Mick Lynch to Speak at Durham Gala.

The annual Durham Gala will take place on Saturday 9th July 2022 following a break of two years due to Covid-19.  The Gala this year is “dedicated to the key workers”, who provided essential services in the UK during the recent pandemic.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee extend warm congratulations and solidarity to the Durham Miners Association and wish the DMA well for a fantastic parade and Big Meeting.

The parade itself features thousands of people of all ages from former mining communities across the north of England marching behind their colourful banners and colliery bands.

Dave Hopper, a former General Secretary of the DMA along with his committee were regular attenders at the Spirit of Mother Festivals. Dave spoke at the 2014 and 2015 Festivals, and he provided a first hand account of events at the battle of Orgreave as well as contributing to the general discussions.

He was awarded the 2016 Spirit of Mother Jones Award posthumously after his sudden death a few weeks before the festival in 2016.

The Durham Miner’s Association is based at Red Hills in Durham, which was opened in 1915.

View of Red Hills, home of the Durham Miners Association.

The Red Hills contains the Miners Parliament where representatives of each of the lodges of county Durham once met to decide on union matters.

Imposing entrance featuring Alexander McDonald, William Crawford, William Patterson and John Forman, early leaders of the DMA.

Mick Lynch, General Secretary of the RMT Union will speak at the Big Meeting on Saturday 9th July 2022. Mick, whose father was from Cork has led the recent rail strikes in Britain.

It is a huge honour to speak at the Big Meeting. This year is the 75th Anniversary of the death of Irish trade union leader, Jim Larkin, a founder of the ITGWU, (now SIPTU) and the Irish Citizen Army. In 1914, a few months after the end of the Dublin Lockout, Jim Larkin spoke at the Durham Gala and on the day argued for one union,

” if one section is out, you should be ready to bring out everyone of you”

As the miners’ banners were carried from the field in Durham on that day in July 1914, they were not to return for five years………….. just ten days later Britain was at war with Germany. 

For further information, visit.

https://www.durhamminers.org/

Liam Cahill R.I.P.

It is with very great sadness that we learned of the sudden death of Liam Cahill, journalist, author, civil servant and trade unionist.

Liam attended the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in 2019 and spoke on the 100th anniversary celebrating the Limerick Soviet. 

Liam Cahill and Mike McNamara at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2019.

He appeared on Thursday Aug 1st  along with his great friend Limerick Union man Mike McNamara, following a screening of the 2015 documentary, The Limerick Soviet  in which he had participated. 

His 2019 publication “Forgotten Revolution: The Limerick Soviet 1919, a threat to British Power in Ireland”, which was an updated, revised and enlarged edition of his original 1990 book on the soviet, formed the basis of Liam’s talk. 

Photo of Liam Cahill with the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins in 2019. Photo: Barry Cronin, courtesy of Liam Cahill.

This important book unearthed the  incredible story of revolutionary events in Limerick which lay almost undisturbed for almost 70 years and it quickly sold out its print run.

Limerick Soviet 1919.

Liam claimed he wrote it originally to try to answer an important and still relevant question, “why were our grandmothers and grandfathers – even our great grandparents – more radical in their politics than my generation?”  It is unclear if he found the answer but the Limerick Soviet is no longer forgotten.

President Michael D. Higgins with Liam Cahill. Photo: Barry Cronin, courtesy of Liam Cahill.

Liam was extremely generous with his time and his advice to members of our committee and during his Cork talk he praised the role of Cobhman and trade union leader Jack Dowling, (long championed by Cork Mother Jones Committee member John Jefferies) who played a key role in the organisation of the Limerick Soviet.  

Liam was a political correspondent with RTE and during 1990 worked in Brussels as Government press spokesperson for the Irish Presidency of the European Union. However his contribution to the Irish Trade Union movement was enormous. Apart from being a full-time official of the Federated Workers Union of Ireland, he spent time on the executive councils of the NUJ and the PSEU as well as chairperson of the RTE Trade Union Group. He wrote widely on Irish Labour history. He had a huge interest in sport, especially the Gaelic Athletic Association. His internet forum, An Fear Rua was legendary and original in the early 2000s before twitter and WhatsApp with wide ranging and often heated discussions taking place on the many issues around Gaelic games under the paternal hand of Liam. The trade union and Labour movement has lost a great friend in Liam.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee and friends wish to extend our deepest sympathy to Liam’s children, Susan and Eoin.

Historian Luke Dineen to speak at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2022.

As 2022 signals a return to real festival events, we are happy to announce that Luke Dineen will once again speak at this year’s Spirit of Mother Jones Festival. 

Labour and trade union historian Luke has appeared at many of our festivals and is one of the most popular contributors. 

He brings to life the often forgotten history of the trade union movement in Cork and its proud contribution to bettering the lives of ordinary people.

Luke, who was awarded a PhD in labour history from UCC will speak on the “Cork General Lockout of 1923”.

