The Whiddy Island Disaster

Betelguese 1979 (Photo via the Southern Star)

The 8th January 2019 marked the 40th anniversary of the worst industrial accident to occur in the Republic of Ireland during peacetime when the French oil tanker, MV Betelgeuse, exploded at Gulf Oil’s Whiddy Island Oil Terminal in Bantry Bay. Fifty lives were lost in the explosion, forty two French, seven Irish and one Englishman. A Dutch diver died later during the salvage operation.

The anniversary was marked in the nearby town of Bantry by the families and friends of those who died as they gathered to remember their loved ones and to pay respect to the rescue services. It was attended by approximately 2,000 people with representation from all over Ireland and the maritime world. Additionally, 47 wreaths were sent in memory of those who died and as an acknowledgement of the importance of implementing international maritime regulation, to protect life and so as our rescue services do not have to be called out unnecessarily. In 1979, the International Maritime Organisation’s SOLAS 1974 had still not been implemented by Ireland and other nations and it provided for simple inert gas systems on tankers which would have prevented the disaster.

Betelgeuse memorial

Betelgeuse memorial, Bantry

This was a frightening disaster, and there were real fears for the safety of the town of Bantry itself as large oil holding tanks were located near the tanker explosion and had they exploded the results could have been even more catastrophic.

The subsequent Costello Tribunal, held in Bantry, concluded that the Betelgeuse was defective, and that Gulf Oil had deliberately downgraded safety systems. Some evidence provided to the Tribunal by Gulf Oil management and personnel about the timing of events on that night was not accepted as true by Justice Costello in his report, concluding that Gulf Oil embarked on a collusion in an attempt to absolve themselves from liability for their inadequate safety systems.

The escape opportunities for the workers and seafarers from the ship docking jetty back to Whiddy Island itself were not available and certainly resulted in the high death toll. Gulf Oil had removed the bridge between the jetty and Whiddy Island some years earlier to allow two tankers to berth simultaneously, fire-fighting equipment was ill-maintained and downgraded from automatic to manual, and the safety boats were removed from the vicinity of the jetty and moored at the other side of the Island where they were of little practical use in an emergency. There was no escape from the jetty to the Island on that awful night, where they waited for at least 20 minutes to be saved before the tanker exploded.

For the families in France, Ireland, the UK and Holland, this disaster was a horrific personal tragedy. Their loved ones had perished in an appalling event which many argue could and should have been foreseen and prevented. The arguments and unanswered questions continue but the sadness, grief, anger at the sense of injustice, of many of those bereaved remains raw and real.

Michael Kingston (photo via Southern Star)

International Lawyer, Michael Kingston, from Goleen in West Cork who lost his Dad Tim in the explosion, has campaigned for many years on behalf of the families to ensure that the recommendations of the Whiddy Island Tribunal report are recognised in legislation and appropriate penalties are in place to ensure that nothing like this can occur again in Ireland.

He is deeply unhappy at the response and lack of respect of successive Irish Governments to date, and the fact that Ireland continues to fail to implement International Maritime Organisation conventions leaving Ireland’s workers and rescue services at unnecessary risk.

At the 40th Anniversary Michael asked the Government to rectify these failings and he indicated that if they did not the families would bring a High Court action on the basis of the Right to Life under Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which he indicates to us is imminent.

He indicates that the victims Death Certificates, by analogy with the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster in the United Kingdom in 1989, are incorrect and must be changed to ‘unlawful death’ as the surrounding circumstances of death (the findings of Mr Justice Costello in relation to Gulf Oil’s collusion and Gulf’s breach of Irish safety legislation at the time) have not been taken into account by the Coroner, as was the case initially with the victims of the Hillsborough Disaster. The Hillsborough Stadium Safety Officer has recently been convicted since Michael raised these issues in January.

Michael is Vice-President of the French-Irish Association of Relatives and Friends of the Betelgeuse.

Michael Kingston will speak at the Firkin Crane Theatre on Friday 2nd August at 7.30 pm.

Tom MacSweeney

He will be accompanied by Tom MacSweeney who was the first RTE broadcaster on the scene in Bantry on 08th January 1979. Tom has had a lifelong interest in maritime affairs and he has been critical of the State’s attitudes to the maritime sector.

In addition, a Statement will be made on behalf of Madame Ginette Ravaleu, President of the French-Irish Association of Relatives and Friends of the Betelgeuse.

