Dr Sean Pettit – an Extraordinary Teacher.

Cork Community Television, Sunday 28th November at 7:00 pm.

We are proud to present Dr. Sean Pettit’s lecture entitled “The Cork City of Mary Harris” which he gave to the 2016 Spirit of Mother Jones festival. Sean was a much loved and respected teacher and UCC lecturer who became widely known as a writer, broadcaster and a man with an intimate knowledge of the people and streets of Cork. 

Sean Pettit and Richard T. Cooke.

His publication This City of Cork 1700-1900 (1977) is long regarded as a classic. He believed that the best way to appreciate and experience the City was to go out and about on the streets. In his introduction he argued that “the main emphasis is on the people who made it, and on how they lived”. He did not neglect giving a raw and realistic account of the sick, the poor and the social problems through history in the City especially in the context of the Famine era into which Mary Harris was born in 1837.

Dr. Pettit with the aid of his large collection of photographs and prints captivated the vast attendance on that lovely Friday afternoon in July 2016 on the north side of Cork city. Sadly Sean passed away suddenly just a few months later on November 23rd 2016.

The introduction to “The Cork City of Mary Harris” will be given by his good friend Richard T Cooke. Richard is a founding member of the Cork Mother Jones Committee, himself a writer, singer and broadcaster and the author of many publications including My Home By The Lee (1999).

Dr. Sean Pettit……..An Extraordinary Teacher will be shown on Cork Community Television, livestream on www.corkcommunitytv.ie or Virgin Media 803 on Sunday evening 28th November at 7:00 pm as part of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2021.

And the World Turns Away!


Peadar King is a journalist and documentary film maker and is well known as the producer of the documentary series for RTE “What in the World”. His latest book published recently by Liffey Press, War, Suffering and the Struggle for Human Rights is a powerful indictment of war and chronicles human rights abuses in times of conflict. Peadar interviews people from war zones whose descriptions of the impact of war and the horrible devastation which follows are heart breaking.


He states that “all wars are based on lies” and uses the Irish phrase “Chroi Bhriste” to describe the unspeakable horror endured by those who suffer.


The very human accounts in this book of the results of war are taken from interviews with the ordinary people and they paint in graphic detail the indiscriminate destruction of bombs on people and their communities.


Have we become inured to war? We can now watch versions of wars on our TVs and computers, but to many it’s more virtual clickbait with neither the impacts, the questions, context nor explanation sought nor provided.

Yet, Europe, the UK, the USA, Russia and China supply 75% of all weapons used in these wars which are fought over power, resources and oil and in the near future…. fresh water supplies!


“And The World Turns Away” features a discussion with Peadar King and will be shown during the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.

What Did the Women Do Anyway?

This was a dismissive comment originally made to a founder of Cumann na mBan In Cork, Lil Conlon. 

Years later, the comment also annoyed members of the Shandon Area History Group. 

The result was Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times published in 2019 by the Shandon Area History Group.

This ground breaking publication reveals some of the hidden pages of the story of eleven Cork women who took part in the War of Independence and Civil War in Cork. Varying from the internationally recognised Mary MacSwiney to the almost invisible Wallace sisters, the stories of these ordinary women remained largely untold until now.

As part of the forthcoming Spirit of Mother Jones Festival, a documentary called “What did the Women do Anyway?” featuring a discussion with historian Anne Twomey of the Shandon Area History Group about these remarkable women will be shown as part of the festival’s contribution to the Cork Commemoration 1920-1923. 


Filmed by Frameworks Films one can hear of the story of the Wallace Sisters, of the opera singer Kate ‘Birdy’ Conway  the issue of violence against women,  the failure to acknowledge the womens selfless contribution to the War of Independence and the ongoing efforts to ensure the role of other women such as Muriel Murphy and Nora O’Brein are recognised.  


