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.

The Limerick Soviet of 1919

Limerick Trades Council

Photo: Limerick Trades Council in 1919.

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

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

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

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

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

John Dowling in 1919

John Dowling in 1919

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

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

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

Limerick Soviet film by Frameworks Films

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2019 – Press Launch

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Launch of the 2019 Spirit Of Mother Jones Festival and Summer School at the Maldron Hotel on Wednesday 26th June 2019 at 1pm by Cllr John Sheehan, Lord Mayor of Cork.

Click here to view or download the full brochure

 

Spectacular March of the Mill Children pageant planned for Shandon.

 The Eighth Spirit of Mother Jones festival and Summer School will take place in and around the Shandon Historic Quarter from Wednesday 31st July until Saturday 3rd August 2019.

 

The festival celebrates the life and achievements of Cork woman, Mary Harris who was born in the Shandon area in 1837 and went on to become Mother Jones, known as the “most dangerous woman in America” due to her activism on behalf of the miners, and exploited workers.

 

Over 30 events will be held, and will include dozens of participants from the US, UK and from all over Ireland. Events include the summer school itself as well as a host of singers, poets, films, book launches, music and the traditional toast at the Mother Jones plaque to conclude the festival.

 

One of the principal highlights will be the very first performance and recreation on the streets of Shandon of the historic March of the Mill Children led by Mother Jones in July 1903.

 

In cooperation with Cork Community Art Link and the Blarney Street Foroige group, the Festival committee have organised a pageant to celebrate this huge event in US history, which highlighted the exploitation of young children who were forced to work in the mines, mills and factories of America at the beginning of the 20th Century. (See note)

 

According to James Nolan spokesperson for the Cork Mother Jones Summer school.

 

“In its eighth year, the Spirit of Cork Mother Jones festival and Summer School in 2019 will be an interesting, relevant and challenging occasion. With over 30 free access events, it promises to be a wonderful four days in locations across the Shandon Historical Quarter and community.

 

Everybody who participates including speakers, musicians and committee give of their time on a voluntary basis in what is an absolutely unique festival covering heritage, labour, social justice and human rights issues.

 

We are again expecting hundreds of people to attend from the USA, the UK and from all over Ireland. (2018 saw nearly 2000 people attended events at the festival). The March of the Mill Children pageant will be the very first celebration of one of the most famous marches in the history of the USA outside of America. This took place in 1903 was organised and led by 66 year old Mother Jones. It should be an amazing morning in Shandon.”

 

Declared  James Nolan.

 

Other talks include  remembering the The Whiddy Disaster. This explosion in Bantry Bay in January 1979 caused the greatest loss of life of workers and seafarers in the history of the Republic of Ireland. The relatives of both the Irish and French people who lost their lives are still seeking justice. Michael Kingston who has led the campaign will speak along with Tom MacSweeney.

 

Briege Voyle, the daughter of Joan Connolly who was among those shot dead in Ballymurphy on the 9th August 1971 will speak on the impact of what has become known as The Ballymurphy Massacre. The will be followed by a showing of the Channel Four documentary, The Ballymurphy Precedent, directed by Callum Macrea, is a stunning account of events in Ballymurphy in Belfast on the days following the introduction of Interment Without Trial in August 1971.

 

We’re delighted to welcome back Professor Elliott J Gorn from Chicago, whose book in 2001 Mother Jones – The Most Dangerous Woman in America, led to the discovery of the correct date of Mother Jones’ baptism in the North Cathedral. Elliott will tell the story at the Firkin Crane Theatre on Wednesday 31st July, the opening night of the festival.

 

He will be accompanied by Joe Creedon well known historian from Inchigeelagh who will tell the story of Mary Harris’s mother Ellen Cotter who hailed from Inchigeelagh. Not to be missed by anyone with an interest in Mother Jones.

 

Current issues such as Climate Change will also be discussed. Dr John Barimo, a marine biologist from Miami will lead with a talk on Social Justice, Inequality and Climate Change, this will be followed by local schools activist Mical Neilson of Fridays for Future who organised the recent schools strikes and Alicia O’Sullivan Irish Ambassador for the World’s Oceans who have alerted us to the onset and impact of the effects of climate change on the world.

