Cork born Mother Jones to get a historic road marker on the famous Route 66 in Illinois

A new Historic Marker to be unveiled to Cork born Mother Jones in Illinois near Route 66.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee welcomes the wonderful news that a new Historic Roadside Marker monument is to be unveiled near the I-55 Southbound Coalfield Roadway in honour of Cork born woman Mother Jones.

The large marker has been placed with the cooperation of the Illinois Department of Transportation and will be unveiled on Monday 11th December next by Mr. Brian O’Brien, Ireland’s Consulate General in Chicago.

“We are delighted to congratulate the Mother Jones Heritage Project committee in Illinois for their enormous work to ensure that Mary Harris/Mother Jones is never forgotten. We especially wish to thank Professor Rosemary Feurer who has brought this project to fruition in Illinois and who has supported and inspired the Spirit of Mother Jones festival over the past 6 years and has spoken at it twice.” stated James Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee.

In addition to the Irish Consulate, representatives of the Illinois AFL-CIO, Illinois Labour History Society, the United Mine Workers of America, the Irish American Heritage Centre, the Route 66 Association and many others will attend the historic unveiling of the Mother Jones Marker.

The Coalfield rest area where the Marker is placed receives over 1 million visitors each year. This is the brainchild of the Mother Jones Heritage Project which established a museum near Mount Olive where Mother Jones is buried.

Photos from opening day of the 6th Spirit of Mother Jones Festival & Summer School

Above: The Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor Tony Fitzgerald, Tony Fitzgerald being presented with an ornamental urn containing earth from the grave of Mother Jones at Mount Olive by Jim Goltz of the United Mine Workers of America – on the opening night of the 6th Spirit of Mother Jones Festival at the Maldron Hotel, Cork, last night. Photo via William Hammond.

Julianna Minihan

Julianna Minihan who gave a most interesting talk about the life and work of U.S. social reformer and campaigner Florence Kelley,

James Goltz

James Goltz with framed proclamation from the International President of the United Mineworkers Union of America. This and two other proclamations presented by James to the Cork Mother Jones Committee can be seen in full on the Spirit of Mother Jones festival website.

Ethel Buckley

Ethel Buckley of SIPTU who gave an informative lecture on “Revitalising the Labour Movement”

Ed Byrne (ASTI)

Ed Byrne, outgoing President of the ASTI who spoke on “Challenging Injustice, Inequality and the Unethical”

Ann Piggot makes presentation to James Goltz

Ann Piggott of the Cork Mother Jones Festival (and former President of Cork Council of Trade Unions) presents a memento to James Goltz on behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee

Ann Piggott presents Ethel Buckley

Ann Piggot makes presentation to Ethel Buckley on behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee

Ed Byrne of the ASTI with presentation from the Cork Mother Jones Committee presented by Ann Piggott of the committee.

Films at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2017

Films at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2017

Tuesday 1st August –Saturday 5th August 2017

Admission is free and all are welcome.

 

Tuesday 1st August 

Maldron Hotel, Shandon 2.30: “Mother Jones, America’s Most Dangerous Woman” a film by Rosemary Feurer and Laura Vazquez.

             

Mother Jones: America’s Most Dangerous Woman is a documentary about the amazing labor heroine, Mary Harris Jones, known as Mother Jones. Mother Jones’ organising career influenced the history of early 20th century United States. She overcame class and gender limitations to shape an identity that allowed her to become an effective labor organiser in the early 20th century. Mother Jones transformed personal and political grief and rage about class injustices into an effective persona that led workers into battles that changed the course of history. The terrible conditions and labor oppression of the time motivated her to traverse the country, in order to organise against injustices. Also gives a deeply moving account of the Ludlow Massacre.

www.motherjonesmuseum.org

Release Date:  2007 (Canada).                   Runtime: 24 min

Tuesday 1st August. 

Maldron Hotel 4.00 pm “Mother Jones and her Children” a film by Frameworks Films and the Cork Mother Jones Committee.

This film tells the story of Mary Harris (1837 – 1930) from Cork who went on to become “the most dangerous woman in America”. Starting with her early years in Cork, this documentary goes on to detail her life in America following the famine, her marriage to George Jones and the birth of her four children. It details the tragedies which befell her. Her growing involvement in the labour movement in America, defending the rights of children and workers is documented. Through interviews with leading experts on Mother Jones, we learn of her fearless and tireless campaign to organize workers at a time of severe labour strife and her international legacy today.

www.frameworksfilm.com and http://www.motherjonescork.com

 

Release Date:  July 2014.                                 Runtime: 52 min

 

 

Wednesday 2nd August

 

Maldron Hotel 11.am “Ludlow: Greek Americans in the Colorado Coal War.

