham at dawn on May 12, 1916 may have felt about his actions –

The man was all shot through that came to-day,
Into the barrack square:
A soldier – I am not proud to say
We killed him there:
They brought him from the prison hospital,
To see him in that chair,
I thought his smile would far more quickly call,
A man to prayer.

Maybe we cannot understand this thing,
That makes these Rebels die:
And yet all things love freedom and the Spring
Clear in the sky.
I think I would not do this deed again,
For all that I hold by:
Gaze down my rifle at his breast-But then,
A soldier I.

They say that he was kindly – different, too,
Apart from all the rest,
A lover of the poor, and all shot through,
His wounds ill dressed,
He came before us, faced us like a man
Who knew a deeper pain
Than blows of bullets – ere the world began;
Died he in vain?

Ready! Present! And he just smiling – God,
I felt my rifle shake.
His wounds were opened, out and round that chair,
Was one red lake.
I swear his lips said ‘Fire’ when all was still,
Before my rifle spat
That cursed lead – And I was picked to kill
A man like that.


Author – Attributed to Liam MacGabhann, 1933