 

Of local Cork interest is the talk on John Swiney, the United Irishman whose woolen shop on Shandon Street was the HQ of the United Irishmen in Cork in the 1790s. An extraordinary character, he came back from exile in France to assist Robert Emmet in 1803. Historian Dr Kieran Groeger will provide an account of this amazing character, lost in Irish history.

 

Recently a bridge was named after Mary Elmes by the City Council, local historian and regular contributor to the Mother Jones festival Anne Twomey will give an account of her life. Another of the Irish Diaspora, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn known as “The Rebel Girl”, will have her story  told by Pittsburgh based Lorraine Starsky. Flynn had strong connections to Irish Labour leaders James Connolly and Jim Larkin.

 

Luke Dineen, historian will provide an account of the Irish Craft unions and their role in the Irish rebellion 1919 – 1923. A documentary on the Ford factory line also by Frameworks Films will be repeated.

 

The festival will remember the 100th Anniversary of the Limerick Soviet when the Frameworks Films documentary will be shown. The documentary will be introduced by Liam Cahill, author of Forgotten Revolution – The Limerick Soviet of 1919.

 

Writer and author Sean O’Tuathaigh whose recent book, Outlanders – Stories of the Displaced has been well –received will speak about his experienced among refugees and immigrants in the USA.

 

 Jimmy Crowley will again host Music at the Maldron concert on Friday 2nd August at lunchtime. The Song of Pete Seeger will be sung by perennial festival favourites John Nyhan and Mick Treacy. Richard T Cooke will again perform his Cork ballads, while William Hammond will play a traditional set. Vocalic and the Club Ceoil Ballyphehane Ballad Group also feature. Poets and writers Conal Creedon and Stan Notte are included.

 

The full programme of all the events will be released at the formal launch on Wednesday 26th June. (See  Mother Jones Festival Brochure 2019

 

This festival and summer school is almost unique in that it is entirely free to all and is sponsored by the Cork City Heritage Department, the Trade Union movement including SIPTU and the ASTI as well as the local community. It is organised by the community based and independent voluntary committee of the Cork Mother Jones Committee.

For further information contact James Nolan 0861651356 and Ger O’Mahony (Coordinator 0863196063)

For details see www.motherjonescork.com or Facebook.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Launch of the 2019 Spirit Of Mother Jones Festival and Summer School at the Maldron Hotel on Wednesday 26th June 2019 at 1pm by Cllr John Sheehan, Lord Mayor of Cork.

 

Spectacular March of the Mill Children pageant planned for Shandon.

 

The Eighth Spirit of Mother Jones festival and Summer School will take place in and around the Shandon Historic Quarter from Wednesday 31st July until Saturday 3rd August 2019.

 

The festival celebrates the life and achievements of Cork woman, Mary Harris who was born in the Shandon area in 1837 and went on to become Mother Jones, known as the “most dangerous woman in America” due to her activism on behalf of the miners, and exploited workers.

 

Over 30 events will be held, and will include dozens of participants from the US, UK and from all over Ireland. Events include the summer school itself as well as a host of singers, poets, films, book launches, music and the traditional toast at the Mother Jones plaque to conclude the festival.

 

One of the principal highlights will be the very first performance and recreation on the streets of Shandon of the historic March of the Mill Children led by Mother Jones in July 1903.

 

In cooperation with Cork Community Art Link and the Blarney Street Foroige group, the Festival committee have organised a pageant to celebrate this huge event in US history, which highlighted the exploitation of young children who were forced to work in the mines, mills and factories of America at the beginning of the 20th Century. (See note)

 

According to James Nolan spokesperson for the Cork Mother Jones Summer school.

 

“In its eighth year, the Spirit of Cork Mother Jones festival and Summer School in 2019 will be an interesting, relevant and challenging occasion. With over 30 free access events, it promises to be a wonderful four days in locations across the Shandon Historical Quarter and community.

 

Everybody who participates including speakers, musicians and committee give of their time on a voluntary basis in what is an absolutely unique festival covering heritage, labour, social justice and human rights issues.

 

We are again expecting hundreds of people to attend from the USA, the UK and from all over Ireland. (2018 saw nearly 2000 people attended events at the festival). The March of the Mill Children pageant will be the very first celebration of one of the most famous marches in the history of the USA outside of America. This took place in 1903 was organised and led by 66 year old Mother Jones. It should be an amazing morning in Shandon.”

