From Allihies to Leadville, Another ‘Trail of Tears’.

Leadville Miner Memorial, (J Goltz),

Today as one descends into the community from the high Castletownbere road, the beauty of Ballydonegan Bay and Allihies village on the Beara peninsula in West Cork remains stunning to the eye. Alive with tourists, music and life in the summertime, it slumbers gently during the wild winter months. The hills all around are dotted with the remains of mine sites, there is a busy Copper Mine Museum providing a focus point for information, study and relaxation in the linear village. One can walk the Allihies Copper Mine Trail, in the footsteps of the miners. The village’s past is bound up with the local mines and their impact, its future is to tell the miner’s story.

Mining began here in 1812 at Dooneen, established by John Puxley, the local landlord, followed in 1813 by the Mountain Mine and in 1818 by the Caminches Mine. Mines opened and closed, Dooneen in 1838, Caminches in the 1840s.  Eventually mine shafts pockmarked the hills rising to the north of the village. By 1842, upwards of 1600 men and boys, some from Cornwall, worked underground and across the hilly landscape. The large Kealogue mine opened.

Working conditions were brutal, many died, and strikes were smashed in a ruthless manner. As the great Famine devastated West Cork (1845-1852), food was brought in by the Puxleys to keep the mines in operation. The emigration of some miners and their families began. The miners especially at the Kealogue mine were concerned by safety issues and went on strike in 1861.

Later in 1864, there was a confrontation with the local Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) when they marched on the Mountain Mine to demand better pay and conditions. Further strikes followed over low wages and resentment grew as the mine owners constructed extravagant additions to their Puxley Manor at nearby Dunboy Castle. Emigration continued as workforce was reduced, the mines were sold and finally closed in 1884. Sporadic attempts to reopen mines, including some exploration for base metals and uranium have taken place in the 1970s, but the old mines remain a silent testament to a difficult past.   

Many miners and their families journeyed to the USA, using the infamous coffin ships, facing disease and exploitation and upon arrival, they remained always transient, for ever journeying westwards to the copper mines of Butte, Montana and to Michigan, to Pennsylvania, and onwards to Leadville, high in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

Prospector Abe Lee struck gold at California Gulch in Colorado about 1860. Will Stevens followed around 1875 and when he discovered the silver-bearing carbonate of lead in the old diggings at an altitude of 10,000 feet, the miners quickly renamed the old town. Leadville immediately became a magnet for the silver rush of the mobile mining workforce arriving in the New World. 

Originally a mining camp, Leadville prospered in the bonanza and developed a notorious reputation for gambling, brothels and drinking saloons as vividly described by the local Daily Chronicle newspaper. However, it was not that unlike nearby mining towns such as Cripple Creek, or indeed Deadwood, or Butte. By 1890, Leadville had a population of 25,000 and six churches. And by 1896, Leadville was so wealthy that in a display of ostentatious civic pride it was able to construct an Ice Palace, costing $20,000 and covering some 5 acres. Also, in 1896 there began a nine-month strike by the Cloud City Miners’ Union (local of the Western Federation of Miners WFM). The miners were seeking just $3 a day. They were defeated and at least six miners died in the conflict.

Colorado National Guard protecting mines during the Leadville Union Strike of 1896 (Denver Public Library).

Hundreds of Irish miners joined the rush to the tiny town. Research by Assistant Professor, James Walsh at the University of Colorado in Denver has identified hundreds of graves at the Catholic and paupers’ graveyards at Evergreen Cemetery in the town. Many contain remains of young Irish miners and their families, some from West Cork.

James Walsh estimates from his research in the Catholic parish records that 1400 people are buried in unmarked graves in the paupers’ section and up to 70% of them have Irish names. Their average age is just 23 years and half of them were children under 12. There could be up to 2500 Irish immigrants buried in the wider cemetery. A significant number can be linked back to Allihies.

Their brief lives underground were filled with dangers, sickness and back breaking work for very little money. The journey from Allihies to Leadville in many ways represents a further “trail of tears” * for the mining population of the Beara peninsula who now lie in often unmarked graves among the woods of the town.

