Loretta Williams to play Mother Jones at festival

American actress Loretta Williams will appear at the 2018 Spirit of Mother Jones festival and will give a number of performances including at the formal opening in front of the Lord Mayor, Cllr Mick Finn. 

Loretta Williams as Mother Jones with Jim Alderson as “General” Alexander Bradley

Loretta Williams, a historical reenactor from Illinois, portrays Mother Jones through fiery and original presentations. She has performed in Mt. Olive, Illinois at the Union Cemetery and Mother Jones Museum. She has also taken her presentations to various civic and cultural organizations.

Her re-enactments of diverse historical personalities are presented through Alton Theatre’s Vintage Voices and Living History Tours for the Alton, Illinois Convention and Visitors Bureau. Loretta’s performances bring to life the personalities that helped shape the political and cultural dynamics of the Midwest.

Loretta Williams

Loretta Williams reprises Mother Jones at the Mother Jones memorial in Mount Olive

The Mother Jones Museum utilises Loretta’s Mother Jones portrayal to educate children and adults concerning the struggles experienced by miners, labourers and their families. Loretta looks forward to sharing her experiences as Mother Jones with visitors to the Mother Jones Festival in 2018.

Loretta will be staying in Shandon and making appearances at the festival, so let’s ensure a warm Shandon welcome to Mount Olive’s own Mother Jones to the birthplace of Mother Jones in Cork.




“Mary, Annie and Muriel MacSwiney – Extraordinary Women in Extraordinary Times.”

Anne Twomey of the Shandon Area History Croup will speak on Thursday evening 2nd August in the Firkin Crane Theatre at 8pm.

Her topic is “Mary, Annie and Muriel MacSwiney – Extraordinary Women in Extraordinary Times.”



Muriel, Mary and Annie MacSwiney

Background general profiles of the MacSwineys.

Annie (left) and Mary MacSwiney

Mary MacSwiney was born in Surrey, England in 1872.  She received her early education at St Angela’s school on St. Patrick’s Hill in Cork city. Later she attended Cambridge University in the UK where she obtained her Higher Diploma and worked as a teacher in Farnborough. Following her mother’s death she returned to Cork around 1904 and looked after her younger siblings. Her father had emigrated to Australia and died there in 1895. Initially she took an active interest in the Suffragist movement and later gradually drifted away and as nationalist fervour grew in Cork, she was one of the founders of a Cork branch of Cumann Na mBan, the founding meeting itself taking place in her parlour.

Following the 1916 Rising, she was sacked from St. Angela’s due to her political activities and proceeded to establish St. Ita’s (Scoil ĺte) which was located at 4 Belgrave Place, off Wellington Road in Cork city. The school opened on 4th September 1916, Mary was the principal of the school and taught there for almost three decades. Following the death of her brother Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney on hunger strike in November 1920, she was elected to the Second Dáil for Cork City in May 1921. Later she was elected to the Third Dáil as an anti-treaty candidate and remained an abstentionist TD until 1927 when she was unseated.

Cumann na mBann

Members of Cumann na mBan, Cork

She refused to join De Valera’s Fianna Fáil party and never accepted the authority of the Irish government post 1921. She remained a devout Catholic all her life, and had been a member of Third Order of St Benedict from early on in her life after she had decided not to become a nun.  Mary continued teaching until her death on 8th March 1942. She lies in the family grave in St Joseph’s cemetery, Ballyphehane in Cork city.

Her personality was described by Charlotte H. Fallon in a biography of Mary MacSwiney (Soul of Fire, Mercier Press 1986), as “complex and sometimes even contradictory. To those who knew her personally, she was a warm loving woman full of good humour and intelligence”.  Yet Ms Fallon also states the Mary’s “actions and responses were comparatively easy and predictable as she saw things in terms of black and white, right and wrong, with no possibility for various shades of colour or interpretation.”

Her niece Maire MacSwiney Brugha in “History’s Daughter”, (O’Brien Press 2006) described her thus “She had a brilliant intellect, absolute integrity and never wavered in her political principles, no matter at what cost to herself”


Annie MacSwiney (Eithne) was younger than Mary, taught English and Maths and had graduated with a degree in Science from Newman College, later University College Dublin (UCD) where she was friendly with Hanna Sheehy Skeffington who also attended the college.  She proceeded to teach in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight prior to 1914. Having taught English to mainly German and Dutch students she remained in contact with many of them throughout her life. Annie returned to Ireland and taught at St Ita’s where she was a highly respected teacher and worked there for her entire life.

