Launch of Four Festivals

Launch of the Four Festivals of Shandon yesterday (May 29) at the Maldron Hotel.  L-R: Sandra Gil, John Jefferies, Linda O'Halloran, Michael Lally, James Nolan, Cllr. Pat Gosch, Cllr. Kieran McCarthy.  Photo: Martin Duggan.

Launch of the Four Festivals of Shandon yesterday (May 29) at the Maldron Hotel. L-R: Sandra Gil, John Jefferies, Linda O’Halloran, Michael Lally, James Nolan, Cllr. Pat Gosch, Cllr. Kieran McCarthy. Photo: Martin Duggan.

A unique event took place in the Shandon area of Cork city yesterday (29 May) with the joint launch of four separate festivals which will be held in the area under the auspices of “The Gathering” during the summer and early autumn.

Dubbed “the Four Festivals under the Four Liars”, the events will be launched simultaneously at the Maldron Hotel in Shandon this Wednesday (May 29th) at 1.00pm.   All local media are welcome.   The “four liars” is the local nickname for the four faces of the Shandon clock on the iconic St. Anne’s Church which is known for showing a slightly different time on each face.

The four festivals in question are as follows:

“Voices from Shandon” on Saturday, 15th June;  which will include the raising of 1,000 flags on St. Anne’s Church to the sound of 200 voices.

The 7th Shandon Street Festival on Saturday, 22nd June which will feature a large number of events aimed at all ages from face-painting  and magic shows to live music and story-telling.

The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival on Tuesday 30th July to Thursday 1st August will mark the life and legacy of Cork born social activist and trade union organiser Mary Harris, better known as “Mother Jones”. Cork City Council has officially designated August 1st as “Mother Jones Day”

Last, but not least, is  the 8th Dragon of Shandon festival on Thursday, 31st October to celebrate the ancient Irish festival of Samhain / Halloween and will feature Ireland’s largest dragon.

Spokesman Jim Nolan said that the launching of four festivals on the one day was a first and predicted that they would be a major boost to local businesses and to the standing of the area as the historic heart of the Northside.

Four Festivals, one poster

Four Festivals, one poster

Attending the launch

Attending the launch

Relaxing at the launch.  Photo: John Jefferies.

Relaxing at the launch. Photo: John Jefferies.

Festival Launch.  Photo: John Jefferies

Festival Launch. Photo: John Jefferies

Four Festivals Launch 019

Mother Jones Festival 2012 Highlights

Selected highlights from the inaugural Mother Jones Festival in Cork, Ireland celebrating the 175th anniversary of the birth of Mary Harris aka Mother Jones.

The 2013 festival runs from Tuesday 30th July to Thursday 1st August, and promises to be even better than last year. It culminates on August 1st, the anniversary of Mary Harris’s baptism at Cork’s North Cathedral on that date in 1837. The anniversary is now formally recognised by Cork City Council as “Mother Jones Day”.

Our thanks to Frameworks Films for permission to use these highlights

Festival Programme

2013 Poster

Preliminary poster for 2013 Festival

Festival Programme 2013

Tuesday July 30th

3pm to 9pm         Mother Jones Exhibition                           Shandon Quarter Ex. Center

7pm                    Hillsborough: “The long fight for Justice”   Firkin Crane Centre

Speaker: Margaret Aspinall

Hillsborough Family Support

Group.

9.30pm                 The Cork Singers Club                                      Maldron Hotel.

Wednesday July 31st

9am to 9pm           Mother Jones Exhibition                                  Shandon Quarter Ex. Centre

2pm                     116 Days: The Vita Cortex Workers          Maldron Hotel

Struggle; a film by Declan O’Connell.

3.30.                       Slavery on our Seas                                   Firkin Crane Centre  (downstairs)

Speaker: Ken Fleming of the International Transport Federation

7.00                        The Dublin Lockout: The Centenary.      Firkin Crane Centre (upstairs)

                             Speaker: Padraig Yeates,     Writer, journalist and historian

.

8.30                        “Jim Larkin speaks” with Jer O’Leary      Firkin Crane Centre.

9.00                        The Mother Jones Commemoration

                               Concert with Richard T.Cooke and friends.      Firkin Crane Centre.

10.00                       Hank Wedel and Friends                           Maldron Hotel

Thursday 1st August,

 

 

Mother Jones Day.

