Easter Rising

Belfast woman recalls 'shock' at discovering James Connolly is her great-grandfather

Donna Dougall, great-granddaughter of James Connolly, in front of a mural in his memory off Belfast's Falls Road. Picture by Hugh Russell
John Monaghan

A BELFAST woman has recalled her shock at finding out she is a great-granddaughter of Easter Rising leader James Connolly.

Donna Dougall has been fêted at events around Ireland in recent months as the centenary of the 1916 Rising has been marked.

In 2010, she was researching her family tree when she discovered she was related to one of the founding fathers of modern Ireland.

She told The Irish News: "I couldn't believe it when I was told. It was a huge shock. I remember learning about the rising in school and little did I know that I was the great-grand-daughter of one of its leaders."

James Connolly's daughter, Moira Elizabeth, was the mother of Richard Beech, Donna's father, who was born in Harrow in London.

In this centenary year Ms Dougall, who was born in England but raised in Belfast, has been invited to a plethora of events and been overwhelmed at the response from the public.

"He is held in such high esteem and high regard and he achieved so much in his life," she said.

"It was very moving being at the official parade. At least 30-40 people came up to me and got their photo taken with me.

"They were saying things to me like 'it is such an honour' and gripping my hand tightly, people I'd never met."

Ms Dougall joked that many people had also remarked on the physical resemblance with Connolly, admitting "I have his eyes."

She believes her great-grandfather and the other six signatories of the Proclamation would be "hugely disappointed that there hasn't been a united Ireland".

"I am proud of him. People said to me that if he hadn't been killed, they reckon he would have become Taoiseach," she said.

"There are other coincidences too; he was born in 1868 and I was born in 1968, and I am the same age now as he was when he was executed."

Ms Dougall intends to attend a ceremony next Thursday when the 100th anniversary of the execution of her great-grandfather will be remembered in a vigil at 3am at Kilmainham jail in Dublin.

Having attended drama school in London and worked in theatre, said she is also hoping to develop a production based on the connection.

"I am working on ideas for a stage production in relation to my experiences of being related to James Connolly and hopefully a feature film also."

Last Saturday, Ms Dougall took her seat in Belfast's Lyric Theatre for a performance of The Patriot Game, and also posed for a picture with Nathan Murtagh, the actor who played her great-grandfather.

She said: "The play was fantastic. Philip Crawford, who directed it, did a wonderful job."

Easter Rising

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