The Cork Mother Jones Committee will show a short film of Mother Jones visiting Cork 100 years ago in December 1920 at the Spirit of Mother Jones Virtual festival (Friday Nov 27thto Monday Nov 30th).
There is no evidence that Mary Harris/Mother Jones ever did return to Cork city where she was born in 1837 and left after the Great Hunger in the 1840s.
However for the purposes of the imagination, we imagine Mother Jones visiting her childhood home and streets in Shandon just before Christmas 1920 after the burning of Cork City.
Taking the lead role is actress Joan Goggin know to all as Cork’s own Mother Jones. Joan’s family, especially her Dad had an involvement in the labour/trade union movement for many years and the famous union leader Jim Larkin sometimes stayed in their house when visiting Cork.
The film also features a series of flashbacks to the 1840s where Joan is joined by her daughter Eadaoin Delaney who plays the role of Ellen Cotter, Mary Harris’s mother. Joan’s granddaughter Aoife plays a young Mary Harris skipping on the streets of Shandon.
In a remarkable twist of faith, in her soliloquy at Shandon, Mother Jones recalls her only son named Terence who was born in 1865, but who tragically died in the Memphis yellow fever epidemic in October 1867 and acknowledges Cork’s Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney who had died a few weeks earlier in October 1920.
This short film entitled Mother Jones Returns to Shandonwas filmed in andaround the Streets of Shandon by Frameworks Films.
All events will be streamed by Frameworks Films for the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2020 and will be freely available to view by all.
Full programme of events will appear here and the Mother Jones Cork Facebook by mid-November.
This publication is a rarity. Working-class women who fight for social justice seldom get an opportunity to tell their own story in their own voices. Social, union and labour history is sometimes interpreted by those far removed from the day-to-day lives and experience of those directly involved. The contributions of working class women remains unacknowledged and invisible when it comes to the absence of their names and images on the public monuments and street names of our cities and towns.
Anne Scargill and Betty Cook did not come together until the beginning of the British Miners’ Strike in 1984/85 when they both joined “The Women Against Pit Closures Movement”. What followed was a roller coaster of practical action including feeding their striking neighbours and taking direct action to protect their communities.
However, it also led to a personal journey for each of them. Both were married with families at the beginning of the strike but through the tumult of the mining war in the North of England, alongside a passion to stand against exploitation of people, they achieved their own personal independence and freedom in spite of the disastrous outcome of the Miners’ Strike. In the midst of defeat, Anne and Betty emerged with the power to act as they had discovered their own voices.
The accounts of their early lives in Barnsley and Brick Lane are told in raw unvarnished personal accounts, without self pity, without preaching or seeking acceptance…… life was tough in the coal fields. Yet they tell their stories with gritty humour, compassion and fierce direct humanity in spite of personal tragedy and upheaval in their lives. The chapter: “Rent A Mob, Rent a Gob” leaves one angry and yet uplifted.
Today they look back on a life of standing firm against the exploitation of workers and they do so with a sense of pride. Both remain committed to the struggle. Betty recently retired from a call-centre at the age of 81, however, she is worried that ” a lot of working-class people are against one another”, while Anne says that “anybody who needs help on a picket line only has to pick up the phone and I’ll be there”.
Their trip to the women miners reunion in Appalachia 2013, organised by Marat Moore (friend of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival, Guest Speaker at 2012 Festival) led to the founding of The Daughters of Mother Jones group in the UK and inspired their interest in Mother Jones. Few will forget Anne and Betty’s powerful rendition of Mal Finch’s song “Women of the Working Class” at the Cork Spirit of Mother Jones festival in 2014.
In these dark times for working people with ongoing political upheaval and Covid-19 lockdowns, “Anne & Betty United by the Struggle” illuminates and shines warmly through adversity, hard times and the necessity to keep fighting against injustice.
It is with great sadness that we announce the death of John Jefferies, a founding member of the Cork Mother Jones Committee. John passed away at his residence in Cobh on February 10th 2020.
John was a member of our committee since 2011 and managed the Spirit of Mother Jones festival website and Facebook pages. His knowledge of history, heritage, politics and people was quite extraordinary and his meticulous research and understanding of public and community history was unsurpassed.
Like Mother Jones, from whom he took much inspiration, John spoke for the underdogs in society and supported social justice and human rights issues.
At the 2015 festival he highlighted the important role of Cobh born, union organiser, Jack Dowling. In 2017 he published his book Death on the Pier …the Cobh Pier Head Shooting and the Story of the Moon Car.
John’s contribution to the work of this committee laid the foundations for many festivals. He focused on the history and story of ordinary working people and the trade union movement.
On behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee we wish to express our sympathy to his family and friends.