 

Note.

The script of Michael Kingston’s Speech on 08th January 2019 at St Finbarr’s Church, Bantry, can be seen at

https://www.southernstar.ie/news/roundup/articles/2019/01/09/4167513-whiddy-commemoration-michael-kingstons-speech-in-full/

For further info see recent article in Inshore Ireland Summer 2019: https://inshore-ireland.com/whiddy-island-disaster-40-years-on/

 

 

 

The Story of Emmett Till: Let the People See

Professor Elliott J. Gorn will tell the story of Emmett Till at the Firkin Crane Theatre on Saturday afternoon 3rd August at 3pm.

Let the People See.

Emmett Till

14 year old Emmett Till from Chicago visited some of his family in Mississippi in August 1955.

He allegedly whistled at a white woman, Carolyn Bryant who was working behind the counter of a country store in Money, Mississippi on 24th August. Emmett was kidnapped by Mrs Bryant’s husband Roy  and half brother J.W. “Big” Milam a few days later. They beat him and then shot him.

Emmett’s tortured body was found in the Taallahatchie River on Wednesday August 31st, with a cotton gin fan tied around his neck with barbed wire.

 

 

Instead of quietly burying the remains, Emmett’s mother Mamie Till-Mobley decided to have an open casket at the funeral in Chicago.

 

She proclaimed         “Let the people see what they did to my boy.”  

The mutilated face of Emmett Till

A hundred thousand people did see his face as they filed past the casket and millions saw the photos in the African-American press.

The burial aroused a storm of wider media interest and the story was featured extensively all over America. Yet just a month later the all-white jury found the killers of Emmett Till not guilty of murder in spite of strong evidence presented.

 

 

Prof. Elliott Gorn’s book

African Americans were shocked and horrified while many white Americans were forced to question the systematic racism which infected American society. The lynching of Emmett Till became a defining moment for many African Americans from Muhammad Ali to Rosa Parks. On 1st December 1955, Parks refused to give up her seat at the front of the bus in Montgomery. A few days earlier she had attended a meeting where the Emmett Till case was discussed.

The Till murder sparked a generation to create the greatest mass mobilisation of the twentieth- century in the American civil rights movement.

The lynching of young Emmet Till forces everyone to look hard at the realities of racism today as racially motivated violence continues despite the haunting image of young Till and the determination of his brave mother Mamie to let the people see!

Elliott J. Gorn

Author Elliott J. Gorn will talk of the short life and death of Emmett Till at the Firkin Crane Theatre on Saturday 3rd August at 3pm.

Elliott’s book,  The Story of Emmett Till……Let the People See is published by Oxford University Press 2018. He is also the author of Mother Jones – The Most Dangerous Woman in America and will speak about Mother Jones on Wednesday evening at 8pm at the Firkin Crane Theatre. All welcome.

Fords:- Memories of the Line

Fords – Memories of the Line

Maldron Hotel, Friday August 2nd 2019 at 5.00 pm.

A Documentary by Frameworks Films and Ford Ex-Workers’ Group.

Fords production line at Cork’s Marina plant – Photo courtesy of Bill Daly

This documentary was shown at the festival in 2018. Unfortunately many people were unable to gain access last year. Following many requests it will be repeated.    

The Fords factory became synonymous with Cork in the sixty seven years in which production was carried on in the Marina plant.

Henry Ford’s father William had left from Ballinascarthy, in West Cork in “Black 1847”, while his mother Mary Litigot (of Belgian extraction?) was the adopted daughter of Patrick Ahern who was born in 1804 at Fair Lane (now Wolfe Tone Street, on the north side of Cork city). Patrick Ahern had worked as a butcher before joining the British Army and eventually wound up in Michigan, USA. Henry was born in 1863, and he was raised by William and Mary in the Ahern household.

Henry Ford returned to Cork in August 1912 and visited Fair Lane. Later in 1917 he announced the construction of his first factory outside America. The old Cork Park racecourse on the Marina on the south bank of the River Lee was purchased for £21,000 and was levelled and piled. The new 330,000 sq. foot factory was constructed and began the production of the Fordson tractors on 1st July 1919.

By 1922, some 1600 men were employed. Later as Model Ts were manufactured along with tractors and the final Model T in the world was completed there in December 1928. The payroll quadrupled to 6700 until the impact of the Great Depression in the early 30s when there were mass layoffs. Thousands of former Cork production workers headed for the new Ford truck plant in Dagenham, Essex in the UK.

