The Connollys, or O'Conghailes, were an ancient Connacht sept who took their name from the Gaelic word ‘con’, meaning ‘hound’, and ‘gal, meaning ‘valour’; hence ‘descendant(s) of the Hound of Valour’. The chief branch resided in County Meath and they were one of the original ‘Four Tribes of Tara’.
Precisely where the Connollys of Dundalk hailed from is unknown but that may be down to the fact that there are so many variations of how you spell the name. In the 1740 Corn Census for Co Louth, for instance, we find no Connollys or Connellys at all, but instead we find four Conalys, four Conlys, three Conelys and one Conelly. Ted’s own great-grandfather spelled the name Conelly. In the unlikely event that the spelling of the surname was relevant back then, the Conelly listed in 1740 came from Drumin, near Rathescar.[i] By the time Daniel O’Connell had secured emancipation for Irish Catholics, the Connollys were firmly established in Dundalk. The voters’ list for the 1832 General Election lists two Connollys, James and Joseph, who were shopkeepers on Dundalk’s Church Street, while a Patrick Connolly was a harness maker on Park Street.[ii] Perhaps more relevantly to this tale, a Patrick Connolly was listed as a resident of Clanbrassil Street in 1837.[iii]
Patrick Connolly, Ted’s grandfather, was born in England on 9th July 1867, just a few short months before the disastrous Fenian Rising in Ireland. According to his own hand in the 1911 Census, Patrick was born in Middlesborough, Teeside, Yorkshire. A search for his birth certificate revealed that his parents were Edward and Bridget Conelly (nee Bronagan). It also stated that Patrick was born at 12 Spring Street, just east of Queen’s Square, in Middlesborough’s District of St John the Evangelist. The sign for Spring Street still hangs today but there are no longer any houses there. Patrick’s birth was registered in Stockton-on-Tees six days after his birth. [iv]
We know no more about Patrick’s mother, save that she could not write because she marked her signature with a cross on the certificate. Bronagan, her maiden name, is so unusual that even in the 1911 Census, the only Bronagan in Ireland is a 70-year-old widow, Ellen Bronagan, living in Clonkeen, Co Mayo.[v]
On the certificate, Edward was described as a ‘labourer in iron works’, suggesting that he moved to Teesside following the discovery of ironstone in the Eston Hills in 1850. For much of the late 19th century, Teesside dictated the world price for both iron and steel. In 1801 Middlesbrough was a tiny hamlet with 25 people living in four farmhouses. Within thirty years, the Stockton and Darlington Railway had arrived. The discovery of iron locally ensured that pig-iron production in Middlesbrough rose tenfold between 1851 and 1856.
There were at least nine different iron works in the area when Patrick was born. Edward could have worked at any of them. From Spring Street, he would have been conveniently located for the Vulcan Ironworks, established in 1841 by the Pomeranian industrialist, Henry Bolckow, and his colleague, John Vaughan. Alternatively he may have worked in the Bell brothers’ mighty ironworks which opened on the banks of the Tees in 1853 and was employing some 6,000 people by 1875. Gladstone famously described the town as 'an infant Hercules' in 'England's enterprise'. In 1853, Middlesbrough received its Royal Charter of Incorporation, giving the town the right to have a mayor, aldermen and councillors. Bolckow himself became its first mayor. [vi]
By 1867, when Patrick was born, Middlesborough was producing four million tons of iron per year and the town's population had risen to 40,000. Most of them worked long hours and lived in shoddy, cramped conditions. The philanthropical Bolckow attempted to improve conditions by converting seventy acres of land near the town centre into Albert Park. This free park opened in August 1868, while baby Patrick was learning how to walk. Three months later, Bolckow was elected unopposed MP for Middlesborough for Gladstone’s Liberals, holding his seat for 10 years. The following year, Bolckow built a new school in the St Hilda's district of the town but, as a Roman Catholic, young Patrick would have been more likely to have attended St Marys School in William Street, beside the former St Mary’s Cathedral.
