Historic marker to Mother Jones unveiled on Route 66 near her Illinois resting place

The new road marker at I-55 south of Springfield, Illinois. Photo courtesy of Mike Matejka

The new road marker at I-55 south of Springfield, Illinois. Photo courtesy of Mike Matejka

A commemorative road marker in honour of Cork-born Mother Jones was unveiled near Mount Olive, Illinois on Monday (11 December) in the presence of the Honorary Irish Consul in Chicago, Mr. Brian O’Brien. 

Brian O'Brien

Irish Consul General Brian O’Brien (Photo courtesy of Mother Jones Heritage Project MJHP)


The marker itself will be seen by over a million people a year who come to take a break just off the world-famous Route 66.   After the ceremony, Mr O’Brien visited the indoor exhibition area at the location. They the group travelled to Mount Olive where Mr. O’Brien placed a wreath at the grave of Mother Jones in the Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive.


The wreath contained the words of her motto “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living” in both Irish and English. There then followed a toast to Mother Jones at the grave which was celebrated using Red-Breast Whiskey. Congratulations to everyone involved in this amazing project.  


Group at the grave of Mother Jones at Mount Olive. (L-R): Brigid Duffy of Irish American Heritage Center,   Mother Jones Performer Amy Rueff of Illinois American Federation of Labor, Rosemary Feurer of Mother Jones Heritage Project and Consul General Brian O’Brien



The Wreath with inscription in English and Irish

Our thanks to Prof. Rosemary Feurer of the Mother Jones Musuem for forwarding photos and other material.

Cork born Mother Jones to get a historic road marker on the famous Route 66 in Illinois

A new Historic Marker to be unveiled to Cork born Mother Jones in Illinois near Route 66.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee welcomes the wonderful news that a new Historic Roadside Marker monument is to be unveiled near the I-55 Southbound Coalfield Roadway in honour of Cork born woman Mother Jones.

The large marker has been placed with the cooperation of the Illinois Department of Transportation and will be unveiled on Monday 11th December next by Mr. Brian O’Brien, Ireland’s Consulate General in Chicago.

“We are delighted to congratulate the Mother Jones Heritage Project committee in Illinois for their enormous work to ensure that Mary Harris/Mother Jones is never forgotten. We especially wish to thank Professor Rosemary Feurer who has brought this project to fruition in Illinois and who has supported and inspired the Spirit of Mother Jones festival over the past 6 years and has spoken at it twice.” stated James Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee.

In addition to the Irish Consulate, representatives of the Illinois AFL-CIO, Illinois Labour History Society, the United Mine Workers of America, the Irish American Heritage Centre, the Route 66 Association and many others will attend the historic unveiling of the Mother Jones Marker.

The Coalfield rest area where the Marker is placed receives over 1 million visitors each year. This is the brainchild of the Mother Jones Heritage Project which established a museum near Mount Olive where Mother Jones is buried.

Rory McCarthy sings “Valley of Jarama” at ceremony to mark centenary of Michael O’Riordan

Cork singer Rory McCarthy sings “Valley of Jarama”, a song from honouring the International Brigades . A short ceremony was held across the road from 37, Pope’s Quay, Cork where Michael O’Riordan was born was born in 1917. The young O’Riordan left from here in 1938 and travelled to Spain to fight on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, in opposition to fascism. Seriously injured, O’Riordan returned to Ireland as the war ended with the defeat of the forces of democracy. Later he was a leading member of the Communist Party of Ireland and served as its General Secretary for many years. O’Riordan died in 2006. His son Manus and daughter Brenda were present for the ceremony which was part of the 2017 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival surpasses previous events

Large crowds were typical at most events

The 2017 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and summer school in the Shandon Historic Quarter ended on Saturday night 5th August when the Sweet Olive String Band played it out.

After completing some 30 separate events over 5 days, an exhausted committee and participants somehow managed to raise a glass or two of Mother Jones favourite tipple in a final toast or two as we surrounded her plaque on John Redmond Street. Endless verses of “She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain When She Comes” rang out. Amazingly, a blinding evening sun finally burst through the clouds above the old Cork Butter Market and blanketed the street and plaque in a glowing orange sunlight as Helen sang “Black Flowers” by Lynn Miles.

