Remembering Michael O’Riordan – A Neighbour’s Child

Michael O'Riordan in uniform

Michael O’Riordan, International Brigade Volunteer (1938)

Michael O’Riordan was born on the 12th November 1917, at 37 Popes Quay in Cork City. He was the youngest of five children. His parents, Micheál O’Riordan of Inchinossig and Julia Creed of Illauninagh came from Ballingeary in Muskerry, Co Cork.  His father, Micheál, was a carter at Cork docks and later opened his own grocery shop on Adelaide Street in Cork City’s Middle Parish.

Michael attended school at the North Monastery and even though still a young teenager, Michael became politically active in the early 1930s and took part in the confrontations with the Blueshirts (Ireland’s fascist organisation) on the streets of Cork. He joined the IRA and supported the Republican Congress under Peadar O’Donnell and Frank Ryan, which sought to establish an Irish Socialist Republic. Later he joined the Communist Party of Ireland.

The Cork City of Michael O’Riordan in the mid-thirties was in ferment, there was an atmosphere of intimidation and hysteria fuelled by reports of attacks on the Catholic Church in Spain by Spanish Republican forces. An example was on 20th September 1936, some 40,000 people attended an Irish Christian Front meeting in the City. This Front was a reincarnation of the old Blueshirts organisation, although with wider appeal.

Founded in 1936, it was led in Cork by Liam De Róiste, former Sinn Fein T.D.,  and on that evening in September, Professor Alfred O’Rahilly former T.D., Registrar and future President of University College Cork warned the huge crowd of the dangers of communism and lashed out at the trade union movement for their support of Republican Spain. Later that same night, Gardai had to baton charge Christian Front demonstrators outside the Bridewell as they had attacked a number of people, who they claimed were communists.

Christy Moore, centre, whose song “Viva La Quince Brigada” was composed while reading “Connolly Column” by veteran Micheal O’Riordan, is pictured with four Irish International Brigade veterans. Left to right: Peter O’Connor (Waterford), Micheal O’Riordan (Cork), Bob Doyle (Dublin) and Maurice Levitas (Dublin).

In was in this hostile political and social climate that O’Riordan bravely volunteered to go to Spain in April 1938 to join up with the International Brigades. He became one of about 250 Irishmen who fought on the Republican side, around 15 of them were Cork born. Some 600 other Irishmen went to Spain under Eoin O’Duffy to support Franco’s army with over 50 from Cork city and county. This “Irish Brigade” saw little action.

Having joined the XVth International Brigade, O’Riordan saw action immediately and fought in several of the engagements. He was wounded by shrapnel on the Ebro front on the 1st August 1938, having earlier carried the Catalan flag across the river Ebro in what was to prove the final Republican attack mounted by the International Brigades. Following the demobilisation of the International Brigades, O’Riordan arrived back in Dublin on December 10th 1938.

Of the contribution of Irishmen to Spain: Michael O’Riordan in his book Connolly Column stated,

“Compared numerically with the other national contributions to the International Brigades, that of Ireland was a small one. What it lacked in numbers was made up for in quality, integrity and battle-courage. The contribution was made under the most difficult of internal political circumstances”

Later in 1939 he began training IRA units in Cork and was arrested and imprisoned in the Curragh Internment Camp from February 1940 to August 1943. He learned Irish under Mairtìn O Cadhain at the language classes and was one of dozens of IRA men from Cork interned in the camp.

Michael O’Riordan (left) with Maurice Levitas (Dublin) and Peter O’Connor (Waterford) at the Jarama memorial site in Spain

On his release he became very active in labour politics and on 14th June 1946 he stood as a Cork Socialist candidate in the bye-election in Cork and polled a very creditable 3184 votes.  Michael and Kay Keohane from Clonakilty, Co. Cork were married in November 1946. They had three children. Both Kay and her sister, Máire Keohane-Sheehan were and remained committed activists in the labour and trade union movement.

He worked as a bus conductor in Cork and later in Dublin and remained active all his life in the ITGWU. Michael campaigned on many social issues such as housing, he stood in a further five general elections in Dublin and served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of Ireland from 1970 to 1983. Later he served as Chairman of the Party until 1988. He also campaigned on behalf of the Birmingham Six.

Very active in the International Brigade reunions, Michael helped to ensure the return of the remains of his old commander, Frank Ryan, from Germany in 1979. The same year he published “Connolly Column, the story of the Irishmen who fought for the Spanish Republic 1936-1939” which is the most influential and informative history of the Irishmen who went to fight and of the 60 or so Irishmen who died in the International Brigades. Honoured by the Cuban government in 2005, he was presented with the Medal of Friendship.