(Irish public Premiere)

The documentary narrates the story of Greek immigrants at the beginning of the last century, who ended up in distant Colorado working under inhuman conditions in the coal mines of Rockefeller and his fellow mine owners, and who together with immigrants from 22 other countries revolted and wrote a proud page of American labor history, known as the Colorado Coal War of 1913-14.

It is a story not often mentioned in history books, but alive in the memory of the children and the grandchildren of the men who fought for their life and dignity.  They recount their family history with pride and anger in their voice, pride for their forefathers and anger for the injustices they were faced with.

The makers collected the evidence – photos, videos, newspaper articles, songs – to create an engrossing and informative documentary that keeps the viewer’s interest alive from start to finish.  Under the guidance of director Leonidas Vardaros, the team, consisting of cinematographer Prokopis Dafnos, editor Xenofon Vardaros, sound engineer Andreas Gkovas, researcher Frosso Tsouka and narrator Rigas Axelos, gave their best in this truly collective effort.   The production management was carried out by the members of “Apostolis Berdebes” non-profit, Stefanos Plakas, Frosso Tsouka, and Lina Gousiou. Contact www.ludlow.gr

 

Release Date: March 2016 Greece        Runtime: 71 minutes.

 

Wednesday 2nd August.

The Firkin Theatre 2.30.  “Blood on the Mountain.” A film produced by Mari-Lynn Evans, Deborah Wallace and Jordan Freeman.

The film is a searing investigation into the economic and environmental injustices that have resulted from industrial control in West Virginia. This feature documentary details the struggles of a hard‐working, often misunderstood people, who have historically faced limited choices and have never benefited fairly from the rich, natural resources of their land.

 

Blood On The Mountain delivers a striking portrait of a fractured population, exploited and besieged by corporate interests, and abandoned by the powers elected to represent them. Appalachia is a place of great contradictions.

The beauty of the oldest mountain range in North America, with lush, old growth forests, small towns and isolated communities, is juxtaposed with long‐term poverty, out-migration, lack of health care, inadequate educational systems, and political corruption. The coal, timber, oil, and gas have generated billions of dollars, but these huge profits went to companies in other states, leaving the region destitute.

Appalachian counties are left with little or no tax base to help fund schools, health care, or job creation. Entrenched, corrupt local governments and lagging public policy have not generated sustainable economic alternatives in the region. It is a cruel irony that a region so rich in natural resources is home to many of the poorest people in the United States.

www.bloodonthemountain.com

 

Release date: 18th November 2016.                             Runtime: 93 minutes.

 

Thursday 3rd August

 

The Firkin Theatre 2.30 “A Plastic Ocean” a film from the Plastic Ocean Foundation.

Irish Premiere.

A Plastic Ocean is an epic global adventure following a documentary filmmaker and a world record free-diver as they travel the earth discovering the shocking impact plastic is having on our oceans and the marine animals that live there. The film investigates how our addiction to plastic is impacting the food chain and how that is effecting every one of us through new and developing human health problems. The expedition leads the two adventurers to unusual scientific discoveries, heart-breaking truths and important solutions to one of the biggest problems confronting mankind.

Thirty miles from land, off the southern coast of Sri Lanka, where civil war has kept the oceans and beaches pristine, a global expedition led by documentary filmmaker Craig Leeson is searching for one of the world’s most elusive animals. Blue whales are on the edge of extinction but what the expeditioners find in these remote waters proves heart breaking.

The shock of finding vast quantities of floating plastic in this pristine location forces the filmmaker to think: if plastic is lurking in this remote pristine area what is happening in oceans around the globe?

So begins a global odyssey to find the answer to this question. Teams of scientists from around the world are engaged to analyze and report on the expedition’s findings as the filmmakers embark on a discovery that reveals the consequences of our disposable lifestyle. The results will astound viewers –just as it did our adventurers – who capture never-before-seen images of marine life, plastic pollution, and its ultimate consequences for human health.

One does not easily forget some of the images in this stunning film.

A Plastic Ocean is filmed in 20 locations around the world in beautiful and chilling detail to document the global effects of plastic pollution and introduce workable technology and policy solutions that can, if implemented, begin to change one of mankind’s most destructive inventions. Plastic is indestructible and this year we will manufacture 300 million tonnes of it, half of which will be used just once before being discarded. We can no longer afford to treat plastic as disposable. But can we change our lifestyles in time to save our world and ourselves?

Directed by Craig Leeson.

Produced by Jo Ruxton and Adam Leipzig.

www.plasticoceans.org

Release Date: 22nd September 2016        Runtime: 102 minutes.