Group of Cork workers at Fords Marina. Photo courtesy of Bill Daly

The factory worked on through the Second World War, unions were finally fully recognised by Ford’s in Cork in the early 50s, and wages were higher than most other employments. The Cork factory produced all the other main Ford vehicles including the Model A, Model BF and Model Y; Prefect; Anglia; Escort; Cortina; and Sierra.

By then, the production/assembly line originally invented by Ransom E Olds and first implemented by Henry Ford in 1913 and used in Cork. This brave new world was sacrosanct, like a vein running through living organisms, the constant noise, the smells of the different processes, yet it had to keep moving, it must not stop, the vehicles, slowly taking shape shuffle forward in a never ending line and then continue their journey out of sight.

The daily working lives of thousands of men were dictated by the constant movement of the line, repetitive jobs, the systematic deskilling of many men, the daily deadening grind, the original time and motion study. Time was measured by passed hours and the number of jobs completed on the vehicles as they passed through the various work stations in slow motion or with alarming pace depending on one’s job and mind.  Work was constant, hum drum, tough, and some jobs on the line were particularly difficult.

However many memories of working relate to the comradeship, the ‘craic’, the chat, the banter, the ongoing and never ending Cork slagging. Tea-breaks, lunches, the endless sports discussions, soccer, hurling and the pints with colleagues at week-ends. Ford paid well and the community of workers and work had its own distinctive rhythm.

Fordsons soccer team, (the “Tractor Boys”) popularised association football in Cork in the early 1920s, the team was the first club from Cork to play in the League of Ireland in 1924 and won the Free State Cup in 1926. The club’s pitch was located at Pic Du Jer Park in Ballinlough which was owned by Ford.

Emma Bowell (2nd from right) with Eddie Noonan of Frameworks Films with Ann Rea and Bill Daly (left) at last year’s festival

Thousands of Corkonians passed through the Marina plant, in its blue and white colours, many families had several members working and the thronged mass of workers walking up and down Centre Park Road at clocking on/off times bore testament to the world of assembly work.

But time caught up with Fords and sentiment, the final impact of closure in 1984 left a deep wound on the people of Cork. Over 30 years former workers have come together to tell their own story of working in Fords. It is a story of life, work, the fun, the friends and the bonds which maintain the links between groups of workers who shared their lives at a Cork institution.

It is a workers film of working life…….a rare and priceless documentary.

Fords – Memories of the Line provides a fascinating insight into a Cork institution by those who worked on the line and is a must see for those who worked at Ford’s or for anyone with family members or friends who worked below on the Marina. Even now in 2019 ironically comes news that Fords is set to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in developing new facilities at Corktown in Detroit as the Marina site transforms slowly into the Cork Docklands development.

 

 

 

 

Music and Poetry Events at the 2019 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival

Music at the Maldron takes place at 1pm on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the Maldron Hotel. Organised by Richard T Cooke, author, musician and song writer, these Maldron sessions feature Richard along with the Shandon Shawlies, Joan Goggin and family and many others.

Wednesday 31st July at 9.30pm at the Maldron.

The Cork Singers’ Club.

John Nyhan and Richard T. Cooke

Singers and musicians Richard T Cooke and John Nyhan,

Established in 1993, the Cork Singers’ Club has uniquely featured in every Mother Jones festival since the opening night on 31st July 2012. Eagerly awaited each year, the Cork Singers’ Club will present an evening of songs. It has ensured that the tradition of singing remains alive in Cork, no instruments are allowed. For locals and visitors this is an opportunity to hear songs being sung in a pure manner in front of an attentive audience. Club members also gather each Sunday night at An Spailpín Fánach to hone their remarkable art. Go along!

 

 

 

 

Thursday 1st August at 1pm at the Maldron. 

William Hammond.

Linda and William

Linda Quinlan and William Hammond provided lunchtime Music at the Maldron Hotel

William Hammond “Ham” is the joint organiser (with Jim Walsh) of the Cork Folk Festival for almost four decades. The 40th Cork Folk Festival will take place later this year from 2nd to the 6th October.  This festival has ensured the the maintenance and preservation  of Folk singing, music and dance as a living and vital element of local culture and tradition in Cork City and surrounds. William is also an accomplished musician.