Throughout the previous five days we had met visitors from the USA, UK, Chile, South Africa, France, Germany and Holland as well as from all over Cork and Ireland. Songs from Jimmy Crowley such “Mick Barry – the Pride of Waterfall” …..to Susana and Jimmy’s tribute to Victor Jara of Chile….. to Jarama Valley and the evocative songs and stories of the Cork Singers Club were sung.


Jimmy Crowley

Jimmy Crowley in full song at the Maldron

We listened in an overflowing room to the story of Micheal O’Riordan, who as a young 21 year old left his home in nearby 37 Popes Quay in 1938 and went to fight fascism in Spain as he was remembered by his son Manus and daughter Brenda. And we later celebrated his life in an impromptu tribute by Rory McCarthy on Popes Quay opposite his house!

Rory McCarthy sings The Internationale opposite No.37 Pope’s Quay as Manus O’Riordan listens

We heard historian Harry Owens describe the horrors of the Spanish Civil War and Anne Twomey talked about the passion of La Pasionaria, while John Nyhan and the legendary Mick Treacy sang the songs of the lost war in English, Spanish and German. The six Limerick men who fought were brought back to life in the new documentary by Frameworks Films and the LIBMT. Earlier, Luke Dineen had vividly described the impact of the Bolshevik revolution on Cork.

We had watched A Plastic Ocean with growing unease and the final silent stunned response of the large audience signalled a world in deep trouble. Later listening to environmentalist Fr. Sean McDonagh, we quietly wondered if the revolutionary environmental change in Catholic Church teaching as represented by Laudato Si-On Care of Our Common Home from Pope Francis may even already be too late for our planet.

Marcia D’Alton explained in a revealing presentation the perplexing planning in Cork Harbour…… as we await the latest incinerator decision, while Sean O’Muiri of Save Our City described the future Cork City river planning on the banks of our River Lee.

A relative of Feargus O’Connor was present to hear Warren Davies tell us of the West Corkman who brought the revolution of democracy to Britain. The mighty river of Chartism had indeed flowed from West Cork to Britain!

Anne Twomey packed the room to tell of the brave local women who fought for Irish freedom on the northside of Cork City. Some of their proud relatives were in the audience too. Later investigative journalist, Frank Connolly told of Tom Gilmartin and the story of recent corruption Irish style in our Republic……… a Republic born of these very womens’ heroic efforts.

Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. Tony Fitzgerald, accepting urn containing earth from the grave of Mother Jones from Jim Goltz, Illinois.

Richard T Cooke and his singers sang local songs, the Mother Jones Ceili band raised the roof, while soul singer Karen Underwood originally from Chicago and taking inspiration from the personal tragedies experienced and overcome by Mother Jones gave an unforgettable performance for the ages. During Saturday morning Karan Casey sang her wonderful new tribute to Mother Jones based on “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living”.

On Tuesday, Irish trade union leaders had discussed tactics, victories and defeats and then we had witnessed the impact of Mother Jones in the USA, the role of the Greek community and the present day mining manifestation in West Virginia where Donald Trump secured many of their votes in the remarkable Blood on the Mountain.

Sacred proclamations from the AFL-CIO and the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) were presented to the committee representing the acknowledgement by those unions of the immense role of local girl Mary Harris in union activism. Julianna described Mary’s contemporary Florence Kelley.

The earth carried from the grave of Mother Jones in Illinois by James Goltz and representing her symbolic essence was presented to the Lord Mayor of Cork. It is safe in Cork now!

Awarding of prize to Ken Fleming of the ITF

Ken Fleming (right) receives the Spirit of Mother Jones Award 2017 from Jim Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee. Also in photo (centre) is SIPTU General Secretary Joe O’Flynn

Ken Fleming, the inspiring trade union organiser, in an emotional response to being presented with the 2017 Spirit of Mother Jones Award described what it meant to him and explain why it would enable him and his comrades in the International Transport Workers Federation to drive on to eliminate slavery on our seas.

Mother Jones had indeed chosen an outstanding recipient for this our highest accolade and we are reassured that she remains at work today.


Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2017 – Day 4

Today is Day 4 of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival & Summer School 2017 and promises a full day of events.  The main theme of most of today’s activity is around the Spanish Civil War (1936-1937) and we will also be honouring Michael O’Riordan who fought on the Republican side in the war and whose centenary is being marked this year.  Michael was born at number 37 Pope’s Quay, under the shadow of Shandon Steeple.

Timetable for Day 4