Announcing “The Song for Mother Jones” competition.

Plans are underway for the eight annual Spirit of Mother Jones festival and summer school in Shandon, Cork which takes place this year from Wednesday July 31st until Saturday 3rd August.


In an exciting new development, the Cork Mother Jones Committee is planning to hold an international song competition to select a new “Song for Mother Jones”.


Entries can be submitted at any time up to the commencement of the festival.


The theme of the song should reflect Mother Jones or associated issues such as social justice, mining or the labour movement.


The song has to be your own song, or played by yourself or someone you know or nominate. It has to be an original composition.


The song must be played live and with no more than one accompanist and must be performed during the festival.


If you want to submit a song or wish to take part please contact the festival committee or submit an MP3 to


“We are encouraging and calling on songwriters and performers everywhere to participate and come up with an original work which reflects the life and work of Cork born Mother Jones.

 Already there is a vast repertoire of Mother Jones songs and ballads from Gene Autry, Si Kahn to our own Andy Irvine. The song “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain” is reputed to have been used following Mother Jones trips to isolated mining communities.

Now we want to enhance the Cork imprint on some further songs and these new songs will be performed at the forthcoming Spirit of Mother Jones festival.

 We will announce full details of prizes, dates and venues closer to the festival on the festival website ( itself but we are asking potential songwriters to begin working on the songs which they propose to submit. “


The full programme for the 2019 festival and summer school in Shandon is in the course of preparation but will contain some new and interesting elements to involve increased public participation. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions for the inclusion of material or topics please contact the Cork Mother Jones Committee as soon as possible at

Mother Jones historical marker

This may be of interest to our friends in the United States and especially in the state of Illinois.

The Mother Jones Heritage Project in Illinois will be unveiling a new permanent marker  at Highway I-55 Northbound, Coalfield Rest area at 12 Noon on Tuesday, 11th December 2018. All are welcome

Among the guest speakers will be Cecil Roberts, President of the United Mineworkers of America and Prof. Elliott Gorn, biographer of Mother Jones.   Mr. Roberts will officially cut the ribbon to unveil the new marker.

The following information on the new marker has been received from our friends at the Mother Jones Heritage Project:-

The large outdoor marker profiles Mother Jones, the Cork-born agitator for labor rights.

The indoor exhibit tells the story of the 10,000 coalfield women who marched to Springfield in 1933 in the Mother Jones tradition.

We will launch two walking tours as part of our Stories series:
1) an interactive tours of the Union Miners Cemetery/Mother Jones Monument in Mt. Olive Illinois
2) a walking tour of Virden Illinois, where the the UMWA waged a defense of unionism in 1898.
These tours will include performances, songs and mapping that will bring this story to a broad audience in the years to come.

We are grateful to our donors and supporters, who boosted these efforts and have done so much to keep this effort going, including the following organizations whose contributions have boosted this effort:

Government of Ireland,  United Mine Workers of America, Mother Jones Foundation, Springfield & Central Illinois Trades & Labor Council, Southwestern Illinois Building Trades Council, Illinois Labor History Society, Illinois State Historical Society, Illinois Humanities, Northern Illinois University, Rick Hargett, Shane Austin (Ironworkers), Barbara Miller, Amy Bromsen, Bill Parker, Laurel Parker, Jeanne Graham, Terry Reed, Jim Dixon.

We thank the following teams who have been working on these projects:

Historical marker design and installation include:  Elliott Gorn, Kate Klimut, Rosemary Feurer, Stephanie Seawell Fortado, Dave Rathke,  Shane Austin of Ironworkers, Witt Sign-Chicago

Team for indoor exhibit: Rosemary Feurer, Elliott Gorn, Stephanie Seawell Fortado, Greg Boozell, Sophia Varcados (NIU creative services), Kate Klimut, Ace Sign-Springfield

Team for tours and stories: Rosemary Feurer, Kate Klimut, Sophia Varcados (NIU creative services), Greg Boozell, Mark Raupp, Vivian Nesbitt, Bill Yund, Bucky Halker

Mother Jones – “She fought like a lion”


Mother Jones………”she fought like a lion.”

