Royal Irish Constabulary - Sergeant Henry Connolly



I am eternally grateful to Mark Connolly and Evelyn Rondeau for responding to my initial enquiry regarding Henry Connolly. Without their kindness, this story would not have been possuble.


To Evelyn for putting me in touch with Colin McHardy and especially to Mark and Colin for sending me the pictures of the family after leaving Ireland. Sincere thanks to you all.


Colin was able to identify many of the individuals in the family archive which enabled the identification of the pictures from Mark.


I have since met with both Colin and Mark and passed on all the documents (far too many to publish here), I uncovered concerning Henry Connolly's career in the Royal Irish Constabulary.


What follows below is a truncated history of the family of Henry and Ellen Mary McDonald or Connolly.

Sergeant Henry Connolly RIC, probably taken after his promotion in 1916. His Visit to Ireland and 1911 medal ribbons can be clearly seen.

The life of 56601 Sergeant Henry Connolly RIC (1)

This is the story of a young Irishman, an Assistant Gardener working on an Anglo-Irish landed estate in Co. Monaghan who joined the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) in 1894, perhaps in an effort to improve his lot in life? There are details of his marriage and family, his postings, promotions and some details of his working life before he retired on pension in 1920 to make a new life for his wife and children in Aberdeen, Scotland.

The Early Years

Henry Connolly was born 28 February, 1874 on the Dawson’s Grove Demesne in the Barony of Dartree (Dartrey) in the Parish of Ematris in the Poor Law Union of Cootehill, County Monaghan, Ireland.

His father was Patrick Connolly, a Garden Labourer or Gardener of Carsan Townland in the above district. His mother was Catherine Connolly, formerly McCabe. As far as I am aware, he was the youngest of their four children.

His Brothers and Sister

John Connolly was born in 1865 at Tanmacnally, Co. Monaghan.
Patrick Connolly was born at Tanmacnally, Co. Monaghan in 1868.
Mary Anne Connolly was born at Tanmacnally in 1870.

Tanmacnally is just up the road from Carsan.

The Royal Irish Constabulary

His occupation was listed as ‘Assistant Gardener’ when he joined the Royal Irish Constabulary as Constable 56601 in 1894, having been recommended by RIC District Inspector John E. C. Lawlor of Clones. After training at the Depot, he was posted to Donegal.

So far, I have been unable to find any record of him in Donegal, either in RIC County Registers or Petty Sessions Registers. If anyone knows how I can find those records for the relevant years, please let me know.

Posted to Co. Louth, Termonfeckin Barracks

In 1900, he was posted to Co. Louth at Termonfeckin Barracks in Drogheda District. Later that year, at St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church at Cloughoge near Newry, Co. Armagh, he married Ellen Mary McDonald, a Domestic Servant, then of Antylstown, Co. Meath.

Ellen was the eldest daughter of Ewen McDonald, a gamekeeper and Ellen Fletcher or McDonald and had been born in Inverey near Braemar in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Her father was quite a famous Gamekeeper.

Award of the King Edward VII ‘Visit to Ireland’ Medal, 1903

It is likely that Henry Connolly was on duty for the visit of His Majesty, King Edward VII to Ireland in 1903 since he was awarded the medal commemorating the Royal visit.
“C. H. Connolly” (meaning ‘Constable H. Connolly’) is inscribed on the rim of the medal and 56601 Henry Connolly is the only officer of that rank, initial and surname in 1903. He can be seen wearing the ribbon of the medal on his tunic after 1916 in the picture above.

Henry & Ellen’s Children

Patrick Edward Connolly was born in Termonfeckin, Co. Louth in 1903.

Ellen Mary Margaret Connolly was born in Termonfeckin, Co. Louth in 1905. She died at home thirteen days later.

Henry Ewen Connolly was born in Castletown Road, Dundalk, Co. Louth in 1906.

Kathleen Emma Connolly was born in Hill Street, Dundalk, Co. Louth in 1909.

Annie Edith Charlotte Connolly was born in Hill Street, Dundalk, Co. Louth in 1912.

Jessie Isabella Connolly was born in Hill Street, Dundalk, Co. Louth in 1916.

Their eldest child, Patrick Edward, was born in Termonfeckin in 1903 and their second child, Ellen Mary Margaret in 1905. Both were baptised in the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Termonfeckin shortly after their births. Ellen Mary Margaret died at thirteen days old. 