 

Friday 4th August

The Firkin Theatre 7.30 “The Limerick Brigadistas – From the Shannon to the Ebro”, a film by the Limerick International Brigades Memorial Trust (LIBMT) and Frameworks Films.

Cork Premiere.

The Limerick Brigadistas-From the Shannon to the Ebro tells the story of six men from Limerick who went to Fight Fascism in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). About 240 volunteers fought with the International Brigades during the war and this documentary depicts the lives of the six men from Limerick who fought with the XV International Brigade – Maurice Emmett Ryan, Jim Woulfe, Frank Ryan, Gerard Doyle, Paddy Brady and Joe Ryan.

 

It explores what motivated these men to leave Ireland and to fight in another country and what became of them subsequently. The documentary follows the members of the Limerick International Brigades Trust as they travel to Spain to find the final resting place of some of their fellow Limerick men and to examine the relevance of their story in today’s world. The documentary was produced by Frameworks Films and the Limerick International Brigades Memorial Trust.

Best remembered is Frank Ryan, born in Elton, near Knocklong in Co Limerick, he spent from 1916 to 1921 in St Colman’s College, Fermoy. Ryan led some 80 volunteers from Ireland to Spain in 1936, he was wounded in March 1937, recovered in Ireland but returned to Spain and was captured in March 1938. He endured the savagery of Franco’s prison camps before eventually turning up in Germany. Ryan died in Germany in June 1944, his story is among those told in the new documentary.

See www.facebook.com/libmt and www.frameworksfilms.com

The film will be introduced by Ger McCloskey PRO LIBMT and Eddie Noonan/Emma Bowell of Frameworks Films.

 

Release Date: April 7th 2017     Runtime: 80 minutes

 

Saturday 5th August 2017

 

Maldron Hotel 5pm. Film “The Mine Wars” a film produced and directed by Randal MacLowry.

 

A production of the Film Posse for American Experience (WGBH-Boston)

The Mine Wars explores the largely forgotten story of the epic struggle between Capital and Labour over the recognition of the United Mine workers of America union in the coalfields of South West Virginia. These culminated in the largest civil insurrection in America since the Civil War at Blair Mountain where thousands of miners took up arms and were even bombed from the air.

Between 1890 and 1912, miners in West Virginia endured the highest death rate in America. Mother Jones was active in 1902 and again in the period 1912-1913 when Paint Creek and Cabin Creek featured. Later Mingo County, Logan County, the Matewan Massacre and the Battle of Blair Mountain where at least 50 people were killed are highlighted. This film concentrates on a UMWA leader and former miner Frank Keeney, who inspired by Mother Jones went to organise West Virginia. Some of its images give a haunting impression of this bleak period and depicts the labour landscape where Mother Jones organised. One can really appreciate the amazing work and resilience of Mother Jones as the film proceeds.

Mother Jones, herself incarcerated for three months in West Virginia, described the state as “Medieval West Virginia with its tent colonies on the bleak hills! With its grim men and women! When I get to the other side, I shall tell God almighty about West Virginia.”  The Mine Wars tells the story on this side!

Produced and directed by Randall MacLowry.

See The Film Posse Facebook. www.pbs.org

 

Release Date: 2016     Runtime: 120 min

The 2017 Cork Mother Jones Lectures.

The 2017 Cork Mother Jones Lectures.

Tuesday 1st August 2017 at 7.30 pm.

 

Ethel Buckley

Ethel Buckley

Ethel Buckley leads the SIPTU Division’s collective bargaining, industrial organising, campaigning, membership growth and activist engagement strategies in the private sector. A member of the Executive Council of the ICTU, she was the inaugural Trade Union Organiser in Residence at Ruskin College, Oxford, England. A Cork woman, she recently led the Clerys Campaign and was involved in the campaign for improvement of conditions of the Irish Womens’ Soccer team.

 

In the age of austerity, with the growth of the so called “gig economy” the widespread use of zero hours contracts, outsourcing and the general removal of protections from workers, trade unions membership as a percentage of the workforce especially in the private sector is decreasing. However a new generation of trade union activists and officials are challenging employers and the government to ensure workers’ rights are protected, workplace regulations are enforced and the role of trade unions remains relevant in Irish society.

 

Ethel Buckley will speak to the topic:

 

“Revitalising the Labour Movement: What can we learn from the Justice for Clerys Workers’ Campaign Victory”

 

 

Ed Byrne

Ed Byrne

Ed Byrne is current President of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland. He took office on the 1st August 2016. Ed is a geography and business studies teacher at Colaiste Choilm in Swords, Co Dublin. He wishes to end discrimination against recently qualified teachers and wants equal pay for equal work.

