Lance Corporal John Connolly

Lance Corporal John Connolly

On Wednesday 28th October 1914, the Port Glasgow Express and Observer that the fourth man from Port Glasgow to lay down his life had been killed in action.

It is twelve weeks tonight since Lance Corporal John Connelly of the Royal Irish Rifles left his home at 27 Scott’s Lane to go to the war. He was a native of Belfast and a reservist in the Royal Irish, and had only three months of his time to go as a Reservist. He first went to Belfast, and from there to Galway, where he was engaged in the wireless station signalling. He was among the earliest lots to reach the Continent, and soon he was in the firing line.

Lance Corporal Connelly was a fine strapping big fellow. He belonged to St John’s Church, and on the Easter Holiday Monday of the present year was married to Elizabeth O’Neill, a Millworker, daughter of Joseph O’Neill, a Fitter’s Helper, and Catherine Connor, a Millworker. There were eight children of the marriage, and their mother died when they were all quite young. They lived in the old Sinclair’s Close and were brought up by their aunt, Mrs John McAlindon. Joseph, the father, died two years past in June, aged fifty-four years. It is somewhat strange that Elizabeth lives with her aunt quite near to the spot where she was born, and that was in the house above the shop in King Street occupied by the late Mr Charles Hogarth.

Lance Corporal Connelly was a chum of William Bradley, a Holder-up, and he joined the Royal Field Artillery, and left the same close in 27 Scott’s Lane to go off to the war. He was a son of William Bradley, the Shoemaker, and might have been going with the Co-operative coal cart occasionally.

On Friday morning of last week came the fatal message that Lance Corporal John Connelly had been killed in action near Vailly, about twenty miles from Paris on 20th September. Along with the intimation was the following letter: "The King commands me to assure you of the true sympathy of His Majesty and the Queen in your sorrow. – Kitchener".

Mrs Connelly had received some letters from her husband, and three were full of hopefulness. The last letter he wrote, however, was on the eighth of August, and it came opened through the War Office. What adds to the sadness of this the fourth death from Port Glasgow in the present war is that a little child is likely to be born after its father was killed in the field of battle fighting gloriously for King and country. Mrs Connelly can hardly yet realise that she is a widow and that her husband has gone never to return. She can hardly realise that he is dead and buried on French soil, and that no useless coffin enclosed his breast nor in sheet nor in shroud they wound him, or like the great Sir John Moore in that he lay like a warrior taking his rest with his martial cloak around him. These are very sad happenings, but they are the high price which widows and orphans have to pay for the horrors of war. The deepest sympathy is with Mrs Connelly in her bereavement, and we understand that Mr Andrew Paton, Town Clerk, who is the Hon Secretary for the Soldiers and Sailors Fund, has made representation to the proper quarter to obtain a special grant for Mrs Connelly in her peculiarly sad circumstances. We understand that a very favourably reply has already been received.

World War 1 soldier at the Clyde Coast
Lance Corporal John Connolly at the Clyde Coast. Copyright Inverclyde Museums Service.