Blazing a trail cover

Blazing a Trail cover

Congratulations to Sarah Webb and Lauren O’Neill authors of Blazing a Trail…Irishwomen Who Changed the World on being chosen by Irish readers, writers, publishers, book sellers and librarians as the National Book Tokens Children’s Book of the Year – Senior at the recent An Post Irish Book award ceremony in Dublin,

This book published by The O’Brien Press Ltd contains details of 28 Irishwomen who changed the world in their fields of endeavour.

Cork born Mary Harris/Mother Jones is included among this list and described as a “Labour Organiser and Champion of Child Workers”.

Beautifully illustrated by Lauren O’Neill, it shows a passionate and inspirational Mother Jones in her Victorian dress and bonnet leading The March of the Mill Children in 1903 and comments “Mother Jones may have looked like a gentle old lady in her dark Victorian dresses and bonnets, but she fought like a lion”.

The book includes Dr Kathleen Lynn, Mary Robinson and Eileen Gray and among the other Cork born women selected are Dr James Barry, Nellie Cashman, Hannah Sheehy Skeffington and Sonia O’Sullivan.

Author Sarah Webb states……”At school I was taught that men were the history makers, the doctors, the artists, the scientists. Later, when I was older, I discovered this simply was not true. There have always been remarkable women shaping our world, and in this book I wanted to shine a light on some of the amazing Irish pioneers.

In selecting the women, I had two main criteria: they had to be remarkable in their field, and they had to encourage and support other women along the way. These women didn’t have to be good, they had to be outstanding.”

This is a very timely, innovative and outstanding book. Sarah Webb and Lauren O’Neill are themselves trailblazers!




Our case for new bridge to be named for Mother Jones


Mother Jones Bridge?

The new Bridge, with inset Mother Jones photographed after a visit to the White House, Washington D.C. in  1924

The Cork Mother Jones Committee has formally made a submission to Cork City Council outlining the case for the new bridge linking Merchant’s Quay and St. Patrick’s Quay to be named in honour of Mother Jones:-


To: Cork City Council.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee, wish to nominate Mother Jones as being a suitable and appropriate name for the new bridge.

The bridge links the Island of the City to the north side. Mary Harris was born and baptised in the Shandon area on the north side of Cork City less than a mile away and it would be entirely appropriate that the new entrance to the Northern Quarter of the City would display the name of her most famous daughter. She was a rebel in the true and best sense of the word and again it would be appropriate to highlight to the world that her roots were in Cork as the city is known the world over as the “Rebel City”.

As a person who had to leave Ireland just after the Great Famine (her father left in 1847), she is representative of the millions of anonymous emigrants forming the current diaspora who had to depart Ireland seeking a better life. Many of these like Mary Harris left through the local City Quays on their way to Cobh.

Her name on a bridge on those very quays would have a certain symmetry to the suffering and fear endured by those emigrants. They began their journey not far from Patricks Quay and it would celebrate the lives of those ancestors of ours.

Mary fought for basic social justice and labour rights for hundreds of thousands of poor, oppressed and exploited, many of which were Irish. The Irish have always done our best to help people where ever we have travelled. From missionaries to politics to those active in the labour movement and even the thousands of convicts transported from Spike Island we have tried to bring justice and fairness wherever we have gone. Mother Jones in many ways can represent them also. We are immensely proud of these people and we should display it publicly.

She is known to millions of people across America and if the bridge was named in her honour it would provide a focus point for many Americans to come and visit this city, the city of her birth. She was named by the Observer newspaper in 2015 alongside Mahatma Gandhi, Ernesto Guevara, Zapata and James Connolly as among the ten revolutionary people in history who inspired social change. Just imagine if Cork city was the birthplace of someone compared to Gandhi and deemed as important as him by one of the oldest and most respected newspapers in the world. It was and yet we forgot her.

Irish American Hall of Fame

Mother Jones was inducted into the Irish American Hall of Fame in 2014

Her name on a bridge will bring an international perspective and recognition to the city as a place which does not forget its native daughters. She represents not just the international labour movement but people fighting for justice everywhere and her extraordinary courage was widely praised even by her enemies at the time. Even if one does not agree with her, she did earn respect and is entitled to it.