 

Thursday 1st August at 8pm at Myo Cafe

Fili Na Reabhloide (Poets of the Revolution) Readings from poets of social change. Phone 083 0425942 for further details.

Thursday 1st August at 9.30pm at the Maldron.

Club Ceoil Ballyphehane Ballad Group

Club Ceoil Ballyphehane Ballad Group

The group led by Stephen O Dea and Abbey Ní Loingsigh began playing together in 2015 and have featured at many events in the Ballyphehane area including the Multicultural Day at the People’s Park. Club Ceoil Ballyphehane is a non profit community organisation, voluntary run traditional music and set-dancing group open to all at affordable prices.

The final of the Song for Mother Jones Competition will also take place tonight.

Friday 2nd August at 1pm at the Maldron.

Jimmy Crowley.

Jimmy Crowley

Jimmy Crowley in full song at the Maldron

Jimmy’s songs have a special place at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and form one of the highlights of this festival. This concert should not be missed. Writing in the Evening Echo in 2018, Jimmy explains his concert  ‘I love the kind of people who attend that lunchtime concert that I give each year; I feel honoured to be part of the celebration of the local woman who went on to be, as the capitalists called her, “the most dangerous woman in America” ‘

 

Friday 2nd August at 9.30pm at the Maldron.

John Nyhan and Mick Treacy present the songs of Pete Seeger (See our recent tribute to Pete here: https://motherjonescork.com/2019/06/09/mother-jones-festival-remembers-pete-seeger-1919-2014/).

John Nyhan and Mick Treacy

John Nyhan (left) and Mick Treacy

 

Also appearing will be Pat Kelleher and his five string banjo. Born and reared in Dripsey, Co. Cork, he was weaned on primarily Irish folk music, but also international folk, bluegrass, rock and country.His musical influences are diverse and include The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem, The Dubliners especially Luke Kelly, Christy Moore, Bobby Clancy,  Pete Seeger, Ewan MacColl, Peggy Seeger, Gordon Lightfoot, Stan Rogers, Eric Bogle, Doc Watson, Woodie Guthrie and many others.

Pat Kelleher with the late, great Pete Seeger

Pat counts himself lucky have met and performed with some of his idols including Luke Kelly, Tommy Makem, Bobby Clancy, Pete Seeger  & The Kruger Brothers. His live performances are not to be missed and his ability to read the audience and generate a rapport is a natural art at this stage.Pat has toured in Ireland, UK, USA, Germany, Switzerland as well as performing Irish music on cruise ships in his more than thirty year career.

Along with his son Ricky Pat was lucky to get to meet Pete at his house in Beacon, New York on 21st July 2009 just after his 90th birthday through a mutual American friend from New York.

He was as gracious as I expected and we ended up singing some of Oró Sé Do Bheatha ‘Bhaile with him that he was learning from Irish folksinger Tommy Sands.”

Saturday 3rd August at 5.30pm at Maureen’s Bar, Mulgrave Road. 

Conal Creedon

Conal Creedon reads from his new novel Begotten Not Made

 

Saturday 3rd August at 7.30 at the Mother Jones plaque (John Redmond St.)

The Toast

Toasting Mother Jones at the Mother Jones plaque at Shandon, Cork City

Traditional toast to Mother Jones and songs with Rory McCarthy. Rory sings unaccompanied and his striking voice captures instant attention. His rendering of James Connolly, written by Patrick Galvin and the  Jarama Valley (Woodie Guthrie version) should not be missed.

Rory McCarthy singing outside the birth home of Michael O’Riordan in 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday 3rd August at 9pm at the Maldron.

Vocalic.

Vocalic

After a memorable performance at the Spirit of Mother Jones in 2018, what better way to finish up the 2019 festival? The Vocalic line up is as follows:

Deirdre Moriarty. A Kerry native, graduated from Waterford Institute of Technology with a Bachelor (Hons.) Degree in Music in 1999. She regularly performs with group ensembles and teaches vocal performance. She conducted two community choirs in Cork City – Cork Rokk Choir and, currently, the Marina Melodics. Deirdre loves to arrange music and performing with Vocalic.

Norah Connell. Began her musical journey at an early age. Involved in choirs and bands over the years, singing all genres. An accomplished performer having taken part in many competitions. Studied with renowned contralto Aine Nic Gabhann. Loves harmonising and adding different layers. Currently involved with an amazing choir called The Marina Melodics and of course the fabulous and upcoming group called Vocalic.