Back in 1949, Tom Barry in his Guerrilla Days in Ireland stated that the women “were a splendid body of young women and their value to the IRA was well appreciated by the enemy” . One may well ask were these women ever really appreciated by the IRA or the leaders of the new Irish State?  

The discussion with Anne Twomey, What Did the Women Do Anyway will be available online during the forthcoming 2020 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival (27th-30th November). Links and the full programme of events will appear on www.motherjonescork.com. and Facebook.


Our thanks to the Shandon Area History group for their assistance and for photos. Check out their Facebook page to obtain a copy of the book, Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times.

“Anne & Betty United by the Struggle”, with Ian Clayton. Published by Route.


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, trade 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. 


This book is highly recommended and is available from annescargillbettycook@gmail.com

Anne & Betty with their Daughter of Mother Jones banner at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in 2019. (Courtesy of Claire Stack).

Anne & betty helping striking SIPTU workers in Dublin in 2014 (Courtesy J Thomson)


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.

Outlanders: Stories of the Displaced.

Venue: Cathedral Visitors Centre

Date & Time: Wednesday afternoon July 31st at 3pm.

Séan Ó Tuathaigh is an activist and the author of Outlanders – Stories of the Displaced, his first book. He wants to use this book to highlight the plight of those often anonymous people who make the dangerous journey from their war ravaged countries to seek new lives and homes and peace in other countries.

“Ask yourself what would you do to survive? Would you cross an ocean, would you cross an armed border, walk across a desert?” Séan asks those questions of people who did just that and has published their stories.

Seán Ó Tuathaigh

Outlanders is a collection of refugee stories, compiled from some of the people who author met while working in the US. There are stories of old people and young, recently arrived and well established, originating from Laos, Burma (2), Afghanistan (2), South Africa, Somalia, Palestine, Bosnia and Kurdistan.

The first of its kind to explore the subject from a creative perspective, this book builds on the journalistic work available on the subject. The stories are presented in a style that immerses the reader into the experiences of the refugee, to see what they saw, smell what they smelt and feel what they felt.”

Listen to Séan and you will meet ordinary people thrust into extraordinary situations, you will hear the stories of Zarhawar, Saadia, Mar Mar, Chue Vang, Hawraz, Nolwandle, Bojana, Nasruddin, Tuqa, and Azhar. No longer statistics or objects of mistrust…..these ordinary human beings tell their stories in Outlanders and humanity needs to empathise with their fear, their hopes and their courage.

Séan’s book serves as a timely echo from the seanscéal of millions of our very own Irish ancestors who fled this country to begin new lives in other places. Young Mary Harris and her family did in Famine times!

Outlanders: book cover

Seán Ó Tuathaigh was born and raised in Sligo and is a graduate of the M.Phil in Creative Writing at TCD. Before that course, he taught English in Hanoi, Vietnam. After graduation, in 2016, he moved to the USA for 18 months, where he worked as a refugee biographer in a resettlement agency and following that he wrote Outlanders.Published by Mercier Press, copies of Outlanders: Stories of the Displaced will be available at the talk at the Cathedral Visitors Centre.

Available now at Mercier Press

Free overseas delivery at Book Depository

  • ···········

Follow Outlanders on Facebook

 

Séan will speak at the 2019 Spirit Of Mother Jones summer school at the Cathedral Visitor Centre at 3pm on Wednesday 31st July 2019. All welcome.

 

 

Mary Manning to speak at this year’s Spirit of Mother Jones festival

Mary Manning, one of the Dunnes Stores Strikers will speak at the Spirit of Mother Jones Summer School on Friday evening 3rd August at the Firkin Theatre in Shandon at 7.30.

Dunnes Stores strikers 2

Dunnes Stores strikers Karen Gearon and Mary Manning with the late Nimrod Sejake of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and ANC.

On July 19th 1984, Mary Manning went to work as usual on the cash registers at the Dunnes Stores, Henry Street branch in Dublin. Her union IDATU (Irish Distributive Administrative Trade Union, now Mandate Trade Union) led by Cork born John Mitchell had earlier instructed its union members not to handle South African products.