She was resilient, brave and fearless, a woman who amazingly operated in a man’s world at the time. These personal attributes make her an ideal candidate for this city to finally acknowledge her properly as a woman whose time has come and whose work for ordinary working people and children should be honoured by Cork city. Her resilience is symbolic of the resilient spirit of the people of this proud city.

She represents a symbol of hope and optimism for older people anywhere…..her activist career began when she was nearly 60 years old, an age when we are normally expected to retire. Her life shows what elderly people can achieve. She remained active until her late 80s. There are stories from West Virginia and Appalachians of her picture being hung on the walls of houses for decades after her passing.

Background and history.

Mary Harris was born in Cork in 1837 and was baptised at the North Cathedral. The actual baptism font remains in use. Although born in humble circumstances, she went on to become known as “the most dangerous woman in America” and is certainly the most famous Cork/ Irish woman in America.

Mary along with her family lived through the Great Famine in Cork and all had left Ireland by 1852 to travel on the coffin ships to Canada. She became a seamstress and qualified as a teacher and went to work in the United States. Mary married George Jones and they had four children. Unfortunately her husband and four children died in the yellow fever epidemic in Memphis in 1867 and she was left destitute as a young widow at the age of 30.

She established herself as a dress maker but her business was burned down in the great fire of Chicago in 1871. Little is known about her until the late 90s when she became active in the growing trade union movement. She was by then about 60 year old, worked as an organiser for the United Mine Workers of America for several years and had become known as Mother Jones. In 1903 she organised the March of the Mill Children to highlight the abuse and exploitation of children in the mines and mills of the USA.

child labor

Child Labour – Mother Jones did more than anyone else to raise consciousness about the plight of young children working in mines and industry

She became a good friend of James Connolly during his time in America and worked for social justice. She knew four American presidents and it is estimated there were about 3000 newspaper reports about her work. She took part in all of the serious industrial/union disputes across the United States over the next two decades where she had become a legend to the ordinary people seeking justice and fair play.

She wrote her autobiography in 1924, in which the opening lines are “I was born in the city of Cork, Ireland”. Mother Jones eventually passed away in 1930. About 50,000 people attended her funeral which was broadcast live on a radio station. Another 40,000 turned up in 1936 for the dedication of the huge memorial on her grave in Mount Olive Cemetery in Illinois.


Mary Harris was a poor working class girl from Cork who went on to overcome adversity and personal tragedy in her life to become a legend to millions of people. She represents the true rebel spirit of the people of this city and county and fought for the exploited and oppressed. As a woman in a largely male world of trade unions and mining she became an inspiration hero to women everywhere and remains a potent symbol of the power of women.

Her detailed activism began when she was approaching 60 years of age which gives hope and optimism for what the older generations can contribute to social progress

Celebrating her achievements.

Her actions are celebrated in dozens of songs from Gene Autry, Andy Irvine, and Nimrod Workman to Gretchen Peters. “She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain…..when she comes…… is a folk song that was likely riffed off a Mother Jones tale. A recent CD compilation of songs from the Mother Jones Heritage Project featured over 30 songs relating to Mother Jones. Several plays have been written including Can’t Scare Me…..The Story of Mother Jones by Ms Kaiulani Lee performed in Cork in 2015. A new musical has been written and performed by Si Kahn.

The Irish Ambassador to the US, Mr Dan Mulhall visited her grave monument in Illinois earlier this year to acknowledge her importance. The Mother Jones Foundation holds an annual dinner in her honour each year. She was inducted into the Irish/American Hall of Fame in 2014.

Amb. Mulhall at Mother Jones Grave at Mount Olive, Illinois

Ireland’s Ambassador to the United States, Dan Mulhall, speaking at the grave of Mother Jones in Mount Olive, Illinois 2018

She features widely in US literature and in 2010, the US Department of Labour issued a poster featuring Mother Jones. The author Elliott J Gorn published the story of her life in 2002 (See Mother Jones ….The Most Dangerous Woman in America by Hill and Wang).

