Historic marker to Mother Jones unveiled on Route 66 near her Illinois resting place

The new road marker at I-55 south of Springfield, Illinois. Photo courtesy of Mike Matejka

The new road marker at I-55 south of Springfield, Illinois. Photo courtesy of Mike Matejka

A commemorative road marker in honour of Cork-born Mother Jones was unveiled near Mount Olive, Illinois on Monday (11 December) in the presence of the Honorary Irish Consul in Chicago, Mr. Brian O’Brien. 

Brian O'Brien

Irish Consul General Brian O’Brien (Photo courtesy of Mother Jones Heritage Project MJHP)


The marker itself will be seen by over a million people a year who come to take a break just off the world-famous Route 66.   After the ceremony, Mr O’Brien visited the indoor exhibition area at the location. They the group travelled to Mount Olive where Mr. O’Brien placed a wreath at the grave of Mother Jones in the Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive.


The wreath contained the words of her motto “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living” in both Irish and English. There then followed a toast to Mother Jones at the grave which was celebrated using Red-Breast Whiskey. Congratulations to everyone involved in this amazing project.  


Group at the grave of Mother Jones at Mount Olive. (L-R): Brigid Duffy of Irish American Heritage Center,   Mother Jones Performer Amy Rueff of Illinois American Federation of Labor, Rosemary Feurer of Mother Jones Heritage Project and Consul General Brian O’Brien



The Wreath with inscription in English and Irish

Our thanks to Prof. Rosemary Feurer of the Mother Jones Musuem for forwarding photos and other material.

Rory McCarthy sings “Valley of Jarama” at ceremony to mark centenary of Michael O’Riordan

Cork singer Rory McCarthy sings “Valley of Jarama”, a song from honouring the International Brigades . A short ceremony was held across the road from 37, Pope’s Quay, Cork where Michael O’Riordan was born was born in 1917. The young O’Riordan left from here in 1938 and travelled to Spain to fight on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, in opposition to fascism. Seriously injured, O’Riordan returned to Ireland as the war ended with the defeat of the forces of democracy. Later he was a leading member of the Communist Party of Ireland and served as its General Secretary for many years. O’Riordan died in 2006. His son Manus and daughter Brenda were present for the ceremony which was part of the 2017 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival surpasses previous events

Large crowds were typical at most events

The 2017 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and summer school in the Shandon Historic Quarter ended on Saturday night 5th August when the Sweet Olive String Band played it out.

After completing some 30 separate events over 5 days, an exhausted committee and participants somehow managed to raise a glass or two of Mother Jones favourite tipple in a final toast or two as we surrounded her plaque on John Redmond Street. Endless verses of “She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain When She Comes” rang out. Amazingly, a blinding evening sun finally burst through the clouds above the old Cork Butter Market and blanketed the street and plaque in a glowing orange sunlight as Helen sang “Black Flowers” by Lynn Miles.

Throughout the previous five days we had met visitors from the USA, UK, Chile, South Africa, France, Germany and Holland as well as from all over Cork and Ireland. Songs from Jimmy Crowley such “Mick Barry – the Pride of Waterfall” …..to Susana and Jimmy’s tribute to Victor Jara of Chile….. to Jarama Valley and the evocative songs and stories of the Cork Singers Club were sung.


Jimmy Crowley

Jimmy Crowley in full song at the Maldron

We listened in an overflowing room to the story of Micheal O’Riordan, who as a young 21 year old left his home in nearby 37 Popes Quay in 1938 and went to fight fascism in Spain as he was remembered by his son Manus and daughter Brenda. And we later celebrated his life in an impromptu tribute by Rory McCarthy on Popes Quay opposite his house!

Rory McCarthy sings The Internationale opposite No.37 Pope’s Quay as Manus O’Riordan listens

We heard historian Harry Owens describe the horrors of the Spanish Civil War and Anne Twomey talked about the passion of La Pasionaria, while John Nyhan and the legendary Mick Treacy sang the songs of the lost war in English, Spanish and German. The six Limerick men who fought were brought back to life in the new documentary by Frameworks Films and the LIBMT. Earlier, Luke Dineen had vividly described the impact of the Bolshevik revolution on Cork.