 

He believes it is completely unacceptable to treat young highly qualified and committed young people entering the teaching profession in this discriminatory fashion. The ASTI which has a membership of 18000 teachers, has been to the forefront of this campaign for some time.

 

Ed Byrne will address the topic:

 

“Challenging Injustice, Inequality and the Unethical!”.

 

 

Ed Goltz with Lord Mayor Mary Shields

James Goltz pictured with the then Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr. Mary Shields in 2014

James Goltz is a member of the US Labour Union, the United Association.

James is from Bunker Hill, Illinois and has visited the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival twice.

He will deliver what he terms “the essence of Mother Jones” from her grave in Mount Olive Union Cemetery in Illinois to the people of Cork.

 

James has been in contact with a number of American Labour organisations and will present the Cork Mother Jones Committee with three Proclamations from

  • American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organizations, AFL-CIO International President Richard Trumpka (former President of the UMWA) on behalf of its 12.5 million members.
  • The Illinois AFL-CIO Executive Board and President Michel T. Carrigan on behalf of their one million members.
  • The United Mine Workers of America, UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts on “behalf of a grateful miners’ nation, its friends and allies”. The United Mine Workers of America was founded in 1890 and Mother Jones worked as an UMWA organiser in the coal fields of America in the 1890s.

These three proclamations will be retained and secured by the Cork Mother Jones Committee and one day they will form part of a permanent exhibition to Honour Mother Jones in her native city.

All are welcome to attend at the Maldron Hotel, Shandon, Cork on Tuesday 1st August at 7.30 pm.

 

 

 

 

“The Bolshevik Revolution – its Impact on Cork and the Irish Labour Movement”.

Petrograd

Russian Workers marching for bread and freedom, Petrograd 1917

On Friday morning 4th August at 11.00am at the Maldron Hotel, Historian Luke Dineen will present “The Bolshevik Revolution – Impact on Cork and Irish Labour”.

One hundred years ago, this Revolution changed the face of the world for the rest of the 20th Century, yet what impact if any did it have in Cork, in Ireland or indeed on the Irish labour movement? What did people know about it, how did they hear about it and did it make any difference to the revolutionary events unfolding here in this country?

Luke Dineen will bring his analysis to the 2017 Spirit of Mother Jones Summer School.

Luke Dineen

Historian Luke Dineen

“In July 1917, the third anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War, the situation looked hopeless for Europe’s working class. The ruling classes of Europe had needlessly sleepwalked the continent into the most destructive war the world had ever seen until that point, and it was the workers who suffered the most. Apart from provided the war’s cannon fodder, food shortages, unscrupulous employers and mass inflation had created a cost of living crisis that devastated their lives. But, little did they realise, all was about to change.

On 25 October 1917, Lenin’s Bolshevik Party, through its Red Guards, seized control of key government buildings in Russia. The following day, the Winter Palace was captured. The Bolsheviks had taken power in Russia – the course of history was profoundly changed forever. It was a move that shocked and inspired the world. Europe’s ruling classes trembled with fear at the prospect of the working class seizing power elsewhere. The workers of Europe, on the other hand, were inspired by the example of the Bolsheviks.

For a brief period, post-war Europe seemed to herald the beginning of a new dawn, where the injustices and inequalities of the past would be confined to the past. Russia, for so long Europe’s most backward, autocratic and oppressive country, was now a shining example of what could be achieved.

Dublin meeting

Contemporary poster advertising Dublin meeting to welcome the Bolshevik Revolution

 

The impact of the revolution was seismic. It spread to other parts of Europe when workers in Hungary, Italy and Germany rose to cast off the shackles of capitalism before they were violently suppressed by a reactionary alliance of state and fascist paramilitaries. But the revolution’s influence on the rest of the world did not die with these failed uprisings.

Indeed, it would have a deep impact on a revolution that was brewing on the other side of Europe, where the forces of imperialism were all too familiar and had been for centuries. In Ireland, the October Revolution left a deep imprint on the psyche of a labour movement that had been radicalised by the war years. Furthermore, imperialist intervention in Russia to crush the revolution resonated with a republican movement that had won popular support through its promise of casting off the yolk of British domination.

As we approach its centenary, it is timely to examine the influence of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution on Ireland, both in the immediate aftermath and in the subsequent years. This talk will outline that influence on the Irish labour movement, which was struggling for working-class emancipation amidst national revolution. It will also examine how the Bolsheviks influenced labour’s participation in a war that delivered partial independence.

