Jimmy Crowley returns to the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival

Jimmy Crowley will again perform at the eighth Spirit of Mother Jones festival at the Maldron Hotel on Friday 2nd August at 1pm. In what has become a huge highlight of the festival Jimmy explained how much this gig means to him.

Jimmy Crowley (left) with fellow singer / songwriter and member of the Cork Mother Jones Committee Richard T. Cooke

Writing in the Evening Echo on August 11th 2018, Jimmy said of his 2018 Mother Jones gig,

 

“I somehow attain my almost perfect audience for this little gig; people there for the right reasons; they’re patient with me if I want to introduce some new material; not too demanding of the “old stuff” and I get, perhaps, the most gentle, genial gentleman in Cork to introduce me and MC the event – the irrepressible Richard Cooke. “

 

Jimmy Crowley has been performing and singing ballads in Cork for almost 50 years. He was born in Douglas in Cork, began writing songs in the early 70s and ran the folk club at Douglas GAA club for many years. His band Stokers Lodge was known throughout Ireland.

 

Jimmy likes to talk and sing songs of Cork characters such as hunters and drag hunting, of harriers and the Shandon foot beagles and sportsmen such as legendary road bowler Mick Barry from Waterfall, and the immortal hurler Christy Ring, of stupendous deeds of valour, local rivalries and personalities, great and little events, and the real everyday topics of conversation of the people.

 

 

His first album “The Boys of Fairhill” released in 1997, contained such classics as The Pool Song, Johnny Jump Up, Salonika, the Armoured Car and of course The Boys of Fairhill. This was followed by a second album “Camphouse Ballads” and “Some Things Never Change”. Later still “Uncorked” was released in 1998, while “The Coast of Malabar” appeared in 2000.

 

These songs live on now in the soul, the streets and the singers of Cork regardless of cultural and musical globalisation. Just imagine where else in the world would you get an uplifting song about Connie Doyle’s legendary Fair Hill harrier dog known as The Armoured Car?

 

Jimmy has played all over Ireland, Europe and America and is a familiar face on the streets of Cork. He is known as the Bard of Cork as his unique style of singing and his love of his native City, especially the local Shandon area is central to his musical imagination.

 

In 2014, Jimmy Crowley produced *Songs From The Beautiful City… The Cork Urban Ballads”.  Now generally considered to be his greatest work, Jimmy proclaims this collection as “the true history of the people of Cork City through their only resource of expression: the humble ballad.” So after many hard years of research, much ferreting out of local traditional ballads, elusive song writers and reclusive characters, collecting of lost and half remembered words which portray a lively, progressive and earthy narrative of our priceless history, our folklore and bealoideas, Jimmy delivered his masterpiece!

 

The book contains such classics as Marilyn Munroe (words by the late Paddy O’Driscoll, the much loved Bard of Ballinure), Cheer, Boys, Cheer (words by the late Helen O’Donovan for many years bean an tí with the Cork Singers Club) and The Old Skellig Lists (words by Teresa Mac Carthaigh, who also wrote and sings the hugely inspiring Ballad of Mother Jones). Jimmy has ensured not just the survival but the vitality of umpteen Cork ballads for future generations of singers.

 

In the preface to this book, Mick Moloney, of the New York University Department of Music stated;

 

“It’s hard to compare him to anyone else; but if there was just one singer I would place alongside Jimmy in the matter of flair, delivery and style it would be another County Cork native; the magnificent irrepressible Maggie Barry. It’s no surprise that Jimmy and I are both admirers of this trailblazing woman operating very much in a man’s world who sadly did not get the affirmation she deserved in her lifetime”                      

 

Visit www.jimmycrowley.com for details.

 

*Songs from The Beautiful City: The Cork Urban Ballads…..collected, edited and annotated by Jimmy Crowley. The Freestate Press 2014.

 

 

Cork’s Lord Mayor praises Spirit of Mother Jones Festival

Lord Mayor John Sheehan along with Ann Piggott of the Cork Mother Jones Committee listening to John Nyhan singing the Pete Seeger ballad “Where Have All The Flowers Gone

The Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr. John Sheehan launched the 2019 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and Summer School at the Maldron Hotel in Shandon on Wednesday 26th June.

