Spirit of Mother Jones Festival & Summer School 2016 Launch

Joan Goggin

Joan Goggin as “Mother Jones” Picture: Andy Jay

The press launch of the Spirit of Mother Jones festival and summer school takes place at the Maldron Hotel on Wednesday 29th June at 1pm and will be performed by the Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr. Des Cahill.  The festival itself will take place from 28th July to 1st August.

The speakers at the 2016 summer school include Catherine McGuinness, Jack O’ Connor, Justine McCarthy, Dr Sean Pettit, Laurence Fenton, Fergal Keane, Luke Dineen, Dave Hopper, Anne Twomey and Pat Egan.

The festival will see Jimmy Crowley will perform some of his songs. The Cork Singers’ Club, Richard T Cooke, the Mother Jones Ceili Band and the Butter Exchange Band along with Greenshine are participating. John Nyhan and Mick Treacy are appearing on Saturday night 30th July. Several films will be shown throughout the five days of the festival. Only the Greenshine concert requires tickets. All other events are free and open to the public, however as some events fill up quickly, please be on time! All are welcome. Most events are at the Maldron Hotel except where stated on the programme.

See Programme 2016 for full details.

Members of Cobh Animation Team. Picture: Andy Jay

Members of Cobh Animation Team at the Maldron Hotel with hotel manager Joe Kennedy. Picture: Andy Jay

Death of James Green

James Green

Prof. James Green

The Cork Mother Jones Festival Committee is saddened to hear of the death of James Green who was a guest speaker at the 2014 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and proved to be a most interesting and genial guest.  James was here to speak about his book “The Devil is here in these hills” which told the story of the West Virginia Mine Wars and the struggle of the miners of that district and  their families for proper pay and decent conditions fighting employers who were prepared to stop at nothing to prevent the mine workers from winning the most basic concessions.  Jim was a powerful yet soft-spoken speaker who became a firm friend of the members of the committee and showed a genuine interest in Cork and its history.  On behalf of the Mother Jones Committee we tender our sincere condolences to James family and friends.

 

 

Prof. James Green

Prof. James Green at Shandon during the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2014. Photo: Jimmy Thomson.

Songs of the Mining Tradition with John Nyhan, Mick Treacy and friends.

This event takes place at the Maldron Hotel on Saturday night 30th July at 9pm. All are welcome.

To Mother Jones the miners were “My Boys” and her activist life was spent in organising miners of all nationalities across America. She “could arouse more fight in men than any speaker I have ever seen behind a rostrum” declared Fred Mooney, a union organiser in West Virginia.  The United Mineworkers and its offshoots were among the most famous and radical of organised groups of workers in the world. Mining itself has involved going to the bowels of the earth for the rocks and minerals which have created the modern industrial world.

Yet those brave men and women who then worked in the pits and still work deep in the ground have been amongst the most exploited and expendable in human history. During the 18thcentury in Britain mine fatalities averaged a thousand a year. Safety, health and the welfare of miners and their families was not considered as important.

Yet from this mining tradition across all countries has sprung some of the most progressive movements in politics and some of the greatest living folk songs, colliery music, musicians and community solidarity. Names such as Bob Davenport, Tommy Armstrong, Anne Briggs, and A. L. Lloyd sang the songs created by working people in Britain. Sarah Gunning, Nimrod Workman and Hazel Dickens and many others sang mining songs in America. Their legacy remains and inspires new generations.

John Nyhan and Mick Treacy continue this tradition and on Saturday 30th July, beginning at 9pm they will present the songs, stories and lore of the mining tradition.

Mick Treacy.

Mick Treacy

Mick Treacy

Mick came to folk music through listening to The Weavers , Delia Murphy, Joe Lynch, Connie Foley and the one and only Margaret Barry in the fifties and then the Skiffle movement in Britain which was spearheaded by Ken Colyer one of the leading exponents of the Classic New Orleans Jazz style in Britain. The revival of interest in Folk song and music happened to coincide with this outbreak of people’s music making and before long there was a natural fusion which led to Skiffle groups becoming Folk Groups like The Ian Campbell group in Birmingham or The Quarrymen from Liverpool becoming the Beatles.

Mick went to England in late 1960 became part of the whole folk revival first listening and learning from Ewan McColl, Bob Davenport, Alex Campbell, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and many more.   By 1964 he was singing in Birmingham Town Hall in a fund raising concert for West Midlands Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and later joined an Irish Group called ‘The Munstermen’. This lead in turn to the founding of ‘The Holyground Folk Club’ which had three glorious years and hosted many of the world’s great folk artistes.