History in the making at the grave of Mother Jones

James Goltz lifts the clay

James Goltz lifting the clay from the grave of Mother Jones. (Photo via James Goltz)

As reported from Mount Olive, Illinois by James Goltz

Unique history in the making in Mt. Olive Illinois,at the Union Miners’ Cemetery involving the legendary labour agitator, Mother Harris Jones (Mother Jones), Friends of Mother Jones and Ireland. Mother Jones is buried in the only union owned cemetery in the country, she is the only immigrant who has a so-named festival in her homeland who became a giant in our labour movement, and soon she will be the first to have bit of clay from above her grave transported to her birthplace, the Shandon district in Cork City, Ireland.

Photo shows Secretary of the Mount Olive Perpetual Care Committee Secretary, Mike Krachmar assisting with the placement of the clay in a temporary container. (Photo via James Goltz)

On June 11, Illinois labor activist James Goltz, along with the Perpetual Care Committee of the cemetery held a formal ceremony at her grave site where a bit of clay was removed above her grave. It was given to James Goltz to transport and formally present to the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival organisers in the Shandon Historic Quarter as part of their festival. In addition at the festival, Goltz will also read and present 3 proclamations heralding Mother Jones and the festival from the AFL-CO, the Illinois AFL-CIO and the United Mine Workers of America.

Mount Olive entrance

The entrance to the Union Miners Cemetery at Mount Olive, Illinois

  

Clay from Mother Jones resting place in Illinois to be brought to her native Cork

Mother Jones grave

Mother Jones monument at the Union Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive, Illinois, USA.

Unique link up between the friends of Mother Jones in Mount Olive, Illinois and the Cork Mother Jones Committee in Shandon.

 

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is pleased to announce that a U.S. trade union member, James Goltz, has been given permission to bring some clay from the grave of Mother Jones at Mount Olive in the Miners Cemetery in Illinois to the forthcoming Spirit of Mother Jones summer school and festival in Shandon where it will be presented to the Committee.

A formal ceremony is to take place on 11th July at the final resting place of Mother Jones (born Mary Harris in Shandon) in Mount Olive at which a small sample of clay will be removed from the grave, will be permanently sealed and will be given to Mr Goltz for transporting to Ireland.

Grave

Mother Jones grave. Photo: James Goltz

“This is a unique and historic act linking Mother Jones and her birthplace on the north side of Cork to her grave at Mount Olive after some 87 years. (She passed away in 1930) We wish to congratulate the friends of Mother Jones in Illinois for their thoughtfulness with their symbolic act of generosity and solidarity”, declared James Nolan, spokesperson for the Cork Mother Jones Committee.

“We hope the sealed container can be placed permanently alongside the memorial plaque to Mother Jones in Shandon with the permission of the Cork City Council”

“The act is a further sign of the growing links and bonds which have been developing over the past six years between the friends of Mother Jones on both sides of the Atlantic, many of whom including James and his family have attended previous Spirit of Mother Jones festivals”

Mother Jones plaque, Cork

The Mother Jones plaque at Shandon, Cork

The festival and summer school takes place in the Shandon Historic Quarter from Tuesday 1st to Saturday 5th August next.

 

Please find below the details of the event in Mount Olive on July 11th and the contact details for James Goltz.

“A bit of earth will be removed above the grave of Mary Harris Jones, a.k.a Mother Jones, who lies within Union Miner’s Cemetery in Mt. Olive Illinois, on July 11, at 10:00am, in preparation for a journey to her birthplace in County Cork Ireland to the Shandon district within Cork City. The earth will be presented to the 6th annual Spirit of Mother Jones Festival there on August 1. The cemetery Perpetual Care Committee will be present to assist in performing the brief ceremony and task of gathering the earth with James Goltz, who refers to himself and other Mother Jones fans as, “a Friend of Mother Jones”. When asked why they were doing this, Goltz said, “We wish to send a piece of her essence home. The Spirit of Mother Jones moves us”. All interested parties are encouraged to attend this unique event.”

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival Brochure published

The programme for the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival & Summer School 2017 is now available with the publication of the official brochure today (23rd June).

The programme covers a comprehensive range of events which will take place during the Festival and Summer School.  These will include lectures, music, film showing and commemorative events over the five days of 2017 event which runs from 1st to 5th August in the Shandon area of Cork city.

You can download the 2017 brochure by clicking Mother Jones Cork Programme 2017.