Experiences of underground miners were captured by photographer, Timothy O’Sullivan, a young veteran of the American Civil War whose work down in the pits has preserved for ever this hell-like subterranean prison of the mining life. His images of ghostly and gaunt men with far away expressions working deep underground are matched in the work of Tom McGuinness, miner and artist who painted remarkable images of the silent and lonely coalminers in the mining tunnels of the North East of England almost a century later.

For those who have never mined in the mineral veins of the earth, it is hard to imagine the oppressive heat, the dirt and filth and the sheer loneliness of men and boys who rarely saw the daylight of the magnificent Rocky Mountains. It was the new world of many Irish and some did not survive for long in the horrific and dangerous working conditions of this snowbound town. 

Some Irish prospered. In 1880, Thomas Francis Walsh, from Tipperary discovered a vein of quartz bearing silver at Leadville and made a huge fortune. James Doyle, James Burns and John Harnan made a fortune at Cripple Creek. The “Silver Kings” of Cornstock were four Irishmen, John Mackay, James Fair, James Flood and William O’Brien. Once more as miners and their families starved, the “Kings” flaunted their riches, building gigantic mansions, erecting marble columns, and commissioning pure silver candelabras.  

The silver rush continued into the 1890s when most local mines closed, the remaining miners headed to Denver and the Colorado coalmines of John D. Rockefeller where they and their descendants’ joined unions at the urging of Cork born Mother Jones, and the United Mine Workers Union under John Mitchell in the early 1900s. Others later took part in the bitter West Virginia/Colorado Coal Wars of 1913/14, which culminated in the Ludlow Massacre.

On a beautiful Saturday afternoon in September 2022, Alan Grourke, President of the Irish Network in Colorado introduced a series of speakers to a crowd which had gathered to witness the emotional unveiling of a memorial to the Irish miners and their families who lie buried alongside. The memorial depicts “Liam” the miner as he sits, facing back to Ireland some 7000 kms. to Allihies with his miners pick and an Irish harp.

Liam the Miner faces Ireland (J. Goltz).

James Walsh speaking to Denver 7, a local TV station said as he walked near the unmarked graves among the trees stated.

“This is what class looks like in America, they were forgotten……instead of honouring the monarchy, we are honouring the poorest of the poor and that’s a radical thing to do, it changes perspectives, it changes dynamics and by honouring nineteen century workers, we honour 21st century immigrant workers too.”

Irish Consul, Micheal Smith, representing the Irish government which contributed financially paid tribute to the organising committee for their dedication to erecting the memorial, while the Mayor of Leadville, Greg Labbe provided an account of the harsh lives of the miners. Historian Kathleen Fitzsimmons pointed to the rounded stones forming the memorial and the pathway as a symbol of the spiral and urged people to visit this “sacred space” and leave the world better for their children. The Irish Miners’ Memorial is expected to be completed in 2023.

A blessing of the memorial then took place by Native American Cassandra Atencio, member of the Southern Ute Tribe on whose native lands the graveyard and memorial lies. The blessing provided further historical and symmetrical symbolic connections between the indigenous people of North America and the Irish.

The Choctaw Nation contributed funds to the town of Midleton in Co Cork during the Famine in 1847, despite being forced on their own ‘Trail of Tears’ during the ethnic cleansings of 1831-1833. Several thousand tribal members died on those marches.

Monument to the Choctaw at Midleton, Co. Cork.

The Ute people always lived in harmony with their wild environment and took care of Mother Earth.

An Ute prayer for the planet.

May the Earth teach you stillness as the grasses are stilled with light
May the Earth teach you suffering as old stone suffer with memory
May the Earth teach you humility as blossoms are humble with beginning

May the Earth teach you caring as the mother who serves her young
May the Earth teach you courage as the tree which stands you all alone
May the Earth teach you limitation as the ant which crawls on the ground.