During the course of the launch, the Lord Mayor praised the organisers of the festival, stating that such a festival was essential in a democracy where people could attend, listen, participate and examine their own ideas and views on issues in society.
Lord Mayor Sheehan with James Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee at the festival launch.

Lord Mayor Sheehan with James Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee at the festival launch.

Lord Mayor Sheehan said that he was looking forward to officially opening the festival on Wednesday 31st July in Shandon.
Music and songs were provided by Richard T Cooke, Joan Goggin and family and John Nyhan. Ann Piggott detailed the packed programme of events at the forthcoming festival and summer school, mentioned in particular the highlight of the March of the Mill Children pageant and formally thanked the Lord Mayor for launching the festival.
Lord Mayor Sheehan with James Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee at the festival launch.

Lord Mayor Sheehan with James Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee at the festival launch.

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Members of the Shandon Area History Group, Dominic, Denis, Dypna, Maeve and Grace at the Mother Jones festival launch..

Ger McCarthy, Cork Mother Jones Committee, William Frode de la Foret and Beibhinn O’Callaghan of Cork Community Art Link.

Our sincere thanks to all at Cobh Animation Team for their attendance at the launch and for the fabulous photos, many more of which can be found on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/CobhAnimationTeam/

Mother Jones and the March of the Mill Children

March of the Mill Children

On a steaming hot day on 7th July 1903, a raggle-taggle group of adults and children left a small union hall in Kensington, Philadelphia. Led by an elderly woman in a Victorian style dress, a parade of children and adults set out on the road towards Torresdale Park on the edge of the city and into history.

It presented as a chaotic picture in the burning sun, with some children carrying flags, a little children’s fife and drum band playing, a number of adult stewards and some provision wagons, between 300 and 400 people in all. By the following morning, many had returned home before the march recommenced with 60/70 children setting out for the nearby town of Bristol.

The elderly woman was Mother Jones, her march was being used to highlight exploitative child labour practices in the textile mills as well as collecting money for their parents who were in the middle of a textile factory strike in Philadelphia. Mother Jones was determined to march with the children the 125 or so miles to Wall Street in New York. The youngest marcher was little Thomas McCarthy.

Mother Jones (centre) at the start of the March of the Mill Children, Philadelphia (Pic: US Library of Congress)

From this inauspicious beginning thus began one of the most famous and inspirational marches in history, the publicity created especially in the New York media highlighted in the public domain and wider consciousness how at least two million very young children were forced to forego education to work long hours in the mills, mines and factories across America. Carrying signs with slogans such as “We Only Ask For Justice”, “We Want To Go To School”, “We Want Time To Play”, “Prosperity is Here…Where is Ours?” the children proclaimed their wishes to all.

Over the next three weeks, beset by disputes, poor weather, bad conditions, poor food and even mosquito attacks, the young marchers pressed on, Otter Creek bridge, Morrisville, Trenton, Princeton University, Metuchen, Elizabeth, …….arrive, hold a large public meeting, find a place to sleep and onwards early the following morning. Somewhere along the way, Mother Jones decided she would call out to Oyster Bay, the summer residence of the President of the USA to meet with Theodore Roosevelt.

Saggamore Hill, summer home of US President Theodore Roosevelt at the time of the march

Crossing the Hudson River on 22nd July, some 30,000 people gathered to welcome the young marchers. Mother Jones became a sensation in New York……..all she wanted was “public attention on the subject of child labour”. She certainly got that as she travelled out to Oyster Bay, Long Island with three children and despite the President refusing to meet her or the children “the President has nothing to do with such matters”, the local New York media covered it extensively. Cartoons satirising the President running away from Mother Jones and the children flourished in the newspapers.

Mother Jones had indeed achieved “a tipping point”. Child labour was now on the public agenda, it was being talked about on the streets and among some politicians. A National Child Labour Committee was established to reform child labour. Many States took action to ban young children from working and although it took nearly another 40 years for the Federal Authorities to ban it completely, the efforts of Mother Jones in 1903 certainly aroused public interest.