However, Middlesborough was already beginning to struggle. The discovery of the Bessemer process in the 1850s and the mass production of steel placed Bolckow‘s business under colossal pressure, not least because Middlesborough’s iron ore had a high phosphorous content detrimental to steel production. By the late 1870's, Bolckow & Vaughan were in decline, the town was in recession and unemployment was rampant. In 1875 the rival firm of Dorman Long was established in the town and began producing steel from imported iron. On 18th June 1878, a month before Patrick’s eleventh birthday, Middlesborough learned that the great Mr Bolckow had died.[vii]
We do not know how long Edward Conelly and his family remained in Middleborough or when they returned to Ireland. One imagines Patrick always spoke with a soft Yorkshire dialect but perhaps he left England before he could even speak. By the time of the 1911 Census, he was classified as a bricklayer and living in Dundalk, although his family hold that he was, in fact, a master mason. In 1892, the 24-year-old married Mary Carroll, a Monaghan girl four years his junior. In 1911, she was described as a housekeeper. Patrick could read and write; Mary could read but could not write. They may have lived in Monaghan for a time for their eldest son Joe was born in Monaghan in 1893. Their next son John was born in Co Louth circa 1896 suggesting the family moved to Louth within that period.
By 1911, Patrick and his family were living at 6 Chapel Lane in the town of Dundalk.[viii] Chapel Lane was a row of sixteen second-class houses, mostly four-roomed, with three front windows each. Patrick Finnegan ran a grocery at 15 Chapel Lane. In 1908, three years before the Census, 6 Chapel Lane was registered to a Peter Connolly while Patrick’s address was given as Doyle’s Fort Road. It is not clear what relation Peter was to Patrick but they were surely kinsmen. Both were on a list of 2,054 subscribers to the St. Nicholas (Roman Catholic Church) Building Fund in 1908.[ix] The fact that Patrick and Mary’s young son Peter was born in Chapel Lane in 1906 inclines me to think that the elder Peter Connolly was Patrick’s grandfather.
Patrick and Mary had ten children, of whom seven were still living at the time of the 1911 Census. Their six sons were: Francis Joseph (Joe, born 1893), John (born c. 1896), Willfred Vincent (born c. 1900), Bernard (Barney, born c. 1902), Peter (Ted’s father, born 1906) and Edward (also known as Ted, born c. 1909). Mary Connolly is said to have died in childbirth with their only daughter Molly, but she was alive at the time of the April 1911 Census when Molly, aka Mary Bridget Connolly, was one month old. If Mary did die shortly afterwards, then Patrick would have had his hands extremely full looking after seven children on the eve of the Great War and the Troubles that followed. He subsequently married a lady known as ‘Granny Connolly’, nee McGill.
The partition of Ireland in May 1921 converted Dundalk into a border town, complete with customs and immigration facilities at the railway station. In August 1922, when Peter was 16, a memorable Civil War gun battle took place on the streets when Frank Aiken’s Fourth Northern Division of the IRA stormed the town and captured its Free State garrison. Aiken did not attempt to hold the town, instead using the international spotlight that he now came under as an opportunity to call for a truce between the two sides.
For the purposes of this story, the man of most interest to us was Patrick and Mary’s second youngest son, Peter Michael Connolly, who was born on 13th October 1906 on Chapel Lane, Dundalk. He and his brother Vincent were the only sons of Patrick and Mary who remained in Ireland.
Joe Connolly, the eldest son, moved to Teaneck, New Jersey, with his Dundalk born wife and became a bricklayer. Teaneck was a good choice. In 1949, it was selected in 1949 from over 10,000 communities as ‘America's model community’. Here they raised their five children who went on to become a New York policeman (Ted), a priest (Pat), a teacher (Eileen), a beauty (Mary) and another daughter who married Tommy Madden and apparently had three adopted children called Tommy, Timmy and Tammy. Peter’s next brother John is said to have returned to Middlesborough. Nothing more is yet known of Barney Connolly save that he was in Dundalk when Peter married in 1943. Vincent Connolly married, had children and lived in the Castletown Road area of Dundalk but suffered from poor health and appears to have distanced himself from the rest of the family. The youngest son Ted Connolly went to Liverpool.