There are about 20 books written about Mother Jones in the USA, the most recent by Professor Simon Cordery in 2010. (who attended the 2014 festival). The largest circulating and respected investigative magazine in America, founded in 1976 in San Francisco is named simply Mother Jones in her honour.

Mary Harris/Mother Jones was totally forgotten in the city of her birth until the formation of the Cork Mother Jones Committee in 2011. This is a locally community based and independent committee which seeks to raise the public profile of Mother Jones and Cork across Ireland and the world.  In conjunction with the Cork City Council, the committee erected a plaque designed by Mick Wilkins in Shandon in 2012 to commemorate 175 years since her birth in the area. Even in its brief existence, local people contend that it has become one of the photographed iconic images in Cork city and one of the most cherished in the historic area. Hundreds of Americans and British have already visited Cork and gone to view this Plaque as a direct consequence of

Fr. Peter McVerry receives award

Homelessness campaigner Fr. Peter McVerry (centre) receives the Spirit of Mother Jones Award in Cork in 2015

our efforts, due to the huge publicity created around festival time.

This committee also coordinates the very successful “Spirit of Mother Jones festival and summer school” each August which attracts large crowds from all over the world and has featured speakers such as Gareth Peirce, Margaret Aspinall, Professor Rosemary Feurer, Fr Peter McVerry and a host of others. 2019 will be the 8th Festival.

The annual Spirit of Mother Jones award” is now among the most respected and coveted awards made to people deemed to have acted in “the Spirit of Mother Jones.”

The Cork Mother Jones Committee along with Frameworks Films have documented the life of Mother Jones in a documentary “Mother Jones and Her Children”. We will forward a copy and ask you all to view it as part of your consideration of our submission.

We believe the future tourism potential for Cork city by a bridge being named after Mother Jones would be significant if it was marketed internationally especially to people interested in history and heritage. Her story is the ultimate story of human triumph by a woman over personal disaster. She would be an appropriate symbol for the city as it is an incredible story of achievement and endeavour over her long life and which resounds among people everywhere in the world. Many people can relate to her personal story.

Unique Opportunity to put Cork on the International Map.

We believe the City Council has an extraordinary opportunity to remember Mother Jones for posterity by finally honouring our native daughter Mary Harris. Having ignored her in this City for many years, she is finally achieving the recognition long overdue. As a woman, who fought for justice in spite of her age and personal tragedy, as a member of the famine generation who was an emigrant and as a member of the huge Irish diaspora she brought fame to the Irish race and to her native City.

Tourism Office, Cork

The Spirit of Mother Jones festival display in the window of Cork Tourist Office in 2016

She was a true Cork rebel and her City should seek to ensure she is remembered. Her growing popularity….. …with plans for a museum and statues and even a film in the United States would enable this city not alone to acknowledge publicly her achievements but would put the City of Cork in a favourable light among people interested in history, heritage, social issues and culture everywhere who might visit the city of her birth in the coming years.

Mother Jones was born nearby, walked those City quays when a young girl, probably said goodbye to her father and brother on those very quays and later herself left the same quays to emigrate to Canada when she began her journey to a new life, like so many millions of emigrants today.

If the purpose of a bridge is to help people to achieve their journeys, then let this bridge represent symbolically the journey of a young terrified girl who left Cork city, which had been a miserable place during the Famine years for the poor, and began her journey to a new life. She lived an extraordinary life, a life that gave hope to millions and surely that should finally reflect back to the City of her birth.

She never forgot her life in Cork and there are resonances of the famine in Cork with its death carts in the streets when she later speaks about the loss of her four children and beloved husband in the yellow fever epidemic in 1867. One can only imagine the horror for Mary Jones as a mother and a wife of the terrors of the famine repeating itself!

It would be somehow appropriate to welcome her home at last!

This is a perfect opportunity to honour and remember all of these people in perpetuity in Cork City.

We ask that you include Mother Jones for serious consideration when you decide to name this new bridge and decide to call it ………The Mother Jones Bridge.

November 8th 2018.