May the Earth teach you freedom as the eagle which sores in the sky
May the Earth teach you resignation as the leaves which die in the fall
May the Earth teach you regeneration as the seed which rises in the spring.

May the Earth teach you to forget yourself as the melted snow forgets its life
May the Earth teach you to remember kindness as dry field weep with rain.

An appropriate monument and a fitting blessing for all those who lie in soil of Leadville.

*During the harsh winter of 1602/3 following defeat of the Irish at the Battle of Kinsale, Beara Chieftain, Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare had led a thousand people from his peninsula clan and home on a 500 kms. March north to Co. Leitrim to escape the English attacks…after a trail of tears……. just thirty-five reached safety among the O’Rourke clan in Leitrim!

Visit Allihies Copper Mine Museum, http://www.acmm.ie,

Visit INCO Irish Network Colorado, http://www.irishnetworkco.com.

Feminist Walking Tour of Cork Launched at Festival

Professor Maggie O’Neill launched the walk, a printed map and website for the new feminist walking tour of Cork on Saturday  30th July at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival. 

Professor Maggie O’Neill

The launch was a collaboration with Mother Jones Festival and TVG Traveller pride. Following a brief introduction, a large number of the participants headed off to visit a number of the sites, including the Traveller Visibility Centre, the Mary Elmes Bridge, the Sexual Violence Centre and the Mother Jones Plaque.

Feminist Walking Tour at Mary Elmes Bridge

While some representations of women can be found, and some streets are named after queens and saints, there are no monuments to women in Cork City. Yet the women of Cork have made an enormous contribution to building better communities throughout the city and far beyond. 

Professor Maggie O’Neill

The Cork Mother Jones Committee wish to congratulate all associated with this venture which focuses on celebrating the contribution of women to Cork City and explores “the role of women in addressing sexual and social inequalities and building fairer, safer communities”. 

https://www.feministwalkcork.ie/

Further Information in relation to Cork Street names from Cork Mother Jones Committee:

It does appear as if the only female representation used on Cork street names are indeed those of queens and saints/religious figures. The name of Queen Victoria appears on approximately eleven place name locations in Cork City; the renaming of the area around MacCurtain Street as “The Victorian Quarter” is the latest example.

Interestingly, over one hundred place names in Cork City are named after saints, representing thirty-one saints, seven of which are female. (only St Mary, St Joseph and St Patrick can match Queen Victoria in popularity). 

Dozens more place names have religious associations such as the names of popular Cork priests or Italian saints. Just two nuns, both founders of religious orders such as Mary Aikenhead and Nano Nagle are remembered on a road, places and a bridge.

Names such as Bernadette, Mary, Margaret and Geraldine appear on Cork street names and they are probably connected to saint names also.

Only Dr Mary Hearn (2011) and Mary Elmes (2020 ) who have had the honour of recently having a park and a bridge named after them in the city may be deemed to have come from a secular if somewhat privileged background.

To date it appears that no secular working class woman has been bestowed with the honour of her name being placed on any public structure or street in Cork City. When one realises that Thom’s Commercial Directory of 2004 listed some 2805 streets in Cork City and yet no street is named after an ordinary Cork woman, it is a very serious omission and represents gender and class discrimination on an epic scale in our city.

Happy Birthday, Mother Jones

Mary Harris was born in Cork City in 1837.

On the morning of 1st August 1837, she was baptised by Fr. John O’Mahony in the North Cathedral.

Her parents were Ellen Cotter and Richard Harris, and her sponsors were Ellen Leary and Richard Hennessy.

St. Mary’s Cathedral Baptism Register 1833- 1853.

Her sister Catherine was baptised in the Cathedral on the 29th March 1840, while brother William was baptised here on 28th February 1846.

(Our thanks to Anne Twomey, Bernard Spillane of the North Cathedral and Nora Hickey of Kinsale for her genealogy work.)

Anne Twomey points to the then location of the baptismal font in the Cathedral of St. Mary & St. Anne – Nora Hickey looks on (right).