Manus O'Riordan

Manus O’Riordan with the International Brigades banner

Michael dedicated the book “To the memory of my Father who, because of the propaganda against the Spanish Republic in Ireland did not agree with my going to Spain, but who disagreed more with our “coming back and leaving your commander, Frank Ryan behind”. Christy Moore credited the book, which he read while on holiday in Spain, with inspiring his song “Viva La Quinta Brigada”.

Michael O’Riordan died on the 18th May 2006 aged 88. Kay had passed away in December 1991.

 

 

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Michael O’Riordan’s birth at nearby Popes Quay, Manus O’ Riordan, his son, will give a talk “Remembering Michael O’Riordan – A Neighbour’s Child” on Friday afternoon 4th August 2017 at the Spirit of Mother Jones summer school. It will form part of a wider examination that day of the events and lessons of the Spanish Civil War. Manus worked as SIPTU Head of Research for many years, retiring in 2010 after 39 years with the One Big Union. He is a noted historian and writer. For full details of the day’s events please consult the final Spirit of Mother Jones summer school programme which will be published in early June.  

 

Day 3 at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival

Days Posters 2016_Page_3

Today is the 3rd day of the 2016 Spirit of Mother Jones festival in Cork.  The first two days have been most interesting and have attracted large crowds including a number of international guests.

Today’s events begin at 11.30am with local historian Luke Dineen who will talk about the 1922 Post Office strike which was the first major industrial dispute in the history of the state.

At 2.30pm we have Anne Twomey of Blackpool Historical Society who will tell the story of the Wallace Sisters.

At 4.00pm we will show Yvette Vanson’s documentary The Battle for Orgreave which deals with the disturbing events at Orgreave during the UK Miner’s Strike. Pat Egan of Unite, the Union, himself a former miner will talk about the events.  We will include here a tribute to Dave Hopper, General Secretary of the Durham Miner’s Association who was due to speak again at this year’s festival but died suddenly earlier this month.

At 7.00pm Randall MacLowry’s film The Mine Wars will be shown. This tells the story of the West Virginia mine wars of the early years of the 20th century in which Mother Jones herself championed the rights of the miners and their.

To finish off the day, at 9.00pm a musical treat is in store with John Nyhan, Mick Treacy and Friends who will perform and sing “Songs of the Mining Tradition.

The festival continues until Monday evening, 1st August – Mother Jones Day.

 

Greenshine to play at The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2016.

Greenshine to play at The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2016.

Maldron Hotel on Friday 29th July, Tickets €5

Greenshine

Greenshine in concert

GREENSHINE is a family trio comprising Noel ShineMary Greene and their daughter Ellie. Their material straddles the boundaries of contemporary, folk and roots and includes many self-penned songs. Their fast picking and close harmonies are a treat to the ear.

Noel is a multi-instrumentalist, turning his hand to guitar, bass, mandolin, bouzouki and traditional whistle and this musical dexterity had seen him much in demand as a session and band player by artists as diverse as The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem and funk and soul legends The Republic of Loose amongst many others.

Mary brings rhythm guitar to the mix and her voice is a wonderfully versatile instrument. She is much in demand for her recording session work and has added her talents to the albums of Christy Moore, John Spillane, Mick Hanly and Frances Black as well as cult psychedelic outfit Dr. Strangely Strange.

Greenshine poster

As a duo, Noel and Mary have released 3 critically acclaimed albums to date ~ The Land You Love the Best (placed no. 3 in The Irish Times Folk albums of the year of its release), Unspoken Lines (described as ‘The heart and soul of folk music, coming from a deeper well…,’ by John Spillane) while Mary’s solo, Sea of Hearts, earned an impressive 8 out of 10 in Hot Press.

 

Ellie Shine has grown up surrounded by music and has been performing in concerts and festivals since the age of 13 including an appearance with GREENSHINE for President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina at The Abbey Theatre. Despite her tender years, Ellie has featured on 4 recordings to date. She has a huge interest in the songs of the Muskerry Gaeltacht and reached the All-Ireland final of Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann’s under 15 Sean-Nós Singing competition in her debut try-out. She enjoys singing songs of all genres and has a special place in her heart reserved for classic Beatles and country as well as good contemporary songwriting. She accompanies herself on the ukulele.

The music of Greenshine has been covered by several Irish music artists and has been used commercially by Follain Preserves in their ad campaigns, Carrie Crowley in her film Waterway and as signature tunes by several national radio station programmes.

Jimmy Crowley returns to The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.

Jimmy Crowley at Cork City Library

Jimmy Crowley at Cork City Library

Jimmy Crowley was born in Douglas in Cork. He began writing songs in the early 1970s and he has encouraged, sang and promoted older working class ballads and long lost songs from all over Cork. He ran the folk club at Douglas GAA club for many years. His band Stokers Lodge was known throughout Ireland.