 

Declared  James Nolan.

 

Other talks include  remembering the The Whiddy Disaster. This explosion in Bantry Bay in January 1979 caused the greatest loss of life of workers and seafarers in the history of the Republic of Ireland. The relatives of both the Irish and French people who lost their lives are still seeking justice. Michael Kingston who has led the campaign will speak along with Tom MacSweeney.

 

Briege Voyle, the daughter of Joan Connolly who was among those shot dead in Ballymurphy on the 9th August 1971 will speak on the impact of what has become known as The Ballymurphy Massacre. The will be followed by a showing of the Channel Four documentary, The Ballymurphy Precedent, directed by Callum Macrea, is a stunning account of events in Ballymurphy in Belfast on the days following the introduction of Interment Without Trial in August 1971.

 

We’re delighted to welcome back Professor Elliott J Gorn from Chicago, whose book in 2001 Mother Jones – The Most Dangerous Woman in America, led to the discovery of the correct date of Mother Jones’ baptism in the North Cathedral. Elliott will tell the story at the Firkin Crane Theatre on Wednesday 31st July, the opening night of the festival.

 

He will be accompanied by Joe Creedon well known historian from Inchigeelagh who will tell the story of Mary Harris’s mother Ellen Cotter who hailed from Inchigeelagh. Not to be missed by anyone with an interest in Mother Jones.

 

Current issues such as Climate Change will also be discussed. Dr John Barimo, a marine biologist from Miami will lead with a talk on Social Justice, Inequality and Climate Change, this will be followed by local schools activist Mical Neilson of Fridays for Future who organised the recent schools strikes and Alicia O’Sullivan Irish Ambassador for the World’s Oceans who have alerted us to the onset and impact of the effects of climate change on the world.

 

Of local Cork interest is the talk on John Swiney, the United Irishman whose woolen shop on Shandon Street was the HQ of the United Irishmen in Cork in the 1790s. An extraordinary character, he came back from exile in France to assist Robert Emmet in 1803. Historian Dr Kieran Groeger will provide an account of this amazing character, lost in Irish history.

 

Recently a bridge was named after Mary Elmes by the City Council, local historian and regular contributor to the Mother Jones festival Anne Twomey will give an account of her life. Another of the Irish Diaspora, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn known as “The Rebel Girl”, will have her story  told by Pittsburgh based Lorraine Starsky. Flynn had strong connections to Irish Labour leaders James Connolly and Jim Larkin.

 

Luke Dineen, historian will provide an account of the Irish Craft unions and their role in the Irish rebellion 1919 – 1923. A documentary on the Ford factory line also by Frameworks Films will be repeated.

 

The festival will remember the 100th Anniversary of the Limerick Soviet when the Frameworks Films documentary will be shown. The documentary will be introduced by Liam Cahill, author of Forgotten Revolution – The Limerick Soviet of 1919.

 

Writer and author Sean O’Tuathaigh whose recent book, Outlanders – Stories of the Displaced has been well –received will speak about his experienced among refugees and immigrants in the USA.

 

 Jimmy Crowley will again host Music at the Maldron concert on Friday 2nd August at lunchtime. The Song of Pete Seeger will be sung by perennial festival favourites John Nyhan and Mick Treacy. Richard T Cooke will again perform his Cork ballads, while William Hammond will play a traditional set. Vocalic and the Club Ceoil Ballyphehane Ballad Group also feature. Poets and writers Conal Creedon and Stan Notte are included.

 

The full programme of all the events will be released at the formal launch on Wednesday 26th June. (See www.motherjonescork.com)

 

This festival and summer school is almost unique in that it is entirely free to all and is sponsored by the Cork City Heritage Department, the Trade Union movement including SIPTU and the ASTI as well as the local community. It is organised by the community based and independent voluntary committee of the Cork Mother Jones Committee.

For further information contact James Nolan 0861651356 and Ger O’Mahony (Coordinator 0863196063)

For details see www.motherjonescork.com or Facebook.

 

The Radical Irish Diaspora – Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the Rebel Girl

The Radical Irish Diaspora.

The Rebel Girl.