The end of the Civil War in May 1923 encouraged the Cork Employers’ Federation (CEF) to demand wage reductions across a wide range of workplaces in the city. Discussions and negotiations with the unions failed to resolve the issues and by July 1923, the ITGWU dockers were on strike. The employers insisted on wage reductions of  up to 25% and further reductions in workers allowances which the unions refused to accept.

On 20th August 1923, most businesses in Cork closed, the Cork Lockout had begun, over 6000 workers were on strike. 

It was part of a wider effort by employers in other cities and towns across Ireland to bring about wage cuts.

Despite large marches, sackings, mass unemployment and growing signs of serious shortages of food and coal stocks, John Rearden, a solicitor and secretary of the CEF refused to compromise and the impasse dragged on in the city. 

Recently elected TD and UCC Registrar Alfred O’Rahilly acted as arbitrator in the dispute and agreed a resolution with Trade Union leader Jim Hickey.

Most workers went back on reduced wages by mid November and while at  the end of the day, both sides accepted compromises, the trade unions suffered most as the lockout used up much of their financial resources in strike pay, Payments to strikers by the ITGWU were almost 24,000 pounds representing 15% of all the union’s expenditure for 1923. (1919 was under 1%). Membership fell to a third of its 1923 level by 1928. Employers still retained the right to hire and fire at will. 

Most employees were back at work by early November. 1923 was an annus horribilis for the Irish Trade union movement.

The new Free State government had signalled that they no longer needed to encourage the acquiescence and support of organised Labour in the struggle for independence.

The government instead aligned with the new State’s established business class, whose pragmatic rapprochement with the new political order reflected the inherent conservatism of the real victors in the Irish Civil War. 

Luke Dineen will speak at the Shandon Maldron Hotel at 11.30 am on Saturday 30th July. All are welcome. 

Sources: 

Article by Luke Dineen ‘Class War in Cork’: The Cork General Lockout of 1923′ in Saothar 46.  (Journal of the Irish Labour History Society 2021).

Article by Francis Devine, The Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union in Cork City and County 1918-1930. (Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society Volume 124, 2019).

May Day Mother Jones Birthday Party in Chicago.

The May Day Party for Mother Jones will take place at the Irish American Heritage Centre at 4626 North Knox Avenue in Chicago from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

Among those participating are: 

  • Kevin Byrne, Ireland’s Consul General to Chicago and the Midwest.
  • Sara Nelson President of the Association of Flight Attendants CWA, AFLCIO.
  • Don Villar, Secretary Treasurer Chicago Federation of Labour.
  • Also participating are singers and artists such as Paddy Homan, Kathy Cowan and the SAG-AFTRA singers while artist Lindsay Hand will sign posters.

All proceeds will go towards the Chicago Statue Campaign.

There are very few monuments which commemorate women in Chicago and as with most cities everywhere none of working class women.

Statue of Mother Jones.

Why not  assist the Chicago campaign to ensure that a beautiful statue is erected to honour Cork born Mary Harris who as Mother Jones worked ceaselessly to help immigrants of many nationalities to organise for decent wages and safe working conditions by joining the American trade union movement!. 

A broad based fundraising committee in the City has been active in fundraising to bring the dream of the Mother Jones statue to reality. 

Image of Proposed Statue of Mother Jones in Wacker, near Michigan Ave, Chicago.

With the help of the American trade unions and many others, the committee is close to achieving this ambition.  Let’s put this iconic Irish immigrant refugee and a founder of the American Labour Movement–the Mother of the working class–on a statue in the city she called home.

Go to the website www.motherjonesmuseum.org to see how you can help.   

https://www.motherjonesmuseum.org/event-details/mother-jones-may-day-birthday-party-may-1-2022-4-6-pm-chicago are hardly any sculptures of women historical figures in the city of Chicago.

https://conta.cc/3DzmU9T

Mother Jones and Her Children is now available here to view online.

The documentary Mother Jones And Her Children is now available to view at the link below.

This 2014 documentary tells the exciting story of Mary Harris/Mother Jones from her birth in Cork in 1837 to her death in 1930. 

It features US Labour historians such as Rosemary Feurer, who administers the website www.motherjonesmuseum.org and who writes extensively on Mother Jones. Elliott Gorn, author of Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America appears also along with interviews with authors Simon Cordery and Marat Moore. Larry Spivack of the Illinois Labour History Society and John Alexander of the Virden Monument Committee and US trade union activists such as Mike Matjelki, Dave Rathke and Terry Reed take part. In addition, there is an interview with Uibh Laoghaire historian, Joe Creedon regarding the birth place of Ellen Cotter, the mother of Mary Harris, while members of the Cork Mother Jones Committee (CMJC) provide details about her baptism in Cork, and the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.

According to James Nolan of the CMJC

“This documentary is ideal for anyone who wishes to learn more about this amazing Cork woman, a woman who survived horrific personal tragedy and bravely supported the trade union movement and fought for social justice in America for over four decades.

Mary Harris’s efforts in the early 1900s to highlight the exploitation of children in the mines, mills and factories of America and her arguments that they should receive an education instead  will still resonate with school children across the world today. 

