Mother Jones comes home to Cork
The Cork Mother Jones Festival opens in the Shandon area of the city today (Tuesday), marking the 175th anniversary of the birth of Mary Harris who was better known in her adopted home of America as Mother Jones. The festival will kick off at 7.00pm this evening at the Maldron Hotel, John Redmond Street, with a showing of the Irish premiere of the documentary film Mother Jones, America’s Most Dangerous Woman. In attendance to present and discuss the film will be Rosemary Feurer, producer and director. This will be followed, at 9.30pm by an evening of music and songs at the Maldron Hotel to celebrate Mother Jones, with the Cork Singers Club.
Mother Jones was an uncompromising fighter against the appalling conditions in which workers and particularly mine and mill workers toiled. She played a major role in highlighting the use of child labour in American mines and factories and often clashed with America’s wealthiest industrialists including John D. Rockefeller. She continued her activity into her 80s and 90s, until her death, aged 93 in 1930.
The Mother Jones Festival 2012 is the very first commemoration of Cork woman, Mary Harris outside of America and the first in Cork. The highlight of the event will be the unveiling of a memorial plaque to Mother Jones in John Redmond Street on Wednesday evening.
All events will take place on the north side of Cork City, in the historic Shandon area, in association with Shandon Street Festival. The locations of events such as the North Cathedral (“North Chapel”), St. Anne’s Church (“Shandon Bells”), the Firkin Crane, and the Maldron Hotel ( formerly the North Infirmary) are all a few minutes walk from each other and about 5 minutes walk from the Christy Ring Bridge over the River Lee.
The Festival’s organisers, the Cork Mother Jones Commemorative Committee, have said that there has been huge interest in the event, particularly from the United States where Mother Jones is a national icon for trade unionists and working people.
The full programme of events can be downloaded in PDF format here
We are seeking out people who believe that they may be related to Mother Jones (Mary Harris Jones). As people will know, Mary lost her own children, four of them and her husband George Jones in an outbreak of yellow fever when the family was living in Memphis, Tennessee, so there are no direct descendants alive, however there must be people alive today in both Ireland and the United States who are related either through the Harris and Cotter families in Ireland or the siblings of Mother Jones. We know that Mary’s eldest brother, Richard, became a Catholic priest but she had another brother, William, and two sisters, Catherine and Ellen.
Regarding the Harris family in Ireland , Mother Jones grandparents on the Harris side seem to have been: William Harris & Mary White.They were the parents of Richard Harris, Mary’s father.Richard seems to have had a sister Hanorah Harris, b 1805 and a brother John, b 1798. Mary’s father Richard Harris was from Cork and her mother was Ellen Cotter from Inchigeelagh in the Lee Valley, West Cork.
If you believe you are related to Mother Jones, or that there may be a family connection, we sould love to hear from you. Send us an e-mail or telephone Jim on (086) 3033576.
A few people have asked us to put up some images and songs about Cork, the birthplace of Mother Jones. She was born on the Northside of Cork in 1837, probably in the last week of July. We do know for certain that she was baptised in St. Mary’s North Cathedral, known locally then and now as the North Chapel and featured in the first video here. It is to the right of the video shown here. The tall pepper-pot shaped spire is the steeple of St. Ann’s Shandon which is known the world over for its famous bells. The North Cathedral was and still is the Roman Catholic parish church for the area while Shandon is the Church of Ireland (Anglican / Protestant) parish church.
You can see both and the general area of the Northside which would have been known to the young Mary Harris before she and her family left for North America sometime around 1851/’52. The singer in this short clip is Kieran Goss, from Co. Down on the other end of Ireland.
and below this more recent video from the Shandon Street Festival with local singer and historian Richard T. Cooke singing his own composition, “Cork City is my home” – Richard is also a member of the Cork Mother Jones Commemorative Committee and will no doubt give us a rendition of the song on the day of our celebrations to mark the 175th anniversary of Mother Jones.
and here are the Shandon Bells, which have been ringing out over Cork city for almost 300 years