“Mother Jones – Sinner and Saint”

Prof. Simon Cordery

S. Cordery

Professor Simon Cordery

Professor Simon Cordery will be the main speaker on the final day of our festival this year, Thursday 1st August (Mother Jones Day). Simon is Chair of the History Department at West Illinois University and Author of “Mother Jones, raising cain and consciousness” Below is a short article by Simon and a taster for his contribution to on August 1 at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival at the Firkin Crane theatre, Cork

To challenge the status quo, to threaten those in power, to demand justice for the sake of the downtrodden invites retribution. Only a woman of spirit—with courage to spare and a sense of righteousness—would dare to confront mega-corporations and the state. In the late nineteenth century, Mary Harris “Mother” Jones made herself into that person.

Mary Harris became Mother Jones. In her late sixties she developed the persona of a white-haired grandmother who stormed the coal mines to remind the robber barons—the “pirates,” as she called them—of their duty to workers. Armed only with a quick wit and the labor theory of value she forced Americans to confront crucial questions about the nature and direction of capitalism. For people who accepted the world as it was, this was her sin: she was the conscience the nation lacked.

But to those who suffered in the mining villages and along the coal seams she was a saint. Jubilant cries went up when “Mother” was coming to help them. She made them see how they could save themselves through collective action. She drew a clear distinction between “her” boys and the owners and politicians destroying the promise of republicanism. Mother Jones could be saucy and she could be blunt, using the language of working men and questioning their manhood whenever they cowed before the bosses, but she fought for her boys and they loved her for it.

Mother Jones could also be tender. Even as she directed her caustic speeches and ferocious anger at the corrupt and the powerful she demonstrated her concern for the plight of children. She tried to help child workers in the rope factories and the cotton mills of the South. She led striking families on a “Crusade” to berate President Theodore Roosevelt on the front porch of his vacation home. She organized “mop and broom” brigades to bring mothers into the fight and engage the children in strikes. Her struggle included the oppressed of all ages.

The spirit of Mother Jones was born in Catholic Cork and her understanding of Jesus as a radical advocate of fairness and equality. It was fertilized by lessons of her revolutionary Irish forbears. The spirit of Mother Jones took shape in the private sorrows of her young adulthood and then bore fiery fruit across the picket lines where she helped to re-shape labor’s demands and victories and bring about a new, better future.

Jimmy Crowley to play at Mother Jones festival

Jimmy Crowley


We are delighted to announce that Cork’s favourite troubadour, Jimmy Crowley, will give an afternoon performance at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival on Wednesday, July 31st.

Jimmy was born in Douglas in Cork and took up singing in the late 60s and he formed a group known as Stokers Lodge called after a landmark in Douglas where local huntsmen met for a day’s sport. He started writing songs in 1971.

As well as writing his own songs he also encouraged and promoted older working class ballads and long lost songs from all over Cork. He ran the legendary folk club at Douglas GAA club for many years. Jimmy likes to be among the real people of Cork City and to sing songs of hunters, sportsmen, deeds of valour, great and little events, the topics of conversation of the ordinary people.

His first album “The Boys of Fairhill” released in 1997, contained such classics as the Pool Song, Johnny Jump Up, Salonika, The Armoured Car and of course The Boys of Fairhill. This was followed by a second album “Camphouse Ballads” and “Some Things Never Change”. Later still “Uncorked” appeared in 1998, while “The Coast of Malabar” appeared in 2000.

Jimmy’s song about the sailing ship, the Asgard II, “My Love is a Tall Ship” is well known among the sailing fraternity. Jimmy has played all over Ireland, Europe and America and is a familiar face in Cork. Jimmy is known as the Bard of Cork and with good reason as his unique style of singing and his love of his native City, and especially the Shandon area is central to his musical vision.