This documentary should be included in the Irish educational curriculum.”

Mother Jones and Her Children remains available on CD. The link to the documentary also appears above the main website masthead.

It was produced by Frameworks Films and the Cork Mother Jones Committee. 

Muriel MacSwiney … An Unlikely Revolutionary!

The 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival will contain an interview with Anne Twomey, teacher and historian on the life of Muriel MacSwiney. This will be shown on Cork Community TV on Thursday, November 25th at 8:00 pm followed by a Q&A with Anne at the Maldron Hotel.

Anne is a member of the Shandon Area History Group which recently published “Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times”.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee through the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival has attempted over the past decade to research and promote the cause of women, especially strong independent women whose life stories have sometimes been ignored, silenced or deleted from the public discourse. In the following article Muriel MacSwiney … an Unlikely Revolutionary, we take a brief look at her eventful path through life.

Mary Harris and Muriel Murphy were both born on the north side of Cork City, but unlike the poverty of Mary Harris, Muriel Murphy was born to wealth and privilege at Carrigmore in Montenotte, a future heiress to the huge riches of the Cork merchant prince and unionist supporting Murphy family.

In Muriel’s statement to the Bureau of Military History (BMH) dated December 1951 she wrote “My family, of course, were completely imperialist, conservative, capitalist and roman catholic”.

The youngest in a family of six, she complained of being kept isolated from the “common people” and claimed to have left her snobbish convent at seventeen where she had “learned literally nothing”. Muriel received little formal education and author Angela Clifford in Letters to Angela Clifford suggested that as a result “her originality was left unfettered, she thought and then she did what her thinking suggested”.

Instead of a well-trodden pathway whereby she could have kept her head down and along with many former unionist families who simply blended into the new Free State then in its birth pangs through violent revolution, Muriel took a different path and boldly embraced the early Republican cause and later married Cork Volunteer leader Terence MacSwiney in 1917.

It was the ultimate love story of the beautiful girl sacrificing everything for a poor imprisoned playwright, poet and revolutionary. Her small wedding at Bromyard in Herefordshire on 9th June 1917, on her twenty fifth birthday was conducted through the Irish language at an open prison where the groom wore his military uniform was highly unusual.

Muriel and Terence’s Wedding.

Her forty months of married life was interrupted regularly by the absence of her husband either through his organizing work for the Irish Volunteers or as a result of his harassment or imprisonment by the British authorities. Terence’s later role as Teachta Dāla (TD) in the new Dāil Eireann or his position as Lord Mayor of Cork City could not save him from the harsh treatment of the British which in effect also victimised their families.

Terence was in jail when Muriel gave birth to Māire and his first meeting with their two month old baby daughter, involved Muriel making the long journey to a prison in Belfast in August 1918 and staying in that city for several weeks. The newly married couple had just a few months of normality together in places such as Ballingeary and Youghal in Co Cork.

Muriel with Máire and Terence. (Possibly in Ballingeary).

Muriel too endured the pain of the ceaseless attempts to break her husband’s spirit. She did not agree with hunger strikes, but supported her husband to the very end of his strike. In the full glare of worldwide publicity on 25th October 1920, Cork Lord Mayor, Terence MacSwiney died. His death caused a massive growth of support for the Irish Republican cause, but it also mortally wounded the resolve of the British establishment to enforce it’s rule in Ireland.

The Funeral of Terence MacSwiney in London in 1920. (Notice how close the London policemen are to the coffin).

Very few observers subsequently considered the human trauma, stress and acute loneliness of the young widow with responsibility for a baby. Nor did they empathise with her personal reaction to her husband’s slow painful death over 74 days, the enormous impact of which was such that Muriel collapsed from sheer exhaustion and grief and was unable to attend her Terence’s funeral in Cork.

The painting of the funeral of Terence MacSwiney in St. George’s Cathedral, Southwark by Sir. John Lavery.

Yet exactly a month later, Muriel boarded the Celtic in Cobh (Queenstown) along with her sister in law Mary MacSwiney and arrived in New York on 5th December to a huge welcome from thousands of supporters including some 300 women who ignoring formalities simply mobbed her.

Photo from a New York newspaper shows the mayhem which greeted Muriel in New York.

She provided searingly honest evidence at an American Commission On Conditions In Ireland hearing in Washington on 9th December.

The New York Times front page article referred in patronising terms to her as “a mere girl, with brilliant eyes and a quick engaging smile”. ‘A perfect picture of Irish beauty” gushed the New York Evening World.

Muriel spent the entire Christmas holiday period being introduced to hundreds of Irish people in political and business circles. Later on New Years Eve, New York Mayor Hylan presented her with the formal Freedom of the City at a ceremony in City Hall, the first woman to receive this honour.

Mary and Muriel MacSwiney in America.