The MacSwiney family around 1900

Annie stayed away from public engagements preferring to concentrate on her teaching however she displayed courage when she went on hunger strike for several days in November 1922 outside the gates of Mountjoy Jail while Mary was on hunger strike inside.

She spoke with an “Oxford accent” (as indeed did Mary), was also a devout Catholic and spent much of her time in and around her home at Belgrave Place on the north side of Cork city. She suffered a heart attack in 1953 and died in 1954. Sadly the school to which she had devoted her life, finally closed in June 1954 with many of the junior pupils going to Scoil Mhuire at nearby 2 Sidney Place.



Muriel MacSwiney

Muriel MacSwiney (née Murphy)

Muriel Murphy was born on 7th June 1892 at Carrigmore, in Montenotte, Cork city. She was born into the wealthy Catholic Murphy family, owners of Cork Distillery and Brewery which produced Paddy whiskey and Murphy’s Stout. The youngest in the family, she was educated in an English convent in Sussex where she claimed “she learned literally nothing except how to be a lady”.

Described as a rebellious young woman, there appears to have been much internal Murphy family conflict over her growing new nationalist politics. While visiting Tilly Fleischmann’s home in Cork after Christmas 1915 for a recital, she played the piano to the gathering which included Terence MacSwiney. The latter recited some poems he had composed. Thus began their relationship, which experienced significant opposition from the Murphy family.

Muriel and Terence were married on 9th June 1917 at Bromyard, Herefordshire in the UK where Terence had been sent following the post 1916 roundups by the British authorities. Muriel gave birth to a daughter Máire who was born on 23rd June 1918, while Terence was in Belfast Gaol. Nearly one half of the four years of Terence’s life subsequent to 1916 was spent in prison, he was arrested six times between 1916 and 1920 and he was never at home for more than a few days at a time. (Enduring The Most – The Life and Death of Terence MacSwiney by Francis J. Costello, Brandon Press 1995)

MacSwiney family 1920

Terence and Muriel MacSwiney with their daughter Maire shortly after Terence’s election as Lord Mayor of Cork in 1920.

The events before, during and following the death from hunger strike after 74 days of Lord Mayor Terence MacSwiney on 25th October 1920 were traumatic for Muriel. The international impact of MacSwineys death was enormous and Muriel toured America with Mary MacSwiney soon afterwards where both addressed vast crowds. Muriel received the Freedom of New York City in 1922, the first woman to be honoured. However she returned severely exhausted and began to suffer from bouts of depression.

She left Ireland for Europe with her daughter Máire in 1923. Máire spent much of her childhood in Heidelberg in Germany, where she learned German, attended schools and spent long periods without the presence of Muriel. (See History’s Daughter) Then in 1932 she was assisted by Mary MacSwiney to return to Cork where she lived with her aunts at Belgrave Place. Muriel lost a subsequent court custody battle for Máire and in 1934 she disappeared completely from her daughter’s life. Máire later married Ruairí Brugha, son of Cathal Brugha in 1945.

According to Maire, Muriel spent much of her time in Paris where she became involved in left-wing and communist politics. She formed a relationship with a French intellectual

Pierre Kaan

Pierre Kaan (1935)

Pierre Kaan and had a daughter Alix on 5th May 1926 in Germany. Pierre Kaan was a writer and a member of the French Communist Party who later played an active role in the French Resistance and was deputy to Jean Moulin. Kaan was betrayed to the Gestapo, sent to a concentration camp and died later as a result of his treatment on 18th May 1945, aged 43. (See article by Manus O’Riordan, Ballingeary & Inchigeela Historical Society 2016 Journal).

In spite of various efforts over the years to promote a reconciliation between Muriel and the MacSwiney and Murphy families, Muriel refused to reconnect with her daughter or other family relations. Muriel MacSwiney died at Oakwood Hospital, Maidstone on 26th October 1982 at the age of 90, 62 years almost to the day after Terence.

Anne Twomey

Cork Historian and author Anne Twomey


Anne Twomey of the Shandon Area History Group will tell the extraordinary story of the MacSwiney sisters and their sister-in-law Muriel Murphy MacSwiney at the Firkin Crane Theatre on Thursday 2nd August at 8pm.     

NAMA-land – Frank Connolly’s latest book


NAMA-land cover

The investigative journalist, Frank Connolly will appear at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and summer school on Saturday morning the 4th August at 11am at the Firkin Theatre.

