Happy Mother’s Day!
Cork Artists urged to participate in the design for the “We Shall Rise” Mother Jones Monument in Chicago.
Having selected the site for the Mother Jones Monument, the City of Chicago is now seeking the RFQs (Request for Qualifications) from artists who wish to submit designs for the monument. The next steps will be for the Advisory Committee to choose an artist and a design, with a goal of dedicating the memorial.
The idea to honour Mother Jones was promoted by the Mother Jones Heritage Project, and the great news is that Irish artists and sculptors can apply. So if you know friends, groups or people who might be interested and qualify, especially those here in Cork (the birthplace of Mary Harris) please do send the link underneath to them.
Closing date is 26th March 2023, all details in the attached link above.
The Chicago Monuments Project (CMP) Advisory Committee and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Projects has decided the statue memorialising Labor icon “Mother” Jones will be placed in Jane Byrne Plaza, in the shadow of Chicago’s historic Water Tower. Jane Byrne (Burke) was the first woman Mayor of Chicago.
Irish poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde, in an effort to court controversy back in 1882 unfairly described the historic water tower as “a castellated monstrosity with pepper-boxes stuck all over it”. Wilde died on the 30th November 1900, thirty years to the day before Mother Jones.
The artwork commission will be $250,000.
According to Rosemary Feurer of the Mother Jones Heritage Project in Chicago,
“Mother Jones organised oppressed and exploited people, including women and children, black and white, native born and immigrant. She fought to end child labor, and campaigned to improve the working conditions for millions of poor people all over America for many decades,”
James Nolan for the Cork Mother Jones Committee stated;
“This competition to find a suitable design for a monument to celebrate Cork born Mary Harris in Chicago represents a fantastic opportunity for Cork artists with a track record to apply to design what will be a landmark public memorial in a major American city.
We are really hoping some Cork artists will get involved in this design due to its huge connection to the rebel spirit of a woman born in our own city. She was the rebel daughter of Cork City, who survived so much tragedy and yet her indomitable spirit prevailed.
The Chicago City Authorities have just recently issued details of the initial requirements needed to participate in the process.”
For further details about Mother Jones, visit https://www.motherjonesmuseum.org/about-us.
Announcement: Spirit of Mother Jones Festival Dates for 2023.
The Cork Mother Jones Committee is pleased to announce the dates for the 2023 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.
Our 12th Annual festival will be held in and around Shandon in Cork City from Thursday 27th to Saturday 29th July 2023. All are welcome.
Thanks to our sponsors, the festival remains open to all free of charge. We are promising a very interesting selection of speakers and topics. Further announcements will appear regularly on this website and on the festival Facebook pages.
Hope to see you all and thanks to everyone for your support for this very unique festival.
Terence V Powderly (1849-1924) started life as a 13 year old railroad worker where he worked as an apprentice in a machine shop. Born in Pennsylvania, Terence’s people were from Co Meath in Ireland.
Having joined the trade union movement, he became a moderate head of the Knights of Labor in 1879. This “Order” grew to having about three-quarters of a million members by the mid 1880s, but subsequently went into rapid decline due the growing radicalism and militancy of the new trade unions and the oppression of the growing industrial corporations which treated workers very badly.
Powderly, who originally lived in Scranton in Pennsylvania went on to hold a number of government posts until his death in 1924.
Mother Jones, although regarded as a radical became great friends with Terence and his wife Emma for several decades and stayed at their homes in Scranton and in Washington with them when visiting those cities.
Stardust Tragedy … still waiting for justice…forty-two years on!
On Saturday 11th February 2023, the 42nd Anniversary of the Stardust fire was commemorated at the site of the 1981 tragedy in the presence of a huge attendance of family members and relatives of the children who died. 48 children from the immediate area in Dublin lost their lives when the Stardust Night Club caught fire. Their families are awaiting the truth about what happened that night and are still seeking justice for their loved ones.
Following an emotional gathering in the marquee located alongside the site, Charlie Bird unveiled the impressive memorial wall which displays the faces and names of the 48 people who died in the Stardust fire on Valentine’s Day in 1981. It is a powerful visual monument to the children who died that awful night.