Her Grandmother, Ellen Fletcher or McDonald, came over from Scotland to be with her daughter and I have a copy of a beautiful family letter (given to me by a relative of Ellen Mary) dated 1905 from William McDonald to his sister, Ellen Mary telling her his news and wishing her to feel better and hoping she will come and see him and their father in Inverey soon. William tells his sister that he was to join the Staffordshire Police later in the year. A picture of William in his police uniform can be seen below.

William died of wounds received whilst serving with the 8th (Service) Battalion Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) in the First Battle of the Somme in 1916. (see below for a picture of him in his Black Watch uniform).

Henry Connolly’s RIC Postings 

As a Constable, Henry Connolly served in Co. Donegal and from 1900, County Louth at Termonfeckin and at Bridge street and Anne Street Barracks, Dundalk.

After promotion to Acting Sergeant in 1913, he served at Tallanstown, Louth and Clanbrassil Street Barracks.

He was promoted to Sergeant in 1916 and served at Reaghstown and Bridge Street Barracks until his retirement in December, 1920.

Award of the King George V ‘Visit to Ireland’ Medal, 1911

He was probably on duty for the Royal Visit to Ireland of King George V in 1911 since he is also wearing the ribbon of that medal in the picture below. Unlike 1903, the 1911 medal was issued un-named.

Family Visit to Braemar possibly, 1909 – 1912?

The family picture below featuring nine adults and four children was almost certainly taken at Braemar between the birth of Kathleen Emma in 1909 and the death of her maternal grandfather Ewen in 1912. 

Kathleen Emma can be seen on her mother’s knee with her father, Henry Connolly standing behind.

Ellen Mary Connolly’s father Ewen has his grandson Henry Ewen on his knee and her mother, Ellen McDonald has the other two little girls. 

The man standing far left is Ellen Mary's uncle, Ranald McDonald. The seated woman wearing a hat and the other woman in a hat behind her are unknown. 

Ellen Mary’s younger brother William is the younger man in the back row with a hat and their sister Edith McHardy is on the far right of the image.

By 1912, when the couple’s fifth child, Annie Edith Charlotte was born, the address was shown as Line Terrace in Dundalk. Line Terrace is a small row of cottages in Hill Street and might even be the same address where Kathleen was born in 1909?

Promotion to Acting Sergeant in December, 1913

The records show that Acting Sergeant Henry Connolly served at Tallanstown, Louth and Clanbrassil Street Barracks whilst an Acting Sergeant.

(Continued on next post No. 2)

This family picture featuring nine adults and four children was almost certainly taken at Braemar between the birth of Kathleen Emma in 1909 and the death of her maternal grandfather Ewen in 1912. See text above for details.
Sergeant Henry Connolly's Visit to Ireland Medals 1903 and 1911.
William McDonald, Henry's brother-in-law, as a Staffordshire Police Constable before the First World War.
William McDonald as a Regimental Policeman in the 8th (Service) Battalion, Black Watch before he died in the First Battle of the Somme in 1916.
The former RIC Barracks at Termonfeckin in 2017. It was destroyed by fire during the War of Independence but later rebuilt in the same profile.

The life of 56601 Sergeant Henry Connolly RIC (2)

The Easter Rising, 1916 

Henry Connolly was at Clanbrassil Street as an Acting Sergeant but on duty at Anne Street when he was detailed to accompany Sergeant 55170 Michael Wymes to follow the Louth Volunteers who had earlier left the John Boyle O'Reilly Hall (see pictures below) a few doors down from the barracks early on Sunday, 23 April, 1916.

There are several publications covering the events that followed, among them, Madge O’Boyle’s ‘The Life and Times of Constable Charles McGee’, Alan Bogan et al, ‘The Louth Volunteers 1916’, Stephen O’Donnell’s ‘The Royal Irish Constabulary and the Black and Tans in County Louth, 1919 – 1922’ and D. M. Leeson’s ‘The Black and Tans, British Police and Auxiliaries in the Irish War of Independence’ as well as documents held in the Irish National Archives and The National Archives (TNA) at Kew in London (via Findmypast) including the Court Martial records of John (Sean) Francis McEntee. This is a particularly interesting file since it contains all the witness testimony including that of Sergeant Wymes and Acting Sergeant Connolly.

