From the opening voice of Mother Jones speaking of labour unity in her final days to the closing lines of “She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes”, Mother Jones: America’s Most Dangerous Woman a documentary produced by Sorcha Glackin for a documentary on Newstalk 106-108FM is a comprehensive account of some of the activities of Mother Jones in the front lines of the workers and union struggles in the U.S.A. While it concentrates on the Ludlow Massacre in 1914, through its wide cast of speakers it provides a rare account of the fearless actions taken by labour organiser Cork woman Mary Harris in defence of “her boys”, as she called the miners.
Richard T. Cooke, President/Chairperson, Cork Adult Education Council
delivered a personal eulogy at Dr. Sean Pettit’s
Requiem Mass at 11.00am Monday, November 28th 2016
St. Patrick’s Church, Lower Glanmire Road. Ireland
A tribute to my good dear friend, Dr. Sean Pettit – The Romantic Historian
By Richard T. Cooke
Charming, theatrical, enthusiastic, passionate and generous are some of the words that spring to mind when I think of my dear friend Dr. Sean Pettit who went to his eternal rest on Wednesday, November 23rd 2016. I took a deep breath when I read of his passing in an email I received from his dear loving wife Aruba and I picked up the phone to ring her immediately to express my profound condolences. I felt so sad. Sean was one beautiful sweet man and I was so lucky to have him as a friend for over 30 years.
My first sighting of him was way back in 1984. I was working in the Cork Archives Institute and attending UCC. Our tutor Mr. O’Brien told us about an upcoming lecture in the Boole Library by a Dr. Sean Pettit which might be of interest to us as the topic was on history. That following night off I went with a couple of friends to the lecture. We took our place in the lecture hall and chatted amongst ourselves while we waited for Dr. Pettit to arrive. And boy, did he arrive. His stage presence was unlike anything I had ever seen before and as he began his lecture, I said to myself, something magic is going to happen here and indeed it did. He spoke about Cork’s wonderful rich colourful heritage, tradition and culture with gusto. I was in awe, spellbound with his charismatic presentation. The blood flowing through his veins I imagined was not unlike the water flowing through the river Lee. Passionately he delivered his historical pearls of Cork’s history and eagerly I soaked up his knowledge. It wasn’t a lecture in fact but a theatrical performance that captured all my senses. His passion was infectious and on that night, I wanted nothing more than to be like him. He was like a rock star of history. He made Cork’s past come alive, he made it exciting. He was like Moses preaching the gospel of Cork in the most romantic of ways that would undoubtedly cause any one from any part of the world to fall head over heels in love with our beautiful smiling thriving city of Cork.
Over the years we became firm friends. We often met and had a good auld chat on one of Cork’s historic streets or landmarks like the time we met in the English Market and we shared the history of that historic place with throngs of people around us by the fountain which was decorated with Turkeys, geese and chickens in was Christmas time. And we used to lunch together in the Imperial Hotel on the South Mall, that grand elegant 19th century building which Sean loved so much and our conversation would always be on some aspect of the history of Cork.
I was intending to meet up with Sean on Thursday, November 24th last for another lively chit-chat but this will now have to wait until we meet again on the other side and no doubt we will. People loved him so much just like me. He was so generous and giving with his knowledge like my good dear great friends and mentors, Wally McGrath of the Evening Echo and CJF McCarthy of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society.
Dr. Sean Pettit will be remembered for his overwhelming generosity and kindness and no doubt I am only one of his many friends, colleagues and fans.
As I was walking the streets of Cork after hearing the very sad news I could feel his presence and I’m sure that his loving spirit is now happily strolling the streets of our proud city sporting his characteristic warm furry Russian hat and puffing his pipe – he was a gentleman of gentlemen.