She describes what happened…

“My palms started sweating as I opened up my cash register. Everything after this happened very quickly. I spotted a middle-aged woman in the distance with two large yellow grapefruits in her basket. My heartbeat increased at the sight of them. I avoided eye-contact and popped my head down straight away. ‘Please don’t come to me, please go to any other till’ I thought to myself but the woman plonked her basket at my till, completely oblivious to the internal crisis unfolding within me.”

That morning, Ms. Manning refused to register the sale of those South African products. She was immediately suspended and another nine of her colleagues joined her on the picket line.

Striking_Back_ysj9-yi

In her recent book with Sinéad O’Brien “Striking Back – the untold story of an Anti-Apartheid Striker”, published by Collins Press, Mary describes the long months during which she and her union colleagues spent on the picket lines, even as the strike began to generate worldwide publicity.

She describes the ups and downs of the protest and gives a vivid account of the dark days of the protest when the young Dublin women and their colleague Tommy Davis felt very alone. Mary tells of her growing personal commitment to the strike and her increasing political awareness and independence unfolds as the daily grind of the strike continued for almost three years.

 

However the spirits, morale and determination of the strikers remained high in spite of the failure of some fellow workers to support them, personal sacrifices in the midst of a recession and being let down by some of those who should have provided support. Yet as the national support for the strike and widespread opposition to apartheid grew, it led to people such as Seamus Heaney, Christy Moore, Sean McBride Donal Lunny, the incredible Nimrod Sejake and thousands of people joining the strikers on the picket line in Henry Street and other protests in Dublin and elsewhere around the country. The resolve of the strikers began to make international headlines.

Archbishop-Tutu-medium

Bishop Desmond Tutu

In July 1985, the strikers attempted to visit South Africa to meet Bishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, at his invitation, but they were arrested at Jan Smuts Airport, refused entry and banned from the country. On their eventual return to Dublin, the strikers were introduced to the world’s media as “the ten deadliest shop workers in the world” by their union official, the late Brendan Archbold. It proved to be a huge international PR disaster for the apartheid system and the South African government.

As a result of the support for the strike, by April 1987, the Irish government had banned the importation of South African products and later Mary and some of her colleagues finally returned to work.  However as she and Karen Gearon were being treated within Dunnes Stores as the ringleaders of the strike she felt they were being singled out and all aspects of their work questioned and so finally Mary left the company. On the 5th November 1988, she emigrated to Australia, where she spent five years.

Less than six months after his release from prison after 27 years, on 2nd July 1990, Nelson Mandela arrived in Ireland and met the Dunnes Stores Strikers. He praised how the “ young shop workers on Henry Street in Dublin, who in 1984, refused to handle the fruits of apartheid, provided me with great hope during my years of imprisonment and inspiration to millions of South Africans that ordinary people, far away from the crucible of apartheid , cared for our freedom.”  Mary was unable to afford the flight to come back from Australia to meet Nelson Mandela.

On 18th May 2015 a plaque was unveiled on Henry Street, Dublin which commemorates the actions of Mary Manning and her colleagues….. brave and inspiring actions which had a worldwide impact.

 

Mary Manning now (Photo courtesy of Collins PressP

The Dunnes Stores Strikers were Cathryn O’Reilly, Sandra Griffin, Alma Russell, Theresa Mooney, Vonnie Malone, Karen Gearon, Tommy Davis, Michelle Glavin, Liz Deasy and Mary Manning. Brendan Barron was suspended in October 1985 in Crumlin by Dunnes Stores for refusing to handle South African products.

Mary Manning accompanied by Sinéad O’Brien will tell the story of the historic Dunnes Stores Strike at the Firkin Theatre on Friday evening 3rd August. All are welcome.