Earlier, Antoinette Keegan of the Stardust Families Committee had introduced a series of inspiring talks, songs, and poetry in which the children who lost their lives were remembered. Their everlasting spirit was present among the flickering candles and thoughts of their dignified families and friends and all those who attended.
Describing the remarkable Stardust relatives as his heroes, Charlie Bird expressed optimism that this will be the year when Truth and Justice will prevail.
“I have said this many times in the past, if the Stardust tragedy had happened in the southside of Dublin, you would not have had to wait for over four decades for the truth of what happened”
The North Dublin Community Gospel Choir sang “What About Us“, “Tears Stream” and “Stand By Me‘ in an emotional tribute to the lost young people of that night.
Christy Moore sang on video his once banned song “They Never Came Home“, which recounts the events of the Stardust Fire, commenting that:
“I never thought I’d be still singing it 40 years later still waiting for justice”
Jean Hegarty of the Derry Bloody Sunday Families and Trust mentioned that it took 38 years for their families in Derry to get justice, but stated that:
“We expected nothing from the British Government, but you had every right to expect more from your own government, our own government.”
Maurice McHugh, father of Caroline, read a poem “Remember Me” penned by Bernadette Ni Bheolain where the children make a plea from beyond their graves to remember them.
“Remember me, remember us as the scales of justice swing to and fro.”
As relatives of each of the children were presented with a photograph of their loved ones by Charlie Bird, there was a heavy sense of the shocking unfairness of the four decades of waiting for truth and justice. Yet there is also a growing sense of optimism, hope and expectation, as finally the relatives and families of the Stardust fire are about to be heard.
These families and survivors are now preparing their statements for the opening of the Inquests, which will commence on 19th April 2023.
We wish to thank Antoinette Keegan of the Stardust families for their kind invitation to the Cork Mother Jones Committee to attend the 42nd Commemoration for the Stardust victims. Antoinette was the recipient of the annual 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Award, which is given to those special people, who have campaigned against injustice. Her two sisters, Mary and Martina died in the fire, and her parents, Christine and John Keegan led the Stardust families campaign in spite of many disappointments and setbacks to establish the truth of what happened on the night and to seek justice for their lost children.
With special thanks to Robbie Kane of Dublin Live.
Christmas tragedy at Calumet 1913.
On Wednesday, December 24th, Christmas Eve 1913, in Calumet, Michigan, seventy-three men, women, and children, mainly striking mine workers and their families, were crushed to death in a stampede in what became known as the Italian Hall Disaster.
At a crowded Christmas party organise for the children of copper miners, who had been on strike in the local mines since July 23rd of that year, someone shouted “fire” at the entrance to the hall. There was no fire!
Hundreds of people were in the second floor room at the Italian Hall enjoying the miners party. Toys were being distributed to the children by Santa. On hearing the shout from downstairs, there was a huge panic and a mass rush down a steep narrow stairs to the exit which caused multiple deaths, especially among the children.
The strike had earlier been called by the Western Federation of Miners (WFM) seeking union recognition and an improvement in wages and working conditions. Mother Jones had visited Calumet in early August to show her support for the workers, before she became embroiled in the Colorado Coal Wars.
The mine owners in Copper Country refused to talk to the union members and the long and bitter strike continued until March 1914 in spite of this tragedy. Later investigations failed to reveal exactly who had wrongly called out “fire” which started the panic. Mother Jones blamed an anti union “law and order crowd” in the Calumet region for the false fire call which led to the deaths and repeatedly mentioned this dreadful tragedy in later speeches.
The sad and harrowing scenes in the town of Calumet on Christmas Day and over the 1913 Christmas period as the bodies of over 60 children were brought back to their homes left a lasting mark on witnesses. Photos from the time show lines of wooden white caskets. The Red Jacket Town Hall became a morgue, while the massive funeral procession down snow covered Fifth Street to Lakeview Cemetery was heart-breaking. Following several speeches from the strike leaders, the deceased were laid to rest in two mass grave sites.
The disaster at the Italian Hall was memorialised by singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie when in 1940 he wrote the “1913 Massacre”, in which he blamed the copper mines bosses of the Copper Country for the deaths.