Each of the publications and documents record valuable eye witness testimony, mainly from the Volunteers perspective, in their statements to the Bureau of Military History which were taken many years after the event. There are very few published RIC statements although those of Sergeant Wymes and Acting Sergeant Connolly concerning some of the events of the weekend of Easter, 1916 were written shortly afterwards and are available.

It is fair to say that there are no complimentary comments towards the two RIC men in the Volunteer statements written up to 31 years after 1916 and there are many reasons why some of those involved might wish to remember specific events highlighting their success more clearly than others that reflected a more negative view and perhaps attempt to justify their behaviour towards the three unarmed men who were shot at Lurgangreen and Castlebellingham, one of whom, Constable Charles McGee was the first RIC casualty of the Easter Rising in 1916. 

I take no view and the publications and documents are easily available to anyone who wishes to read more on the subject and make their own mind up.

Promotion to Sergeant in October, 1916

After promotion to Sergeant, Henry Connolly was stationed at Reaghstown Barracks and shortly before he retired in 1920, back at Bridge Street in Dundalk.

Retirement from RIC, December, 1920

In the last six months of the year Henry Connolly retired on pension, 25 Head Constables and 190 Sergeants retired on pension. In addition, 149 Constables also took the same opportunity.

Every man who was pensioned had completed at least 25 – 30 years’ service if not more and the loss of experience at the most senior non-officer rank must have had a detrimental effect on the supervision and discipline of the inexperienced officers then being employed as ‘Temporary Constables’.

It may be instructive to mention the number of RIC men killed by acts of political violence between 1916 and disbandment of the force in 1922. 457 men died by acts of political violence, 92 died by other means, a total of 549. 

In 1920, the figures began slowly but grew to a peak of 46 in November and averaged out at 17 deaths per month for that year, a total of 204.

(Figures taken from The Royal Irish Constabulary, a short history & genealogical guide with a select list of medal awards & casualties, Page 182, Table ‘A’, Herlihy, Jim, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2016.)

I have no idea what Henry Connolly thought about independence for Ireland but like many in the RIC, he must have weighed up the cost of waiting another three and a half years for a maximum pension against the potential cost of staying when for every month of 1920, an average of 17 RIC men were killed.

A picture of a transcription of Henry Connolly’s ‘Certificate of Service’ can be seen below. This is very similar to that still used in UK police forces to this day.



The Sean Boyle O'Reilly Hall, Clanbrassil Street, Dundalk from which the Irish Volunteers left for Dublin in April 1916.
Plaque commemorating the Dundalk Irish Volunteers in 1916. This was the contingent followed by Sergeants Wymes and Connolly.
Sergeant Henry Connolly's 'Certificate of Service' from the RIC dated 14 December 1920.

The life of 56601 Sergeant Henry Connolly after the RIC (3)


Life in Aberdeen for the Connolly family

The Valuation Rolls for the Burgh of Aberdeen in 1921 and 1925 show ‘Henry Connolly, Constable’, living at ‘Rose Street Aberdeen’. He did not serve in the Aberdeen City Police but it is possible he was a Railway Company Constable. Few records now exist for those forces.

Photograph taken by ‘Grainger, Holborn Studio’ Aberdeen 1920 -1924

This extremely interesting picture featuring the surviving children of Henry and Ellen Mary Connolly was taken in Aberdeen between December, 1920 and August, 1924 when Henry Ewen Connolly left London for Australia. 

Going by known dates of birth, the picture features from left to right; front left, Patrick (Pat) Edward Connolly, (21) born on 14 January, 1903.

Immediately behind Henry is Kathleen Emma Connolly, (14). She would be 15 on 25 August, 1924. On Kathleen’s immediate left is Jessie (Jay) Isabella Connolly, (8). She was born on 5 February, 1916. 

Next comes Henry Ewen Connolly, (17),  He would not be 18 until 10 December, 1924 by which time, he was in Australia. On Henry's left on the extreme right is Annie (Nan) Edith Charlotte Connolly, (11). She would be 12 on 20 August, 1924.

This may have been the last picture of the children taken together as a group?

Passenger List of ‘Themistocles’ bound from London to Sydney, 14 August, 1924

The passenger list of the ‘Themistocles’ of the Aberdeen Line which embarked from the Port of London on 14 August, 1924 bound for Sydney, Australia included the following: 

“Ticket No. 427, Connolly, Mr Henry E., (Last address in the UK), 13 Linscott Road, Lower Clapton in East London, Cinema Operator, 17 years of age, born in Scotland, intending to permanently reside in Australia.”