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

Born in 1890 in Concord, New Hampshire, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was of solid Irish roots. Indeed she claimed that all four of her great grandfathers, Gurley, Flynn, Ryan and Conneran, were United Irishmen and had helped the French Army which landed at Killalla Bay in 1798.  Her mother Anne Gurley, a native Irish speaker was brought up in Loughrea, Co Galway, while Thomas Flynn, her father had strong Mayo roots. Elizabeth refers also in her autobiography to her mother’s family connections to George Bernard Shaw and the Larkins.

 

The family moved to New York in 1900 to live in the South Bronx, her early youth was blighted by poverty, yet she availed of educational opportunities and her independent spirit (she was an early vegetarian) was encouraged by her socialist parents. In the radical ferment of New York City she learned of the Molly Maguires, the Haymarket Massacre, she read William Morris, Edward Bellamy, Frederick Douglass and Upton Sinclair. Her first public speech in Times Square at the age of 16 was on the rights of women.

 

The teenage Flynn became a sensation in New York. When approached by theatrical producer David Belasco who wanted her to star in “a labour play”……..she responded “I don’t want to be an actress. I want to speak my own words and not say over and over again what somebody else has written for me. I’m in the labour movement and I speak my own piece”. She always wrote her own speeches.

 

Elizabeth crossed paths with some of the seminal figures in the Irish labour struggle.  She first met James Connolly in 1907 and they became firm friends.  He was a frequent visitor to her parents’ home before eventually returning to Ireland in 1910.  Accompanied by Connolly, who was then also an IWW organizer in New York, she attended a meeting addressed by a fiery Mother Jones in the Bronx in the summer of 1908, Flynn was so overcome at the sight of Mother Jones that she collapsed.

She later saw Mother Jones passionately defending a Jewish man against deportation at a meeting in Chicago. Describing Mother Jones as “the Greatest woman agitator of our time”, she also admitted that she was afraid of “her sharp tongue” yet Elizabeth found Mother Jones to be very sympathetic and kind to her when told of how Elizabeth had lost her first child.

Later Elizabeth became well acquainted with James Larkin when he came to the United States after the Dublin lockout. He called around to her house many times. “He was very poor and while in New York he lived in a small alley in Greenwich Village.” She also commented that “he was a magnificent orator and an agitator without equal.”

Anne, her mother regularly babysat Owen Sheehy Skeffington when Hannah had to speak at meetings in New York. Among other visitors were Liam Mellows and Dr. Patrick McCarten, the then Irish envoy to the US.

While Mother Jones played a prominent role in the founding in Chicago in 1905 of the International Workers of the World (IWW), she did not conduct union organizing campaigns under its auspices.  However, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, became one of the IWW‘s most celebrated and tireless leaders, having joined in 1906.  Her efforts to organize the most oppressed workers over several decades took her from Massachusetts, to Minnesota, to Washington on the west coast.

 

The Rebel Girl

A few hours before he was executed in 1915, Joe Hill wrote to his friend Elizabeth to tell her that she was indeed the inspiration for his song The Rebel Girl.

 

Flynn spent her entire life working for the labour movement and was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She was dedicated to free speech and campaigned actively for women’s rights and was especially critical of the male leadership of the IWW and the unions and attacked their failure to practice equality for their female members.

 

Her valiant efforts to save Sacco and Vanzetti failed and they were executed in 1927. Her beloved only son Fred Flynn died in 1940 at the age of just 29. Arrested many times, and under surveillance by the FBI, she suffered bouts of illness. Eventually Elizabeth was jailed for over two years (Jan 1955-May 1957) when caught up in the red-scare campaign under the Smith Act by the American government. She became national chairperson of the Communist Party of the United States of America in 1961.

The grave of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn at Forest Home Cemetery, Cook County, Illinois

While on a visit to the Soviet Union in September 1964, she died unexpectedly at age 74. According to her wishes, a portion of her ashes was sent back to the United States, where they were buried in Chicago. Rebellious to the end she donated her papers, a few possessions and her books to Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker house in New York City.

 

In a tribute in 1926, Eugene Debs, leader of the Socialist Party of America, stated that Elizabeth Gurley Flynn has “espoused and championed the cause of the weakest, lowliest, most despised and persecuted, even when she stood almost alone”

Lorraine Starsky will describe the life and significance of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn in a talk entitled: “In the footsteps of Mother Jones – the Life and legacy of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn

 

This will be held at the Cathedral Visitor Centre on Thursday 1st August at 11am as part of the Spirit of Mother Jones summer school 2019.