Peter subsequently found work as an accountant at the Great Northern Brewery, just outside Dundalk. At about the time of the Second World War, he met a woman from Ratoath who was nine years his junior. Mosie McCarthy was working in Bogan’s Bar on Church Street with her younger sister Peggy. (Kevin Finnegan who married Peggy may have been a kinsman of Patrick Finnegan who had the grocery on Chapel Lane in 1911). Peter and Mosie were married in St Patrick’s Church, Dundalk, on 8th February 1943. At the time, she gave her address as Linenhall Street, while he was still firmly based at Chapel Lane. The witnesses were Peter’s brother Bernard (Barney) and Sadie Bogan, presumably a kinswoman of the publican whom Mosie worked with.
In the late 1950s, the Great Northern Brewery’was purchased by Smithwick’s Ale of Kilkenny, which was itself purchased by Guinness. Up until then, the brewery produced porter stout and amber ale but, with an increased demand for continental lager, Guinness recruited the German ‘Brau-meister’ (master brewer) Dr Hermann Muender to create a new lager. As it happens, Germans were in favour in Dundalk from at least 1958 when the Dundalk Engineering Works began producing Heinkel three-wheel motorcars and cabin scooters for the Stuttgart-based German company in 1958. At any rate, in 1960, Dr Muender successfully launched the all-new Harp Lager.[x]
In early May 1964, Peter was diagnosed with cancer. His decline was rapid and he died in Dublin, aged 58, on 18 May 1964. His widow survived him by nearly quarter of a century, passing away in Dublin on 17 December 1988. They are both buried in the cemetery in Dundalk, along with their daughter, Marie.
Peter and Mosie Connolly had three sons and two daughters. Their first child, Marie, was born in 1944 and worked at Carroll’s Cigarette. She has since passed away. Their eldest son Pat (Patrick Gerard Joseph) Connolly emigrated to USA. The second son Peter moved to the United Kingdom. The third son Ted is the principle recipient of this book. The younger sister Ann was born in 1957 and lives in Dundalk to the present day.
Edward (Ted) Denis Connolly was born at the Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, Co Louth, on 29 December 1949. He was raised in 8 Clanbrassil Street, formerly 1 O’Connell Terrace, now home to Michael Lynch Menswear.[xi] He married Barbara K Boyle (1949-2004). She was a daughter of Patrick Boyle who died in Drogheda aged 85 on 28th April 1985. They had a daughter, Siobhan (married to Declan Ryan) and three sons, Ivan Edward, Stephen and Brian.
[i] The Conalys are all in Hanstown or Castletown, Dundalk. The Conelys are one in Castletown, one in Hanstown, one in Dromin. The Conelly is in Dromin. All four Conlys are in Ferrard. The twelve farmers listed in 1740 included six Patricks and one Peter. See: Index to Rev. Dermot MacIvor's article in the 1948 edition of the Journal of the County Louth Archaeological and Historical Society - http://www.jbhall.freeservers.com/1740_corn_census_of_county_louth.htm. Sixty four years later, another Peter Connolly of Dundalk was noted as one of County Louth’s subscribers to Greek Exercises in Syntax, Ellipsis, Dialects, Prosody, and Metaphrasis’, by the Rev. William Neilson, published by Joseph Parks of Dundalk in 1804.
[ii] 1832 Dundalk Voters' List, Tempest's Annual 1906)
[iii] A Valuation of the town of Dundalk from 24th November 1837, made by the directors of the Commissions for watching and lighting the town, under the provision of the act 9 geo 4 Chap 82. The Valuators were Laurence Martin No 7 Quay St. William Brett and Robert Getty. That same year Peter Connolly of North Strand, Dundalk, was listed as a licensed spirit dealer. (A Return of the Name & Residence, specifying the Streets & Numbers of the Houses of All Individuals in the Towns of Ireland which return Members to same in Parliament, who have made application or received EXCISE LICENCES for the Sale of Spirits in Premises under the Annual Value of £10, since October 1832.)