In 1967 he came to Dublin and sang in most of the venues of the day The Embankment, The Castle Inn, The Old Sheiling and many of the local Folk Clubs before returning to his native Mitchelstown where he settled down, got married and raised a family.  He has always had an interest in the songs of the working people collecting many down through the years.  He feels privileged to have shared the platform and stage with many pacifist and socialist poets, writers, singers and performers who shared his dreams.

 

 

John Nyhan.

John Nyhan

John Nyhan

John was born in Cork City and now lives in North Cork. He was heavily influenced by the Folk revival and has been playing and promoting music for over 40 years.

During the 70s he was a founding member of The Shandon Folk Club in Eason’s Hill,within an earshot of the Shandon Bells.Today he continues his voluntary involvementas a promoter of concerts and festivals.  He is especially well known for the Bluegrass and Folk concerts he runs at The Village Arts Centre,Kilworth Co Cork. He is an avid collector of folk, bluegrass and songs of the people and has an encyclopaedic recall of singers and songs.

 

In the 1970″S John worked as a peace campaigner in the North of Ireland as a member of Voluntary Service International.He was also a worker with the Simon Community.

In the past decade he moved to Lombardstown in North Cork, as part of a Sustainable Housing Project,where he maintains an active role in his local community. In 2015 John organised the already legendary session “The songs of Joe Hill” at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.

 

“Where it’s dark as a dungeon and damp as the dew,

Where the dangers are double and the pleasures are few.

 

Where the rain never falss and the sun never shines,

It’s dark as a dungeon way down in the mines”

 

From “Dark as a Dungeon” by Merle Travis of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky.

 

 

This event will be preceded by two films about the struggles of miners for justice.

West_Midlands_Police_Handsworth_riots_1985

4.30. The Battle for Orgreave, a film by Yvette Vanson (www.yvettevanson.com). The events of 18th June 1984 during The Miners’ Strike are disturbing and have shocked the world. This film by Journeyman Pictures is required viewing for an understanding of the Miners Strike. As calls for a full public enquiry into the events of that day and afterwards mount, this film is a must see.

 

 

Press Cutting from "Mine Wars" era

Press Cutting from “Mine Wars” era

7.00. The Mining Wars, a film produced and directed by Randall MacLowry, the film is a production of the Film Posse for American Experience (WGBH – Boston). It features the mining union battles in the USA and the activities of the tough union organisers including Mother Jones.

These epic struggles in the first two decades of the 20th Century culminated in the largest civil insurrection since the American Civil War.  www.thefilmposse.com

 

 

 

 

Direct Provision – Not the Solution!

Cork Mother Jones Committee is pleased to confirm that retired judge Mrs Catherine McGuinness will speak at the 2016 Spirit of Mother Jones summer school. She will speak to the topic “Direct Provision – Not the solution!” at the Firkin Crane Theatre on Friday 29th July at 7.30 pm.

Catherine McGuinness

Catherine McGuinness

Catherine McGuinness was born in Belfast in 1934. A barrister, she was appointed as a judge in the Circuit Court in 1994, later she served in the High Court and was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2000, where she served until 2006. Elected a senator in the Dublin University constituency in 1979 Senator McGuinness remained in  Seanad Éireann (Ireland’s Senate)  until 1987. She has been appointed to the Council of State twice, initially by President Hillery and more recently in 2012 by President Higgins.

Mrs McGuinness was President of the Law Reform Commission from 2005 until 2011 and has served on various Boards and other organisations over many years giving freely of her time and experience. She received a 2010 “People of the Year Award” for her pioneering service and vast contribution to Irish life.In June 2011 she became a patron of the Irish Refugee Council and has consistently campaigned for Children’s Rights.

Direct Provision centre

A Direct Provision centre near Athlone

Direct Provision is the term given to the system for dealing with asylum seekers in Ireland. Initially established as an emergency measure in 1999, it commenced in 2000 and it quickly became permanent with over 30 establishments around the country. While asylum seekers receive full board accommodation, some access to the health and education systems, criticism has grown. Many thousands have been held in the system for years, some for over 5 years. Asylum seekers receive just €19.10 per week, children €9.60. There was a recent increase in the payment for children to €15.60 per week. At the end of April 2016, over 4000 people, including over a thousand children were still living in Direct Provision.

Complaints about lack of privacy, unnecessary restrictions, lack of cooking facilities, long stays, lack of independent complaints procedure, sheer boredom leading to mental health issues have been raised over a long period. NASC, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre had published a damning critique of the system in Cork called “Hidden Cork”.

Direct Provision Cork

Children protest at the Kinsale Road Direct Provision Centre in Cork in 2014.