On August 4th 1903, Mother Jones and her mill children went back to Philadelphia by train. Back in Kensington the textile strikers had to return to work for 60 hours per week, the children probably did too and became another lost generation. However child labour was now on the public agenda and Mother Jones with some quiet satisfaction was able to conclude “our march had done its work”

Plaque at Philadelphia City Hall marking the March of the Mill Children and the role of Mother Jones (Pic: Donald D. Groff via Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia)

This March initially appeared to achieve very little, as very powerful people and some union people could see little wrong with child labour. Yet in Mother Jones eyes …. child labour exploitation clearly exposed capitalism and its exploitation of labour at its most basic level…….the children had to work because the greedy powerful robber barons would not pay their parents a fair wage and families had no option but to send all members no matter what age out to work to survive. Her views became conventional wisdom.

Over time, the March of the Mill Children has grown in stature and fame as it triggered debate across a wide spectrum of public opinion. It became an important symbol in the struggle to abolish child slavery in the USA. While not yet gaining the national importance or recognition of the 1965 Selma Marches later did for civil rights, it remains today a powerful reminder of the injustice of child labour.

It resonates also today in the school children’s protests in relation to saving planet Earth from environmental destruction. Ironically the climate change children argue that there is little point in going to school if the planet is going to burn up as a result of human greed.

One cannot ignore either today that millions of young workers continue to work in dangerous conditions and face exploitation in the fashion industry in Asia, Africa and elsewhere. Young garment workers face appallingly low wages and sometimes work 12-14 hours per day to provide clothes and brand names as cheaply as possible for the affluent world. Worker’s right to organise are routinely ignored in many countries so the message of Mother Jones remains valid in much of the world today.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee with the assistance of the Cork Community Art Link project and the Foroige Group in Blarney Street will recreate the March of the Mill Children in a pageant beginning at 12.30 on Wednesday 31st July at the Shandon Plaza, alongside the Firkin Crane Theatre.

We believe this is the very first occasion outside of America where this famous March will be performed. It will take place in the very streets where Mary Harris walked when she was a young girl.     

 

Sources:

Mother Jones – The Most Dangerous Woman in America, Elliott J Gorn, Hill and Wang 2001. Chapter 5. The Children’s Crusade.

The Autobiography of Mother Jones, Mother Jones, Charles H Kerr Publishing Company 1925. Chapter X. The March of the Mill Children.

We Have Marched Together – The Working Children’s Crusade. Stephen Currie, Lerner Publications Company 1997.

On Our Way to Oyster Bay – Mother Jones And Her March for Children’s Rights. Written by Monica Kulling, Illustrated by Felicita Sala. CitizenKid 2016.

 

 

 

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2019 – Press Launch

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Launch of the 2019 Spirit Of Mother Jones Festival and Summer School at the Maldron Hotel on Wednesday 26th June 2019 at 1pm by Cllr John Sheehan, Lord Mayor of Cork.

Click here to view or download the full brochure

 

Spectacular March of the Mill Children pageant planned for Shandon.

 The Eighth Spirit of Mother Jones festival and Summer School will take place in and around the Shandon Historic Quarter from Wednesday 31st July until Saturday 3rd August 2019.

 

The festival celebrates the life and achievements of Cork woman, Mary Harris who was born in the Shandon area in 1837 and went on to become Mother Jones, known as the “most dangerous woman in America” due to her activism on behalf of the miners, and exploited workers.

 

Over 30 events will be held, and will include dozens of participants from the US, UK and from all over Ireland. Events include the summer school itself as well as a host of singers, poets, films, book launches, music and the traditional toast at the Mother Jones plaque to conclude the festival.

 

One of the principal highlights will be the very first performance and recreation on the streets of Shandon of the historic March of the Mill Children led by Mother Jones in July 1903.

 

In cooperation with Cork Community Art Link and the Blarney Street Foroige group, the Festival committee have organised a pageant to celebrate this huge event in US history, which highlighted the exploitation of young children who were forced to work in the mines, mills and factories of America at the beginning of the 20th Century. (See note)

 

According to James Nolan spokesperson for the Cork Mother Jones Summer school.