 

Lorraine is a long-time labor union and social justice activist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the United States. As a young adult she became involved in the campaign to end the Vietnam War, fighting against racism, and for womens’ rights, labour and union causes. Labour history is her lifelong passion and she has studied Irish women activists such as Mother Jones and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. She is a Public Health nurse and has herself Irish roots.

 

Sources:

The Rebel Girl…..an Autobiography. My First Life (1906-1926) by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. Published in 1955.

There is Power In A Union….The Epic Story of Labour in America, by Philip Dray. 2010 Doubleday.

James Connolly and the United States. Carl and Ann Barton Reeve. Humanities Press.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miss Mary: the Quiet Heroine! – The Story of Mary Elmes

 Mary Elmes (1908-2002)

 

Mary Elmes was born on 5th May 1908 at Cul Greine, 120 Blackrock Road in Cork. Edward Elmes, her father was originally from Waterford and her mother was Elizabeth Waters from Cork. The family ran a pharmacy at 4 Winthrop Street, in the heart of Cork city, were prosperous and lived in Ballintemple near Blackrock. The family had military connections and several relations served in the British Army abroad.  Elizabeth Elmes was also friendly with Mary McSwiney having worked together in the Munster Women’s Franchise league. The family business premises appears to have been damaged in the burning of Cork by British soldiers on the night of 11th December 1920.

Rochelle School around 1930

Mary Elmes attended Rochelle School, on the Old Blackrock Road, now closed and incorporated into Ashton School in Cork. In 1928  she enrolled at Trinity College, Dublin where Mary had an outstanding academic career. Top of her class, she was a scholar in 1931, was awarded a gold medal and gained a first-class degree in Modern Literature (French and Spanish).

In 1935, as a result of her academic achievements, Elmes was awarded a scholarship in International Studies to study at London School of Economics. This was followed with a certificate in International Studies as well as a further scholarship to continue her education in Geneva, Switzerland.

After the completion of her studies, in February 1937, Mary was invited by Sir George Young, a former British diplomat and journalist to join the University of London Ambulance Unit and was sent to a children’s hospital in Almeria in then civil war-torn Spain.

Mary Elmes at Almeria

She ran a children’s hospital in Murcia from May 1937, and worked for a period alongside Dorothy Morris a nurse from New Zealand. January 1938 saw her appointed as administrator to a Quaker established hospital in Alicante. She was not a Quaker herself.

The Quakers looked after victims on both sides of the civil war, however Mary’s work was mainly with Republican children and civilians. The hospital in Alicante came under aerial attack from the Fascist airforce with aircraft provided by Germany and Italy and had to be evacuated. In mid-1938, Mary moved inland to the mountains near Polop where they worked from an abandoned villa for the remainder of the year, caring for over 30 children.

By early 1939, as the Fascists, with superior resources defeated the Republican government and ground out victory, millions of Spanish became refugees in their own country. During the following months, some 500,000 defeated Republicans and their families fled to France.

Spanish children in Quaker run refugee camp, France

Mary eventually left Spain over the border to France in May 1939 and returned home to Cork where she stayed for a month, before volunteering to work in the Spanish refugee camps in the South of France. She worked out of Perpignan for the Quaker led International Relief organisations, distributing aid, supplies clothes and books.

World War 2 was declared on 2nd September, placing the humanitarian effort in the South of France in jeopardy. Later on 22nd June 1940, following the invasion of northern France and the fall of Paris, France became divided into the German occupied North and the collaborationist South under the Vichy regime of Marshal Petain.

The Vichy south was flooded this time by refugees from the north of France and again back in Perpignan, Mary found herself in the middle of a new humanitarian disaster. She was increasingly critical at the actions of the Vichy government towards Jews who were being rounded up and placed in concentration camps yet was also trying to prevent the expulsion of the humanitarian agencies, such as those run by the Quakers from the area.

Mary, known as “Miss Mary” to many refugees, worked tirelessly to bring aid to the Rivesaltes camp, local schools and other nearby facilities, where hunger and malnutrition was growing.