[iv] It is to be noted that some Connollys from Tuam in Co Galway appear to have been associated with Middlesborough at this time. For instance, Martin Connolly (1870-1933), a blast furnace man and an ironworks labourer. He was married in Middlesborough on April 27, 1893 to Catherine Costigan (d.1945) with whom he had 12 children. Also of relevance if this connection should prove significant is Australian farmer Patrick Connolly (1794-1872), son of Peter Connolly and Mary Commins, who was born in 1794 in Tuam. He married dairymaid Julia Donoghue (1798-1880), daughter of Patrick Donoghue and Ellen Bourke, in 1816 in Galway. On 5t October 1840, Patrick, Julia and their first 7 children arrived in Australia aboard the ship "Elphinstone. They settled at Queanbeyan, NSW. See: http://www.monaropioneers.com/connolly-p.htm]
[v] In 1911, there were also two young men living in Limerick who went by the name of Bronahan. There are no Bronaghans recorded in 1911.
[vi] Vulcan Ironworks was also known as C.P. Kinnell & Co. The other ironworks where Edward might have worked include the Teeside Iron Works (founded 1840, later Head Wrightson & Co., Ltd. employed 450 people in 1865), the North Yorkshire Iron Works (founded 1865), the Bon Lea Foundry (founded in 1848, employed about 200 people in 1865), the Union Foundry (also R.W. Crosthwaite Ltd., established 1875), Robinson Anderson and Co. (founded 1842) and Erimus Ironworks. There was also the Quaker-run Thornaby Iron Works, founded in 1859, which employed 140 people by 1865. From: The History of Thornaby, 1968. See: http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/YORKSGEN/2000-09/0969767330. Accessed Nov 17 2009.
[vii] Dictionary of National Biography (1885–1900).
[viii] The population of Dundalk in 1901 was 13,076 and in 1911 the population of the town was 13,128. (Source: Vaughan, W.E. & Fitzpatrick A.J., Irish Historical Statistics, RIA Dublin 1978)
[x] Dr Muender’s expertise was in rebuilding the breweries of the Ruhr and North Westphalia after the war. On 9th May 2008, Diageo announced that the Dundalk brewery, along with its Kilkenny plant, would be closed by 2013, with operations moving to either St. James's Gate or a new brewery to be built near Dublin.
[xi] One wonders if there was a connection to Messrs. TP Connolly & Sons, chemist, of Clabrassil Street, registered in 1890 and 1908. On 14 October 1918, William and Mary Catherine Stowell, of O'Connell's Terrace, Dundalk, lost their 33-year-old son Daniel Stowell, Quartermaster on the Mercantile Marine ship S.S. "Dundalk" (Dundalk). They may also have been kinsmen of the Connolly family who ran Blackthorn Shoes in Dundalk for many decades.
The author would like to extend particular thanks to Siobhan Ryan, Pat
Connolly and Harry McCarthy for providing the information upon which
this story is based. Harry McCarthy has accrued considerable information
on both the Plunkett and McCarthy families and, in November 2009, he
organized a memorial mass for his great-uncle Hugh Plunkett who was
killed in action during the First World War.
He would also like to thank the following for their advice and assistance
during the writing of this history.
Tony Darby (Ratoath Historical Society)
Mary Dinneny (née McCarthy)
Beryl Donnelly (Secretary, Ratoath Heritage Group)
Ann Kanavagh (Ashbourne Historical Society)
Middlesborough Council (Tee Valley Indexes)
Ratoath Chamber of Commerce
Noel Ross (County Louth Archaeological & Historical Society)
Susan Wilson (Office of CEO, Cheeverstown House)