Presentation of Spirit of Mother Jones 2022 to Don O’Leary of the Cork Life Centre.

Don O’Leary, director of Cork Life Centre is presented with the 2022 Spirit of Mother Jones award in an emotional ceremony during the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.

The award was presented by James Nolan and was followed by a sustained standing ovation from the large number of people present. 

Don O’Leary receives the award from James Nolan.

Don is the first Cork man to receive the award and he commented afterwards that it meant so much to him as Mother Jones was one of his heroes for seeking to prevent the exploitation of children in the mines and mills of America and ensure they received an education and also that he and the Cork Life Centre had been selected by the ordinary people of Cork. This represents the ultimate recognition for his efforts and the wonderful work of the staff and volunteers of the Cork Life Centre.

Don O’Leary and Rachel of the Cork Life Centre with the Cork Mother Jones Committee
Left to Right: Rachel Lucey, Don O’Leary and Sharon O’Neill of the Cork Life Centre.

The Spirit of Mother Jones citation for Don O’Leary and the Cork Life Centre was read. 

For his courage and determination to ensure that children and young people are not left behind by the Irish education system.

For his Trojan efforts and that of the volunteers and staff at the Cork Life Centre to create a positive and practical community of learning which is welcoming, supportive and encouraging of young people.

For his advocacy of human rights and social justice especially in relation to children’s rights and their opportunities to progress to the best of their creative abilities and individual talents which contribute so much to a better community and world.

For his refusal to accept that one size fits all in the Irish education system and for his refusal to compromise in relation to this fundamental student centred approach focused on authentic inquiry and experiential learning and measures success in a radically different way to the standard competitive exam system.

For his practical approach to providing a structured base and a supportive network which has established an educational home for the young people to use their talents and visualize opportunities to fulfil their dreams in life and become productive members of society.

For his encouragement of young people to walk the road of life using their own unique abilities, independence of spirit, critical observation and an appreciation of their own self-worth.  

CORK MOTHER JONES COMMITTEE 2022
Don O’Leary being congratulated by Caitriona Twomey of Cork Penny Dinners.
Left to Right: Don O’Leary, James Nolan and Antoinette Keegan.

Thursday 28th July 2022 at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival.

 2:00 p.m.            Frameworks Films, documentary Mother Jones and Her Children.

3:00 p.m.          Rosemary Feurer, documentary Mother Jones, America’s Most Dangerous Woman.               

4:00 p.m.          Peter Buckingham tells the story of Red Tom Hickey: The Uncrowned King of Texas Socialism – and Mother Jones.

5:30 p.m.       Official festival opening by the Lord Mayor of Cork. Joan Goggin presents a poetic tribute to Jim Larkin (1874-1947).

7:15 p.m.         Cork City Council and St Peter’s Cork present a documentary: Endurance and Engagement – Cork City Women in the 1920s. Introduced by Christine Moloney.

8:00 p.m.         Anne Twomey speaks of “Dark Times, Dark Deeds, Long Shadows: the experiences of some women in the Revolutionary Years”

9:30 p.m.        The Cork Singers’ Club.

Can’t make the festival? Cork Community TV will show a series of talks from the Mother Jones Festival Archives all this coming weekend. Check out www.corkcommunitytv.ie or Virgin Media Channel 803.

Don O’Leary of the Cork Life Centre to receive the 2022 Spirit of Mother Jones Award.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is proud to announce that the 2022 Spirit of Mother Jones Award will be presented to Don O’Leary, director of the Cork Life Centre. This is the tenth annual award which the committee has made and Mr O’Leary is the first Cork man to receive it. The award will be presented later this week to Mr O’Leary at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival on Saturday 30th July at 1pm at the Maldron Hotel, Shandon.

Don O’Leary.

Jim Nolan on behalf of the Cork Mother Jones Committee stated;

“We are really pleased to announce that the Spirit of Mother Jones Award for 2022 has been awarded to Don O’Leary, director of the Cork Life Centre for his work and commitment to providing an alternative learning environment to many young people who are outside the mainstream education system.