Muriel was followed by huge crowds and by today’s terms was a media poster girl for the Irish Revolution. She was serenaded by the “Fighting Sixty Ninth” regimental band that night and the band turned up again to accompany Muriel to the New York quay as she sailed for home on New Year’s Day 1921. Sister in law, Mary MacSwiney stayed on in America until after the truce. One must wonder whether Muriel’s media role as the grieving widow of a Republican martyr was exploited by some within the increasingly powerful movement for independence.    

Portrait of Muriel MacSwiney by Sir. John Lavery.

Soon after returning from America, she headed briefly to Germany for medical treatment. 

Displaying great courage and resilience, she worked ceaselessly for the Republic in spite of health difficulties. She witnessed at close quarters the murder and mayhem around the transfer of power to her comrades and then experienced the growing bitterness between those former friends. As some revolutionaries conformed, others were marginalised. The old unity and loyalty disappeared. Muriel took the Republican side and was present at the heart of the initial fighting during the first days of the Civil War madness.

She returned to the USA in September 1922 and stayed for almost a year trying to gather financial support for the anti-treaty side. Her daughter Māire was looked after by Madame O’Rahilly as part of the O’Rahilly family in their home in Dublin. Māire in her memoir History’s Daughter (2005) described this period as “one of the happiest years of my childhood and the longest period that I spent in a family situation.”

The book covers in great detail the relationship between mother and daughter. They spent the early summer of 1924 together at the old Murphy family home at Carrigmore which seems to have been their last period together in Cork before their emigration to Germany. Māire discusses in some detail her various German schools and the long absences of Muriel in this memoir. However as Muriel gave birth in 1926 to her second daughter Alix may well have contributed to these long absences from Máire.

One may never know the full circumstances behind the sudden appearance of Māire back in Cork in the summer of 1932. Māire describes her return from Germany as voluntary if somewhat unorthodox. Muriel always contended that it was a well-planned kidnap by Mary MacSwiney and her friends in the Church and State. Her poignant description of her desperate efforts to get support in Dublin, are very raw. She spoke with Jim Larkin, Linda Kearns and many other friends and she describes how she cried tears for her child in front of Ēamon De Valera.

Māire was made a ward of court in Ireland after informing the judge that she wished to stay with her aunts in Ireland. It was argued that her aunt Mary was already her legal co-guardian. It remains unclear to this day if this legal paperwork was actually produced as the full court papers and decision have remained sealed. Maire was then raised and educated by the MacSwiney sisters, Mary and Annie at their Scoil Íte school located off Wellington Road in Cork City.

The end result was the 50 year long tragic family estrangement of Muriel and Māire who never spoke or met again. Muriel felt deeply wounded by what she felt was a total betrayal by the MacSwiney family and its cover up by the State. An immediate result was that she became quite ill with flu and pneumonia and was depressed for a period after her vain attempts to get back her daughter failed.

Muriel Image in St. Peter’s, North Main Street, Cork presented by Jeannette Collins.

https://www.corkcity.ie/en/a-city-remembers-cork-1920-to-1923/commemorative-events/muriel-macswiney/

In her BMH statement Muriel states how she left the Catholic Church as early as the outbreak of the Civil War. The Church emerged from the War of Independence as the most powerful institution in the new State (similar to the earlier post Famine period), however Muriel was beginning her break from its influence. “I consider everyone has the right to whatever religious beliefs they think right or to the freethinker ideal which is mine”. Ironically two of her sisters, Nora and Edith joined convents. A third sister Mabel married her second cousin James Murphy and lived at Ringmahon House, near Blackrock in Cork.

Ringmahon House today. Muriel often visited her sister here.

Muriel seems to have embraced European communism and socialist ideas from the mid-20s onwards and moved freely in the German and Parisian left wing circles. Her second daughter Alix was born in May 1926 following a relationship with Pierre Kaan, a writer and independent communist intellectual. Very little is known about this relationship as there is no available reference to Muriel discussing it.

Later, Kaan became a Liberation Sud Resistance leader operating in the town of Montlucon in Central France during the Nazi occupation of nearby areas. Following betrayal in 1943, he was imprisoned, tortured and locked up concentration camps such as Buchenwald and Gleina. He died soon after liberation by the Czech resistance on 18th May 1945.

Muriel left Germany in 1933, as the Nazi takeover of Germany got underway.

She initially lived in France, spent the Second World War in the UK and then moved between Brittany and the UK. Her house in Brittany was named Ty Connolly.

Muriel kept some contact with Ireland and came and went and had extensive correspondence with the Sheehy Skeffington family, while she said she had met Tom Hales in 1953/54. Earlier Māire had married Ruairí Brugha in July 1945 and Ruairi had made great efforts to build bridges to no avail.

She was very friendly with Mrs. Kathleen McDonnell of Bandon, who had German connections, knew all the parties including Mrs. Stockley and Mary MacSwiney and who attempted to organise a reconciliation between Māire and Muriel. Muriel would not agree to any meeting.

Muriel campaigned against homelessness in Dublin and actively supported the Dublin Housing Action Committee especially praising the activities of housing activist Dennis Dennehy. She expressed “complete confidence” in Dr. Noel Browne.