 

“In its eighth year, the Spirit of Cork Mother Jones festival and Summer School in 2019 will be an interesting, relevant and challenging occasion. With over 30 free access events, it promises to be a wonderful four days in locations across the Shandon Historical Quarter and community.

 

Everybody who participates including speakers, musicians and committee give of their time on a voluntary basis in what is an absolutely unique festival covering heritage, labour, social justice and human rights issues.

 

We are again expecting hundreds of people to attend from the USA, the UK and from all over Ireland. (2018 saw nearly 2000 people attended events at the festival). The March of the Mill Children pageant will be the very first celebration of one of the most famous marches in the history of the USA outside of America. This took place in 1903 was organised and led by 66 year old Mother Jones. It should be an amazing morning in Shandon.”

 

Declared  James Nolan.

 

Other talks include  remembering the The Whiddy Disaster. This explosion in Bantry Bay in January 1979 caused the greatest loss of life of workers and seafarers in the history of the Republic of Ireland. The relatives of both the Irish and French people who lost their lives are still seeking justice. Michael Kingston who has led the campaign will speak along with Tom MacSweeney.

 

Briege Voyle, the daughter of Joan Connolly who was among those shot dead in Ballymurphy on the 9th August 1971 will speak on the impact of what has become known as The Ballymurphy Massacre. The will be followed by a showing of the Channel Four documentary, The Ballymurphy Precedent, directed by Callum Macrea, is a stunning account of events in Ballymurphy in Belfast on the days following the introduction of Interment Without Trial in August 1971.

 

We’re delighted to welcome back Professor Elliott J Gorn from Chicago, whose book in 2001 Mother Jones – The Most Dangerous Woman in America, led to the discovery of the correct date of Mother Jones’ baptism in the North Cathedral. Elliott will tell the story at the Firkin Crane Theatre on Wednesday 31st July, the opening night of the festival.

 

He will be accompanied by Joe Creedon well known historian from Inchigeelagh who will tell the story of Mary Harris’s mother Ellen Cotter who hailed from Inchigeelagh. Not to be missed by anyone with an interest in Mother Jones.

 

Current issues such as Climate Change will also be discussed. Dr John Barimo, a marine biologist from Miami will lead with a talk on Social Justice, Inequality and Climate Change, this will be followed by local schools activist Mical Neilson of Fridays for Future who organised the recent schools strikes and Alicia O’Sullivan Irish Ambassador for the World’s Oceans who have alerted us to the onset and impact of the effects of climate change on the world.

 

Of local Cork interest is the talk on John Swiney, the United Irishman whose woolen shop on Shandon Street was the HQ of the United Irishmen in Cork in the 1790s. An extraordinary character, he came back from exile in France to assist Robert Emmet in 1803. Historian Dr Kieran Groeger will provide an account of this amazing character, lost in Irish history.

 

Recently a bridge was named after Mary Elmes by the City Council, local historian and regular contributor to the Mother Jones festival Anne Twomey will give an account of her life. Another of the Irish Diaspora, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn known as “The Rebel Girl”, will have her story  told by Pittsburgh based Lorraine Starsky. Flynn had strong connections to Irish Labour leaders James Connolly and Jim Larkin.

 

Luke Dineen, historian will provide an account of the Irish Craft unions and their role in the Irish rebellion 1919 – 1923. A documentary on the Ford factory line also by Frameworks Films will be repeated.

 

The festival will remember the 100th Anniversary of the Limerick Soviet when the Frameworks Films documentary will be shown. The documentary will be introduced by Liam Cahill, author of Forgotten Revolution – The Limerick Soviet of 1919.

 

Writer and author Sean O’Tuathaigh whose recent book, Outlanders – Stories of the Displaced has been well –received will speak about his experienced among refugees and immigrants in the USA.

 

 Jimmy Crowley will again host Music at the Maldron concert on Friday 2nd August at lunchtime. The Song of Pete Seeger will be sung by perennial festival favourites John Nyhan and Mick Treacy. Richard T Cooke will again perform his Cork ballads, while William Hammond will play a traditional set. Vocalic and the Club Ceoil Ballyphehane Ballad Group also feature. Poets and writers Conal Creedon and Stan Notte are included.