He had that elegant rich old fashioned romantic way about him and this could be witnessed every time he was in the presence of his dear and loving wife Aruba – I can still see them linking hands – they were sweethearts. And you can see for yourself this romantic old fashioned chemistry in the film on YouTube titled: Dr Sean Pettit & Aruba Coghlan Honoured that documents the Lifetime Award that Aruba received in 2015 for her wonderful work in the field of ballet and the Historian of the Year Award that Sean received for his lifetime work in the field of history from the then Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. Chris O’Leary and from the Committee of Celebrating Cork Past in the City Hall, Monday, September 28th 2015.
Sean loved speaking about Cork. He was loud and proud of his native city and its wonderful heritage and especially its people. His last two public lectures were in St Peter’s Cork, North Main Street, for the Cork Adult Education Council Lunchtime Lecture Series on Monday, April 4th 2016 and at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival on Friday, July 29th 2016. As always they were thronged with his many fans.
And finally, an 18th century writer once wrote: the greatest gift that God could give to a human being is a friend. Goodbye my dear friend until we meet again…
I would be delighted if you would join me now in giving Sean a round of applause in celebration of his wonderful life. Thank You
The Maldron Hotel was packed, last seats already taken…..standing room only now……still 20 minutes to go. Mild apprehension among even experienced members of the Mother Jones Committee……….the growing crowd…..aged from 8 to 80….a sense of anticipation…….crackling expectation……electricity in the air.
He arrived from the rear of the room, advancing slowly through a flash of cameras and mobile phones, hugs and handshakes and a standing ovation. Reaching the front of the room he raised his arms in the air with a broad smile. The “Master” had appeared….resplendent and immaculate in cream jacket…….he was ready to perform!
Introduced by his old friend Richard T Cooke…….he commanded the packed room and hall with professional ease, just as 40 years earlier in his trademark swishing black gown he commanded the packed lecture halls of the West Wing of his beloved University College Cork…….bringing history to life for young students!
On Friday afternoon 29th July 2016, Dr Sean Pettit was at home on Cork’s Northside in the North Infirmary speaking of Cork in the 1800s and portraying the Cork city experienced by a young Mary Harris. He seamlessly worked through his amazing collection of slides, gently and modestly describing the reality of life for the wealthy and the degrading poverty of the poor on the streets of Cork. From the sedate wonder of the then beautiful Mardyke to the resilient Shawlies of the Quays we moved back in time with a genial Sean to ramble around and imagine the city of our ancestors.
In his classic book This City of Cork,published in 1977, Dr Pettit wrote in a chapter entitled “The Sick, The Poor and the Beggars” with passion and scarcely disguised anger about the human distress and the plight of subsistence living of ordinary people in Cork in the 1830s. His empathy for the poor always shone through his presentations. He spoke of the mansions on the hill and the carriages of the rich and famous but he never forgot to speak also of the social injustice experienced in the laneways and alleys of Cork.
His lecture at the Mother Jones summer school 2016 was a remarkable performance, a public historian graciously speaking of the heritage of the people of Cork, of his love for his native City and generously passing on his knowledge, experience and appreciation to those so lucky to be present on that glorious day and as he had done also for many thousands more over the past 50 years.
We instinctively understood then that we were witnessing a rare performance from “The Master” but could not know that Sean was taking his final curtain after his finest hour.
Dr Sean Pettit passed away on Wednesday 23rd November 2016. The Cork Mother Jones Committee wish to express our condolences to his beloved wife Aruba to whom he dedicated all his books.
First up is Helen O’Donovan singing “Mother”, a tribute to Mother Jones
Here is Rory McCarthy singing “Where oh where is James Connolly
Our thanks to Frameworks Films for videos.
There’s an excellent article on the late Davy Hopper on the website of the Durham Miners’ Association. Written by Dave Temple, it tells the story of Davy Hopper from his early years growing up in a working class community in Sunderland, his education and his introduction to work in the mines up to his emergence as an impressive representative of his fellow workers and his class and the unstinting work he did in fighting oppression and his perseverance in not only keeping the Durham Miners’ Gala alive but making it a vibrant and influential annual event which now attracts upwards of 150,000 people every year.
You can read Dave Temple’s tribute to Davy Hopper on the following link:- http://www.durhamminers.org/dave_hopper_1943_2016