The Peterloo Massacre – some Cork connections

Peterloo, a film by Mike Leigh has been released.  Starring Maxine Peake, Rory Kinnear, Neil Bell and Peter Quigley, and some 150 other actors along with thousands of extras, director Mike Leigh brings the events of that infamous day in Manchester to life.

Peterloo plaque

Plaque at the site of the Peterloo massacre, Manchester

On a sunny Monday afternoon, 16th August 1819, a large four-wheeled carriage adorned with flags and banners made its way slowly through the loud cheers of massed crowds towards the stage at St. Peters Field in Manchester. Seated at the front alongside the coachman was a small yet striking figure in a white dress waving a rectangular white banner, depicting a woman holding the scales of justice, while crushing a serpent, the banner of the Manchester Female Reform Society (MFRS).

Cork born Mary Pritchard (1789), now Mary Fildes, president of the newly formed MFRS cut an impressive figure as she proudly displayed her Society’s new banner to the vast crowd. She intended to present the banner and an address to one of the occupants of the carriage, Henry Hunt, the main speaker at the forthcoming monster Reform meeting about to commence. Reaching the small platform, the speakers along with Mary Fildes stood awaiting silence from the vast throng of working class men, women and children who had walked and marched in from the nearby towns across Lancashire seeking reform of the corrupt and elite electoral system. .

Henry Hunt

Henry Hunt

As the expectant gathering pressed closer to the platform and Henry ”Orator” Hunt began his speech, a band of Yeomanry advanced through the nearby streets, led by an Irishman Edward Meagher.

Mike Leigh’s film builds slowly up to a reconstruction of the 1819 Peterloo massacre. This peaceful pro-democracy rally attended by some 60,000 people who had gathered to hear the radical charismatic speaker and gentleman farmer Henry Hunt, was then attacked by British Yeomanry and Hussar Cavalry.

Using sabres wildly and viciously against unarmed people, they killed fifteen people (including a two year old child by the name of William Fildes) and injured upwards of 600 in this brutal and bloody massacre which became known as Peterloo (after the recent battle of Waterloo!). Later many suffered and died from infections brought on from the savage cuts received at the meeting.

Jacqueline Riding in her comprehensive publication Peterloo (with a foreword by Mike Leigh) states that women were very prominent in the attendance at St Peters Field. Four were among the dead or died later, upwards of a quarter of those injured were women and many including Mary Fildes were especially targeted by the Yeomanry. Mary herself was attacked initially on the platform by the special constabulary and later sabred by a yeoman. She managed however to escape from the field.

Upon her recovery, Mary continued to work for the rights of women. She was arrested while campaigned for birth control in the 1830s and later became a leading Chartist and influenced the original suffragettes. Ever the rebel she had named one of her children Henry Hunt Fildes. A grandson, Luke Fildes painted numerous social realism images of poverty, homelessness and injustice. She ran a pub in Chester and died around 1875/76 in her mid-80s.


The massacre caused outrage at the time, and led to a seismic shift in public opinion against the ruling clique and elites. It contributed to the founding of the Manchester Guardian in 1821 and later encouraged other Chartist newspapers as the clamour for democracy and reform grew.  Over in Livorno in Tuscany, the poet Percy Shelley raged on being informed of Peterloo and wrote The Mask of Anarchy………. “Rise like Lions after slumber in unvanquished number – Shake your chains to earth like dew, which in sleep had fallen on you, – Ye are many – they are few.”


Mary Fildes

Mary Fildes with her banner (to left of platform)

The events of 16th August 1819 influenced the later development of the grass roots Chartism in the 1830s and lead to the People’s Charter. Henry Hunt, who died in February 1835 was regarded as a hero by many in Chartism. This in turn stimulated the later growth of the trade unions and the political mobilization of the working class into the Labour Party.

Indeed the events at Peterloo may well have aroused West Cork born Feargus O’Connor to stand for the post reform election in 1832, when he was surprisingly elected MP for Cork. Alongside reformer William Cobbett in the House of Commons, they supported what eventually became the Chartist demands. Both Fergus O’Connor and Daniel O’Connell organised the “monster meetings” based on the Peterloo example.