Her letters and writings clearly display expressions of her socialist views and she was somewhat involved in the complicated discussions and rows within the Left during that period. Her available correspondence demonstrates her sympathy on the side of the underdogs in society to the very end of her days. Muriel not alone fought bravely for the Irish Republic, but also fought against international fascism and the control of the Catholic Church in Ireland throughout her life.

Utterly fearless, she challenged the Bishop of Southwark in 1957 when he tried to raise ten thousand pounds for a MacSwiney Chapel in the cathedral where Terence’s body reposed after his death….she told the Guardian newspaper that the money would be better spent in Ireland “where children are suffering from bad conditions caused by unemployment and lack of proper health services”. This may refer to the present Chapel of St. Patrick, which lies on the southside of the cathedral and was rededicated in 1958. There is reference to the cathedral receiving with honour, the body of Terence MacSwiney, “which rested here on the 27th and 28th October 1920”.

The MacSwiney Brugha family at the dedication of the Southwark Cathedral altar to Terence MacSwiney.

In a prescient comment about Muriel, her daughter Māire contended that “one of the main reasons for her falling out with the Roman Catholic Church was its attitude to and treatment of unmarried mothers”. However, it took a further century for the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Home reports to be published in the Republic of Ireland. These reports exposed to some degree in stark detail the treatment experienced by at least one hundred thousand Irish women who either gave birth to children in these institutions or who worked unpaid in the Magdalene laundries in the new State which Muriel witnessed being created in 1922.  Thousands of children died in the institutions and the whereabouts of their burial continues to be a source of controversy to the present day.

Ruairí Brugha died on 20th January 2006, while Māire MacSwiney Brugha died in May 2012. They were married for over 60 years.

Muriel later lived in England with her daughter Alix Blakelock (1926-2009), and her family at Tonbridge in Kent. Members of the family including Alix’s son Adrian (1948-2014) were active in Labour politics and Adrian supported the miners in the 1984/5 strike. On the 25th October 2020, at the commemoration outside of Brixton Prison, of the 100th anniversary of the death of Terence MacSwiney, among those who gathered were members of the Brugha family and Nigel Blakelock, grandson of Muriel MacSwiney.

Muriel died in the Oakwood Hospital Maidstone on 26th October 1982 almost 62 years to the day after Terence MacSwiney.

Angela Clifford who met and corresponded with Muriel regarded her as “a free spirit”. Cork journalist and author Mary Leyland in An Irishwoman’s Diary in the Irish Times September 2012 considered her to “have been charismatic in her own way, purposeful, original and fearless”.

From the few holidays she spent with her mother, Máire remembered her as “a warm and loving mother and I dearly loved her”. Terence MacSwiney himself, long resigned to bachelor hood expressed his intense love for this unusual, wealthy young lady who had innocently entered a closed circle of conspirators in Cork and took a shine to him.

In a chapter of Letters to Angela Clifford in 1996, Ms Clifford deals in chapter four with what she terms the “Character Assassination” of Muriel. Certainly, as Muriel had refused to play the grieving republican widow, she appears to have been largely removed from republican history and was rarely discussed openly in her native Cork. She was disappeared into the knowing silence of the new establishment.

Her refusal to bring up her child as a Catholic, her antipathy to the Church as an institution (Māire referred to it as “an obsession”) and her association with communists did not fit well with the prevailing conservative orthodoxy and double standards applied to her as a woman.

What is very apparent is that Muriel as an activist revolutionary woman/widow/ patriot was not allowed the same freedom or latitude in relation to her personal family life decisions as her male revolutionary counterparts. Nor were the doctrinaire positions of some in her republican circles commented on to the same degree as the conventional wisdom of Muriel’s perceived obduracy.

Muirgheal, (muir gheal…Irish for “bright sea”), the name by which she preferred to be known and with which she signed letters, is worthy of full inclusion as a serious Irish and international patriot, not solely as the wife/widow of Terence MacSwiney, but in her own right as a woman who took her own difficult path in a long revolutionary life.

Principles of Freedom, published in 1921.

In Principles of Freedom, originally a series of articles written in 1911, Terence MacSwiney considered womanhood; his heroic ideal woman was Matilda Tone, wife of Wolfe Tone because of her bravery. He also advised that “a man should learn to let his wife and children suffer rather than make of them willing slaves and cowards”.

In his poem The Path he acknowledged that the life of a revolutionary would place a harsh demand on any woman whom he wished to marry.

“I dreaded asking thee to take my hand lest on a path regretted it should lead, And lest thy heart in after years should bleed, if then ‘mid scenes unwelcome thou shouldn’t stand, And thou shouldst think: “It is a harsh demand this path makes on my labour””.

Muriel bravely survived these harsh demands.      

Gerard O’Mahony of the Cork Mother Jones Committee.     

The interview with Anne Twomey will be shown on Cork Community TV on Thursday November 25th at 8:00 pm followed by a Q&A with Anne at the Maldron Hotel.