Mr Connolly will discuss his latest book NAMA-Land: The Inside Story Of Ireland’s Property Sell-Off And The Creation Of A New Elite. (Published by Gill Books 2018).

Frank Connolly

15.7.08. Dublin. FRANK CONNOLLY Writer/Journalist. ©Photo by Derek Speirs

Following the crash of the Celtic Tiger in 2008, the Government established the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) in 2009. It was designed to manage the disastrous position of Ireland’s the “bad” banks which had huge loans outstanding from builders, developers and property speculators resulting from the dramatic fall in value in property prices and their own reckless lending practices.

What followed was the largest transfer of €31.8 billion in loans which had a book value of €74 billion in property assets from public ownership to private interests. This mechanism was designed to save banks, which had huge distressed debts on their books from the collapse by effectively providing them with liquid funds using Government borrowed money following the transfer of their bad assets to NAMA.

Frank Connolly questions why these assets were subsequently disposed of in large bundles to global hedge funds and to vulture funds which “sweat out” their acquisitions in order to maximise their returns on the assets which they have obtained from NAMA at a fraction of their true worth.

protest Dublin

Housing protest

One of the result is that many thousands of Irish people have lost homes and properties as these funds “collect” on their investments which they obtained at a substantial discount. Increasingly long established tenants are being evicted as the vulture funds claim they wish to upgrade these apartments which they acquired as “job-lots” in order to increase substantially the subsequent rents. The State is often left with the rehousing costs of the former tenants.

Nama-Land “will hopefully provide an insight into one of the most significant and far-reaching political and financial experiments in the history of the state, one which will have a profound impact on Irish society and its people for many years to come”.

“Frank Connolly’s careful and penetrating investigative research has exposed critical truths about malfeasance in high places and the often ugly workings of political power generally, actions that have caused great harm to the general population” Noam Chomsky.

Frank Connolly will speak at the Firkin Crane Theatre on Saturday morning 4th August 2018 at 11am. All are welcome.




Films at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2018

Films at the

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2018

Wednesday 1st August –Saturday 4th August 2018

Admission is free and all are welcome.

Wednesday 1st August


Cathedral Visitor Centre, 2.30: “Mother Jones, America’s Most Dangerous Woman” a film by Rosemary Feurer and Laura Vazquez.


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


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


Wednesday 1st August. 


Cathedral Visitor Centre 2.50 pm “Mother Jones and her Children” a film by Frameworks Films and the Cork Mother Jones Committee.


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


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


Release Date:  July 2014.                                 Runtime: 52 min





Wednesday 1st August


Firkin Crane Theatre 7.30 pm


“Fords – Memories of the Line”. A documentary produced by Frameworks Films and the Ford Ex-workers’ Group. Irish Premiere.



Emma Bowell and Eddie Noonan of Frameworks Films

Fords – Memories of the Line’ is a documentary about what is was like to work on the assembly line at Ford’s car manufacturing plant in Cork, which operated from 1917 to 1984. Much as the workers built the cars on the assembly line, a group of former workers build a picture, piece by piece, memory by memory, of life on the line. 2017 marked the centenary of the foundation of the factory in Cork and in this documentary, it is the men who built the cars, rather than the man who founded the factory, Henry Ford, who are celebrated, although his role too is acknowledged. Finally the documentary details the final closure of the factory on 13th July 1984 and the impact this had on the men, their families and the city of Cork. Over 800 workers lost their jobs with the closure.

This documentary as told by the former Ford workers should not be missed by anyone who worked in the factory on the Marina or their family members.


Release Date: 2018                                                     Runtime: 60 minutes




Thursday 2nd August.


Firkin Crane Theatre 6.00 pm “Up to the last Drop – The Secret Water Wars of Europe.”

A documentary by Yorgos Avgeropoulos. Produced by Small Planet Productions. Co – produced by ARTE GEIE (France), ERT (Greece), KG Productions (France).

This timely documentary poses a central question: Is water for the European Union a commercial product or a human right?

As Europe is going through a crisis that is not solely economical, millions of European citizens demand a response to a crucial question: is water for the European Union a commercial product or a human right? Until today, the European Institutions have not given a clear answer. The EU has still to recognize water as a human right, as the UN did in 2010.

At the same time, cities, regions and countries all around the world are increasingly rejecting the water privatisation model they had adopted for years and are municipalising services in order to take back public control over water and sanitation management.