 

Feargus O’Connor – The Lion of Freedom

Cork born Chartist leader to be remembered at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival

Feargus O'Connor

Feargus O’Connor (1796-1855)

Born on 18th July 1796 at Connorville close to Ballineen in Co Cork, Feargus O’ Connor was the son of Roger O’Connor and Wilhelmina Bowen. Both his father and more famous uncle, Arthur (a Barrister, former MP and High Sheriff of Cork) were arrested in 1798 for activities connected to the United Irishmen. Arthur was exiled to France, where Bonaparte welcomed him as an official representative of the Irish people. Roger’s family were also dispersed for some time as a result of his ongoing brushes with the law.

After some teenage adventures in England and Ireland, Feargus acquired Fort Robert, Dromidiclogh near Ballineen in West Cork from his uncle Robert Connor in 1820 and worked the attached farm alongside over 100 of his tenants. At this time, rural areas of County Cork were hotbeds of Whiteboy actions led by the infamous and mysterious Captain Rock and O’Connor may have become mixed up in these activities. He had also addressed his first public meeting at the original Catholic Church in Enniskean but due to the treasonous nature of his comments, he disappeared to England in 1822, where he later qualified as a barrister.

Connorville

The ruins of Connorville, Ballineen, birthplace of Feargus O’Connor

Returning to Cork he defended many ordinary people in the courts at the time. However his experiences led him to become angry at the lack of civil rights, a critic of tithes (payments to the Protestant church) and more active in politics. He did not support Daniel O’Connell’s Catholic Emancipation campaign contending that it was limited emancipation and O’Connell was “the only Irishman to have benefitted”. In any event he was more interested in the Repeal of the Union movement and his brilliant oratory skills helped him to sway huge crowds at public meetings. He addressed a crowd of some 50,000 people in Dunmanway in 1832, while also holding a large campaign dinner for 500 in Enniskean village.

Kennington meeting

Chartist Meeting, Kennington Common, London 1848

Large in stature, fiery and red haired, self-confident, charming, defiant and passionate, he engaged huge crowds and was a natural leader. Occasionally these meetings could be rather robust affairs and O’Connor became involved in many altercations. He was described by his friend and neighbour William J O’Neill Daunt as being “indefatigable in agitation”. His increasingly radical views gained many supporters among disenfranchised tenants, labourers and working class people of no property.

He challenged openly the aristocratic Tory grip of politics across County Cork and in 1832 surprised all when he was elected MP for County Cork, breaking the political glass ceiling of the landlords, (although one himself!). His victory sparked mass evictions of hundreds of tenants along the Bandon Valley by Lord Bandon. The landlords never forgave him and those evicted never forgot either. Yet he continued to engineer electoral victories in a corrupt system by somewhat pragmatic methods in many Cork towns against a backdrop of increasing anti tithe violence. (In December 1834, 12 people were killed when troops opened fire in Rathcormac, Co Cork).

In the House of Commons, O’Connor was very isolated and gradually split from Daniel O’Connell accusing him of selling out the Irish people on Repeal, especially after the Liberator’s agreement to the Lichfield House Whig Compact. O’Connor and the working classes became alienated even further from O’Connell due to O’Connell’s regular attacks on the emerging trade union networks.

Re-elected in January 1835 as MP for Cork, he was soon disqualified from the House of Commons in June when a Select Committee found he had not enough property or income to qualify in the first place. Being unable to contest the Cork election again he then turned most of his attention to English politics.

Later in England in September 1835 O’Connor helped found the Great Radical Association, which united many radicals and agitators and which sought universal suffrage (for men), voting by ballot and the removal of property qualifications for MPs. He possessed ferocious energy and spoke at huge meetings in support of working peoples’ rights and is regarded by many as one of the founders of Chartism based on the later People’s Charter which also sought the earlier principles espoused by O’Connor. Feargus was becoming the “Lion of Freedom”, adored by countless thousands, yet remaining a very divisive figure to others.

Northern Star

The Northern Star

He founded the Northern Star newspaper in 1837 in Leeds, which was hugely popular and which promoted the ideas of Chartism throughout Britain and supported the People’s Charter announced by the London Working Men’s Association in June 1838. O’Connor was a vigorous campaigner, an accomplished orator, a smart agitator and he spoke at meetings attended by hundreds of thousands of people. Unfortunately he also became involved in the many irrelevant disputes which weakened the Chartist movement. Yet he always raised the Irish grievances whenever he could.

The authorities ensured he was charged and imprisoned for 18 months for seditious libel in May 1840 in York Castle. While weakening his direct control over the Chartist revolution, O’Connor became a martyr for the now huge movement. In spite of many setbacks, widespread violence arising from industrial strikes especially in 1842, the rejection of parliament petitions, an over ambitious land plan, O’Connor and others kept Chartism central to the political agenda throughout the 1840s. He was elected as an MP for Nottingham in 1847 and became an even bigger thorn in the side of the Establishment (both Whigs and Tories in Parliament).