Anne is a member of the Shandon Area History Group which recently published “Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times”

Note:

Manus O’Riordan wrote of meeting Muriel in Dublin when she visited his family home and they later exchanged correspondence.  In his last visit to the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in August 2019, his parting words were “Never forget Muriel”. His assistance is very much appreciated.

Manus O’Riordan RIP (May 30th 1949-September 26th 2021).

Further reading:

  • Muriel MacSwiney: Letters To Angela Clifford, by Angela Clifford Athol Books 1995.
  • History’s Daughter: A Memoir From The Only Child of Terence MacSwiney, by Māire MacSwiney Brugha.
  • Enduring The Most: The Life and Death of Terence MacSwiney (1995) by Fergus J Costello.
  • Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times. The Shandon Area History Group.
  • An Irishwoman’s Diary, Irish Times, September 18th 2012 by Mary Leyland
  • Muriel MacSwiney On Ballingeary, and Her Letters To A Grandson of Ballingeary. Ballingeary & Inchigeela Historical Society 2016 by Manus O’Riordan.
Anne Twomey, Historian.

The 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones will present an interview with local historian and teacher Anne Twomey of the Shandon Area History Group, in which we explore the life of Muriel MacSwiney from the available information. The interview will be shown on Cork Community TV on Thursday evening 25th November at 8:00 pm.

Tadhg Barry… “Always Keeps in the Background”.

The 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones festival will include an interview with Donal Ō Drisceoil, author of Utter Disloyalist: Tadhg Barry and the Irish Revolution. This will be shown on Cork Community Television (www.corkcommunitytv.ie) on Friday evening 26th November beginning at 7:00 pm.

Tadhg Barry…….”always keeps in the background”.

RIC Intelligence report


On Tuesday 15th November 1921, at Ballykinlar internment prison, known by some as the “World’s End Camp” close to the Co Down coast, a rifle shot suddenly split the afternoon silence. A man standing near the prison fence, waving farewell to departing friends fell backwards, mortally wounded near the heart. Unarmed, of no threat to anyone, Tadhg Barry lay dead.

Young sentry, Barrett’s single bullet ended in a shocking manner the life of man who had been 20 years in the engine room of the Irish revolution. He was the final IRA fatality of the brutal regime in this camp, in which at least eight internees died (three shot, and five from malnutrition) during 1921. These included Patrick Sloan and Joe Tormey, two friends from Moate, Co Westmeath both killed on 17th January by the same bullet.

Barry was older than most of the two thousand or so internees, a father figure in the transition of Cork from a Union Jack bedecked city at the turn of the 20th century, towards the ungovernable rebel cockpit of the War of Independence by 1921. From the strategic framework of constructing a revolution beginning with Gaelic culture and language to Gaelic games, from secret brotherhoods to Sinn Fēin, from journalism to socialist ideas, from trade union organisation and negotiation to developing the military hardware and intelligence around the dirty business of fighting a war in the streets and laneways of his native city, his fingerprints were obvious to those who knew.

Historian and author Donal Ō Drisceoil, who has constantly shone a light on Tadhg Barry describes him as “a doer”.

To observers he seemed to have been around forever, always smiling, low key, unassuming yet possessing the razor sharp wit of his native streets, his progress through the myriad groups and local activist alliances in the political ferment always gathering momentum.

Tadgh Barry front row left alongside Tomás MacCurtain. Terence McSwiney, back row, second from the right.

The Royal Irish Constabulary intelligence reports were very uncomplimentary and vindictive; Barry was variously described as “a leading Cork City extremist”, “notorious Sinn Feiner”, “in touch with all the leaders prior to the (1916) rebellion”, “mischievous, socialist, bolshevist……generally of the Napper Tandy type”. And most of all, Barry “always keeps in the background”. Tadhg Barry was a marked man!

Born in 54 Blarney Street on 25th Feb 1880 into a working class family, Barry was educated at the local Blarney Street school and the nearby North Monastery. Afterwards he worked at various jobs and then in 1903, he emigrated to London for a while.

Soon after his return, he became very active in the Gaelic Athletic Association (G.A.A.). He engaged in reorganising the GAA County Board and helping to establish the various playing competitions as well as the infrastructure of the main playing ground along the Marina known as the Cork Athletic grounds, now the home of the impressive Pāirc Uí Chaoimh stadium!

His efforts to promote hurling at his rugby playing alma mater resulted in the North Mon School becoming by 1916 established as a vital hurling nursery for the game for the future decades. He also encouraged the playing of camogie in the city and even found the time to manage a ladies team. Tadhg was especially associated with encouraging hurling in the Sundays Well, and Blarney Street areas, and was involved with the original Sundays Well/St. Vincent’s GAA Club in Cork.

A voracious reader, he worked as a journalist writing as “An Ciotóg” (a left-handed person!) for the Cork Free Press, the newspaper of the All For Ireland League (AFIL), which dominated Cork politics at the time.

Although deeply embroiled in the local rivalry in Cork between the Irish Party led by John Redmond and All For Ireland League (AFIL), led by William O’Brien who had a strong labour base in Cork, Tadhg Barry later abandoned O’Brien who had supported the British recruitment efforts at the outbreak of the First World War.

