From Allihies to Leadville, Another ‘Trail of Tears’.

Leadville Miner Memorial, (J Goltz),

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 and 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. Also, in 1896 there began a nine-month strike by the Cloud City Miners’ Union (local of the Western Federation of Miners WFM). The miners were seeking just $3 a day. They were defeated and at least six miners died in the conflict.

Colorado National Guard protecting mines during the Leadville Union Strike of 1896 (Denver Public Library).

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. Once more as miners and their families starved, 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.

Liam the Miner faces Ireland (J. Goltz).

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.

Monument to the Choctaw at Midleton, Co. Cork.

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.

Image of Proposed Mother Jones Statue in Chicago


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.

Old Copper Mine in Ailihies, West Cork.

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.

Proposed Immigrant Memorial in Leadville, Colorado.

For details.    https://www.irishnetworkco.com/celebration-of-the-completion-of-phase-1-of-the-leadville-memorial/

Feminist Walking Tour of Cork Launched at Festival

Professor Maggie O’Neill launched the walk, a printed map and website for the new feminist walking tour of Cork on Saturday  30th July at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival. 

Professor Maggie O’Neill

The launch was a collaboration with Mother Jones Festival and TVG Traveller pride. Following a brief introduction, a large number of the participants headed off to visit a number of the sites, including the Traveller Visibility Centre, the Mary Elmes Bridge, the Sexual Violence Centre and the Mother Jones Plaque.

Feminist Walking Tour at Mary Elmes Bridge

While some representations of women can be found, and some streets are named after queens and saints, there are no monuments to women in Cork City. Yet the women of Cork have made an enormous contribution to building better communities throughout the city and far beyond. 

Professor Maggie O’Neill

The Cork Mother Jones Committee wish to congratulate all associated with this venture which focuses on celebrating the contribution of women to Cork City and explores “the role of women in addressing sexual and social inequalities and building fairer, safer communities”. 

https://www.feministwalkcork.ie/

Further Information in relation to Cork Street names from Cork Mother Jones Committee:

It does appear as if the only female representation used on Cork street names are indeed those of queens and saints/religious figures. The name of Queen Victoria appears on approximately eleven place name locations in Cork City; the renaming of the area around MacCurtain Street as “The Victorian Quarter” is the latest example.

Interestingly, over one hundred place names in Cork City are named after saints, representing thirty-one saints, seven of which are female. (only St Mary, St Joseph and St Patrick can match Queen Victoria in popularity). 

Dozens more place names have religious associations such as the names of popular Cork priests or Italian saints. Just two nuns, both founders of religious orders such as Mary Aikenhead and Nano Nagle are remembered on a road, places and a bridge.

Names such as Bernadette, Mary, Margaret and Geraldine appear on Cork street names and they are probably connected to saint names also.

Only Dr Mary Hearn (2011) and Mary Elmes (2020 ) who have had the honour of recently having a park and a bridge named after them in the city may be deemed to have come from a secular if somewhat privileged background.

To date it appears that no secular working class woman has been bestowed with the honour of her name being placed on any public structure or street in Cork City. When one realises that Thom’s Commercial Directory of 2004 listed some 2805 streets in Cork City and yet no street is named after an ordinary Cork woman, it is a very serious omission and represents gender and class discrimination on an epic scale in our city.

In Memory of John

Traditionally the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival each year concludes at the plaque on John Redmond Street, where we toast Mother Jones and remember absent friends.

This year was especially poignant as we recalled John Jefferies, who died on February 10th 2020. John was a founding member of the Cork Mother Jones Committee.

John Jefferies

The committee made a special presentation to Monica Ross, John’s sister, as a token of the esteem and affection he was held in by many associated with the festival. The inscription read “In recognition of John Jefferies, Friend of Mother Jones” from the Cork Mother Jones Committee 2022. 

John spoke at the 2015 festival about a hero of his, Jack (Sean) Dowling, who was one of the leaders of the Limerick Soviet in April 1919. 

Monica thanked everyone and, in tribute to her brother, read a poem, ‘Thoughts on a beach‘, which John had composed. 

Monica reading “Thoughts on a beach.”

The thoughts of the large gathering also were with labour historians Liam Cahill and Manus O’Riordan, both of whom had participated in the 2019 Spirit of Mother Jones festival.   

Thoughts on a beach

I walk on the beach and wonder
Who has passed this way before me?
What joyous child looked awestruck at the scene?
Or picked a periwinkle from a rock
Curious at the sight.
What brave explorer chanced upon this way?
And sat upon that rock
Resting for a while
Letting cares abate.

Did some ancient beast waddle from the sea
And linger where I stand?
Looking for its prey
Or frolicking in the waves.