“The piano played a slow final tune,
And the town was lit up by a cold Christmas moon,
The parents they cried and the miners they moaned,
“See what your greed for money has done””
Candles are lit each Christmas Eve at the local park in Calumet, let us remember them too!
Our thanks to Jeremiah Mason of the National Parks Service, Lake Superior Management Centre at Keweenaw National Historical Park at Calumet.
Mother Jones 92nd Anniversary.
Mother Jones died on 30th November 1930 at the age of ninety-three. Wednesday 30th November 2022 is the 92nd anniversary of her death.
The Cork Examiner newspaper mentioned her death in its edition of Tuesday December 2nd 1930 under “Cork Centenarian Dies in U.S.A.“
The Examiner quoting a report from the “Evening News” stated that:
“Mother” Jones Mary Jones, one of the most picturesque figures that Ireland and America between them have ever produced, died during the weekend at Silver Springs, Maryland.“
Note: It recorded her birth as 1830, based on her autobiography which was incorrect.
“In her own way, Mother Jones is as important as Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jnr”Jonah Winter, 2020. Mother JONES AND HER ARMY OF MILL CHILDREN sCHWARTZ & WADE BOOKS, nEW YORK
2022 World Cup – The Blood and Bones of Migrant Workers.
The right to hold the Soccer World Cup was awarded to Qatar by the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) in 2010.
This desert country possessed little football infrastructure, so a $200 billion stadium construction programme commenced. Immediately reports from the country indicated that hundreds of migrant workers were dying in construction-related incidents.
David Joyce of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) spoke about the deaths of migrant workers in Qatar at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2014.
The 2022 World Cup competition is about to begin in Qatar so let’s look at what has happened to the migrant workers since?
The Guardian newspaper in February 2021 stated that some 6500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka had died in Qatar since it had been awarded the World Cup in 2010. No figures for death were available for the workers from the Philippines and Kenya. The figures were supplied to the Guardian by the country’s embassies in Qatar. It remains unclear how many of these deaths were attributable directly to the World Cup infrastructural work as the Qatari authorities did not make the information available.
The Qatari government did not keep meaningful statistics but has admitted to 37 deaths of labourers between 2014 and 2020, of which 3 were “work-related”.
The United Nations Agency, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which signed an agreement with Qatar in 2017 to improve work conditions, stated in a 2021 report that “it is still not possible to present a categorical figure for the number of fatal occupational injuries in the country.” The ILO admitted that in 2021, 50 workers died, 500 were severely injured, and 37,500 suffered mild to moderate injuries. The Qatari government says workers have much-improved working conditions, and the kafala system, which binds workers to employers, has been abolished. Evidence from workers indicates otherwise.
Amnesty International stated bluntly that Qatar has failed to adequately investigate and certify thousands of migrant deaths, and to this day, those deaths remain unacknowledged by the Qatari state authorities. One-half of migrant workers’ deaths are attributed to “unknown causes”, “natural causes”, and “cardiovascular diseases”. While toiling for long hours in scorching summer heat conditions and living in poor conditions, many workers paid the ultimate price for their labour. Remember that the summer months in Qatar were deemed too hot for FIFA, the players and the fans; the World Cup was moved to November/December 2022 from its traditional June/July dates!)
In August 2022, Amnesty said that more than 15000 foreigners of all ages and occupations had died in Qatar between 2010 and 2019. Estimates put the total number of migrant workers, who have virtually no rights in Qatar, at between 1.5 million and 2 million, of which some 400,000 work on various construction projects.
Recently French journalists Sebastian Castelier and Quentin Muller, in their book “Les Esclaves de l’Homme Petrole” (“The Oil Man’s Slaves”), exposed the brutal working conditions of many migrants in Qatar supported by some 60 personal testimonies of the workers.
The failure of the Qatari government to produce clear and reliable statistics for the causes of the deaths is not acceptable, given its undoubted sophistication in other spheres. It represents a deliberate attempt to cover up the true position. It is fairly evident that Qatar’s World Cup became a graveyard for many migrant workers even as their bodies were flown back to their native countries. Issues such as the Qatari human rights record and its attitude to same-sex relations have also drawn much criticism.