 

 

 9.00                        Mother Jones Exhibition.                                   Shandon Quarter Centre

 

11.00                       “Mother Jones, the most dangerous woman in America        Maldron Hotel

(a film by Rosemary Fuerer)

11.45                      Remembering Mother Jones Festival 2012         Maldron Hotel

(a film by Framework Films)

3.00                        The 2013 Mother Jones Lecture                          Firkin Crane Centre (downstairs)

Speaker: Professor Simon Cordery.

Chair of History, Western Illinois University.

Author: Mother Jones, Raising Cain and

Consciousness

7.00                        Mother Jones Tribute.                                 Mother Jones Plaque

March past of Union Banners:

Butter Exchange Band Tribute to Mother

Jones.

Presentation of Mother Jones Award.

8.30                        Concert with Andy Irvine                                  Firkin Crane Centre

10.00                     Music, Two Time Polka,                                      Maldron Hotel.

The “Spirit of Mother Jones” Festival 2013

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is delighted to announce the holding of the 2013 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in Shandon from Tuesday 30th July to Thursday 1st August 2013.

This international “Shandon Summer School” event will see speakers from Ireland joined by participants from both the United Kingdom and the United States, who will attend to discuss issues associated with social justice, labour history and trade union struggles. These were issues close to the heart of Cork born Mary Harris known throughout the world as Mother Jones, after whom the event is named in honour.

In 2012 Shandon was the location for the inaugural Mother Jones Festival which celebrated the 175 Anniversary of the birth of Mary Harris nearby. The festival was hugely successful, receiving coverage throughout Ireland and America and placing the historic Shandon area in international focus.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee felt Shandon should continue to honour Mother Jones by highlighting and providing a platform for discussing labour history, trade union actions for fair working conditions and social issues in the setting of the birthplace of Mother Jones.

“What better way to remember the great Mother Jones that by listening to, learning of and discussing the struggles of ordinary workers and people in an annual Summer School format in this area?” stated Jim Nolan of the committee.

“It would be a fitting tribute to an extraordinary Cork woman”

The Shandon festival/summer school will have a mixture of speakers, lectures discussions, films and music and songs associated with these struggles over three days.

On Tuesday evening, 30th July the Chairperson of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, Margaret Aspinall will speak on the traumatic events which took place at the Hillsborough Stadium on the 15th April 1989, when 96 Liverpool supporters lost their lives. Margaret’s son James was among those who never came home from that game. Margaret will give an account of the families long 23 year campaign to highlight the injustice and untruths which surrounded the real causes of this appalling disaster.

Wednesday afternoon 31st July will see Ken Fleming of SIPTU and an Inspector with the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) give a lecture on the exploitation of seafarers on vessels operating under Flags of Convenience. Over the past 4 years Ken has recouped over a million euro in unpaid wages for foreign seafarers in Irish ports, six vessels were detained and over 100 seafarers repatriated.

Later that evening Padraig Yeates, journalist, writer and author of the book “Lockout”, an account of the bitter workers strike in 1913, will give the Centenary lecture on the Dublin Lockout. The Lockout was a watershed in Irish political and labour history and began a chain of events which led eventually to the 1916 rebellion. Padraig Yeates is a renowned expert on this period in Irish history. His Centenary lecture will take place at 7pm on Wednesday 31st August at the Firkin Crane.

On Thursday 1st August, Mother Jones Day, we are honoured to present Professor Simon Cordery of Western Illinois University who will deliver the annual Mother Jones lecture. Simon has written extensively on the activities of Mother Jones and recently completed a history and analysis of Mother Jones entitled Mother Jones “Raising Cain and Consciousness”.

“All the speakers will present in their different ways a common thread through history of ordinary people and families fighting for basic rights whether in their work places or in their daily lives as epitomised by the spirit of Mother Jones who spent most of her life defending the rights of workers and their families in the United States of America.” continued Jim Nolan.

The festival will see Andy Irvine return to Cork to perform a special concert in honour of Mother Jones at the Firkin on Thursday 1st August. There is limited capacity and tickets will need to be pre purchased.

Richard T Cooke is organizing a Mother Jones tribute concert also at the Firkin Crane on Wednesday 31st July.

Noted actor Jer O’Leary will perform a Jim Larkin monologue while the famous Cork Singers Club will perform a series of labour and trade union songs at the Maldron Hotel.

All are welcome to attend this unique event which forms part of the Gathering events in Cork City in 2013.

For further information contact:

Jim Nolan 0861651356
Michael Lally 0868540896
Gerard O’Mahony 0863196063.

Marat Moore’s inspiring address to Cork Mother Jones Festival

Marat Moore on Croagh Patrick

Marat Moore at the summit of Croagh Patrick mountain, Co. Mayo, Ireland.