Jimmy is also well known for his wonderful charity work over the years. This was seen in 2010 when the cream of Cork talent -Roy Buckley, Cha & Miah, Billa, Bill (minor)O’ Connell, Seán Óg O hAilpín, Seán Ó Sé and John Spillane led by Jimmy Crowley came together and recorded a song titled: Barracka – Buttera Song especially composed by Richard T. Cooke (Mother Jones Festival Committee) to raise funds to purchase musical instruments in Cork schools – for a very worthy cause.

The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2013 will present a unique workshop by Cork’s famous son, Jimmy Crowley: “Songs of the Beautiful City: Jimmy Crowley’s Ethnographical Journey”

Jimmy appears at the Maldron Hotel on Wednesday July 31st from 4.30 to 5.30pm.

Admission is free. Not to be missed!


Mother Jones Festival 2013 – Music Programme

Mother Jones Festival Concerts 2013

Admission Free

The following is line up for the Mother Jones Theatrical Musical Concert in the Firkin Crane, Wednesday,July 31st at 9pm is as follows:

Group: Cork Rokk Choir who will perform a medley of songs from the Mother Jones area for ( 15 minutes).

Next we will have Cork Shakespearean Company who will perform a MJ monologue for ( 7 minutes).

James P. McCarthy, Musician/Singer will perform more MJ songs (15 minutes ).

Shakespearean Company will then performing another theatrical monologue on MJ (7 minutes).

Muddy Lee will blast out Cork Songs and the new Mother Jones song titled: A True Cork Rebel by (15 minutes ).

William Hammond and friends will finish off the Concert with some popular high spirited tunes.



Maldron Hotel Concerts 2013

Wednesday, July 31st – 10.00pm:  Hank Wedel & Friends

Tuesday, July 30th – 9.30pm: The very popular Cork Singer’s Club.

Lunch Time Concerts

Wednesday, July 31st – 1pm – 2pm: Cork Rokk Choir members will perform popular songs and Muddy Lee performing good auld songs of Cork as part of the Gathering as well as the Mother Jones Song titled: A True Cork Rebel.

Thursday, August 1st – 1pm -2pm: Cork Memory Lane Group will perform popular songs.

Jimmy Crowley Workshop

Wednesday, July 31st at 4.30pm – Jimmy Crowley with Songs of the Beautiful City.
Admission Free


Thursday, August 1st – Mother Jones Day

Maldron Hotel at 10.00pm – Two Time Polka




Andy Irvine Concert

Firkin Crane Centre, Smurfit Theatre, Shandon

Thursday, August 1st at 8pm

Tickets  €15 each

Tickets available from http://www.tickets.ie and the Maldron Hotel, Shandon, Cork

Mount Olive remembers its heroes, including Mother Jones


Mount Olive is a small city of a little over 2,000 people in Macoupin County, Illinois in the Mid-Western United States.
It is situated 250 miles south-west of the metropolis of Chicago although it is just 47 miles from St. Louis, Missouri. It is a typical mid-western small town US community.

Mount Olive is best known as the burial-place of Mary “Mother” Jones whose last wish was to buried beside the victims of the Virden Massacre of 1898 in which strikebreakers and a company militia for the Chicago-Virden coal company did battle with striking members of the United Mineworkers of America.

The following photos were sent by Don and Patty Schmeder whose 30 year old union-activist son Donny is buried just yards from the grave of Mother Jones at his own last request. The Union Miners Cemetery of Mount Olive is maintained not merely as a shrine but as a testament to those who fought so that others could have rights.





Andy Irvine returns to Shandon


Venue: Firkin Crane, Shandon, Cork

Tickets: €15 from tickets.ie or

from the Maldron Hotel, Shandon or phone Jim on 0861651356

Andy Irvine - a unique performance at Shandon

Andy Irvine


Andy Irvine is a truly legendary figure in Irish folk music. Born in London in 1942, he recently celebrated his 71st birthday. Andy has been ‘on the road” for almost 50 years.

He was one of the original folkies associated with O’Donoghue’s Pub in Dublin and an early devotee of the music and songs of Woody Guthrie, the centenary of whose birth falls on the 14th July.