Jimmy likes to talk and sing songs of Cork characters such as hunters and drag hunting, of harriers and the Shandon foot beagles and sportsmen such as bowler Mick Barry, and hurler Christy Ring, of stupendous deeds of valour, local rivalries and personalities, great and little events, and the real topics of conversation of the 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” was released in 1998, while “The Coast of Malabar” appeared in 2000.

Jimmy Crowley book / album

“Songs from the Beautiful City”

 

Jimmy Crowley recently issued what many consider to be his finest work, with his book and songs “Songs from the Beautiful City… The Cork Urban Ballads”. Described by Jimmy himself as proclaiming “the true history of the people of Cork City through their only resource of expression: the humble ballad.”

 

Containing such classics as Marilyn Munroe (words by Paddy O’Driscoll), Cheer, Boys, Cheer (words by Helen O’Donovan) and The Old Skellig Lists (words by Teresa Mac Carthaigh), it should ensure the continuation of the humble ballad in Cork for a long time to come.

 

Visit www.jimmycrowley.com for details.

 

Jimmy has honoured the Cork Spirit of Mother Jones Festival each year to huge acclaim and we are delighted that he will do so again in 2016. Not to be missed!

 

Jimmy appears at the Maldron Hotel, Cork on Friday July 29th from 1pm to 2pm.

 

 

Songs of the Mining Tradition with John Nyhan, Mick Treacy and friends.

This event takes place at the Maldron Hotel on Saturday night 30th July at 9pm. All are welcome.

To Mother Jones the miners were “My Boys” and her activist life was spent in organising miners of all nationalities across America. She “could arouse more fight in men than any speaker I have ever seen behind a rostrum” declared Fred Mooney, a union organiser in West Virginia.  The United Mineworkers and its offshoots were among the most famous and radical of organised groups of workers in the world. Mining itself has involved going to the bowels of the earth for the rocks and minerals which have created the modern industrial world.

Yet those brave men and women who then worked in the pits and still work deep in the ground have been amongst the most exploited and expendable in human history. During the 18thcentury in Britain mine fatalities averaged a thousand a year. Safety, health and the welfare of miners and their families was not considered as important.

Yet from this mining tradition across all countries has sprung some of the most progressive movements in politics and some of the greatest living folk songs, colliery music, musicians and community solidarity. Names such as Bob Davenport, Tommy Armstrong, Anne Briggs, and A. L. Lloyd sang the songs created by working people in Britain. Sarah Gunning, Nimrod Workman and Hazel Dickens and many others sang mining songs in America. Their legacy remains and inspires new generations.

John Nyhan and Mick Treacy continue this tradition and on Saturday 30th July, beginning at 9pm they will present the songs, stories and lore of the mining tradition.

Mick Treacy.

Mick Treacy

Mick Treacy

Mick came to folk music through listening to The Weavers , Delia Murphy, Joe Lynch, Connie Foley and the one and only Margaret Barry in the fifties and then the Skiffle movement in Britain which was spearheaded by Ken Colyer one of the leading exponents of the Classic New Orleans Jazz style in Britain. The revival of interest in Folk song and music happened to coincide with this outbreak of people’s music making and before long there was a natural fusion which led to Skiffle groups becoming Folk Groups like The Ian Campbell group in Birmingham or The Quarrymen from Liverpool becoming the Beatles.

Mick went to England in late 1960 became part of the whole folk revival first listening and learning from Ewan McColl, Bob Davenport, Alex Campbell, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and many more.   By 1964 he was singing in Birmingham Town Hall in a fund raising concert for West Midlands Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and later joined an Irish Group called ‘The Munstermen’. This lead in turn to the founding of ‘The Holyground Folk Club’ which had three glorious years and hosted many of the world’s great folk artistes.

In 1967 he came to Dublin and sang in most of the venues of the day The Embankment, The Castle Inn, The Old Sheiling and many of the local Folk Clubs before returning to his native Mitchelstown where he settled down, got married and raised a family.  He has always had an interest in the songs of the working people collecting many down through the years.  He feels privileged to have shared the platform and stage with many pacifist and socialist poets, writers, singers and performers who shared his dreams.

 

 

John Nyhan.

John Nyhan

John Nyhan

John was born in Cork City and now lives in North Cork. He was heavily influenced by the Folk revival and has been playing and promoting music for over 40 years.

During the 70s he was a founding member of The Shandon Folk Club in Eason’s Hill,within an earshot of the Shandon Bells.Today he continues his voluntary involvementas a promoter of concerts and festivals.  He is especially well known for the Bluegrass and Folk concerts he runs at The Village Arts Centre,Kilworth Co Cork. He is an avid collector of folk, bluegrass and songs of the people and has an encyclopaedic recall of singers and songs.