The Remarkable Story of Lily Boole

E.L. Voynich (Lily Boole)
Ethel Lilian Voynich

Author and journalist Alannah Hopkin will present the story of a remarkable Cork woman Ethel Boole otherwise known as Ethel Lilian Voynich or E.L.V. at the Maldron Hotel on Thursday 30th July at 2pm.

Ethel Lilian Boole was born at Lichfield Cottage in Ballintemple, Cork on 11th May 1864 and baptised on 31st May at the nearby St Michael’s Church on Church Road. Just over six months later her father the renowned mathematician George Boole died in Lichfield on December 8th.  Her mother Mary Everest took her and her four sisters to London where she grew up but came and went to Ireland. She lived for a time in Lancashire, England with her uncle Charles Boole who managed a coal mine.

In 1879, she spent a summer with her great uncle John Ryall (former Vice President of University College Cork) and developed an interest in the Italian political activist Giuseppe Mazzini from a book which she read. She later studied music at the Berlin Hochschule fűr Musik.

Dimitri Shostakovich's musical score for the Gadfly
Dimitri Shostakovich’s musical score for the Gadfly

Europe was in a ferment at the time and she became interested in the growing revolutionary movements in Russia. Lily spent two years travelling widely in Russia and witnessed the famine conditions of the peasants and workers. Deeply influenced by what she had seen she threw herself into the radical movements seeking to overthrow the Czar.  She met up with Peter Kropotkin and Sergei Kravchinski (Stepniak) who had fled Russia where he had assassinated Mezenter, the Tsarist Chief of Police.

Returning to London in 1889, along with Stepniak she published a monthly magazine entitled Free Russia. Later becoming active in the revolutionary socialist émigré milieu in London at the time she met Friedrich Engels, George Bernard Shaw, William Morris, Eleanor Marx, Edward Aveling and her own future husband Wilfred Michail Voynich who had earlier been imprisoned in the Warsaw Citadel. He had actually seen Lily through the bars of his cell standing in the square outside on Easter Sunday 1887 during her trip to Warsaw.

Lily learned Russian with Stepniak and became a fluent speaker, she also had fluent Polish and worked as a translator in both languages. Her translation of Chopin’s letter from Polish remains the standard edition.

Deeply immersed in Russian politics she returned clandestinely to Russia in 1894. Stepniak died in 1895 in a train accident and she seems to have drifted away from politics, possibly disillusioned with the revolutionary movement.

It is claimed she had a brief and passionate love affair with Sydney Reilly (Sigmund Rosenblum) whose incredible life story is described in Ace of Spies, written by Robin Bruce Lockhart in 1967.  Following her return from Florence to London she wrote her famous novel The Gadfly. The adventures of the Gadfly seem however to be based on Stepniak’s autobiographical novel Andrei Kozhukhov.

Allannah Hopkin
Author Alannah Hopkin

The Gadfly tells the story of Arthur Burton and Gemma Warren and their exploits in revolutionary Italy. Named after an insect, the gadfly, which burrows under an animal’s skin and has a vicious bite, it was published to mixed reviews in New York in 1897. The book later became a publishing phenomenon in Russia and China with millions of copies being sold and translations into many languages. Widely read throughout Europe, its love interest, revolutionary setting, anti-clerical vein and espionage mystery thriller characteristics ensured its appeal. Even today, almost 120 years later it remains a fresh and vibrant story.

Ethel wrote several other books and eventually joined her husband in New York in 1920. She lived quietly, teaching and composing music in New York after Wilfred died in 1930. She enjoyed some late fame when Pravda ran a story in the mid-50s about her presence in New York. She passed away there on the 27th July 1960 at the age of 96.

For further information see The Life and Work of George Boole, A Prelude to the Digital Age by Professor Desmond MacHale. Republished by Cork University Press 2014.

Alannah Hopkin will tell the story of Lily Boole “From Lily Boole to E. L. Voynich, the making of the author of The Gadfly” at the Maldron Hotel during this year’s Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.