We had watched A Plastic Ocean with growing unease and the final silent stunned response of the large audience signalled a world in deep trouble. Later listening to environmentalist Fr. Sean McDonagh, we quietly wondered if the revolutionary environmental change in Catholic Church teaching as represented by Laudato Si-On Care of Our Common Home from Pope Francis may even already be too late for our planet.

Marcia D’Alton explained in a revealing presentation the perplexing planning in Cork Harbour…… as we await the latest incinerator decision, while Sean O’Muiri of Save Our City described the future Cork City river planning on the banks of our River Lee.

A relative of Feargus O’Connor was present to hear Warren Davies tell us of the West Corkman who brought the revolution of democracy to Britain. The mighty river of Chartism had indeed flowed from West Cork to Britain!

Anne Twomey packed the room to tell of the brave local women who fought for Irish freedom on the northside of Cork City. Some of their proud relatives were in the audience too. Later investigative journalist, Frank Connolly told of Tom Gilmartin and the story of recent corruption Irish style in our Republic……… a Republic born of these very womens’ heroic efforts.

Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. Tony Fitzgerald, accepting urn containing earth from the grave of Mother Jones from Jim Goltz, Illinois.

Richard T Cooke and his singers sang local songs, the Mother Jones Ceili band raised the roof, while soul singer Karen Underwood originally from Chicago and taking inspiration from the personal tragedies experienced and overcome by Mother Jones gave an unforgettable performance for the ages. During Saturday morning Karan Casey sang her wonderful new tribute to Mother Jones based on “Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living”.

On Tuesday, Irish trade union leaders had discussed tactics, victories and defeats and then we had witnessed the impact of Mother Jones in the USA, the role of the Greek community and the present day mining manifestation in West Virginia where Donald Trump secured many of their votes in the remarkable Blood on the Mountain.

Sacred proclamations from the AFL-CIO and the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) were presented to the committee representing the acknowledgement by those unions of the immense role of local girl Mary Harris in union activism. Julianna described Mary’s contemporary Florence Kelley.

The earth carried from the grave of Mother Jones in Illinois by James Goltz and representing her symbolic essence was presented to the Lord Mayor of Cork. It is safe in Cork now!

Awarding of prize to Ken Fleming of the ITF

Ken Fleming (right) receives the Spirit of Mother Jones Award 2017 from Jim Nolan of the Cork Mother Jones Committee. Also in photo (centre) is SIPTU General Secretary Joe O’Flynn

Ken Fleming, the inspiring trade union organiser, in an emotional response to being presented with the 2017 Spirit of Mother Jones Award described what it meant to him and explain why it would enable him and his comrades in the International Transport Workers Federation to drive on to eliminate slavery on our seas.

Mother Jones had indeed chosen an outstanding recipient for this our highest accolade and we are reassured that she remains at work today.


Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2017 – Day 4

Today is Day 4 of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival & Summer School 2017 and promises a full day of events.  The main theme of most of today’s activity is around the Spanish Civil War (1936-1937) and we will also be honouring Michael O’Riordan who fought on the Republican side in the war and whose centenary is being marked this year.  Michael was born at number 37 Pope’s Quay, under the shadow of Shandon Steeple.

Timetable for Day 4

2017 Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Award

Ken Fleming

Ken Fleming

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is proud to announce that Ken Fleming of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and SIPTU is the recipient of the 2017 Spirit of Mother Jones Award.

Ken has been an inspector in the ITF since 2006 and the ITF Co-coordinator for Britain and Ireland since 2012 and has sought over the past decade to prevent the exploitation of seafarers on some vessels operating under Flags of Convenience visiting various ports including Cork.  Ken has recouped millions of euro in unpaid wages for foreign seafarers in Irish ports, has had several vessels detained and has ensured their crews are repatriated home.