Relief organisations, including the Quakers, fearful of their fate, began attempting to get Jewish children out of the camps to America or into local respite homes where they might escape the Vichy authorities. The summer of 1942 saw the beginning of the systematic deportation of all Jews to extermination camps in Eastern Europe.

Clodagh Finn’s book

From August to October 1942, Mary Elmes, with assistance from some colleagues and others, rescued dozens of children from Riversaltes, taking them to safe houses or helping them flee the country altogether. Well aware that she was putting herself at risk, Elmes bravely hid many children in the boot of her car and drove them to safe destinations. She aided many others by securing documents, which allowed  them to escape through the underground Resistance networks in Vichy France.

From November 1942 onwards, the Nazi grip of terror tightened. In February 1943, Elmes was arrested on suspicion of aiding the escape of Jews and was imprisoned in Toulouse, later being moved to the notorious Fresnes Prison run by the Gestapo near Paris, where she was incarcerated .She was finally released without charge on 23rd July 1943. Her own children believe she may have been released after an intervention by Eduard Hempel, the German Ambassador in Dublin.

Paddy Butler’s book

Immediately returning to Perpignan, she continued her humanitarian work for the Quakers until June 1946. She married Roger Danjou and settled into a domestic lifestyle, raised two children, Caroline and Patrick and remained mostly silent about her extraordinary activities over the previous decade. After almost a decade of difficult relief works in two major wars and taking huge personal risks, she lived a quiet life. She refused the Legion d’ Honneur, offered by the French State. Her work still unknown and unrecognized, she died in France on 9th March 2002 at the age of 93.

Eventually recognition came for her courageous humanitarian work and her efforts to save Jewish children from the Nazi genocide. On 13th January 2013, she was recognized in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations, at Yad Vashem in Israel. Later in February 2019, the Cork City Council voted to name the new pedestrian bridge across the River Lee as the Mary Elmes Bridge.

Anne Twomey of the Shandon Area History Group will tell the story of Mary Elmes at the Firkin Theatre, Shandon on Thursday 1st August at 7.30. All are welcome.

Sources:

A Time To Risk All by Clodagh Finn. Gill Books 2017

The Extraordinary Story of Mary Elmes…The Irish Oskar Schindler by Paddy Butler. Orpen Press 2017.

 

 

John Swiney, Cork’s almost forgotten United Irishman

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival to commemorate the 175th Anniversary of the death of the United Irishman John Swiney of Shandon Street.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is pleased to announce that Kieran Groeger will speak at the forthcoming Spirit of Mother Jones summer school on the life and times of John Swiney.

John Swiney, (also spelt Sweeny) was a leader of the United Irishmen in Cork City in the 1790s, traded from a woollen drapery shop in Shandon and on  the 175th anniversary of the year of his death, we propose to commemorate this extraordinary Cork patriot at the Spirit of Mother Jones summer school.

One of the most effective leaders of the United Irishmen during the revolutionary fervour which gripped Cork in the 1790s, unfortunately Swiney remains largely unknown in his native place even today. His name does not appear on the National Monument on the Grand Parade.

Sean O’ Coisdealbhain in a series of articles on the United Irishmen in the Cork Historical and Archaeological Journal in the late 1940s and ‘50s provided research into Swiney’s role and concluded that he deserved to be better remembered in Cork.

John Swiney was born in Cork on 7th August 1773 and as a young man along with the Sheares brothers and many others he became interested in the radical ideas and writings such as The Declaration of the Rights of Man emanating from the French Revolution. He joined the increasingly active Society of United Irishmen in Cork while still in his 20s.

Broguemakers Hill Cork in 1937, Swiney’s original shop of the 1790s would have been over to the left just out of shot at the junction with Shandon Street

A woolen draper by trade, his shop was located near the junction of Shandon Street and Blarney Street. This shop became a centre of operations, an unofficial headquarters for the United Irishmen in Cork City and witnessed many comings and goings of activists in the mid-1790s. Cork was in a ferment of civil unrest in this period with transportation for life being the regular punishment for persons administering the oath of the United Irishmen.

Some 4000 men in Cork city had joined the United Irishmen at that time and John Swiney was one of the main leaders………..indeed he had earlier joined Lord Donoughmore’s Loyal Cork Legion and militia to learn about military tactics.