In 1966, he and his friends Joe Dolan and Johnny Moynihan came together to form Sweeney’s Men and a unique sound involving the interplay of bouzouki and mandolin worked itself into Irish folk music consciousness. “Waxie’s Dargle, Old Man in the Garret and Sullivan John” came from that wild period.

Always traveling, always meeting other musicians, always learning, Andy explored the folk traditions of Eastern Europe, Romania, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, all behind the iron curtain through the 60s and 70s. His trips to County Clare inspired him further! He has traveled extensively in the USA and Australia picking up songs and tunes as he goes.

The recording of the Christy Moore album Prosperous in 1971 brought together Christy Moore, Andy, Donal Lunny and Liam O’Flynn, who afterwards formed Planxty in 1972.

Their first album, known as the Black Album remains another milestone recording in Irish Folk music. Classics such as “Sweet Thames flow softly”, “The West Coast of Clare” by Andy himself and “Only our Rivers run Free” remain as landmarks in Irish folk tradition.

Albums such as “The Well Below the Valley” and “Cold Blow and Rainy Night” soon followed in a later period by “After the Break” and “The Woman I loved so Well” are remembered with affection by Irish folk music lovers.

Andy has toured extensively with many Irish folk musicians over the years such as Paul Brady, Mick Hanly, Donal and Kevin Burke, Arty McGlynn, Jackie Daly. Later still in the 80s Andy played with a group Mosaic along with Hans Theesink and others. Later still he was a member of Patrick Street. This was followed by Mozack with Donal Lunny and with Bruce Molsky adding Appalachian tunes.

His solo 2010 album Abocurragh, produced by Donal Lunny, contains the track “The Spirit of Mother Jones” inspired by his visit to the grave of Mother Jones in the union Miners Cemetery near Mount Olive in Illinois.

Andy remains active in trade union matters and is current President of the Musicians Union of Ireland

His visit to Cork to play a fundraising concert during the Mother Jones Festival in the famous Shandon Bells Church (St. Anne’s Shandon) on the evening of Wednesday August 1st 2012 was a major highlight of the Mother Jones Festival. Also his practical support for the event from its inception was much appreciated by all the committee.

We are really delighted to welcome Andy back again for the 2013 event. This time the venue is the Firkin Crane stage and a fantastic concert is planned for Thursday evening of Mother Jones Day, August 1st.

This festival fundraising concert begins at 8pm and tickets are 15 euro each. Capacity is limited to just over 200, tickets can be obtained from http://www.tickets.ie or phone Jim on 0861651356. They are also available at the Maldron Hotel and will be on sale at the festival until they are sold out.

Note, entry to all other events, lectures, films and music sessions is free on a first come, first served basis.

Mt. Olive, resting place of Mother Jones, counts cost of Tornado

Mount Olive is arguably best known as the last resting place of Mary Harris, Mother Jones and the victims of the Virden Massacre of 1898. However Mount Olive was recently in the news for other reasons. Like many surrounding districts Mount Olive suffered major damage in the May 2013 Tornado outbreaks. Our thanks to Patty and Don Schmeder who sent us these photographs of the damage caused by the tornado. Our best wishes to the people of Mount Olive and other areas damaged by the tornadoes. Hopefully they will be able to rebuild soon.


Mt. Olive Tarnado




Liverpool Echo highlights Margaret Aspinall Award

The Liverpool Echo, Merseyside’s biggest selling daily newspaper, last Saturday (June 29th) featured the decision of the Mother Jones committee to award The Spirit of Mother Jones Award to Margaret Aspinall, Chairperson of the Hillsborough Family Support Group. The Echo, which has an average daily circulation of over 85,000 copies, has been in production since 1879. The Hillsborough Disaster led to the only ever Sunday edition of the newspaper in its history when on 16th April 1989 it produced a special issue to bring news of the disaster to the grief-stricken city and surrounding areas. You can read the article on the Cork Mother Jones’ festival award here:-