Alf Wade. A native of Cork, taught himself to play guitar at an early age. Enjoys a wide range of musical genres with a particular love for Folk, Blues and some American Country. Having played in several groups  as well as playing solo gigs over the years his time, musically, is now divided between the Marina Melodics Choir and Vocalic. Vocalic is developing its own style through its unique interpretation of many popular standards and classics ranging from the 50’s to the present day.

Sunday 4th August 8.30 pm at Maureen’s

In the Round with Stan Notte. Music and the Spoken Word. All welcome.

Note: All these events are free of charge but please be on time to guarantee entry.

 

 

 

The Limerick Soviet of 1919

Limerick Trades Council

Photo: Limerick Trades Council in 1919.

The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival will show the documentary, The Limerick Soviet, which has been produced by Frameworks Films, the Cork based film production company, in collaboration with the Limerick Council of Trade Unions, at the Maldron Hotel on Thursday evening 1st August 2019 at 5.00pm.

The documentary will be introduced by Liam Cahill, author of Forgotten Revolution, the Limerick Soviet 1919 (The Centenary Edition).

This documentary tells the thrilling story of a workers rising in Limerick in April 1919 when a general strike was called by the Limerick United Trades and Labour Council.

It followed the deaths on the 6th April of Robert Byrne, a local trade union activist and IRA member, as well as a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary, during an audacious escape attempt from custody by Byrne. As a result the British Authorities declared Limerick City a Special Military Area (SMA) whereby military restrictions would apply and permits were required to enter and leave.

The Limerick United Trades and Labour Council refused to accept that the workers of Limerick required permits to come and go to work and declared a general strike. Some 14,000 workers answered the strike call on Monday 14th April 1919. The Strike committee took control of the city and as a self- governing committee declared itself a Soviet. It was a highly effective, disciplined and a well organised operation under the leadership of John Cronin, a carpenter and Chairperson of the Trades Council.

John Dowling in 1919

John Dowling in 1919

Jack Dowling from Cobh, a former fitter in the naval dockyard in Haulbowline and friend of James Connolly, now an ITGWU organiser became “a pivotal figure” in the Limerick Soviet and in subsequent events.

John Cronin and his committee organised and supervised the distribution of food, transport, communications and movement in the City and even printed its own currency during the period. The strike received unprecedented international media coverage owing to the presence of journalists covering an international air race.

Eventually following negotiations and due to Church pressure and the lack of wider national union support, the Soviet decided on a full return to work by the 25th April and the SMA was abolished a few days later.

Limerick Soviet film by Frameworks Films

The Soviet was remarkable in its organisation, in its general unity of workers and in the courage and solidarity of the workers and trade unions. The words of Mother Jones on her death bed could be applied to this Limerick Soviet in that the workers of Limerick “showed the world what the workers can do”.

The Trades Council affirmed the right of workers to come and go from their employment without hindrance by the national authorities. It also displayed to the British Authorities and the Republican movement the potential power of organised labour and its potent force for action when provoked.

This compelling documentary was produced with the support of the Sound and Vision Scheme, an initiative of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland

Mr Mike McNamara President of the Limerick Council of Trade Unions along with the film makers Emma Bowell and Eddie Noonan of Frameworks Films will also attend. 

Forgotten Revolution – Liam Cahill’s comprehensive history of the Limerick Soviet, completely rewritten and extended.

Liam Cahill is a historian and writer, he has researched the history of the Limerick Soviet for many years, and originally wrote the Forgotten Revolution in 1990 (published by O’Brien Press Ltd). Liam has had a long history of active involvement in the Irish Trade Union movement and has written and lectured extensively on Irish Labour history in the period 1916 – 1923.

Liam will introduce and discuss the Limerick Soviet at the Maldron Hotel in Shandon on Thursday evening 1st August 2019 at 5.00 pm.  Copies of his recent publication* will be available to purchase.

 

A special Limerick Soviet Exhibition will be on display courtesy of Cork City Library. The exhibition will continue to be displayed at Knocknaheeny Library during the month of August.

 

* Forgotten Revolution ….The Limerick Soviet 1919 …..A Threat To British Power In Ireland (The Centenary Edition) by Liam Cahill. Published by Orla Kelly Publishing.

 

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.

.

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

­­

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.