According to author James Epstein in his book “The Lion Of Freedom….Feargus O’Connor and the Chartist Movement, 1832-1842, Chartist leader O’Connor regarded Henry Hunt as his hero and declared himself to be a “Huntite”.

“Year after year he travelled to Lancashire to celebrate the anniversary of Hunt’s birth with local radicals, and often took the platform at the annual meeting at St Peters Field held to commemorate the ‘never to be forgotten’ 16th August.”

Feargus O'Connor

Feargus O’Connor, Chartist

As with so much of history, the massacre has been largely forgotten and the story of Peterloo disappeared from classrooms, schools and universities. Many have never heard of the events which took place at St Peter’s Field. Few visiting Manchester and St Peter’s Square even notice the red plaque on the nearby Hotel. Most pass by and not realise that they tread on the very birthplace of British democracy and the roots of Chartism and the British Labour movement.

At that time, only a tiny minority of people, possibly 3% had the vote. Dorothy Thompson, author of The Chartists estimated that even later in the 1830s just 653,000 men from an English and Welsh population of 13,000,000 could vote and just 80,000 men in Ireland from a population of 7.8 million and that was after the Reform Act of 1832. All had to vote by open polling in public whereby each vote was recorded.

As we approach the two hundredth anniversary of Peterloo, Mike Leigh’s dramatic film should encourage people to examine the source struggles for reform and democracy and to perhaps ask again how a small increasingly wealthy and powerful elite can control political and technological structures across the planet and can dictate the working and living conditions for countless millions of ordinary people barely surviving under austerity and poverty.

The film arrives to a bitterly divided Britain….. Yet Leigh’s stark history and political lesson for those who hark backwards to a glorious past British epoch might remember the bloody sacrifices made by the innocent people on that field at Peterloo.


Note: If anyone has further information about the Cork roots of Mary Pritchard born in 1789, who married William Fildes, a reed maker in Cheshire in 1808, please let the Cork Mother Jones Committee know. It is not clear if the child William Fildes was related to Mary’s husband.  You can email us at




Vote for Cork’s new bridge to be renamed Mother Jones Bridge!


Artist’s Impression of what the new bridge will look like

Cork City Council is constructing a new bridge across the River Lee.

This bridge will link Merchants Quay to St. Patrick’s Quay close to the existing Harley Street which runs alongside the Metropole Hotel.   The new bridge will provide improved pedestrian and cycle connectivity between the centre “island” of Cork and the Northside of the River Lee.
The City Council is seeking a new name for this bridge and is looking for nominations from all interested persons and groups. One can submit a nomination using the attached nomination form (see link below). Please read the guidelines.

Completed nomination forms should be returned directly to the Cork City Council 

to (note underscore) or go to
Also the forms can be posted to Fiona Dinneen, Administrative Officer, Roads and Transportation Directorate, City Hall, Cork,
T12 T997.
All nominations have to be submitted by Thursday 15th November 2018.
The Cork Mother Jones Committee intends to nominate Mother Jones as the name for this new bridge and is urging all friends of Mother Jones to consider submitting and supporting her nomination before 15th November.
Mary Harris was born in Cork in 1837, baptised in the North Cathedral and lived through the Great Famine until 1852, when she emigrated with her family to join her father in Canada. In spite of huge personal tragedies in her early life; later as Mother Jones she overcame adversity to fight for social justice, and to defend exploited workers, including women, men and children across the United States of America for the final four decades of her life.
Renowned in song and story, Mother Jones is the most famous Cork woman in the world and she has become an international symbol of hope for people fighting for social justice. She was a proud, brave and passionate Cork woman, a skilled and fiery orator, a brilliant union organiser and a fearless leader of many thousands of men and women.
A true rebel, Mother Jones represents the very best attributes of  Cork people with their proud independent spirit, their passionate support for the underdog and their rebellious yet joyful nature. By now recognising Mother Jones, Cork will finally acknowledge the importance and contribution of countless Irish women who were forced to leave Ireland in Famine times and who by their subsequent actions to support exploited people elsewhere in the world have ensured a positive legacy of honour and pride for their historic achievements back in their own native places and among the wider Irish diaspora.
We ask you to honour the enduring spirit of Mother Jones in her own place by completing and sending a nomination form to call this new bridge, 
The Mother Jones Bridge.   