Grave

Detail from Feargus O’Connor’s gravestone at Kensal Green Cemetery (via Findagrave.com)

Eventually worn out by years of campaigning, wounded by arguments within the movement, lack of finances and the ongoing efforts of the Establishment to be rid of him, O’Connor experienced poor health and mental difficulties, he was eventually sent for treatment to an asylum where he remained for several years. He died at his sister’s house in Notting Hill on 30th August 1855 and is buried at Kensal Green Cemetery. Vast crowds attended his funeral in London and the gates of the cemetery were “unceremoniously broke open” by the throngs. A large monument was erected over his grave. Another monument was erected in Nottingham by his admirers.

Chartism, riven with disputes between reformers and militants receded in the 1850s and much of its vision in education, parliamentary and land reforms and universal suffrage came to nothing in the short term. However the awakening working classes proceeded to organise and consolidate trade unions, co-operatives and friendly societies and absorb new socialist and democratic ideas. Wage negotiations commenced. While political reform took longer…… for many on the ground, O’Connor had led the way across the revolutionary Rubicon!

Southern Star (Chartist)

The Southern Star – British Chartist newspaper (not related to the West Cork paper of the same name)

As early as February 1838, O’Connor as quoted in the Bolton Free Press (Dorothy Thompson The Chartists) had declared that society is divided into two classes….  “The rich oppressors and the poor oppressed. The whole question resolved itself into the battle between labour and capital”.  He emphasised the need to create independent working class organisation.

Feargus had introduced powerful ideas to the workers and he would not be silenced as he understood how to promulgate these ideas fearlessly through his newspaper, through vast meetings and through Chartism. Establishment attacks tried to destroy his character portraying him as a colourful and dangerous eccentric of this period yet the West Corkman remains the one innovative, questioning and radical voice in the complex tapestry and history of agitation for full political rights for all in Britain and Ireland.

Today, O’Connor appears to have been consigned to occupying a marginal role in Irish and British history, although he was a central and significant figure in the British Revolution. In his publication “Feargus O’Connor …a Political Life” by Paul A Pickering (published by Merlin Press 2008), Professor Pickering contends that O’Connor has not been “treated kindly by history” and his book is a plea for a place in Irish and British history for Feargus, as “he had earned it”.   

Carrickmore

Carrickmore House – extension of the original Connorville at Ballineen – both in ruins now.

Today, Connorville and the later Carrigmore House shamefully lie in ruins alongside the present day Carbery Milk Products factory at Ballineen. Cattle graze beneath the walls of Feargus’s old home Fort Robert (built in 1787) which is nearby. Very little remains of the old church at Derrigran, Enniskean where he made his first speech, and today a parochial house stands on the site.

Alongside the “Idle Bridge”, on the main Bandon/Dunmanway road (a bridge built by Roger to carry water from a never completed Blackwater river diversion on the O’Connor lands at Manch), a small plaque unveiled in 1999, commemorates Roger and Arthur O’Connor and their role in the United Irishmen.

For Feargus O’Connor…the Lion of Freedom… there is no monument in his native county!

 

Cllr Warren Davies, is a Labour Councillor, who represents Baird Ward in Hastings in East Sussex. For 27 years he has taught history, politics, Sociology and anthropology. Warren will speak of “Feargus O’Connor – The Corkman behind a British Revolution” on Saturday 5th August 2017 at 2.30pm at the Maldron Hotel.

 

Remembering Michael O’Riordan – A Neighbour’s Child

Michael O'Riordan in uniform

Michael O’Riordan, International Brigade Volunteer (1938)

Michael O’Riordan was born on the 12th November 1917, at 37 Popes Quay in Cork City. He was the youngest of five children. His parents, Micheál O’Riordan of Inchinossig and Julia Creed of Illauninagh came from Ballingeary in Muskerry, Co Cork.  His father, Micheál, was a carter at Cork docks and later opened his own grocery shop on Adelaide Street in Cork City’s Middle Parish.

Michael attended school at the North Monastery and even though still a young teenager, Michael became politically active in the early 1930s and took part in the confrontations with the Blueshirts (Ireland’s fascist organisation) on the streets of Cork. He joined the IRA and supported the Republican Congress under Peadar O’Donnell and Frank Ryan, which sought to establish an Irish Socialist Republic. Later he joined the Communist Party of Ireland.

