The Ballad of Mother Jones
In the northside of Cork city, in Blarney Lane was Mary bred,
Of humble folk, who e’er perchance could have foretold or said,
That a workers revolution in America would be
Led by Mary Ellen Harris from the north side of the Lee.
‘Twas in the North Cathedral Mary Harris was baptized,
Two brothers and two sisters, the dread famine they survived.
Survived the coffin ships to Canada as they fled from Ireland’s strife.
Toronto was their destination, where they hoped for a new life.
Mary first trained as a teacher, but a seamstress too was she,
Wed George Jones in 1860, down in Memphis Tennessee,
Catherine, Lizbeth, Terence, Mary, were the children that she bore,
Just two years old the youngest, when from Mary they were torn.
Yellow fever struck in Memphis, her husband died, her children too,
So she set up as a seamstress, there was nothing else to do.
But in the great fire of Chicago Mary’s little shop burned down,
Once again cruel fate had lent a hand, and her destiny laid down.
She set out to change the miners’ lives, so piteous and forlorn,
And thus it was the legend true of Mother Jones was born.
Wherever strife and conflict was, there Mother Jones would be;
First to face the foe, the last to leave the battle field was she.
She said that she was a hell-raiser, no humanitarian she;
But that was not true, for the miners knew, she shared their misery.
Lived among them, ministered to them, gave them all she had to give,
But the greatest gift she gave them was to fight that they might live.
The history she made is not a history approved;
I will tell you of a President whose heart would not be moved
By the children of the mines and mills, she led to Roosevelt’s home.
Those little slaves he would not see in his fine grand summer home.
Why should he hear their grievances and Mother Jones’ tirade?
When it was well known his family’s wealth from mines and mills was made.
And the State’s Militia was the private army of this breed,
Whose brutal ways were meant to bring the starving workers to their knees.
The coal-field war in Colorado, where the workers were all thrown
From their mine-owned houses, had to live in a tent city forlorn;
ON the 20th of April in the year nineteen and four,
The Miliitia did attack those tents, and the workers down were mown.
Two women and nine children perished in a trench that day,
In a fire the Militia made, to make the workers pay.
But this, the Ludlow massacre, set the nation in a rage,
And a truce was made, and the workers rights began on history’s page.
And “Rise up and strike ‘til the last of you
Shall drop into your graves.”
These were the words that Mother Jones repeatedly had said.
“We are going to stand together, ‘no surrender’ you must sing,
For if you don’t have a union, boys,
You ain’t got a damn thing.”
Glory, glory, Mother Jones,
Freedom lies there with her bones;
She fought to give the workers hope and the Unions liberty
Mother Jones, born Mary Harris,
From the northside of the Lee
Teresa Ni Charthaigh
(May be sung to the air of “She Lived beside the Anner”; the last verse is sung to the air of “The Ballad Hymn of the Republic”)