4 - James Connolly Birthplace

4 - James Connolly Birthplace

The Irish community in Scotland, owing to the proximity of the two nations, and the ethnic ties between them, is one of its most prominent. Around 50,000 Irish immigrants live in Scotland today, and it is thought that the number of Scots with Irish heritage is in the hundreds of thousands.

Though affinity to Ireland, and the import, alas, of the religious division there, is often felt more acutely on Scotland's West Coast (Irish people more often settled where they landed, in Glasgow), Edinburgh has close links with its Celtic neighbour. This plaque illustrates a key example of this - James Connolly, to different people a terrorist, liberator, and political visionary (or all 3 simultaneously), was born here at 107 Cowgate to Irish parents, and went on to be instrumental in the violent agitation for Irish Independence during the Great War.

He was the Commander of the rebel troops in Dublin during the 1916 Easter Rising, which began the period of violent repudiation of British rule, but led to his death by firing squad in spite of his suffering fatal wounds shortly after the rising was put down.

The political links between Scotland and Ireland are immense - the two countries are connected by a shared Celtic culture and language which has been preserved, shared music, and a distinct shared autonomy from England, which shape how the nations view themselves. Connolly sprang from the Irish community in Edinburgh, incubated over centuries.

Moreover, as well as demonstrating the ties between Scotland and Ireland, the place of Scotland in the development of socialist ideas is assured. The prevalence of heavy industry, the intellectually radical streak, and the legacy of Presbyterian democracy in the Church of Scotland inculcated in Scots a propensity for left-wing thought - as a result, Scots were at the heart of the foundation of the socialist movement in Britain, and the European model of social democracy is one that has taken root.

David Granville, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. Plaque: Photo © Dave Pickersgill (cc-by-sa/2.0)