The Red Flag was written by Connell while travelling on a train between Charing Cross and New Cross in London in 1889. It was written first to a tune called the “White Cockade” a lively Jacobite anthem but was later set to the music of “Tannenbaum” and old German hymn. His anthem is still sung at Labour Party Conferences in Britain.
Jim Connell’s last visit to Ireland was to address a gathering in Crossakiel in 1921. He died on 8th February 1929. The Daily Herald Obituary noted that he was essentially a man of the people. Once described himself in an entry for “Who’s Who” as “educated under a hedge for a few weeks” a sheep farmer, dock labourer, navy railwayman, draper, lawyer of a sort and all time a poacher”.
He was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium and his ashes scattered in the Garden of rest. Connell departed to the strings of “The Red Flag” sung to both his original and its adopted airs. Tom Mann speaking at his funeral said “he has ever been the proud Revolutionary Irishman, proud of his nationality and proud of his socialism. The Labour Party has not quite forgotten him”. On the small Edwardian house where he died, 22 Stondon Park, Forest Hill, South East London, there is a plaque put up jointly by Labour and by Lewisham Council.
At a meeting in Kilskyre Hall on 28th March 1997 a committee was set up with a view to erecting a monument to the famous son of Kilskyre, Jim Connell.
The monument was designed by Michael Allen, Architect, Kells. The inscribed plaques were made by Tully Monumental Sculptors, Oldcastle and these were set on three large stones donated by Tara Mines. The Bronze Bust of Jim Connell was made by Michael Keane, Trim. The contractor for the site was local builder Padraig Gaughran, Crossakiel.
London Unions including G.M.B, Battersea and Wandsworth TUC, Workers Beer Company provided the bulk of the money to erect the monument in Crossakiel.
The monument was unveiled on Sunday 26th April 1998 by Peter Cassells, General Secretary of the Congress of Trade Unions. The attendance on the day included local politicians, trade union members from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Continent. Jimmy Kelly, brother of the late Luke Kelly (The Dubliners) brought the proceedings to a close by singing the “Red Flag” accompanied by the S.I.P.T.U. Brass Band, Dublin.
The song can be seen on the memorial. Click HERE to listen to the song.
Lyrics and Music (The Red Flag)
The people's flag is deepest red,
It shrouded oft our martyred dead,
And ere their limbs grew stiff and cold,
Their hearts blood dyed its every fold.
Then raise the scarlet standard high. (chorus)
Within its shade we'll live and die,
Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We'll keep the red flag flying here.
Look round, the Frenchman loves its blaze,
The sturdy German chants its praise,
In Moscow's vaults its hymns are sung
Chicago swells the surging throng.
It waved above our infant might,
When all ahead seemed dark as night;
It witnessed many a deed and vow,
We must not change its colour now.
It well recalls the triumphs past,
It gives the hope of peace at last;
The banner bright, the symbol plain,
Of human right and human gain.
It suits today the weak and base,
Whose minds are fixed on pelf and place
To cringe before the rich man's frown,
And haul the sacred emblem down.
With heads uncovered swear we all
To bear it onward till we fall;
Come dungeons dark or gallows grim,
This song shall be our parting hymn.