He has tenaciously and passionately fought for the rights of seafarers and fishers on the seas and has become one of the best known and respected trade union officials in the world.

More recently, Mr. Fleming has been engaged in an international campaign to ensure decent working conditions, employment rights, proper wages and legal protection to the migrant fishers who work in the Irish and the UK fishing fleets. He called for a major overhaul of the Irish fishing industry, claiming in a submission to an Oireachtas Committee that the current regulatory permit scheme for migrant fishers has not worked and instead has led to legalised slavery for many hundreds of migrant fishers.

According to James Nolan, spokesperson for the Cork Mother Jones Committee,which presents this annual award:

“Ken Fleming has been willing to challenge the official silence on the blatant exploitation of many seafarers and migrant fishers in ships operating under Flags of Convenience in Ireland and the UK. He is a fearless, passionate and a determined defender of the workers who have been denied their rights and continually he exposes and challenges a system which treats many of them as virtual slaves”

James Nolan continued,

“Ken has bravely exposed the exploitative working practices in sections of the marine and fishing industries and he has sought to organise the migrant fishers. He has repeatedly called on the relevant State agencies to enforce a recent permit system which would allow these fishers the right to protect themselves against exploitation. We should not allow our fish to be caught or our goods to be transported or our passengers to be carried on the back of slave labour!  Ken Fleming is a worthy recipient of the 2017 Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Award.”

Responding,  Ken Fleming stated,

“I am deeply touched by the belief the Mother Jones committee have shown in my work, by selecting me for this very special award. It has been a very long and hard road, but this award has electrified me. The knowledge that a fully independent group not only recognise the work we have done, but fully support the determination to stamp out the scandalous abuse of workers completely, is inspiring. This award represents the most satisfying moment of my career.”

“It places the work of the ITF amongst a very special group of people that have devoted a great part of their working lives to see justice done. And it’s been a team effort – my fellow UK Inspectors, Liam Wilson and Darren Proctor, have faced the aggression with me head on in most ports in Ireland.”

“We can now look to the Spirit of Mother Jones for inspiration as I have a sense that she is now aware of our struggle, and my hunch is she will find a way to lend a hand.”

Video above shows Ken Fleming addressing the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation on 4th July 2017

Ken Fleming is a native of Dublin. He started work as a bus driver and worked his way through the SIPTU organisation until he was seconded from SIPTU to succeed the late Tony Ayton in the International Transport Workers’ Federation in 2006.

Ken attended the 2013 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival where in an unforgettable speech he spoke movingly and with empathy of the exploitation endured by many seafarers and fishers.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is privileged that Ken has accepted this award which is presented to people who act and work in the Spirit of Mother Jones. We are satisfied that our selection of Ken Fleming for the 2017 award is very true to this spirit.

The 2017 Award was presented to Mr. Fleming by the Cork Mother Jones Committee on today (Thursday) afternoon August 3rd at the Firkin Theatre, in the Shandon Historic Quarter of Cork.


The Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Awards to date have been,


  • 2013, Margaret Aspinall and Sue Roberts (Hillsborough Family Support Group)
  • 2014, Gareth Peirce, solicitor.
  • 2015 Fr Peter McVerry. Campaigner for the homeless.
  • 2016 Mr.  Dave Hopper (RIP) General Secretary, Durham Miners’ Association.


Spirit of Mother Jones Festival – Day Three (Thursday, 3rd August)

Timetable for Day Three of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival – Thursday, 3rd August 2017.

There is an environmental theme to today’s events which begin at 11.00am with what promises to be an interesting and topical talk by Councillor Marcia D’Alton on “The Environmental Battle for Cork Harbour”.

We will have Music at the Maldron Hotel at 1.00pm and at 2.30pm at the Firkin Crane we will be showing the thought-provoking documentary “A Plastic Ocean” by Australian journalist and film-maker Craig Leeson.

at 7.30pm we will have a lecture at the Maldron entitled “Climate Change – Our Response” by Fr. Sean McDonagh who has written extensively on environmental issues and is currently President of An Taisce.

All are welcome.