Specifically Don has shown by his example and dedication to the young people how they can make progress within a different system which places them at the very core attempts to meet their unique needs and requirements.”

Cork Life Centre at Sunday’s Well.

The Committee’s citation for Don O’Leary and the Cork Life Centre includes the following; 

‘For his courage and determination to ensure that children and young people are not left behind by the Irish education system.

For his Trojan efforts and that of the volunteers and staff at the Cork Life Centre to create a positive and practical community of learning which is welcoming, supportive and encouraging of young people.

For his advocacy of human rights and social justice especially in relation to children’s rights and their opportunities to progress to the best of their creative abilities and individual talents which contribute so much to a better community and world.

For his refusal to accept that one size fits all in the Irish education system and for his refusal to compromise in relation to this fundamental student centred approach focused on authentic inquiry and experiential learning and measures success in a radically different way to the standard competitive exam system.’

 

On behalf of the Cork Mother Jones, we congratulate Don O’Leary and the Cork Life Centre. 

Documentaries at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2022.

Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times. 

A documentary from Frameworks Films and the Shandon Area History Group.

7.30 pm Friday 29th July at Dance Cork Firkin Crane.

‘Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times’ tells the story of five women –  Nora and Sheila Wallace and Mary, Annie and Muriel MacSwiney. These women played a vital role in the formation of the Irish state and yet their stories are not widely known. This documentary provides an account of the lives of these five women and in particular the part they played in the Irish revolutionary period, whilst still carrying on their roles as shopkeepers, teachers, wives and mothers. It attempts to answer in some small way the question that was often asked in the early years of the Irish Free State, ‘What did the women do anyway?’.

Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times.

Endurance & Engagement: Cork City Women in the 1920’s  

7.15 pm Thursday 28th July at Dance Cork Firkin Theatre.

The short documentary, commissioned by Cork City Council, as part of the Decade of Commemorations and  funded by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts Gaeltacht, Sport & Media looks at the lives of ordinary women in Cork City during the turbulent period of the struggle for independence and how they were impacted by the violence and unrest. The women included in the documentary are Eilish MacCurtain, The Duggan Sisters, Geraldine Neeson and Dr. Mary Hearn.  The research team on the project were Anne Twomey of Shandon History Group, Dr Helene O’Keeffe of UCC School of History, and Gerry White.  The documentary directors Ciara Buckley & David Slowo of Wombat Media. The  Executive Producer of this documentary was Christine Moloney of LW Management who will introduce it on the night. Release Date 2022. Runtime 32 minutes.

Peg Duggan

Mother Jones and her Children.

2:00 pm Thursday 28th July at the Maldron Hotel Shandon. 

This film tells the story of Mary Harris (1837 – 1930) from Cork who went on to become known “the most dangerous woman in America”. Starting with her early years in Cork, the documentary goes on to detail her life in America following the famine, her marriage to George Jones and the birth of her four children. It details the tragedies which befell her. Her growing involvement in the labour movement in America, defending the rights of children and workers is documented. Through interviews with leading experts on Mother Jones, we learn of her fearless and tireless campaign to organise workers at a time of severe labour strife and her international legacy today. Produced by Frameworks Films and the Cork Mother Jones Committee in 2014. Runtime is 52 minutes.

Mother Jones and Her Children

Mother Jones, America’s Most Dangerous Woman 

3:00 pm. Thursday 28th July at the Maldron Hotel, Shandon.

Mother Jones: America’s Most Dangerous Woman is a documentary about the amazing labor heroine, Mary Harris Jones, known as Mother Jones. Mother Jones’ organising career influenced the history of early 20th century United States. She overcame class and gender limitations to shape an identity that allowed her to become an effective labor organiser in the early 20th century. Mother Jones transformed personal and political grief and rage about class injustices into an effective persona that led workers into battles that changed the course of history. The terrible conditions and labor oppression of the time motivated her to traverse the country, in order to organise against injustices. This film also gives a deeply moving account of the Ludlow Massacre. This is a film by Rosemary Feurer and Laura VazquezRelease Date 2007 (Canada). Its runtime is 24 minutes.