Barry spent much time strategically subverting this recruitment for the Great War effort from 1914 onwards. He had been among the first in Cork to join the Irish Volunteers and worked alongside Terence MacSwiney, Tomas MacCurtain and Sean Hegarty who were active following the split of the Volunteers from John Redmond.

As the political ferment in the city increased, his contribution to the separatist organisations along with his pleasant demeanour and approach engendered a better collective and cooperative spirit among the various activists. Following the failure of the Cork volunteers to rise in 1916, Barry refused to give up his gun and, although dismayed at events, he simply continued working for the revolution in practical ways. He openly advocated military options and his “seditious” speeches resulted in jail terms yet he kept working to reactivate a “new” Sinn Fein and organise the companies of volunteers into a fighting force.

He began to realise more and more that organised Labour provided the key element to the coming revolution. Barry had helped to arrange meetings for socialist trade union leaders such as James Larkin and James Connolly in Cork back in 1914 – 16. Now one leader had been executed after the 1916 Rising and the other was in America. Having returned to journalism, he wrote weekly for the Southern Star, newspaper under the pen name of “Neath Shandon’s Steeple”.

Tadhg’s increasingly radical left wing analytical articles for the Irish Transport & General Workers Union (ITGWU) Voice of Labour along with his urgings for independent Irish led trade unions combined with workers growing militancy across the country suggests that he was more and more exploring this avenue of potential for revolution. The effective general strike of 23rd April 1918 against conscription organised by the Labour Congress, even if that particular bus carried many passengers, clearly pointed to the latent power of organised Irish workers.

As a full time trade union organiser from 1919 in the rapidly growing ITGWU, he concentrated on organising rural and town workers and travelled throughout the county of Cork as the One Big Union enjoyed a huge growth in membership and challenged the power of the traditionally unionist business community to set wages for a once subservient and cowed workforce. Barry’s left wing views developed and he openly wrote of the day when the workers would govern Ireland in “the interests of Irish workers” but managed to reconcile this with his Catholic beliefs.

Cork ITGWU Union Banner for Tadgh Barry.

The Catholic Church actively opposed socialism and god-less communism, and Barry as a union negotiator seems to have identified with an element of the Church’s social teachings, which justified the payment of fair wages by responsible employers. However this approach by the Union and the Church sought to reduce the potential growth of awareness of class conflict and the analysis of the fundamental basis of capitalism. Whether Barry’s revolutionary language and actions would have developed or indeed survived in the new state is unclear?

In the local elections of January 1920, Barry was elected on a Sinn Fein/ITGWU slate as an Alderman to the Cork Corporation for the north west of the city, where he lived. He carried out his many work roles through 1920 as his comrades, MacCurtain and MacSwiney and others died in the bitter war between the Crown forces and Republicans in Cork. (Barry and MacSwiney were both 40 years old when they died, Barry lived just over 50 days more than his comrade.)

Tadhg Barry was arrested for the final time on 31st January 1921 and was detained at Ballykinlar Camp on the north east coast of Ireland. Each of his three extended periods in jail after 1916 were spent in appalling prison conditions. He missed out on the final months of the War of independence and was shot dead only twenty four days before all prisoners were released after the signing of the Treaty on 6th December of that year.

Following his death, the entire Sinn Fein/IRA/Trade Union/GAA/ Gaelic societies and Catholic Church united for what turned out to be the last time to provide Tadhg Barry with arguably the largest Irish funeral ever seen as his remains were transported from Co Down, through the many towns on the way and the streets of Dublin and Cork to St Finbarr’s cemetery in Cork. Photographs of the enormous funeral march from Dublin and Cork show densely packed streets everywhere.

He was then largely forgotten, except by his own family and close friends!

Tadgh Barry Grave at St. Finbarrs Cemetery (Incorrect age at death).

Tadhg was the main earner in the Blarney Street household which contained his deceased sister’s three children and he also supported his brother Patrick who had health issues. While some monies were paid out to the family following Tadhg’s death, the official military correspondence about military medals and pension penny pinching reflects poorly on the new Irish State. Tadhg’s active invisibility to those who did not know and his more vocal public socialist views were perhaps a convenient excuse for deliberate bureaucratic inertia!

Tadgh Barry Road, named in 2013.

The tragedy is that Tadhg’s voice was never heard in the independent Ireland taking shape when voices advocating social justice were so badly needed!

Dr Donal Ō Drisceoil has recently penned ‘Utter Disloyalist: Tadhg Barry and the Irish Revolution’ published by the Mercier Press which tells the full story of the life of Tadhg Barry. In 2011 he had also produced an excellent booklet Tadhg Barry (1880-1921) The Story of an Irish Revolutionary.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee will commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the death of Tadhg Barry in November 1921. Donal has provided an extended interview with committee member Ann Piggott about Tadhg Barry which will be broadcast during the 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival. In addition we will show the documentary Tadhg Barry Remembered, produced in 2013 by Frameworks Films in collaboration with the Cork Council of Trade Unions.