New York based Human Rights Watch in an October 2022 report has condemned the Qatari rulers for their concerted attacks on the LGBTQ + Community. The report pointed out that even as Qatar prepared for the World Cup, the Interior Ministry was arbitrarily arresting, detaining and torturing LGBT people within the country.
“Mother Jones” magazine, in its November/December 2022 edition, contains a comprehensive and penetrating article by Tim Murphy, “Power Ball….How oligarchs, private equity, and petrostates took over soccer”, which detailed the sports-washing taking place in soccer, with particular emphasis on the scandals of the World Cup. The umbilical cord of enormous wealth passing between these entities and professional sports has now rotted the beautiful games.
The enormous level of arms purchases by Qatar from some countries whose FIFA executive members supported the original bid from the Emirate for the World Cup ($16 billion to France for fighter jets) and the corruption of this FIFA 22-man executive committee so well documented in FIFA Uncovered on Netflix is testament to scale of “one of the sleaziest, rottenest examples of corruption in the history of sport” (quoted from Malachy Clerkin in “The Irish Times” of 12th November 2022).
The sight of coffins arriving on airport trolleys in Kathmandu Airport and the funeral byres along the rivers in Nepal provide a jolting realisation of the human cost of the modern mass exploitation of migrant workers.
Not even the sponsored sports-washing and motorcycle videos of former soccer stars and influencers for Qatar can hide the reality that millions of sports followers worldwide will turn off or largely ignore this World Cup show in 2022. Thousands of migrant workers have died, and tens of thousands of these workers have been injured during the decade-long construction works to bring this World Cup to your televisions for the next few weeks.
Almost 100 years ago, Mother Jones wrote in her autobiography about the working conditions of the extractive fossil fuel industry of coal mining.
” I have been in West Virginia more or less for the past twenty-three years, taking part in the interminable conflicts that arose between the industrial slaves and their masters. The conflicts were always bitter. Mining is cruel work. Men are down in utter darkness hours on end. They have no life in the sun. They come up from the silence of the earth utterly wearied. Sleep and work, work and sleep. No time or strength for education, no money for books. No leisure for thought.” (The Autobiography of Mother Jones, C. H.Kerr 1925)
In a bitter and ironic twist of fate, at the Qatar World Cup, today’s workers are forced to endure long hours slaving under the harsh effects of the powerful sun to build football temples for their masters. The untold riches derived from to-day’s extractive polluting fossil fuel industry, an industry which may doom the entire planet are being wasted by the modern-day oil barons on sports washing vanity projects.
Pray for these migrant workers and fight like hell for the survivors of this sports scandal.
Memories of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2022
Yes! We did it again!
Mother Jones returned to sprinkle her unique magic over this our eleventh festival gathering in and around Shandon from 28th July till Saturday evening 30th July. Following two years of Covid-19 where the events were mainly pre-recorded for television which allowed our festivals to continue and be enjoyed although human contact was at a minimum, it was a great relief to meet up with people again and witness the interaction and discussions at a real event. Our heartfelt thanks to Cork Community Television for covering both the festivals for 2020 and 2021.
Prior to this festival, an extremely worried committee wondered would people come along, would they attend, did they remain apprehensive, how would they react to the real-life presentations by speakers, enjoy music and songs by musicians and singers?
The answer was definite and yes, they did! People came in huge numbers and participated actively and eagerly.
Each year there is something very special about the recipients of the Spirit of Mother Jones awards, their endless efforts to demand justice or to seek a better and fairer society create such a positive energy field at the festival.
The sheer dignity, passion and joy of Antoinette Keegan and her family, who lost her sisters Mary and Martina is humbling. Year after year since the 1981 Stardust tragedy, the Keegan family and many other families bereaved by the fire that Valentine’s night continue to seek the truth for the loss of their 48 children who never came home. The Spirit of Mother Jones Award for 2020 was to have been presented to Christine Keegan however Christine (Antoinette’s Mam) sadly passed away on 14th July 2020 and Covid-19 had prevented the presentation to Antoinette since then.
Phyllis and Maurice McHugh, whose beautiful daughter Caroline died in the fire also attended and it was a privilege for everyone to listen to and hear their heart-breaking stories. Their resilience and quest for the truth is awesome.