Cork’s Gift to American Labor:

Thoughts on the Extraordinary Life of Mary Harris Jones

This is a revised and longer version of the inaugural lecture given by Marat Moore at the Mother Jones festival on August 1, 2012, at the Firkin Crane Center, Shandon, Cork.

 

Go raibh maith agat. Thank you, Ger.  This festival is a landmark event in the history of Mary Harris (“Mother”) Jones—the first time that her life in Ireland and her work in the United States have connected in such a powerful and public way. We owe a debt of gratitude to the organizing committee for bringing her home to Cork.

As a former coal miner, I’m here to talk about how Mother Jones helped build the most powerful union in America in the early 20th century, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). And as a writer working on a novel about her, I will also explore Mary’s childhood in Cork, which in my view was not just the city of her physical birth, but the birthplace of all she came to be. The other story I will share concerns her living legacy and the birth of the Daughters of Mother Jones in the historic Pittston coal strike in the Appalachian coalfields.

*                                  *                                  *                                  *

For Mother Jones, coal miners were her “boys” and the United Mine Workers union was her home in the family of labor—the family she regained years after the tragic loss of her own family from yellow fever in Memphis, Tennessee.

She had a lot to say about the plight of coal miners, including this:

“The story of coal is always the same. It is a dark story. For a second’s more sunlight, men must fight like tigers. For the privilege of seeing the color of their children’s eyes by the light of the sun, fathers must fight as beasts in the jungle. That life may have something of decency, something of beauty—a picture, a new dress, a bit of lace fluttering in the window—for this, men who work down in the mines must struggle and lose, struggle and win.”

Let’s look at one moment when she was fighting for coal miners—exactly one hundred years ago today, on August 1, 1912. She had just turned 75—although she told everyone she was in her 80s—and near the peak of her fame. On that day, she lifted her black skirts and climbed in her work boots on the back of a dray wagon beside the Kanawha River near Charleston. She spoke to a crowd of striking miners who doubted they could win against coal operators and the politicians they controlled, and companies’ hired gun thugs. The location was just outside the strike zone, was one of the few places the strikers could safely gather.

But nowhere was really safe. A week earlier, 16 men had died in a battle between mine guards and miners. Because she had been giving speeches in the area, coal operators believed she had incited the violence. So they planted a spy in the crowd to take down her every word in shorthand. She aimed her remarks at the gun thugs and the governor, saying:

 “We are law-abiding citizens, we will destroy no property, we will take no life, but if a fellow comes to my home and outrages my wife, by the Eternal he will pay the penalty. I will send him to his God in the repair shop! The man who doesn’t do it hasn’t got a drop of revolutionary blood in his veins.” 

In the next few months, she faced down machine guns, was arrested and court-martialed under military law on a trumped-up murder charge, and imprisoned.  But she managed to smuggle out a telegram to a U.S. senate committee that turned the tide of the strike, and helped to win it.

Two years later she was in Colorado with more than 1,000 striking miners, mostly immigrants who could not speak English, at the Ludlow tent colony. She was arrested twice during that battle. From a jail where people had died of exposure and disease, in 1914 she smuggled out another blazing message that proved again that she could not be silenced:

“I am being held a prisoner incommunicado in a damp, underground cell in the basement of a military bullpen at Walsenburg, Colorado … I want to say to the public that I am an American citizen, and I claim the right of an American citizen to go where I please so long as I do not violate the law.

To be in prison is no disgrace. In all my strike experiences I have seen no horrors equal to those perpetrated by General Chase and his corps of Baldwin-Felts detectives that are now enlisted in the militia.  My God, when is it to stop? I have only to close my eyes to see the hot tears of the orphans and widows of working men, and hear the mourning of the broken hearts and wailing of the funeral dirge, while the cringing politicians whose sworn duty it is to protect the lives and liberty of the people crawl subserviently before the national burglars of Wall Street who are today plundering and devastating the state of Colorado economically, financially, politically and morally.

Let the nation know that the great United States of America is now holding [me] incommunicado in an underground cell surrounded with sewer rats, tinhorn soldiers and other vermin.”

Signed, Mother Jones.

*                                  *                                  *                                  *

How did Mary Harris, the newborn baptized at the North Cathedral 175 years ago today, become “The Miner’s Angel” and “Labor’s Joan of Arc” in America? How did she find the strength and the courage to become Mother Jones after suffering so much tragedy in her personal life?

We don’t know—in part because she didn’t tell the truth about her past. She must have had her reasons. As a result, we know much more about what she became as Mother Jones than how she got there.