The Irish Refugee Council launched a national campaign “End Institutional Living” in 2013. An Independent Working Group under Dr Bryan McMahon was established in October 2014 to report to the Government in relation to improving the position. It reported in June 2015 with a series of recommendations.

Mrs Catherine McGuinness will speak on “Direct Provision – Not a Solution!” at the Firkin Crane Theatre on Friday evening 29th July at 7.30. It will be followed by a discussion and all are welcome to come along and participate.

The Extraordinary Wallace Sisters

Wallace Sisters

Sisters Sheila (left) and Nora Wallace

The story of extraordinary Wallace Sisters will be told by Anne Twomey of the Shandon Area History Group on Saturday 30th July at 2.30pm at the Maldron Hotel.

Now a lifeless vehicular short cut, St. Augustine Street in Cork City is barely noticed by many people these days.An unprepossessing street, it has in recent years becomean alleywaylocated between the Queens Old Castle and McHugh House linking the Grand Parade to South Main Street.It was formerly known as Brunswick Street, acknowledged on the old street nameplate on the western side.

One might be surprised to learn that many of the most famous names in the revolutionary Ireland 1915 to 1922 came and went with regularity through this street. For at number 13 Brunswick St (later 4 St. Augustine St.) was located the small shop of Sheila and Nora Wallace. During the War of Independence these firm engaging sisters went about their day to day shop keeping business and provided a perfect cover for what was a vast beehive of revolutionary activity emanating in their shop.

Former Wallace shop

No.4 St. Augustine’s Street, Cork shortly before its demolition in the 1970s.

Located behind their small traditionally fronted tobacconist and newspaper shop with holy pictures and statues in the window and labour pamphlets on the shelves lay nothing less than the Head Quarters of the Cork No 1 Brigade of the Irish Volunteers and I.R.A.It was effectively the intelligence centre of the IRA where messages were efficiently received and delivered by a huge network of women and men…..in effect an IRA intelligence General Post Office!

Even more amazing is that the shop on St Augustine Street was located just 250 metres from the Royal Irish Constabulary barracks at Tuckey St and the Bridewell barracks on the Coal Quay and yet remained undetected by the Crown forces for a long time.

James Connolly visited the Wallace sisters on his visit to Cork when he spoke about military tactics at a meeting organised by Tadhg Barry in January 1916. They were friendly with Constance Markievicz of the Irish Citizen Army and both the sisters were members of the I.C.A. Historian John Borgonovo has recounted how they organised a youth and Women’s Citizen Army in Cork which lasted until 1921 and took part in many parades involving the labour movement during the period. Labour organiser and socialist Cathal O’Shannon lodged over their shop for the period while he worked in Cork.

One of the last official acts of Lord Mayor Tomás MacCurtain was to visit the Wallace shop late on Friday night 19th March 1920. Florence O’ Donoghue, then Head of Intelligence, recounted how Tomás then left the shop with the recently elected Alderman Tadhg Barry about 11pm that night. Just a few hours later the Lord Mayor of Cork was murdered by R.I.C. men in the family quarters overhead his own shop at 40 Thomas Davis Street in Blackpool.

There is a family account how MacCurtain’s successor in office Terence MacSwiney, a regular caller to the Wallaces, went behind the counter and even sold a newspaper and a packet of cigarettes to a customer shortly before his arrest in August 1920, as the Wallace sisters were busy at the particular time. Muriel MacSwiney, his wife, in her December 1951 deposition to the Bureau of Military History mentionshow early on she became aware of “a little newspaper shop kept by the Misses Wallace, who were later connected to The Citizen Army”.

Sheila and Nora both worked in the shop and lived overhead at the time and the room behind was regularly used for Volunteer and I.R.A. Brigade meetings. Sheila held the formal rank of Staff Officer as Brigade Communications officer, this was quite unique and she was possibly the only female officer of rank in the I.R.A. She was awarded a pension of £55-16-8 under the Military Pension Act from October 1934 and her rank was confirmed.This rank is alsoinscribed on her gravestone in St. Finbarr’s Cemetery. Later on the shop was raided several times and was finally closed by order of the British Military dated 14th May 1921 and the sisters were expelled from Cork city.

It reopened immediately after the Truce, indeed Liam Deasy then Adjutant of the First Southern Division recalled a jovial meeting at the premises on 12th July 1921 with the officers of the First Cork Brigade and Tom Barry. As the sisters took the anti-treaty side in the Civil war, it was raided regularly by the Free State forces. Later on the sisters lived on the Old Youghal Road.