 

The full programme of all the events will be released at the formal launch on Wednesday 26th June. (See  Mother Jones Festival Brochure 2019

 

This festival and summer school is almost unique in that it is entirely free to all and is sponsored by the Cork City Heritage Department, the Trade Union movement including SIPTU and the ASTI as well as the local community. It is organised by the community based and independent voluntary committee of the Cork Mother Jones Committee.

For further information contact James Nolan 0861651356 and Ger O’Mahony (Coordinator 0863196063)

For details see www.motherjonescork.com or Facebook.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Launch of the 2019 Spirit Of Mother Jones Festival and Summer School at the Maldron Hotel on Wednesday 26th June 2019 at 1pm by Cllr John Sheehan, Lord Mayor of Cork.

 

Spectacular March of the Mill Children pageant planned for Shandon.

 

The Eighth Spirit of Mother Jones festival and Summer School will take place in and around the Shandon Historic Quarter from Wednesday 31st July until Saturday 3rd August 2019.

 

The festival celebrates the life and achievements of Cork woman, Mary Harris who was born in the Shandon area in 1837 and went on to become Mother Jones, known as the “most dangerous woman in America” due to her activism on behalf of the miners, and exploited workers.

 

Over 30 events will be held, and will include dozens of participants from the US, UK and from all over Ireland. Events include the summer school itself as well as a host of singers, poets, films, book launches, music and the traditional toast at the Mother Jones plaque to conclude the festival.

 

One of the principal highlights will be the very first performance and recreation on the streets of Shandon of the historic March of the Mill Children led by Mother Jones in July 1903.

 

In cooperation with Cork Community Art Link and the Blarney Street Foroige group, the Festival committee have organised a pageant to celebrate this huge event in US history, which highlighted the exploitation of young children who were forced to work in the mines, mills and factories of America at the beginning of the 20th Century. (See note)

 

According to James Nolan spokesperson for the Cork Mother Jones Summer school.

 

“In its eighth year, the Spirit of Cork Mother Jones festival and Summer School in 2019 will be an interesting, relevant and challenging occasion. With over 30 free access events, it promises to be a wonderful four days in locations across the Shandon Historical Quarter and community.

 

Everybody who participates including speakers, musicians and committee give of their time on a voluntary basis in what is an absolutely unique festival covering heritage, labour, social justice and human rights issues.

 

We are again expecting hundreds of people to attend from the USA, the UK and from all over Ireland. (2018 saw nearly 2000 people attended events at the festival). The March of the Mill Children pageant will be the very first celebration of one of the most famous marches in the history of the USA outside of America. This took place in 1903 was organised and led by 66 year old Mother Jones. It should be an amazing morning in Shandon.”

 

Declared  James Nolan.

 

Other talks include  remembering the The Whiddy Disaster. This explosion in Bantry Bay in January 1979 caused the greatest loss of life of workers and seafarers in the history of the Republic of Ireland. The relatives of both the Irish and French people who lost their lives are still seeking justice. Michael Kingston who has led the campaign will speak along with Tom MacSweeney.

 

Briege Voyle, the daughter of Joan Connolly who was among those shot dead in Ballymurphy on the 9th August 1971 will speak on the impact of what has become known as The Ballymurphy Massacre. The will be followed by a showing of the Channel Four documentary, The Ballymurphy Precedent, directed by Callum Macrea, is a stunning account of events in Ballymurphy in Belfast on the days following the introduction of Interment Without Trial in August 1971.

 

We’re delighted to welcome back Professor Elliott J Gorn from Chicago, whose book in 2001 Mother Jones – The Most Dangerous Woman in America, led to the discovery of the correct date of Mother Jones’ baptism in the North Cathedral. Elliott will tell the story at the Firkin Crane Theatre on Wednesday 31st July, the opening night of the festival.

 

He will be accompanied by Joe Creedon well known historian from Inchigeelagh who will tell the story of Mary Harris’s mother Ellen Cotter who hailed from Inchigeelagh. Not to be missed by anyone with an interest in Mother Jones.