He effectively operated as an intelligence officer for the United Irishmen, which was then seeking assistance from the French government for an invasion. On the ground he campaigned against tithes and linked up to the agrarian land disturbances especially in East Cork at this time.

However the Cork United Irishmen was riven with spies, his activities and his shop was watched by the authorities. He was arrested on the 28th March 1798 while visiting Roger O’Connor in Cork Jail. On the same day, two soldiers from the Dublin County Militia were executed in the City. James Murphy and Patrick Halvey were charged with sedition, found guilty and shot at the camp field on the present day Mardyke. John Swiney had earlier distributed handbills among the militia asking them to refuse to execute their colleagues. Swiney’s importance was such that he was immediately transported to Dublin on 29th March.

One of the many plaques erected by Comorodh ’98 in 1998 to recall the bi-centenary of the 1798 rebellion. This one remembers United Irishmen James Murphy and Patrick Halvey who were executed on Cork’s Mardyke in March 1798.

Swiney was eventually sent to the bleak Fort George outside Inverness in Scotland along with 20 other leaders of the United Irishmen including Roger O’Connor (the father of Chartist leader, Feargus O’Connor) and Arthur O’Connor of West Cork, Thomas Russell (born in Dromahane, Co Cork) and Thomas Addis Emmet, whose father Dr Robert Emmet worked among the poor of Cork for many years.

Robert Emmet – leader of the abortive 1803 rebellion

His shop on Shandon Street was purchased by Cornelius Swiney of Coolroe who continued to trade in woollen goods from the premises. After more than 3 years in prison Swiney was released and banished from Ireland and sent to Hamburg in Germany. However he had not given up on his dreams of a rebellion.

A year later, Swiney slipped quietly back to Cork following an invitation from Robert Emmet to lead Cork in the 1803 uprising. Amidst the disaster and retribution which followed the brief uprising in Dublin, the authorities arrested over 40 people in and around County Cork.  Swiney found refuge in Cork city, probably with the help of Cooper Penrose at Woodhill (Sarah Curran and Lord Edward Fitzgerald both found refuge there) and fled again from Crosshaven in Cork Harbour to France where he delivered the news to Thomas Addis Emmet in Paris of his brother’s recent execution in Dublin.

Panels from the National Monument in Cork’s Grand Parade. Unfortunately it contains no mention of John Swiney.

Along with many other Irish refugees after the failed rebellions, he joined the Irish Legion established by Napoleon in 1803 and was given the rank of captain.

In 1804, Captain Swiney took part in a celebrated duel with a fellow Corkman Thomas Corbett in which Swiney was wounded but recovered while Corbett was mortally wounded.

In 1805 he married a French woman, became a property owner and made at least one visit to America on business and settled in the Bordeaux area. His naturalization papers dated December 1818 described him as a former captain and merchant of Morlaix, department of Finistere.

He died in October 1844 and is buried in the cemetery of St Martin in Morlaix.

 

The talk entitled “The Extraordinary Life of John Swiney, the United Irishman from Shandon” will take place on Thursday 1st August 2019 at the Cathedral Visitors Centre. (See later festival programme for further details).

Dr Groeger is the author of the Trial and Execution of James Cotter, and the Little Book of Youghal and has recently published The much-maligned Mary Pike, which takes people back to events in Cork city in the 1790s. He is a retired headmaster and writes articles on local history and “delights in stripping away the layers of a story and revealing the truth.”

If anyone has further information in relation to John Swiney, please email motherjonescork@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival – Timetable – Day 4 (Saturday)

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and Summer School

 programme 2018.

 

Saturday 4th August.

11.00  L   Frank Connolly,

NAMA-land…the inside story of Ireland’s property sell-off and the creation of a new elite”.

Firkin Theatre

2.30    L   Dr. Micheline Sheehy Skeffington

“Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, feminist, nationalist, socialist, pacifist – her activism in Ireland                                                           and the US”

Firkin Theatre

5.00    F    PRIDE

The true story of how a group of London-based gay and lesbian activists supported the                   families of Welsh miners during the 1984 miners strike. In association with the Quay Co-op and the support of Cork LGBT + Pride Week.

Firkin Theatre.

7.30    M  Toast and songs to Mother Jones at the plaque on John Redmond Street. Followed by music and festival closing events at the Shandon Plaza.

All are welcome.