Ms Hopkin has published two novels A Joke Goes a Long Way in the Country and The Out-Haul.  Her non-fiction books include Eating Scenery: West Cork, the People & Place as well as Inside Cork. She is a tutor on Poetry Ireland’s, Writers in Schools Scheme, and has led writing workshops for adults up to MA level. She is currently working on a new novel set in West Cork, The Ballydevlin Hauntings.

See www.alannahhopkin.com

New book on W. Virginia coal wars from James Green

James Green Book Cover
newly published – Prof. Jim Green’s book on the West Virginia Coal miners and their struggles

“The Devil is here in these Hills”

From before the dawn of the twentieth century until the arrival of the New Deal, one of the most protracted and deadly labor struggles in American history was waged in West Virginia. On one side were powerful corporations whose millions bought mercenary armed guards and political influence. On the other side were fifty thousand mine workers, the nation’s largest labor union, and the legendary “miners’ angel,” Mother Jones. The fight for unionization and civil rights sparked a political crisis that verged on civil war, stretching from the creeks and hollows to the courts and the U.S. Senate. In The Devil Is Here in These Hills, historian James Green tells the story of West Virginia and coal like never before.

When rail arrived in Appalachia in the 1870s, the country’s wealthiest industrialists pushed fast into the wilderness, digging mines and building company towns where they wielded vast control over everyday life—from hiring minsters to issuing their own money. The state’s high-quality coal drove America’s expansion and industrialization, but for the tens of thousands of miners, incl8uding boys as young as ten, the mining life showed the bitter irony of West Virginia’s motto, “Mountaineers Are Always Free.” Attempts to unionize were met with stiff resistance. Fundamental rights were bent, then broken, and the violence evolved from guerrilla warfare to open armed conflicts. Eventually thousands of miners marched to an explosive showdown on the slopes of Blair Mountain.

Prof. James Green
Prof. James Green

Green’s fascinating book traces this decades-long story that has been all but lost to American memory. Based on extensive research and told in vibrant detail, The Devil Is Here in These Hills is the definitive book on an essential chapter in the history of American freedom.

James Green was one of the main speakers at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2014.

Our guest speakers – Professor Elliott J. Gorn

Elliot J. Gorn

Professor Elliott J. Gorn – will speak at Cork event about the life and legacy of Mother Jones

As we come nearer to the date for the Cork Mother Jones Festival we would like to take an opportunity to introduce you to some of our guest contributors, starting with Professor Elliot J. Gorn.

Elliott Gorn is Professor of American Civilisation and History at Brown University. He specializes in the social and cultural history of the United States in the 19th and 20th century.

His books include Mother Jones, the Most Dangerous Woman in America, Dillinger’s Wild Ride, Muhammad Ali, the People’s Champ and a Brief History of American Sports.

Mother Jones, the most dangerous woman in America (book)

Elliot Gorn’s book, “Mother Jones, the Most Dangerous Woman in America”

He has contributed to numerous articles and publications and has received several awards and research fellowships for his work.

Elliott has very kindly agreed to come along to the very first Mother Jones festival in Shandon and will speak at the Firkin Crane at 3pm on Wednesday 1st August 2012, along with Marat Moore. Elliott’s biography of Mother Jones, identifies her Cork connections, details the actual contributions of Mother Jones to the labour movement in all their complexity. This classic book gives a comprehensive account of the very complex, fascinating and authentic human being, that was Mother Jones.

He concludes about Mother Jones:-

“A common woman whose early years yielded toil and tragedy and whose old age promised nothing but obscurity. She was expected to go silently through life, for she was a mere worker in a country that worshipped success, an immigrant in a nativist land, a woman in a male dominated society and an elderly person in a nation that cherished youth. Hers was the voice that Americans were not supposed to hear. That was her final legacy- out of nothing, but courage, passion, and commitment; she created a unique voice, a prophetic voice, and raised it in the cause of renewing America’s democratic promise.”