In Europe, the majority of the cases have been recorded in France, home of the most powerful and influential private water multinational companies of the planet. Nine cases have been recorded in Germany.

Although Berlin and Paris have recently taken back public control over their water services, the financial and political European elites are demanding from Greece, Portugal and Ireland to privatise their public water systems. Provisions about water can be found in every bailout agreement, which Greece, Ireland and Portugal have signed with the Troika signed between the debt-ridden countries and their lenders.

Up To The Last Drop follows the money and the corporate interests during a period of four years in thirteen cities of six EU countries. It’s a documentary film about water that reflects contemporary European values and the quality of the current European democracy.


Website: http://www.uptothelastdrop.com


Release Date:  2017                                    Runtime: 58 minutes




Saturday 4th August


Firkin Crane Theatre 5pm.




Presented in association with the Quay Co-op and in conjunction with Cork LGBT + Pride Week.


In memory of Mark Ashton.


Pride was produced by the BBC Films and directed by Matthew Warchus.

This film is a true story of solidarity between an improbable alliance of Gay-rights activists known as the LGSM, (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) based in London and the striking miners from the Dulais Valley in South Wales.

The year is 1984 and the miners, led by Arthur Scargill, are on strike across most of Britain. The proud mining communities are suffering from the draconian actions imposed by the Margaret Thatcher led government and Tory press which have vowed to crush them.

The frisson and bonds between the gay rights activists and the mining community are portrayed with an accuracy, sensitivity and an edge rarely captured on film. It is an emotional journey for anyone who has ever felt marginalized and the final scenes are simply unforgettable. Pride, which portrays actual events and real people will renew people’s faith in basic solidarity and its legacy will endure.

Release Date: 2014                    Runtime: 2 hours.


The story of Thomas “Corkie” Walsh

Thomas “Corkie” Walsh

The name of Thomas “Corkie” Walsh would not be one which would have been well known in Cork until recently. Certainly at the time of his death in 1918 he was an important figure in Cork trade union and republican circles and his funeral was attended by thousands of people, yet in later years he was largely forgotten.  That changed as the centenary of his death in 2018 led to a number of events to retell the story of Thomas “Corkie” Walsh and honour his memory.  This memory will again be rekindled at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival with a lecture by local historian Luke Dineen.

Thomas Walsh was born in Cork around 1882.  The family had strong Irish republican credentials.  His sister Éibhlis (Elizabeth) married Tomás MacCurtain in 1908.  MacCurtain would go on to lead the Irish Volunteers in Cork in the 1916 Rising although the rebellion never got off the ground in Cork due to contradictory orders from the Volunteer leadership in Dublin.   In 1920 Mac Curtain, then Lord Mayor of Cork , was murdered by British crown forces at his home in Blackpool in front of his wife and family.  Walsh’s sisters Susan and Annie were also living in the MacCurtain home and witnessed the murder of Lord Mayor Mac Curtain.

Mac Curtain family

Lord Mayor Tomás MacCurtain pictured with his wife Eibhlís and their children shortly before his murder in 1920. Éilis was a sister of Thomas Walsh

Thomas was apprenticed from an early age to become a stone mason, an ancient trade that has existed since before the building of the pyramids or indeed Ireland’s own ancient Newgrange.  He was Cork branch of the Ancient Guild of Incorporated Brick and Stone layers which today continues having merged into the Building and Allied Trade Union (BATU).

The young Corkman moved to live in Dublin in 1914 and the following year he joined the Irish Citizen Army, which was founded by James Connolly, Big Jim Larkin and Jack White to protect workers who had been attacked by police and military while on picket duty during the 1913 Dublin Lockout.    It was in Dublin that he was given the nickname “Corkie” due to his Cork origins and accent.


Funeral scene from the Cork Examiner

In 1916 the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army united to launch a rebellion, the Easter Rising,  for Irish independence.  Walsh was one of a number of participants of the Rising who probably fought under the command of Commandant Sean Connolly at Dublin City Hall.   While he was helping other comrades to erect makeshift barricades in preparation for the inevitable arrival of British military, Walsh was recognised by a group of Dublin friends who began to joke and mock him with his nickname “Corkie” and began to kick his barricade.  In order to disperse them he fired a shot in the air which was the first shot fired in Dublin during the Rising although it had been fired without intent to harm.