By 1931, Henry Connolly was a Cinema Foreman and the owner of a property at 13 Whitehouse Street, Aberdeen.

Patrick (Pat) was a Marine Engineer at a well-known Aberdeen Ship Builders, Annie (Nan) became a State Registered Nurse and then a Midwife in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Kathleen was a Secretary in London and Jessie (Jay) a career Civil Servant.

Only Henry and Jessie married, him in Australia in 1929 and her in 1969 in Surrey. Henry was the only child to have a family of his own.

Photograph of Connolly family in Aberdeen before 2 July, 1951

The family picture which Colin McHardy has identified as being at the house in Whitehouse Street was taken before July, 1951. Colin has positively identified Nan (Annie) as being the woman on the left whom Pat has his right arm around. He also has his other arm around his mother, Ellen Mary Connolly. On the extreme right of the picture is possibly Kathleen (it is either her or Jessie). Henry Connolly is seated at the front.

Register of Deaths in the Southern District of the Burgh of Aberdeen, 1951 

Henry Connolly, (77), Sergeant, Royal Irish Constabulary, Retired, (married to Ellen Mary McDonald) died on 1 July, 1951, at 13 Whitehouse Street, Aberdeen. His daughter, Annie Connolly, of the same address, registered his death.

Photograph of Connolly family in Aberdeen after 2 July, 1951

Colin McHardy sent me this family picture which I believe was taken after Henry died in 1951. 

From left to right, I think this is Jessie (Jay), Patrick, Ellen and sitting on the arm of the settee, Nan (Annie). 

The End of the Story

Register of Deaths in the Burgh of Aberdeen, 1970

Ellen Mary Connolly, (92), Widow of Henry Connolly, Police Sergeant, died on 15 July, 1970 at 13 Whitehouse Street, Aberdeen.

Her death was registered by her daughter, A. Connolly.

Register of Deaths in the Burgh of Aberdeen, 1978

Patrick Edward Connolly, (75), Marine Engineer, Retired, of 13 Whitehouse Street, Aberdeen died on 15 May, 1878, at the City Hospital, Aberdeen. 

His sister, A. Connolly of the same address, registered his death.

Australia, Register of Deaths, Toowoomba, Queensland, 1983

I believe that Henry Ewen Connolly died in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia on 1 October, 1983 aged 77.

Register of Deaths in the Surrey North Western District, 1985

Kathleen Emma Connolly, (76), a secretary, Retired, of 173 Eastworth Road, Chertsey, Surrey, died on 15 August, 1985 at St Peter’s Hospital, Chertsey.

Her sister, J. I. Page, registered her death.

Register of Deaths in the Surrey North Western District, 1995

On 27 September, 1995, Jessie Isabella Page, (79), a Retired Executive Officer, Civil Service and Widow of Francis Page of 173 Eastworth Road, Chertsey, died in St Peter’s Hospital, Chertsey.

Her friend, Hillary Anne Mead of Greenclose Cottage, Knowles St Giles, Near Chard, Somerset, registered her death.

The Connolly children were all baptised in the RC faith at churches in Termonfeckin and Dundalk. When Jessie (Jay) married in England in 1969 at the age of 53, it was in an RC church that Jay married in 1969.

Some ‘loose ends’?

• Although I found two brothers and a sister for Henry Connolly, I am by no means certain that is the complete family. Unfortunately, some of the Irish Census and Parish records are incomplete.

• So far, I have been unable to find the date and place that Patrick Connolly and Catherine McCabe were married.

I am eternally grateful to Mark Connolly and Evelyn Rondeau for responding to my initial enquiry. To Evelyn for putting me in touch with Colin McHardy and especially to Mark and Colin for sending me the pictures of the family after leaving Ireland.

Any further information on this particular ‘Connolly’ family would be appreciated. Thank you.



Connolly children taken between 1920 in Aberdeen before Henry left for Australia in 1924.
Taken at the front door of the house in Whitehouse Street before 1951. Annie, Pat, Ellen Mary, Kathleen and seated, Henry Connolly.
Taken after 1951, 'Jay' (Jessie), Pat, Ellen Mary and Annie Connolly in Aberdeen.
Henry Ewen Connolly, his wife and son in Australia, possibly 1930s?

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