We are all but travelers on our way
Leaving footprints in the sand
There a fleeting moment
‘Til tide marks have their say.

I was here today
And marvelled at the sight
Danced in the waves
Drew pictures in the sand.
I dreamed I was a sailor
Or the first to set foot here
Carefree and inquisitive
I left a sign right there – 
A footprint on the shoreline
And now I am elsewhere.
The imprint it has faded
Much time has passed since then
My shadow in the ripples
My laughter in the wind.

I will be here always
As long as daylight breaks
Aeons will pass
Humanity will fade
But it cant take away
The fact that I was here
Someday, some time
And I’m still here today.

Happy Birthday, Mother Jones

Mary Harris was born in Cork City in 1837.

On the morning of 1st August 1837, she was baptised by Fr. John O’Mahony in the North Cathedral.

Her parents were Ellen Cotter and Richard Harris, and her sponsors were Ellen Leary and Richard Hennessy.

St. Mary’s Cathedral Baptism Register 1833- 1853.

Her sister Catherine was baptised in the Cathedral on the 29th March 1840, while brother William was baptised here on 28th February 1846.

(Our thanks to Anne Twomey, Bernard Spillane of the North Cathedral and Nora Hickey of Kinsale for her genealogy work.)

Anne Twomey points to the then location of the baptismal font in the Cathedral of St. Mary & St. Anne – Nora Hickey looks on (right).

Presentation of Spirit of Mother Jones 2022 to Don O’Leary of the Cork Life Centre.

Don O’Leary, director of Cork Life Centre is presented with the 2022 Spirit of Mother Jones award in an emotional ceremony during the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.

The award was presented by James Nolan and was followed by a sustained standing ovation from the large number of people present. 

Don O’Leary receives the award from James Nolan.

Don is the first Cork man to receive the award and he commented afterwards that it meant so much to him as Mother Jones was one of his heroes for seeking to prevent the exploitation of children in the mines and mills of America and ensure they received an education and also that he and the Cork Life Centre had been selected by the ordinary people of Cork. This represents the ultimate recognition for his efforts and the wonderful work of the staff and volunteers of the Cork Life Centre.

Don O’Leary and Rachel of the Cork Life Centre with the Cork Mother Jones Committee
Left to Right: Rachel Lucey, Don O’Leary and Sharon O’Neill of the Cork Life Centre.

The Spirit of Mother Jones citation for Don O’Leary and the Cork Life Centre was read. 

For his courage and determination to ensure that children and young people are not left behind by the Irish education system.

For his Trojan efforts and that of the volunteers and staff at the Cork Life Centre to create a positive and practical community of learning which is welcoming, supportive and encouraging of young people.

For his advocacy of human rights and social justice especially in relation to children’s rights and their opportunities to progress to the best of their creative abilities and individual talents which contribute so much to a better community and world.

For his refusal to accept that one size fits all in the Irish education system and for his refusal to compromise in relation to this fundamental student centred approach focused on authentic inquiry and experiential learning and measures success in a radically different way to the standard competitive exam system.

For his practical approach to providing a structured base and a supportive network which has established an educational home for the young people to use their talents and visualize opportunities to fulfil their dreams in life and become productive members of society.

For his encouragement of young people to walk the road of life using their own unique abilities, independence of spirit, critical observation and an appreciation of their own self-worth.  

CORK MOTHER JONES COMMITTEE 2022
Don O’Leary being congratulated by Caitriona Twomey of Cork Penny Dinners.
Left to Right: Don O’Leary, James Nolan and Antoinette Keegan.

A Message from Charlie Bird to Antoinette Keegan for the Spirit of Mother Jones Award 2020

Antoinette Keegan received the following goodwill message from Charlie Bird on the occasion of her visit to the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2022 in Cork.

Charlie Bird message to Antoinette Keegan (by permission of Antoinette).

The Award for 2020 which was to have been presented to Christine Keegan of the Stardust Justice Campaign  was presented to her daughter Antoinette  on Friday 29th July 2022 at the Firkin Crane, by James Nolan on behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee..

James Nolan presents the Spirit of Mother Jones Award 2020 to Antoinette Keegan.

Sadly Christine passed away in July 2020. Antoinette was accompanied by her sisters Lorraine and Suzanne and uncle Frank and Phyllis and Maurice McHugh who lost their only daughter Caroline in the Stardust Fire on Valentine Day 1981. 

Suzanne, Antoinette and Lorraine Keegan.

The Citation reads as follows:

“The Spirit of Mother Jones Award is awarded this year to Ms. Antoinette Keegan of the Stardust Victims Committee for her determination, resilience and longstanding efforts to pursue truth, accountability and justice for the Stardust victims and their families over almost 40 years.   