Walsh was captured by British troops at the City Hall.  He was one of around 100 participants to be sentenced to death but had his sentence commuted to 10 years penal servitude. It is interesting to note that Walsh was one of the very first of the rebels to be court-martialled – just one day after proclamation signatories and leaders Padraig Pearse, Thomas McDonagh and Tom Clarke. This and the severity of his sentence would suggest he was quite an important figure as far as the British were concerned. After a short period of detention in Dublin he and hundreds of others were transferred to Frongoch internment camp in North Wales.  His brother-in-law Tomás MacCurtain along with other Cork Volunteers, was also detained in Frongoch and it is likely that they met there once again.     The conditions in Frongoch were appalling, one of the two camps was a former distillery and it was cold, damp and had inadequate sanitation. Like a number of other internees, Walsh became ill due to the poor conditions and died within a short time of his release, passing away at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin on 2nd March 1918.  He was 36 years of age.  His remains were returned to his native Cork where he was buried at St. Finbarr’s Cemetery after a funeral attended by many thousands of people.


Unveiling of new memorial gravestone to Thomas “Corkie” Walsh at St. Finbarr’s Cemetery

Unfortunately over the years Thomas Walsh was largely forgotten about and it took the event of his centenary to bring his memory to the fore again.  Thanks to the diligent research by members of the Cork Masons led by their historian Jim Fahy, the memory of Thomas “Corkie” Walsh has been rekindled and a new limestone gravestone, carved by local mason Tom McCarthy, was officially unveiled on 2nd March 2018, the centenary of Walsh’s death.


Thomas Walsh’s 1916 Rebellion medals

The story of Thomas “Corkie” Walsh will be told by local historian and regular contributor at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival, Luke Dineen.  The lecture will be delivered on Thursday, 2nd August 2018 at 11.00am at the Cathedral Visitor Centre (at the side of the North Cathedral)




Votes for All Women: the tricky issue of class politics in the Irish suffrage movement

Louise Ryan will speak at the Spirit of Mother Jones festival and Summer School on Friday afternoon 3rd August at 2.30 at the Cathedral Visitor Centre.

She will address the topic, “Votes for All Women: the tricky issue of class politics in the Irish suffrage movement”.

The Irish citizen

Irish Citizen newspaper

Louise Ryan, originally from Cork, is a graduate of UCC. Louise is a Professor of Sociology, and co-director of the Migration Research Group at the University of Sheffield. She is the author of Irish Feminism and the Vote(1996) and (with Margaret Ward) Irish Women and the Vote (2007) as well as numerous academic papers on suffragism in journals including Women’s History Review and Women’s Studies International Forum.

Louise Ryan

Louise Ryan





Her most recent book, Winning the Vote for Women: the Irish Citizen Newspaper and Suffrage Movement in Ireland was published by Four Courts Press in 2018. Louise has appeared on numerous radio programmes and TV documentaries. She also written recent articles about the Irish suffrage movement for the Irish Examiner, Irish Times and Sunday Business Post. Louise has participated in Vote 100 events in Leinster House, The Royal Irish Academy, the House of Commons, Westminster, and Richmond Barracks, Dublin.

The Irish Citizen newspaper was founded by Hanna and Francis Skeffington and was published from 1912 to 1920. This paper provides historians with a “vivid picture” of suffragists’ issues during that period. The newspaper clearly shows that the contributors to the newspaper were concerned not just with the franchise but with a much wider array of issues affecting women generally.

Louise Ryan originally wrote Irish feminism and the vote: an anthology of the Irish Citizen newspaper, 1912-1920 back in 1996 and she has again performed a huge contribution to a more complete understanding of this exciting and turbulent period by republishing an updated and revised edition entitled Winning the Vote for Women: The Irish Citizen Newspaper and Suffrage Movement in Ireland.

Among the many issues debated in the Irish Citizen were the suffragists’ attitudes to work, class, wages and trade unions. It is easy to dismiss the suffragists as middle-class liberals from the leafy suburbs however clearly the movement contained within it a broad spectrum of ideas and views. Suffragists such as Louie Bennett, Winifred Carney, Cissie Cahalan, Meg Connery, Marion Duggan, Mary Galway, Margaret McCoubrey and Marie Johnson raised the issues of wages, exploitation, class and workers’ rights throughout this period and their debates and lively discussions appeared regularly in the pages of the Irish Citizen.

Professor Ryan will examine these differences and contradictions within the suffragist movement and the relationship between class politics and gender politics which are perhaps as relevant today as one hundred years ago.