Likewise, the Spirit of Mother Jones Award for 2022 went to Don O’Leary and all at the Cork Life Centre. Their vision and practical support for young people who fall through the education system and the cracks in society has been shown to work and work effectively. Yet the support of the educational establishment for this vision often fails to provide the resources necessary to ensure the continuation of the extraordinary work being done for the young people who enter its protective doors.
A theme of many of the festivals has been the failure to acknowledge the role of women in history, something Mother Jones would have been familiar with. The role of five Cork women during the revolutionary period was examined in the latest Shandon Area History Group/Frameworks Films production Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times documentary was examined. Sisters Nora and Sheila Wallace and Mary and Annie MacSwiney along with their sister-in-law Muriel Murphy. One day soon Cork will surely acknowledge properly all of them and so many others. The Cork City Council documentary Endurance and Engagement introduced us all to four other Cork women who made a huge contribution to the city.
Professor Maggie O’Neill in collaboration with Traveller Pride launched the Feminism Walking Tour of Cork which as it expands and develops will highlight the huge role of women in history and society and will become a highlight of a visit to Cork city. Rain on the evening proved no obstacle to the inaugural walkabout.
As the Decade of Centenaries reaches a close, the work of a few historians continues to explore with a critical eye the experiences of many women during the period. Anne Twomey certainly did not hold back as she detailed the shocking treatment meted out to some women by all sides during the War of Independence and Civil War. The idea that Irish wars are different and that women were treated with a civility and respect by all sides in those wars certainly needs to be examined and discussed. The violence perpetrated on women remains unspoken about as the accounts remain untold or hidden away in the silence and omerta of the participants and the files. The truth needs to be told before the Decade of Centenaries fades away, otherwise it may never be!
Looking to impacts on Irish society from earlier years, Angela Flynn in a presentation in which past events influenced current failures, gave a forensic analysis of what our health service might look like had Dr Noel Browne’s Mother and Child Scheme been successfully implemented in the 1950s. Her forensic presentation was a perfect way to honour the efforts of this visionary doctor and politician on the 25th Anniversary of his death.
Cork’s own Mother Jones, Joan Goggin had earlier honoured her own father’s friend, labour leader James Larkin for the 75th anniversary of his passing. Historian Luke Dineen delivered a fascinating account of the General Strike in Cork in 1923, another forgotten labour battle lost in the midst of the Civil War and its aftermath, although the outcome of the strike had a hugely negative impact on thousands of Cork workers and their families.
We learned about Red Tom Hickey from Westmeath, we visited the magnificent North Cathedral and in the company of Anne Twomey, we examined the Baptism register for 1837 and the baptism font where Mary Harris was baptised on August 1st of that year.
Visions of what a united Ireland might look like were debated with trade union representatives from TUNUI and later with author Frank Connolly. Liam O hUigín took us out on an early morning tour of Shandon.
What a wonderful night we had with the legendary Cork Singers’ Club and to hear again singers such as Therese MacCarthaigh and her husband Sean from Blarney Street and so many others was a special treat, our thanks to everyone especially Jim Walsh and William Hammond.
Eve Telford and Jimmy Crowley showed just how good they can be for the traditional Friday festival lunchtime gig, while the legendary John Nyhan and his son Gearoid provided further practical evidence as to just how relevant the songs of Woody Guthrie still remain after more than eight decades.
The traditional final toast at the Mother Jones Plaque allowed us all the opportunity to remember absent friends. We honoured committee member John Jefferies (RIP) and so pleased that his sister Monica was on hand to receive a special presentation from everyone who worked with John on the Cork Mother Jones Committee. We remembered Manus O’ Riordan, Liam Cahill and Helen O’Donovan and other absent friends also.
So many people and organisations helped to bring the eleventh Spirit of Mother Jones Festival to fruition. Frameworks Films, Cork Community Tv, the Shandon Area Renewal Association, Shandon Area History Group along with the Shandon Maldron Hotel and Dance Cork Firkin Theatre.
Cork City Council Heritage and Tourism Departments along with the City and County Libraries and Cork City and County Archives have been hugely helpful and supportive. We wish to thank Cllr. Damian Boyle, Cllr. Colette Finn, and Cllr. John Sheehan who attended the festival as acting Lord Mayor of Cork. Also, we are grateful to Cllr. Kieran McCarthy and Cllr. Ted Tynan for their assistance.