 

Current issues such as Climate Change will also be discussed. Dr John Barimo, a marine biologist from Miami will lead with a talk on Social Justice, Inequality and Climate Change, this will be followed by local schools activist Mical Neilson of Fridays for Future who organised the recent schools strikes and Alicia O’Sullivan Irish Ambassador for the World’s Oceans who have alerted us to the onset and impact of the effects of climate change on the world.

 

Of local Cork interest is the talk on John Swiney, the United Irishman whose woolen shop on Shandon Street was the HQ of the United Irishmen in Cork in the 1790s. An extraordinary character, he came back from exile in France to assist Robert Emmet in 1803. Historian Dr Kieran Groeger will provide an account of this amazing character, lost in Irish history.

 

Recently a bridge was named after Mary Elmes by the City Council, local historian and regular contributor to the Mother Jones festival Anne Twomey will give an account of her life. Another of the Irish Diaspora, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn known as “The Rebel Girl”, will have her story  told by Pittsburgh based Lorraine Starsky. Flynn had strong connections to Irish Labour leaders James Connolly and Jim Larkin.

 

Luke Dineen, historian will provide an account of the Irish Craft unions and their role in the Irish rebellion 1919 – 1923. A documentary on the Ford factory line also by Frameworks Films will be repeated.

 

The festival will remember the 100th Anniversary of the Limerick Soviet when the Frameworks Films documentary will be shown. The documentary will be introduced by Liam Cahill, author of Forgotten Revolution – The Limerick Soviet of 1919.

 

Writer and author Sean O’Tuathaigh whose recent book, Outlanders – Stories of the Displaced has been well –received will speak about his experienced among refugees and immigrants in the USA.

 

 Jimmy Crowley will again host Music at the Maldron concert on Friday 2nd August at lunchtime. The Song of Pete Seeger will be sung by perennial festival favourites John Nyhan and Mick Treacy. Richard T Cooke will again perform his Cork ballads, while William Hammond will play a traditional set. Vocalic and the Club Ceoil Ballyphehane Ballad Group also feature. Poets and writers Conal Creedon and Stan Notte are included.

 

The full programme of all the events will be released at the formal launch on Wednesday 26th June. (See www.motherjonescork.com)

 

This festival and summer school is almost unique in that it is entirely free to all and is sponsored by the Cork City Heritage Department, the Trade Union movement including SIPTU and the ASTI as well as the local community. It is organised by the community based and independent voluntary committee of the Cork Mother Jones Committee.

For further information contact James Nolan 0861651356 and Ger O’Mahony (Coordinator 0863196063)

For details see www.motherjonescork.com or Facebook.

 

Best wishes to Shandon Street Festival 2019

The Cork Mother Jones Committee would like to extend our best wishes to all involved at the Shandon Street Festival as they prepare for their 2019 festival which takes place next Saturday, 22nd June in and around Shandon Street on Cork’s Northside.  The festival runs from 1 to 6pm and will have something for all the family.

Shandon Street Festival 2019

The Shandon Street Festival is in many ways a sister festival of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.  It was with tremendous help from the Shandon Street Committee that we got off the ground in 2012 and many of the same individuals play a key role in both festivals which take place in the same area of the city.

Programme outside

Shandon Street fesstival (outside)

Inside of Flyer / programme

Luke Dineen: “Connect Trade Union – An Early History, 1919-23”

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is delighted to welcome historian Luke Dineen to the 2019 Spirit of Mother Jones Summer School.

Luke will address the topic of “Craftsmen and the Irish Revolution 1920 – 23. The outline of the talk follows.

Connect Trade Union – An Early History, 1919-23”

Luke Dineen

“Organised labour was a vital component of the independence struggle from 1918-20. During those year labour was an open, though unofficial, ally of the republican movement. Many trade unionists were active members of Sinn Féin and/or the IRA. Although craftsmen were at the heart of the Irish revolution, their role in it has received little attention from historians. With the aid of the republicans, craftsmen launched breakaway Irish trade unions tasked with playing their part in destroying British rule in Ireland. Despite a tumultuous birth, one such union survives to this day: Connect Trade Union, until recently called the Technical, Electrical and Engineering Union. It was, and remains, an exclusively Irish union for the trades, catering exclusively for Irish needs.

