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Headstone for Beara soldier who fought for British against Zulus

January 25th, 2019 7:10 AM

By Southern Star Team

Work taking place in Wales on the headstone for Castletownbere soldier Private John Connolly.

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BY HELEN RIDDELL

A BEARA man who fought in Africa in 1879 and lay in an unmarked grave in South Wales since his death in 1906, will finally be honoured when a headstone is erected over his grave in the coming weeks.  

Welsh historians have discovered that Pte John Connolly, who was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave at Danygraig Cemetery in Port Tennant in Swansea, was originally from the Beara Peninsula.  

Peter Hall and John Thomas, who run the family-owned Swansea Bay Museum, made the discovery last year.

Speaking to The Southern Star, Peter Hall outlined how he had discovered that Pte Connolly was a member of the British 24th Regiment, later to be called The South Wales Borderers, and was involved in a battle against the Zulus at Rorke’s Drift in Natal, Africa.  

John survived the battle, but died in his Swansea home in 1906.   

‘We only have limited information on Pte John Connolly’s early years, all we know is he was born in Castletown Berehaven in 1859 and was the son of a fisherman, also named John Connolly,’ explained Peter. ‘More recently, we’ve been able to discover that on his return from Africa, John married a Catherin Crowley, who was also from Cork, but living in a part of Swansea called Greenhill, which was also known as ‘Little Ireland’ due the large numbers of Irish living there.’

However, despite being buried with full military honours, John’s family were unable to afford a headstone for his grave. Since uncovering John’s military background, Peter has been trying to trace any surviving family members and has been committed to erecting a headstone on John’s grave.  

The Southern Star ran a story least year on the search for Pte Connolly’s family and a Swansea-based monumental mason company Nurse and Payne of Fforestfach heard of the story and agreed to supply and engrave a headstone free of charge.  

The grave of John Connolly also includes the remains of one other person who died a pauper – a child named Thomas Fitzgerald. His name will also be inscribed on the headstone. Peter is now liaising with the Royal Welsh regiment to arrange a military commemoration for when the headstone is placed on the grave.   

Anyone who has any further information on Pte Connolly can contact The Southern Star at [email protected]

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