Our sponsors in the Irish Trade Union movement ensure the unique festival takes place and guarantee that it remains open and free to all to attend. SIPTU at Liberty Hall has sponsored the festival from its very beginning and we are very grateful. Likewise, the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland, especially the Cork South Paddy Mulcahy Branch. IFUT, the INTO and Connect are also valued sponsors. Local sponsors include the Cathedral Credit Union and Cllr Ted Tynan.
Special mention to Mary Dineen, Joan Goggin, Eadaoin and Aoife, Anne Twomey, Jimmy Crowley, Luke Dineen, John Nyhan and the Cork Singers’ Club for their support. Finally, to all our speakers from far and near who come and speak and engage in debate and enjoy the wonderful atmosphere on the north side of Cork. The festival remains relevant to people, it must remain when necessary willing to challenge the accepted orthodoxy and above all we wish to remain interesting.
Let us know by email what you wish to discuss at next year’s summer school. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our thanks too to Friends of Mother Jones around the world for their encouragement especially those in Chicago, Mount Olive, Washington, Colorado and elsewhere. Cork may have given Mother Jones to the world, now Mother Jones is bringing the world to Cork.
Provisional dates for the 2023 festival are Thursday 27th July to Saturday 29th July 2023.
Hope to see you there.
Cork Mother Jones Committee 2022.
Richard T Cooke, James Nolan, Ann Piggott, Dominic O’Callaghan, Ann Rea, William Hammond, Geraldine McCarthy, Shannon Smyth, John Barimo, Angela Flynn and Gerard O’Mahony.
From Allihies to Leadville, Another ‘Trail of Tears’.
Today as one descends into the community from the high Castletownbere road, the beauty of Ballydonegan Bay and Allihies village on the Beara peninsula in West Cork remains stunning to the eye. Alive with tourists, music and life in the summertime, it slumbers gently during the wild winter months. The hills all around are dotted with the remains of mine sites, there is a busy Copper Mine Museum providing a focus point for information, study and relaxation in the linear village. One can walk the Allihies Copper Mine Trail, in the footsteps of the miners. The village’s past is bound up with the local mines and their impact, its future is to tell the miner’s story.
Mining began here in 1812 at Dooneen, established by John Puxley, the local landlord, followed in 1813 by the Mountain Mine and in 1818 by the Caminches Mine. Mines opened and closed, Dooneen in 1838, Caminches in the 1840s. Eventually mine shafts pockmarked the hills rising to the north of the village. By 1842, upwards of 1600 men and boys, some from Cornwall, worked underground and across the hilly landscape. The large Kealogue mine opened.
Working conditions were brutal, many died, and strikes were smashed in a ruthless manner. As the great Famine devastated West Cork (1845-1852), food was brought in by the Puxleys to keep the mines in operation. The emigration of some miners and their families began. The miners especially at the Kealogue mine were concerned by safety issues and went on strike in 1861.
Later in 1864, there was a confrontation with the local Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) when they marched on the Mountain Mine to demand better pay and conditions. Further strikes followed over low wages and resentment grew as the mine owners constructed extravagant additions to their Puxley Manor at nearby Dunboy Castle. Emigration continued as workforce was reduced, the mines were sold and finally closed in 1884. Sporadic attempts to reopen mines, including some exploration for base metals and uranium have taken place in the 1970s, but the old mines remain a silent testament to a difficult past.
Many miners and their families journeyed to the USA, using the infamous coffin ships, facing disease and exploitation upon arrival. They remained always transient, for ever journeying westwards to the copper mines of Butte, Montana and to Michigan, to Pennsylvania, and onwards to Leadville, high in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
Prospector Abe Lee struck gold at California Gulch in Colorado about 1860. Will Stevens followed around 1875 and when he discovered the silver-bearing carbonate of lead in the old diggings at an altitude of 10,000 feet, the miners quickly renamed the old town. Leadville immediately became a magnet for the silver rush of the mobile mining workforce arriving in the New World.