Mother Jones, America’s Most Dangerous Woman

A Visit to Cork’s Beautiful North Cathedral.

On Friday July 29th at about 11:00 am we will gather at the magnificent North Cathedral of St Mary and St Anne and known affectionately throughout Cork with some understatement as the ‘North Chapel’. It was originally dedicated in 1808 on the site of an earlier church.

Cork’s Beautiful North Cathedral

Anne Twomey will give a brief history of the Cathedral with particular reference to its connections with the baptism of Mary Harris on the morning of 1st August 1837. 

Launch of Feminism Walking Tour Website, Followed by a Walk.

Professor Maggie O’Neill in collaboration with Traveller Pride will launch the Feminism Walking Tour website followed by a walk.

Professor Maggie O’Neill.

Gather outside the Maldron Hotel Shandon at 3.45 pm on Saturday 30th July. All welcome.

The thematic focus of this walk is on celebrating the contribution of women to art, culture, society and the city; exploring the role of women in addressing sexual and social inequalities, and building fairer, safer communities. The walk, which is the first in a series of walks, writes women into the spaces and topography of the city. The walk was created in discussion with students from University College Cork, Naomi Masheti, Cork Migrant Centre; Danielle O’Donovan, Nano Nagle Place; Mary Crilly, Sexual Violence Centre Cork; Eileen O’Shea, Traveller Visibility Group; John Barimo, Mother Jones Plaque and James Cronin, Honan Chapel.

The walk and website will be launched at the Mother Jones Festival 30th July 2022!

New Documentary: Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times.

The documentary ‘Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times’ will be shown at the Cork Dance Firkin Crane in Shandon on Friday evening 29th July at 7.30 pm.

A new documentary about some of the women who played an important role in the revolutionary period in Cork will be screened at the Dance Cork Firkin Crane Theatre in Shandon, Cork on Friday 29th July at 7.30pm, as part of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2022.

According to Lil Conlon, one of the members of the Shandon Cumann na mBan in Cork, a question that was often asked in the early years of the Irish Free State was“ What did the women do anyway”?  This documentary tells the story of what two sets of sisters did during the War of Independence and attempts to answer that question in part.

‘Ordinary Women in Extraordinary Times’ tells the story of five women –  Nora and Sheila Wallace and Mary, Annie and Muriel MacSwiney. These women played a vital role in the formation of the Irish state and yet the detail of what they did and how they managed to do these tasks whilst still playing their other roles as wives, mothers, teachers and shopkeepers has received little attention.

The documentary first tells the story of how the Wallace sisters ran a newsagents shop on Augustine Street in Cork city centre, which effectively became the unofficial headquarters of the No 1 Brigade of the Cork Volunteers after their own headquarters on Sheares St was closed after the Rising. Florrie O’Donoghue from the brigade is quoted as saying “If any two women deserved immortality for their work…they did!”  Their story is told by members of the Shandon Area History Group and also by Bill Murphy, grand-nephew of the sisters and by Bernadette Wallace, their niece.

The second family to feature in the documentary are the MacSwiney family. Mary and Annie MacSwiney were the sisters of Terence MacSwiney, former Lord Mayor of Cork, whose death by hunger strike whilst imprisoned in Brixton Prison made international headlines and Muriel MacSwiney, their sister-in-law, was his wife. This section will be told via interviews with  Anne Twomey and Maeve Higgins, members of the Shandon Area History Group and also with Cathal MacSwiney Brugha, the grandson of Muriel MacSwiney and grand-nephew of Mary and Annie MacSwiney.

The documentary has been produced by Frameworks Films in collaboration with the Shandon Area History Group and was funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. It will also be broadcast at 8pm on Sunday 31st July on Cork Community Television, which is available on Channel 803 on Virgin Media’s digital cable package and online on www.corkcommunitytv.ie

For further information please email emma@frameworksfilms.com