The Cork City of Michael O’Riordan in the mid-thirties was in ferment, there was an atmosphere of intimidation and hysteria fuelled by reports of attacks on the Catholic Church in Spain by Spanish Republican forces. An example was on 20th September 1936, some 40,000 people attended an Irish Christian Front meeting in the City. This Front was a reincarnation of the old Blueshirts organisation, although with wider appeal.

Founded in 1936, it was led in Cork by Liam De Róiste, former Sinn Fein T.D.,  and on that evening in September, Professor Alfred O’Rahilly former T.D., Registrar and future President of University College Cork warned the huge crowd of the dangers of communism and lashed out at the trade union movement for their support of Republican Spain. Later that same night, Gardai had to baton charge Christian Front demonstrators outside the Bridewell as they had attacked a number of people, who they claimed were communists.

Christy Moore, centre, whose song “Viva La Quince Brigada” was composed while reading “Connolly Column” by veteran Micheal O’Riordan, is pictured with four Irish International Brigade veterans. Left to right: Peter O’Connor (Waterford), Micheal O’Riordan (Cork), Bob Doyle (Dublin) and Maurice Levitas (Dublin).

In was in this hostile political and social climate that O’Riordan bravely volunteered to go to Spain in April 1938 to join up with the International Brigades. He became one of about 250 Irishmen who fought on the Republican side, around 15 of them were Cork born. Some 600 other Irishmen went to Spain under Eoin O’Duffy to support Franco’s army with over 50 from Cork city and county. This “Irish Brigade” saw little action.

Having joined the XVth International Brigade, O’Riordan saw action immediately and fought in several of the engagements. He was wounded by shrapnel on the Ebro front on the 1st August 1938, having earlier carried the Catalan flag across the river Ebro in what was to prove the final Republican attack mounted by the International Brigades. Following the demobilisation of the International Brigades, O’Riordan arrived back in Dublin on December 10th 1938.

Of the contribution of Irishmen to Spain: Michael O’Riordan in his book Connolly Column stated,

“Compared numerically with the other national contributions to the International Brigades, that of Ireland was a small one. What it lacked in numbers was made up for in quality, integrity and battle-courage. The contribution was made under the most difficult of internal political circumstances”

Later in 1939 he began training IRA units in Cork and was arrested and imprisoned in the Curragh Internment Camp from February 1940 to August 1943. He learned Irish under Mairtìn O Cadhain at the language classes and was one of dozens of IRA men from Cork interned in the camp.

Michael O’Riordan (left) with Maurice Levitas (Dublin) and Peter O’Connor (Waterford) at the Jarama memorial site in Spain

On his release he became very active in labour politics and on 14th June 1946 he stood as a Cork Socialist candidate in the bye-election in Cork and polled a very creditable 3184 votes.  Michael and Kay Keohane from Clonakilty, Co. Cork were married in November 1946. They had three children. Both Kay and her sister, Máire Keohane-Sheehan were and remained committed activists in the labour and trade union movement.

He worked as a bus conductor in Cork and later in Dublin and remained active all his life in the ITGWU. Michael campaigned on many social issues such as housing, he stood in a further five general elections in Dublin and served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of Ireland from 1970 to 1983. Later he served as Chairman of the Party until 1988. He also campaigned on behalf of the Birmingham Six.

Very active in the International Brigade reunions, Michael helped to ensure the return of the remains of his old commander, Frank Ryan, from Germany in 1979. The same year he published “Connolly Column, the story of the Irishmen who fought for the Spanish Republic 1936-1939” which is the most influential and informative history of the Irishmen who went to fight and of the 60 or so Irishmen who died in the International Brigades. Honoured by the Cuban government in 2005, he was presented with the Medal of Friendship.

Manus O'Riordan

Manus O’Riordan with the International Brigades banner

Michael dedicated the book “To the memory of my Father who, because of the propaganda against the Spanish Republic in Ireland did not agree with my going to Spain, but who disagreed more with our “coming back and leaving your commander, Frank Ryan behind”. Christy Moore credited the book, which he read while on holiday in Spain, with inspiring his song “Viva La Quinta Brigada”.

Michael O’Riordan died on the 18th May 2006 aged 88. Kay had passed away in December 1991.

 

 

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Michael O’Riordan’s birth at nearby Popes Quay, Manus O’ Riordan, his son, will give a talk “Remembering Michael O’Riordan – A Neighbour’s Child” on Friday afternoon 4th August 2017 at the Spirit of Mother Jones summer school. It will form part of a wider examination that day of the events and lessons of the Spanish Civil War. Manus worked as SIPTU Head of Research for many years, retiring in 2010 after 39 years with the One Big Union. He is a noted historian and writer. For full details of the day’s events please consult the final Spirit of Mother Jones summer school programme which will be published in early June.