Originally a mining camp, Leadville prospered in the bonanza and developed a notorious reputation for gambling, brothels and drinking saloons as vividly described by the local Daily Chronicle newspaper. However, it was not that unlike nearby mining towns such as Cripple Creek, or indeed Deadwood, or Butte. By 1890, Leadville had a population of 25,000 and six churches. And by 1896, Leadville was so wealthy that in a display of ostentatious civic pride it was able to construct an Ice Palace, costing $20,000 and covering some 5 acres. In the same year, there began a nine-month strike by the Cloud City Miners’ Union (local of the Western Federation of Miners WFM). The miners were seeking a daily rate of just $3.00, yet they were defeated and at least six miners died in the conflict.
Hundreds of Irish miners joined the rush to the tiny town. Research by Assistant Professor, James Walsh at the University of Colorado in Denver has identified hundreds of graves at the Catholic and paupers’ graveyards at Evergreen Cemetery in the town. Many contain remains of young Irish miners and their families, some from West Cork.
James Walsh estimates from his research in the Catholic parish records that 1400 people are buried in unmarked graves in the paupers’ section and up to 70% of them have Irish names. Their average age is just 23 years and half of them were children under 12. There could be up to 2500 Irish immigrants buried in the wider cemetery. A significant number can be linked back to Allihies.
Their brief lives underground were filled with dangers, sickness and back breaking work for very little money. The journey from Allihies to Leadville in many ways represents a further “trail of tears” * for the mining population of the Beara peninsula who now lie in often unmarked graves among the woods of the town.
Experiences of underground miners were captured by photographer, Timothy O’Sullivan, a young veteran of the American Civil War whose work down in the pits has preserved for ever this hell-like subterranean prison of the mining life. His images of ghostly and gaunt men with far away expressions working deep underground are matched in the work of Tom McGuinness, miner and artist who painted remarkable images of the silent and lonely coalminers in the mining tunnels of the North East of England almost a century later.
For those who have never mined in the mineral veins of the earth, it is hard to imagine the oppressive heat, the dirt and filth and the sheer loneliness of men and boys who rarely saw the daylight of the magnificent Rocky Mountains. It was the new world of many Irish and some did not survive for long in the horrific and dangerous working conditions of this snowbound town.
Some Irish prospered. In 1880, Thomas Francis Walsh, from Tipperary discovered a vein of quartz bearing silver at Leadville and made a huge fortune. James Doyle, James Burns and John Harnan made a fortune at Cripple Creek. The “Silver Kings” of Cornstock were four Irishmen, John Mackay, James Fair, James Flood and William O’Brien. So as miners and their families worked for a few dollars a day, the “Kings” flaunted their riches, building gigantic mansions, erecting marble columns, and commissioning pure silver candelabras.
The silver rush continued into the 1890s when most local mines closed, the remaining miners headed to Denver and the Colorado coalmines of John D. Rockefeller where they and their descendants’ joined unions at the urging of Cork born Mother Jones, and the United Mine Workers Union under John Mitchell in the early 1900s. Others later took part in the bitter West Virginia/Colorado Coal Wars of 1913/14, which culminated in the Ludlow Massacre.
On a beautiful Saturday afternoon in September 2022, Alan Grourke, President of the Irish Network in Colorado introduced a series of speakers to a crowd which had gathered to witness the emotional unveiling of a memorial to the Irish miners and their families who lie buried alongside. The memorial depicts “Liam” the miner as he sits, facing back to Ireland some 7000 kms. to Allihies with his miners pick and an Irish harp.
James Walsh speaking to Denver 7, a local TV station said as he walked near the unmarked graves among the trees stated.
“This is what class looks like in America, they were forgotten……instead of honouring the monarchy, we are honouring the poorest of the poor and that’s a radical thing to do, it changes perspectives, it changes dynamics and by honouring nineteen century workers, we honour 21st century immigrant workers too.”
Irish Consul, Micheal Smith, representing the Irish government which contributed financially paid tribute to the organising committee for their dedication to erecting the memorial, while the Mayor of Leadville, Greg Labbe provided an account of the harsh lives of the miners. Historian Kathleen Fitzsimmons pointed to the rounded stones forming the memorial and the pathway as a symbol of the spiral and urged people to visit this “sacred space” and leave the world better for their children. The Irish Miners’ Memorial is expected to be completed in 2023.