Dates for your Diary!

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is pleased to announce that the next annual Spirit of Mother Jones Festival will be held from Wednesday, 31st July to Saturday, 3rd August 2019.

We will post further details of the event nearer to the time and as usual all will be welcome

The August sun goes down on the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival for 2018

The seventh Spirit of Mother Jones Festival floated away gently to the sweet sounds of ukulele music and songs at the sunny Shandon Plaza on Saturday evening. Earlier a large crowd had assembled at the Mother Jones plaque to serenade and toast in the traditional manner “the most dangerous woman in America”……………not really an inaccurate description for Cork woman, Mary Harris!


Dominic O’Callaghan of Cork Mother Jones Committee with his miner’s helmet at the opening of the festival

A proud accolade for a Cork woman!

Events began on Wednesday afternoon when the Lord Mayor, Cllr Mick Finn had declared the festival open. Style was the order of the day when Joan Goggin, Eadaoin and Aoife along with Loretta Williams (America’s Mother Jones) attended along with the glamourous Cobh Animation team and the singing Shandon Shawlies under the direction of Richard T Cooke.

The annual American connections remain strong as two perceptive speakers, John Barimo and Emily LB Twarog discussed the rise and reasons for Trumpism. Their solid work, sensible comments and statistics ensured a better understanding of the current political situation in the USA.

Geraldine McCarthy and Ann Rea of the Cork Mother Jones Committee with Jo Gazely, Head of Cork City Council Tourism Section (centre)

A packed attendance viewed the Irish premiere of Fords – Memories of the Line. A theatre thronged with ex Ford workers reverberated with talk, tales and fun. Ninty four year old Gus who was present summed up his views “Henry Ford might have owned our hands………but he never owned our minds”. Frameworks Films, Bill Daly and the ex-Ford workers have made a classic documentary by simply allowing the workers to tell their own story! A rare gem!

Cork’s gentle giant and Irish Citizen Army hero, Thomas Corkie Walsh was brought to life by Luke Dineen, whose work reveals his all too short life.  Corkie has recently been remembered by fellow Cork stone masons, spearheaded by Jim Fahy, who have erected a permanent headstone.

Another full house at the Firkin heard Anne Twomey tell the complicated story of Cork’s MacSwiney sisters and their sister-in-law Muriel Murphy. Following a sensitive and empathic presentation, Anne opened the pages on their lives and with every page they became all the more extraordinary. In a room with several people who had known the women, layers of history were peeled away. Is Muriel MacSwiney forever to remain like Mother Jones once was…… another forgotten Cork woman?

More recent Irish history was unveiled by investigative journalist Frank Connolly in his review of some of the activities of the National Asset Management Agency.

The ongoing revelations of the huge role played by women in the early 20th Century continued with Micheline Sheehy Skeffington outlining the role of her grandparents Hanna and Francis in the events of those turbulent days. Louise Ryan further revealed the workings of Ireland’s suffrage movement through the priceless historical treasure trove of the Irish Citizen newspaper.

The documentary Up to the last Drop – The Secret Water Wars of Europe also attracted another capacity crowd, the Cork and Irish elements in this disturbing story aroused huge interest. Pride on the final evening led to many tears as the unique act of solidarity between members of the London LGBT community and the Welsh striking miners was celebrated. The wondrous dynamism of the late Mark Ashton left one feeling a sense of loss even at a 30 year remove.

Cork Singers Club under bean a tí Helen O’Donovan provided a unique traditional opening to the festival. Their pure singing voices are in stark contrast to the ubiquitous background music now permeating our very existence. John Nyhan and Mitchelstown man Mick Treacy unearthed many of Ewan MacColl’s songs, while the tender rendering of his 1958 classic The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Sean Roche, returned from Australia, will live long in the memory of those attending. Jimmy Crowley was in mighty form on Friday afternoon, while the duo of William Hammond and Linda Quinlan added traditional Irish music and songs.