Anne Twomey

Historian Anne Twomey who will talk about the Wallace Sisters on 30th July.

The years of “working in impossible conditions”, carrying despatches in all weathers and the associated stress took a heavy toll on the sisters. This was recorded in their military service pension applications in 1934. Sheila died on 14th April 1944, on the Friday of Easter week.It was acknowledged by the Pensions Board that Nora who had developed tuberculosis in the 20s and spent some time in Switzerland, acquired her illness due to her exposure to all conditions of weather, wet and cold due to her intense activities, while acting as an intelligence agent. Nora    traded on at the shopuntil 1960. She passed away on 17th September 1970.

The premises was later used as a bookmakers shop and later still a dressmakers. The shop which appeared on a drawing by artist Brian Lawlor dated May 1974 in his book “Cork” appears to have been demolished sometime in the 1970s.

 

Anne Twomey of the Shandon Area History group will give an account of the story of the Wallace Sisters on Saturday afternoon 30th July at 2.30 in the Maldron Hotel. All welcome to attend and participate in the discussion afterwards.

The Shandon Area History group organised an unique exhibition entitled “Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times” featuring remarkable women from the area and their contribution to the War of Independence at the St. Peter’s Church in North Main Street. in June 2016.

Organising in the Shadow of the Law

Tish Gibbons

Tish Gibbons

Tish Gibbons works as a researcher with SIPTU’s Strategic Organising Department and leads up its innovative Educate to Organise programme.

She was a union organiser with SIPTU from 1997 to 2008 and will address the above topic at this year’s summer school.

Tish has worked in the Irish trade union movement for 30 years starting in a clerical capacity with the FWUI before becoming a union organiser with SIPTU in 1997.  A constant part-time student, She holds a Diploma in Industrial Relations and a BA in English & Politics from UCG; a Post-graduate Diploma in Social Research Methods (OU) and MA Industrial Relations (Keele).  After studying for four years at the Working Lives Research Institute in the London Metropolitan University, she was awarded a professional doctorate for her thesis on union recognition and organising.

She is a board member of the Irish Centre for the Histories of Labour and Class and has published in labour law, industrial relations and labour history journals. Earlier this year she addressed the annual Jim Connell commemoration weekend at Crossakiel, Co Meath.

Tish has spent many years as a union organiser on the ground, as did Mother Jones in the USA. The Cork Mother Jones Committee is delighted that she has agreed to bring her experiences and her views on organising workers to the 2016 Spirit of Mother Jones Summer School.

Ms. Gibbons will speak on Organising in the Shadow of the Law at 4.30 on Friday 30th July at the summer school. All welcome.

Jack O’Connor to deliver the 2016 Cork Mother Jones Lecture.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is pleased to announce that the Cork Mother Jones Lecture 2016 will be delivered by Mr Jack O’Connor, General President of SIPTU.

Jack O'Connor

Jack O’Connor

The 5th annual lecture will take place at the Firkin Crane Theatre on Thursday 28th July at 8pm, following the 2016 festival and Summer School  opening ceremony at the Mother Jones plaque in Shandon.

Jack O’Connor is probably the most recognised and best known trade union leader in Ireland. A Dubliner, Jack was originally a trade union activist before working for the Federated Workers’ Union of Ireland. When the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union and the Federated Workers’ Union of Ireland (both founded by “Big” Jim Larkin) merged in 1990 to form SIPTU, he became regional organiser for SIPTU.

He was appointed General President of SIPTU in 2003. Jack was also President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) from July 2009 to July 2011.  His declared priorities are combating worker exploitation, promoting people’s rights to participate in collective bargaining. He promotes the principle of “Fairness at Work and Justice in Society. He refuses to serve on any State Board while in his present role in SIPTU. Jack is a member of the Labour Party.

The future of the organised labour and the trade union movement in Ireland and indeed across Europe is being faced with a concerted move by governments in the public sector and multinationals in the private sector to enforce changes in work patterns, forced self-employment, zero hours contracts, reduced pay and conditions and more productivity. Hostile opposition by employers to trade union organising in workplaces has grown. Many young people joining the workforces of multinationals and other enterprises are not allowed the opportunity to become union members.  The huge achievements of the trade union movement over the past century, achievements, which many people today take for granted, are under sustained threat.

Jack O'Connor

Jack O’Connor, General President of SIPTU

These issues require a serious and well thought out response from the organised labour movement. Jack O’Connor has a contribution to make.

He will discuss his views for the future responses of the labour movement to the changing organised labour environment at the Firkin Crane Theatre on Thursday evening 28th July at 8pm in a talk entitled “Organising to win – what is to be done!”