Both films will be shown on Cork Community TV on Friday evening 26th November commencing at 7:00 pm.

It will be followed by a Q&A with Donal Ō Drisceoil for those attending at the Maldron Hotel. (subject to existing Covid-19 regulations at that date).

Author, Donal Ó Drisceoil, beneath Shandon Steeple, 2021.

Why did Mother Jones wish to be buried at Mount Olive?

Every wonder why Mother Jones wished to be buried near “her boys”  at the town of Mount Olive, in Southern Illinois in the Union Miners Cemetery, which is located near Route 66 midway between Springfield and St. Louis?


Mother Jones had earlier written to the Miners of Mount Olive on November 12th 1923, seeking 

“a resting place in the same clay that shelters the miners who gave up their lives in the hills of Virden, Illinois on the morning of October 12th 1898, for their heroic sacrifice for their fellow men”.

Extract from Mother Jones and the Union Miners Cemetery Mount Olive, Illinois by the Illinois Labor History Society.

Her request was granted.

Grave of Mother Jones, Mount Olive.

 
The Battle of Virden claimed the lives of four Mount Olive miners and since 1899, October 12th has been celebrated as Miners Day in Illinois at the Union Miners Cemetery.


During the battle, seven miners were killed and forty were wounded. Five mine guards died and four were wounded. The youngest miner killed was Edward Long, just 19 years old from Mount Olive.

Virden Monument. Mother Jones rear centre.

Many activists from the Progressive Miners of America are buried at Mount Olive. Recently the remains of labour singer Anne Feeney, were placed in the cemetery.

To listen to the story of the Battle of Virden, the following is an interesting interview with local resident and historian John Alexander, an Illinois bookstore owner.
https://https://youtu.be/8qcBLQL2beg
www.buzzsprout.com/1856440/

Our thanks to JASE Media Services in Mount Olive for their kind permission to share this podcast.

Manus O’Riordan – RIP

Manus O'Riordan in 2017
Manus O’Riordan in 2017 at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival

We have learned with great sadness of the sudden death of Micheál Manus O’ Riordan on 27th September 2021. 

Manus’s emotional tribute to his father, Michael “Remembering Michael O’Riordan: A Neighbour’s Child”  at the 2017 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival, moved deeply all those who attended.

His talk was followed by a celebration of his father’s participation in the Spanish Civil War held outside the old family home on Pope’s Quay in Cork City. He was accompanied by his sister Brenda on what was the one-hundredth anniversary of Michael’s birth.

Manus with Brenda (2nd from left) listening attentively to Cork singer Rory McCarthy on Popes Quay on August 4th 2017.

Manus also attended the 2019 festival with his partner Nancy Wallach and contributed valuable insights to the lecture on Elizabeth Gurley Flynn by Lorraine Starsky.  

Micheál Manus O’Riordan commenced work in Liberty Hall for the Irish Transport and General Workers Union on 22nd March 1971. Manus carried out post-graduate work at the University of New Hampshire, USA, where he took a master degree in the economics of collective bargaining and industrial relations. On his retirement from SIPTU on 28th May 2010 as Head of Research, he stated, “For 39 years it has been my great privilege and honour to serve the One Big Union of Larkin and Connolly, No pasarán! Ni saoirse go saoirse lucht oibre!”.

Manus standing next to the wall mural of his father Michael O’Riordan on Widderlings’ Lane on Pope’s Quay, Cork.

Manus wrote widely on labour topics for books, magazines and journals, including Liberty and was an excellent speaker. While he specialised in labour and working-class history, he conducted extensive research on the Spanish Civil war as Ireland Secretary of the International Brigade Memorial Trust.

Manus with the Connolly Column banner of the International Brigades

He never forgot the activists of the Left, such as those of the International Brigades who fought Fascism in Spain. 

In a recent article on Muriel MacSwiney in the Ballingeary & Inchigeela Historical Society Journal 2016, Manus referred to a 1962 exchange of correspondence he had with Muriel MacSwiney as a twelve-year-old boy.

A beautiful singer of traditional songs, his rendering of “The Red Flag” and West Cork’s own, “The Bould Tenant Farmer”, were a joy to hear at the festival gatherings.  On behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee, we wish to express our sincere sympathy to all his family. We remember his generous assistance, cooperation and absolute delight at participating actively at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festivals.

The Celebration of Mother Jones’ “Birthday” on 1st May 1930

Mother Jones claimed to be 100 years old on that day, however she was fact born at the end of July 1837. Photograph is courtesy of Saul Schniderman, former President of the Library of Congress Guild, AFSCME 2910, and editor of Friday’s Labor Folklore. The photograph shows part of the large gathering of union leaders and friends along with her birthday cake baked by the Baker’s Union. This joyful occasion was one of the last times that Mother Jones appeared in public. We wish to thank Saul for making this wonderful photograph available.

Mother Jones Birthday : Photograph is courtesy of Saul Schniderman