Her story began on these crooked streets of Shandon on the northside of Cork, somewhere near where we gather today. The poet William Blake said the crooked paths are the paths of genius, and that was surely true of Mary Harris Jones.

I believe that Mary got a very strong start in Cork. In fact, her first 10 years here before her father and brother emigrated in 1847, were the most stable decade of her long life. We don’t know the circumstances of the Harris family, and assume it was difficult, but she had the support of an intact family, a home, a parish and a tightly knit community. As a child it is likely she was deeply grounded in the Catholic faith. Never again in her 93 years did she have that solid base of home, family, community and faith for that long a period.

She needed that base. Before she was 35, she endured three personal and social traumas—famine, fever and fire. The famine here in Cork, the yellow fever that killed her family in Tennessee, and the Great Fire of Chicago. And not even making the top three are having babies throughout the Civil War, the race riot in Memphis in 1866.

Research in early childhood development gives a hint about why Mary may have been resilient in later life. Children who are given loving care in their early years—and then endure an adversity that they survive with help and support—are best able to deal with trauma in adulthood. And the largely female Harris family left in Cork through the famine did survive.

Mary, growing into her teens, must have played a major role in caring for the family. In these streets she also witnessed, for the first time, the ravages of economic injustice and heard the grating of the death carts. Living in the highly politicized world of Cork City, she likely understood, even at her young age, the roots of the starvation as she watched butter and meat transported to the docks on the Lee and exported to people who already had enough to eat.

*                                  *                                  *                                  *

There are some tantalizing hints about what she may have learned during her most impressionable years. When Mary was 6 years old, for example, in 1843, Daniel O’Connell staged one of his monster rallies here.

Did she attend the rally with her parents? O’Connell drew hundreds of thousands; everyone went to his rallies. I imagine her at that rally, hoisted on her father’s shoulders, thrilling to the roar of the crowd and O’Connell’s powerful voice and message about Catholic Emancipation. Years later, Mary would hold her own monster rallies, and it was her voice and her message on emancipation of workers that could move coal miners to tears.

Abolition was another theme that surfaced in Cork in the 1840s before the famine. On the day of O’Connell’s Cork rally, a procession moved through the city, led by a float that carried two men, one painted black and one white. According to Thomas Keneally in his book, The Great Shame, the black figure wore a sign that said “Free” and held up his broken chains because England had ended slavery in the West Indies. The white man, representing the Irish, held up his chained fists and wore a sign saying, “Still a Slave!”

Two years later, in 1845, when she was 8, the famous abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass gave four stirring speeches in Cork. Did she hear Douglass speak? Or perhaps hear about Douglass from her parents and neighbors? If she did absorb some of this abolitionist sentiment, it alters the way we see her decision to move to Memphis, Tennessee, on the cusp of the Civil War. She likely was not naïve about the choice of that southern city where she would see American slavery close at hand.

*                                  *                                  *                                  *

Mother Jones has been part of my life for 35 years, since the late 1970s when I worked as an underground miner in Mingo County, West Virginia, near the town of Matewan which was the site of an explosive mine war in 1920. Retired miners in their 80s and 90s told me stories about hearing Mother Jones speak there in 1920. Although she was rather short, one miner said, “She was the biggest woman I ever seen!”

In the mines, you watch out for each other. I remember one day when a buddy and I worked on the coal face when a machine lost its brakes and came barreling down the incline at us with no lights. We couldn’t see it and couldn’t hear it because of the noise at the coal face. A union brother nicknamed Bullhead threw us into the tunnel wall and saved our lives.

Women were first hired as coal miners in the mid-1970s, and by 1979 there were about 5,000 of us nationwide. Women miners were among the union’s most activist members, and we formed a national network that lasted 20 years and built solidarity with workers internationally. Mother Jones inspired us–we held a conference in southern Illinois just so we could make a pilgrimage to her grave.  But women coal miners did much more—they confronted the union on issues of family leave, acid rain pollution caused by coal mining, and sexual harassment in the mines. They become such a force that at our annual conferences, the union president and his staff felt obligated to attend, maybe just to keep an eye on them.

It was the network of women coal miners—known as the Coal Employment Project—that gave birth to the Daughters of Mother Jones in the historic Pittston coal strike in the late 1980s. By that time I was working for the United Mine Workers of America in Washington, DC, but remained active in the women miners’ movement.  My job involved photographing underground in many mines and writing about mine safety, but on the side I organized miners’ wives and children.

In 1988 the Pittston coal company canceled health benefits for pensioners and widows to provoke a strike. Instead the United Mine Workers of America decided to prepare for a strike by building public support and keeping the miners on the job.