 

In the 1970″S John worked as a peace campaigner in the North of Ireland as a member of Voluntary Service International.He was also a worker with the Simon Community.

In the past decade he moved to Lombardstown in North Cork, as part of a Sustainable Housing Project,where he maintains an active role in his local community. In 2015 John organised the already legendary session “The songs of Joe Hill” at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.

 

“Where it’s dark as a dungeon and damp as the dew,

Where the dangers are double and the pleasures are few.

 

Where the rain never falss and the sun never shines,

It’s dark as a dungeon way down in the mines”

 

From “Dark as a Dungeon” by Merle Travis of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky.

 

 

This event will be preceded by two films about the struggles of miners for justice.

West_Midlands_Police_Handsworth_riots_1985

4.30. The Battle for Orgreave, a film by Yvette Vanson (www.yvettevanson.com). The events of 18th June 1984 during The Miners’ Strike are disturbing and have shocked the world. This film by Journeyman Pictures is required viewing for an understanding of the Miners Strike. As calls for a full public enquiry into the events of that day and afterwards mount, this film is a must see.

 

 

Press Cutting from "Mine Wars" era

Press Cutting from “Mine Wars” era

7.00. The Mining Wars, a film produced and directed by Randall MacLowry, the film is a production of the Film Posse for American Experience (WGBH – Boston). It features the mining union battles in the USA and the activities of the tough union organisers including Mother Jones.

These epic struggles in the first two decades of the 20th Century culminated in the largest civil insurrection since the American Civil War.  www.thefilmposse.com

 

 

 

 

Jimmy Crowley to appear at The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.

Jimmy Crowly at the Maldron Hotel during the 2014 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival

Jimmy Crowley at the Maldron Hotel during the 2014 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival

Jimmy Crowley was born in Douglas in Cork and took up singing in the late 1960s. He formed Stokers Lodge called after a landmark in Douglas where local huntsmen met for a day’s sport. The group comprised Jimmy himself, Mick Murphy, Johnny Murphy and the late Chris Twomey.

Jimmy Crowley with Mick Moloney

Jimmy Crowley with Mick Moloney (The Johnsons)

He began writing songs in 1971 and he also encouraged, sang and promoted older working class ballads and long lost songs from all over Cork as well as running the legendary folk club at Douglas GAA club for many years. Jimmy likes to talk and sing songs of hunters and drag hunting, of harriers and the Shandon foot beagles and sportsmen such as bowler Mick Barry, and hurler Christy Ring, of stupendous deeds of valour, local rivalries and personalities, great and little events, and the real topics of conversation of the people. In this way he reveals just a little insight into the inner sanctum of that frustratingly (to a non Cork person) complex and contradictory Cork vision of humour and life and the locals somewhat detached engagement with the everyday world outside of Cork itself. His first album “The Boys of Fairhill” released in 1997, contained such classics as The Pool Song, Johnny Jump Up, Salonika, and of course The Boys of Fairhill. These songs live on now in the soul of Cork regardless of cultural globalisation. Where else in the world would you get a famous song about Connie Doyle’s legendary harrier known as The Armoured Car?

Jimmy Crowley at Cork City Library

Jimmy Crowley at Cork City Library

This was followed by a second album “Camphouse Ballads” and “Some Things Never Change”. Later still “Uncorked” was released in 1998, while “The Coast of Malabar” appeared in 2000. Jimmy is a versatile performer as his recent American albums show, he is also an ethnographer and loves the Irish language and fun. Jimmy’s song about the sailing ship, the Asgard, “My Love is a Tall Ship” is well known among the sailing fraternity, as is his classic “The Queen of the White Star Line”. Jimmy has played all over Ireland, Europe and America and is a familiar face on the streets of Cork. He is known as the Bard of Cork as his unique style of singing and his love of his native City especially the Shandon area is central to his musical imagination.

Jimmy with Richard T.Cooke

Jimmy Crowley with fellow troubadour and Cork Mother Jones Committee member Richard T. Cooke

Jimmy Crowley recently launched what many consider to be his finest work, when his book and songs “Songs From The Beautiful City… The Cork Urban Ballads” was unveiled. After many hard years of research, much ferreting out of local traditional ballads, song writers and characters, collecting of lost words which portray a lively and earthy narrative of our history and bealoideas, Jimmy has delivered his masterpiece!

The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2015 proudly presents the Bard of Cork, Jimmy Crowley: “Songs from the Beautiful City: The Cork Urban Ballads”   Jimmy appears at the Maldron Hotel on Friday July 31st from 1pm to 2pm.   Admission is free.