Connect Trade Union logo

This talk will chart the early history of Connect, covering its launch in May 1920 and the first few years of its existence. It will explore the factors that birthed the union and the extensive links it had to senior figures in the republican movement in its early years, including Michael Collins and Countess Markiewicz. In so doing, this talk will examine how the Irish working class perceived and participated in the Irish revolution, and what they got out of it. “

Luke has now participated in seven festivals and his contributions explore the hidden and often ignored contribution of the Irish trade union movement and working class people to the Irish revolutionary period in the early 20th Century. Among the areas which he has explored are the 1909 Cork Lockout, the Cork Harbour Soviet, the Post Office Strike of 1922, the labour movement and the republican struggle in Cork 1919-1923 and the life of Thomas “Corkie” Walsh.

Luke will speak on Friday morning 2nd August beginning at 11am at the Cathedral Visitor Centre.

All welcome.

 

Mother Jones Festival remembers Pete Seeger (1919 – 2014)

Mother Jones Festival remembers Pete Seeger (1919 – 2014)

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Pete Seeger, John Nyhan and Mick Treacy will sing some of the songs associated with this legendary folk singer at the Maldron Hotel on Friday 2nd August at 9.30pm.

 

Pete Seeger remained committed throughout his long life to basic principles such as defence of trade unions, the rights of workers, social justice, peace and protection of the environment. An activist at heart, a songwriter, he wrote hundreds of songs, saved many “lost’ songs and popularised dozens of others.

“Songs won’t save the planet, but neither will books or speeches. But songs are sneaky things, they slip past borders, they proliferate in prisons”.

His main influences were Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Alan Lomax and Aunt Molly Jackson. Pete listened in awe as Leadbelly talked to his guitar, he sang for his next meal with Guthrie and he marvelled as Aunt Molly veteran of Harlan County mine wars sang out “I am a Union Woman”.

 

Almanac Singers album “Talking Union”

He studied sociology in Harvard, yet he wanted to be a journalist. The Harvard Class of 1940, including John F Kennedy, graduated without Pete who had dropped out. Abandoning his efforts to become an artist he discovered the songs and music of the people which allowed the working class to express themselves.

He was an integral part of the initial fusion and synergy of folk music with social and union activism, IWW songs, communist and leftist politics in the post-depression years. His first public appearance as a singer in 1940 ended with Pete forgetting how to play his 5 string banjo and then forgetting the words. Yet his dedication, belief and resilience saw him found the Almanac Singers and play Madison Square Garden in May 1941 before thousands of striking workers from the Transport Workers’ Union, led by Kilgarvan born Mike Quill.

The Almanac Singers “Talking Union” album featuring Pete and Woody became a musical bible for thousands of union activists and ensured the survival of songs such as Solidarity Forever (Ralph Chaplin), Which Side Are You On (Florence Reece) and We Shall Not Be Moved. The Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union and the entry of the Americans into World War 2 ensured the demise of the Almanacs.

Pete Seeger in concert

Seeger was drafted into the Army and served the war out in Saipan. Tragically, his baby son Peter, with his wife Toshi died at 4 months while he was in Saipan. After the war, he helped to organise People’s Songs, a huge collective of musicians and union activists which shared songs and promoted left-wing causes. Later he established Sing Out.

In 1949, Pete along with Lee Hays, Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman established The Weavers. They achieved popular success with hits such as Goodnight Irene (written by Pete’s old friend Lead belly), Wimoweh and Tena, Tzena, Tzena.

The advent of the McCarthy witch hunts ensured Pete became a target for the FBI and informers. Labelled a “Commie” and “Stalin’s Songbird”, the notorious and feared blacklist brought about the demise of the popular Weavers, with work drying up. Pete considered himself a communist with a small “c”, he supported many communist causes, was a member of the Communist Party and defended them in the 40s and 50s but claimed to be a musician first rather than a politician.

Pete Seeger at  HUAC

Pete Seeger in a forthright stance at the US House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC)

Through the grinding 1950s, Seeger became a lightning rod for the FBI and was relentlessly investigated for sedition by the House Committee on Un-American Activities.  1961 saw him cited for contempt of Congress and sentenced to ten one year periods in jail to run concurrently. Finally in May 1962, a Court of Appeal dismissed the charges.