Louise O'Keeffe with Ann and Ger

Ann Piggott and Ger McCarthy of the Cork Mother Jones Committee with speaker Louise O’Keeffe

A highlight of this year’s summer school was the stunning personal account of her long fight for justice by Louise O’Keeffe. Her emotional description of her difficult and lonely journey through the inhumane and soulless Irish Court system left many listeners angry. A callous Government immediately demanded full costs amounting to many hundreds of thousands of euro from this brave woman and this attitude continues today with others in the same boat. Ministers hide behind legal jargon, replicated in scandal after scandal.  In an absorbing account, devoid of bitterness, Louise’s riveting talk illuminated our souls by her painful honesty and her wondrous strength of character.

Louise O’Keeffe is an exceptional West Cork woman!

Mary Manning told her story of the Dunnes Stores Strikers. It is a magnificent story, the account of how ten union shop workers changed a whole country’s perception of Apartheid, and how they changed Irish Government policy. These young women and Tommy Davis and their union official Brendan Archbold gave the future South African President, then locked in prison, hope and inspiration and ensured that the African people knew they were not on their own. They are all worthy recipients of the Spirit of Mother Jones Award 2018.

We salute Mary Manning and the Dunnes Stores Strikers!

And so the curtain falls on the 2018 festival. The Cork Mother Jones Committee thank all who helped. Thanks to all associated with our venues, the new Cathedral Visitor Centre, the Firkin Crane and the Maldron Hotel. To our many sponsors and the Trade Union movement, to our participants, regulars and visitors, we say thanks and we will announce the dates of the 2019 festival shortly.

Any ideas for speakers or topics, email your suggestions, meanwhile please continue to………..

Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.”








Photos from the final day of Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2018

The 7th Spirit of Mother Jones Festival & Summer School came to an end last evening (Saturday, 4th August) with a well-attended toast to Mother Jones at the plaque in her honour at John Redmond Street.   The 2018 festival has been a tremendous success with capacity crowds at all our events and and a combination of fabulous lectures, film and music.

We wish to thank all those who contributed to making the event such a success.

Here are some photos from Saturday’s events:

Micheline Sheehy Skeffington

Micheline Sheehy Skeffington who gave a fascinating insight into the life and activism of her grandmother Hanna Sheehy Skeffington

Micheline Sheehy Skeffington presentation

William Hammond of the Cork Mother Jones Committee makes a presentation to Micheline Sheehy Skeffington

Frank Connolly

Frank Connolly who spoke about his new book NAMA-land

Frank Connolly presentation

Frank Connolly after receiving presentation from Ann Piggott and Ann Rea of the Cork Mother Jones Committee.

Mick and Jennifer Treacy

Musician Mick Treacy with his daughter Jennifer


Ukelele band

Ukelele band providing some of the music at the Butter market plaza

Loretta Williams / Mother Jones

Loretta Williams as “Mother Jones” at the Mother Jones plaque


Rory McCarthy

Rory McCarthy sings at the Mother Jones Plaque



Some of the crowd at the annual Toast to Mother Jones at the Mother Jones Plaque


Loretta and Ann

Loretta Williams as Mother Jones with Ann Piggott of the Cork Mother Jones committee


Ladies in period costume at the Mother Jones Plaque

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival – Timetable – Day 4 (Saturday)

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and Summer School

 programme 2018.


Saturday 4th August.

11.00  L   Frank Connolly,

NAMA-land…the inside story of Ireland’s property sell-off and the creation of a new elite”.

Firkin Theatre

2.30    L   Dr. Micheline Sheehy Skeffington

“Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, feminist, nationalist, socialist, pacifist – her activism in Ireland                                                           and the US”

Firkin Theatre

5.00    F    PRIDE

The true story of how a group of London-based gay and lesbian activists supported the                   families of Welsh miners during the 1984 miners strike. In association with the Quay Co-op and the support of Cork LGBT + Pride Week.

Firkin Theatre.

7.30    M  Toast and songs to Mother Jones at the plaque on John Redmond Street. Followed by music and festival closing events at the Shandon Plaza.

All are welcome.