Antoinette and her late mother Christine and father John have pursued answers to what happened at the Stardust fire on 14th February 1981, where 48 young people lost their lives, including Antoinette’s sisters Mary and Martina. 

In spite of her own injuries, the loss of her sisters, and the failure of the Public Authorities to provide answers, Antoinette has continued to actively campaign to uncover the full truth of the events of that night. She is an inspiration to so many! 

For her bravery, courage and commitment, Antoinette Keegan is a very worthy recipient of the 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Award.”

CORK mOTHER jONES committee for antoinette keegan.

Saturday 30th July 2022

After two action packed days of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in Shandon, the final day of the 2022 Festival contains many walks, talks and presentations.

10:00 a.m. Liam O’ hUigín, a short stroll in the historic birthplace of Mary Harris in Shandon of 1830-1850. Meet at Maldron Hotel, Shandon.

11:30 a.m.  Luke Dineen, “The General Strike in Cork in 1923”  Maldron Hotel, Shandon.

1.00 p.m.   Presentation of the 2022 Spirit of Mother Jones Award to Don O’Leary and the Cork Life Centre. All are welcome. Maldron Hotel Shandon.

2:30 p.m.   Dr Angela Flynn, School of Nursing and Midwifery, UCC.

What would our health system be like now had Dr Noel Browne’s Mother and Child Scheme been successfully implemented?                                                    

Maldron Hotel, Shandon.

3.45 p.m.    Professor Maggie O’Neill in collaboration with Traveller Pride.  Launch of Feminism Walking Tour website, followed by a walk. Meet at Maldron Hotel, Shandon.

4:00 p.m. Frank Connolly Book Launch, “United Nation – The Case for Integrating Ireland”.

Maldron Hotel, Shandon.

5:30 p.m. Toast to Mother Jones and songs at the Mother Jones Plaque on John Redmond Street. We plan to remember friends such as John Jefferies, a founding member of the Cork Mother Jones Committee.     

Can’t make the festival? Can’t get to Shandon? You can connect to Mother Jones. Cork Community TV is showing a series of talks from the Mother Jones Festival Archives all weekend. Check out www.corkcommunitytv.ie or Virgin Media Channel 803.

Events Taking Place on Friday 29th July 2022

After a fantastic opening day, the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2022 continues.

Cork’s Northside at Night (Dylan Fitzgerald).

11:00 a.m.  A visit to the historic Cork’s North Cathedral where Mary Harris was baptised on 1st August. This includes a brief talk by historian Anne Twomey, Meet at the North Cathedral.

11.30 a.m. Christy Mc Quillan and Mick Halpenny of “Trade Unionists for a New United Ireland” (TUNUI) Following their presentation there will be a discussion and Q&A. Maldron Hotel, Shandon.

1:00 p.m.  Jimmy Crowley accompanied by Eve Telford. Maldron Hotel Shandon.

3:00 p.m. Antoinette Keegan talks about the Stardust Tragedy. This will be followed by the presentation of the 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Award to Antoinette. Please come along and hear her story. Dance Cork Firkin Crane.

7:30 p.m. Ordinary Women In Extraordinary Times. Premiere of a new Documentary from Frameworks Films and Shandon Area History Group.

9:30p.m. John & Gearoid Nyhan and friends. The life and songs of Woody Guthrie. Maldron Hotel Shandon.

Can’t make the festival? Cork Community TV is showing a series of talks from the Mother Jones Festival Archives all weekend. Check out www.corkcommunitytv.ie or Virgin Media Channel 803.

Thursday 28th July 2022 at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.

 2:00 p.m.            Frameworks Films, documentary Mother Jones and Her Children.

3:00 p.m.          Rosemary Feurer, documentary Mother Jones, America’s Most Dangerous Woman.               

4:00 p.m.          Peter Buckingham tells the story of Red Tom Hickey: The Uncrowned King of Texas Socialism – and Mother Jones.

5:30 p.m.       Official festival opening by the Lord Mayor of Cork. Joan Goggin presents a poetic tribute to Jim Larkin (1874-1947).

7:15 p.m.         Cork City Council and St Peter’s Cork present a documentary: Endurance and Engagement – Cork City Women in the 1920s. Introduced by Christine Moloney.

8:00 p.m.         Anne Twomey speaks of “Dark Times, Dark Deeds, Long Shadows: the experiences of some women in the Revolutionary Years”

9:30 p.m.        The Cork Singers’ Club.

Can’t make the festival? Cork Community TV will show a series of talks from the Mother Jones Festival Archives all this coming weekend. Check out www.corkcommunitytv.ie or Virgin Media Channel 803.