A blessing of the memorial then took place by Native American Cassandra Atencio, member of the Southern Ute Tribe on whose native lands the graveyard and memorial lies. The blessing provided further historical and symmetrical symbolic connections between the indigenous people of North America and the Irish.
The Choctaw Nation contributed funds to the town of Midleton in Co Cork during the Famine in 1847, despite being forced on their own ‘Trail of Tears’ during the ethnic cleansings of 1831-1833. Several thousand tribal members died on those marches.
The Ute people always lived in harmony with their wild environment and took care of Mother Earth.
An Ute prayer for the planet.
May the Earth teach you stillness as the grasses are stilled with light May the Earth teach you suffering as old stone suffer with memory May the Earth teach you humility as blossoms are humble with beginning May the Earth teach you caring as the mother who serves her young May the Earth teach you courage as the tree which stands you all alone May the Earth teach you limitation as the ant which crawls on the ground. May the Earth teach you freedom as the eagle which sores in the sky May the Earth teach you resignation as the leaves which die in the fall May the Earth teach you regeneration as the seed which rises in the spring. May the Earth teach you to forget yourself as the melted snow forgets its life May the Earth teach you to remember kindness as dry field weep with rain.
An appropriate monument and a fitting blessing for all those who lie in soil of Leadville.
*During the harsh winter of 1602/3 following defeat of the Irish at the Battle of Kinsale, Beara Chieftain, Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare had led a thousand people from his peninsula clan and home on a 500 kms. March north to Co. Leitrim to escape the English attacks…after a trail of tears……. just thirty-five reached safety among the O’Rourke clan in Leitrim!
Visit Allihies Copper Mine Museum, http://www.acmm.ie,
Visit INCO Irish Network Colorado, http://www.irishnetworkco.com.
American Events and Updates
There are many activities and ongoing events in the USA with connections to Mother Jones and the Irish emigrant diaspora.
Some wonderful news is that the Chicago Monuments Commission has issued a report and among the projects which it has decided to fund is the Chicago Statue/Sculpture Campaign which seeks to erect a monument to Mother Jones in a prominent location in Chicago. This additional $50,000 funding from the Commission gives the campaign a fantastic boost and it is hoped to announce the location of the monument very soon. Fundraising continues and the latest trade union contribution of $5000 from the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Crafts was also most welcome. The Committee’s cherished dream of a lasting and permanent monument to the Cork woman looks like being realised shortly.
The Mother Jones Heritage Project has also received news that its application for the erection of a road marker in southern Indiana to Mother Jones has been approved. It will be placed in Evansville, a city with a rich Labour and coal miners heritage where Mother Jones rallied striking textile workers in 1901 and later in 1916 when she addressed a crowd of some ten thousand at a Labor Day picnic. A former coal miner and local historian Steve Bottoms worked with the Indiana authorities and with fundraising to make this memorial to Mother Jones happen.
The Mother Jones Heritage exhibition, Dangerous Women, Mary Harris “Mother” Jones and Francis “Fannie” Sellins, at the St. Louis Public Library’s Carnegie Room continues until January 7, 2023. The exhibit was funded in part by an Emigrant Support Grant of the Irish Government through the Chicago Consulate. Fannie Sellins was born Fannie Mooney and this union activist also had deep Irish emigrant roots.
Finally the Mother Jones Heritage Project invites everyone to join them on Saturday September 3rd in Chicago as Mother Jones leads the Labor day Parade. So come out and honour Mother Jones. For details visit www.motherjonesmuseum.org
Meanwhile down in Leadville in Colorado the construction of a monument is underway to remember the many Irish immigrants, over 1300, many of them young miners and their families from Allihies in West Cork who lie buried in unmarked graves in the Evergreen Cemetery.
The local Colorado committee under Professor James Walsh expects to have Phase 1 of the memorial completed this year and there will be a celebratory event in Leadville on Saturday September 17th 2022 to mark this achievement. The full unveiling of the spectacular monument will be held in 2023 when the glass panels with the names of those who lie buried there will be on display. Fundraising is continuing and donations towards the completion of the monument are most welcome.
For details. https://www.irishnetworkco.com/celebration-of-the-completion-of-phase-1-of-the-leadville-memorial/