His plight aroused a worldwide campaign. The Pete Seeger Committee in England had Paul Robeson as president, Ewan MacColl as secretary and Benjamin Britten, Doris Lessing and Sean O’Casey as sponsors. 4000 people packed the Royal Albert Hall in his support in 1961. A young Bob Dylan accused the authorities of framing him and described Seeger as a “saint.” Tommy Makem publicly supported Pete.

The 1960s saw the folk/rock boom take off and groups such as Peter, Paul and Mary and the Kingston Trio had huge hits with If I Had a Hammer and Where Have All The Flowers Gone. Turn Turn Turn and his adaption of the Cuban poem Guantanamera is embedded in the public consciousness. Pete’s version of We Shall Overcome an old gospel hymn adapted by striking tobacco workers in the 40s and published in People’s Songs became the anthem of the Civil Rights and Anti-Vietnam War movements. He marched at Selma with Dr Martin Luther King and encouraged Bernice Johnson and the Freedom Singers, who brought the spiritual and slave songs of the South to the Civil Rights movement.

Clearwater on the Hudson River

Back in 1949, Pete and his wife Toshi had purchased 17 acres of land on a hilly site overlooking the River Hudson, near Beacon north of New York. There they built a “log cabin” and raised three children (Danny, Mika and Tinya) amidst the woods. Toshi was an activist, “the brains of the family” who shunned the limelight, she organised Pete and organised concerts, festivals and their itineraries (Newport Folk Festival, the Clearwater festival).

A non-drinker and non-smoker, Seeger lived a relatively independent ascetic lifestyle, answering mail from all over the world, writing songs, supporting union and social causes and simply chopping wood.

In the 60s he noticed how the nearby environment was deteriorating and how the Hudson River was increasingly contaminated with toxic materials. Vowing to try to rectify this environmental degradation floating past his remote home, he led a project to build a sloop to travel the river to educate people and society about cleaning up the once beautiful Hudson. In 1969, Clearwater was finally launched and still plies the waterways.

Pete and Toshi

Seeger played his banjo and sang at hundreds of counter culture events through the 70s and 80s and influenced generations of singers and activists, Joan Baez, Bruce Springsteen, Arlo Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins and dozens of others acknowledged his pioneering influence, Pete in turn acknowledged Huddie, Aunt Molly and Woody. His 90th Birthday concert at Madison Square Garden was a huge event as the folk music world paid homage.

A highlight for Pete came when Barack Obama asked him to perform at his presidential inauguration concert in 2009. Accompanied by Tao Rodriguez, his grandson and Springsteen, they sang This Land is Your Land, written by Woody Guthrie.

Pete passed away on 27th January 2014. Toshi Seeger died on 9th July 2013.

 

John Nyhan

John Nyhan

John Nyhan was born in Cork City, he now lives in North Cork. He was heavily influenced by the Folk music revival of the 60s and 70s and has been playing and promoting music for over 40 years. In the 1970s he was a founding member of the Shandon Folk Club in Eason’s Hill, within earshot of the Shandon Bells.

John worked as a peace campaigner in Northern Ireland in the 70s as a member of Voluntary Services International. He is well known for his involvement in the Bluegrass and Folks concerts which take place at the Village Arts Centre in Kilworth in North Cork.

Along with Mick Treacy he has played at the Mother Jones festivals and his song themes have included the songs of Joe Hill, songs of the mining communities and the songs of the Spanish Civil War in 2017. In 2018 John and Mick honoured Ewan MacColl in an unforgettable performance.

Mick Treacy was a familiar figure in the folk clubs across English which resulted from the Folk revival. He was a member of the famous “Munstermen” folk group which played and sang on the UK folk circuits. The Munstermen had their own club known as the “Holy Ground” in the Cambridge Inn. Mick’s knowledge of folk ballads is encyclopaedic and his powerful performances along with his old friend John Nyhan are always memorable at the festival.

The songs of Pete Seeger will be sung at the Maldron Hotel in Shandon at 9.30 pm on Friday night 2nd August at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2019.