Public support meant family support. I proposed organizing a network of family support in southwest Virginia through the Pittston local unions, and union approved the plan and allowed me to hire two laid-off women miners to help. The three of us were the core committee. We hit the ground running and had about a dozen groups formed and they held rallies in their communities and set up a year-long informational picket line at the company headquarters.

The union launched the strike against Pittston in early 1989 and decided that the women should stage a nonviolent occupation as the strike’s first act of civil disobedience. Our committee met secretly with 40 women and they wanted a name. Mother Jones came up immediately, and then someone called out, “We’re the Daughters of Mother Jones.”  The name itself gave us courage. We laughed and shared her history—about earlier strikes when miners’ wives had been jailed with their babies and Mother Jones suggested they sing all night! Finally the jailer freed them because he couldn’t stand the noise!

The women of the Pittston strike were worried about giving their names to media in case the company targeted their husbands for retaliation. So we numbered off: Daughter of Mother Jones #1, Daughter #2, through #40. When CNN brought its cameras into the building for interviews and would ask a woman her name, she’d say, “I’m the Daughter of Mother Jones #14.” CNN had to shut off its cameras and ask, “Who is Mother Jones?” So we had labor history sound bites on Mother Jones in print, and on radio and TV.

Mother Jones said, “An army of mining women makes a spectacular picture.” In the end about 1,000 women and children were actively involved in the Pittston strike. The Daughters engaged in mass arrests and jail vigils and helped run Camp Solidarity, a makeshift camp with bunk beds that drew thousands of supporters from around the country and the world, including a group of Siberian miners.

Then the students walked out of several high schools and marched to the jails where their parents were detained. And the women had their Mother Jones fun. They turned around road signs with route numbers pointing in the wrong direction to confuse the state police and armed guards. Coal operators consider wives no threat and ignore them, a fact that can be used to great advantage.

*                                  *                                  *                                  *

Now a new chapter of Mother Jones history is being written—here, where it all began, in Cork. This is part of a second flowering of interest in her that I have seen. The first was in the 1970s and spawned books, plays, reenactors and Mother Jones magazine. This Mother Jones Rising has also triggered much creative work and her legacy has been linked to the Occupy movement and current economic and union struggles.

What is her message to us today? To organize to confront the current economic and political upheaval, and work for justice. To free ourselves of prejudice and give up our petty differences. She inspired more than half a million coal miners, mostly immigrants, and with thousands of other workers in the United States.  She stayed the course. What inspires me most about Mary Harris Jones is the courage of her soul—which not only predates Mother Jones, but made her possible.

We live in a time as turbulent as hers. Can we carry on her legacy of resistance to powerful corporations who rob the poor and destroy our earth?

Are we up for it? Let us take her brave spirit into our hearts as the sons and daughters of Mother Jones, and fight like hell for the living.

THE END

Mother Jones festival “an outstanding success”

The Cork Mother Jones Festival has been called “an outstanding success” by Jim Nolan of the organizing committee.

“The Mother Jones festival was an outstanding success in every way for Shandon and Cork; it achieved massive local national and international publicity for our community”, he declared.

Mr. Nolan continued,

“Mother Jones is now finally back in her native place and we have made up for the failure to honour this brave and courageous woman who was born in this community 175 year ago”.

The festival, organised by a voluntary committee in association with the Shandon Street Festival, concluded recently after three days of celebrations in and around the ancient historical community of Shandon, taking in the North Chapel, St.Anne’s Church, the Firkin Crane Centre and the Maldron Hotel (the old North Infirmary).

The highlight was the unveiling of a plaque designed by Mick Wilkins to commemorate Mother Jones on John Redmond Street on the evening of Wednesday 1st August. Fortunately glorious sunshine arrived for the unveiling event which was performed by Cllr. Ted Tynan and Jim Nolan of the Shandon Street Festival. Music was provided by the Butter Exchange Band and Norman O’Rourke and the American and Irish National Anthems were played.

Capacity crowds were present for all events. Professor Rosemary Feurer’s film Mother Jones, the Most Dangerous Woman in America was shown three times during the festival to cater for the number of people wishing to see it. The ground-breaking Andy Irvine concert at St.Anne’s Shandon was performed before a sell out crowd of almost 300 people.

The festival was opened by Lord Mayor John Buttimer at the Firkin Crane on Wednesday morning 1st. The Lord Mayor praised the work of the voluntary committee who had constructed a highly interesting series of events, talks, music, concerts and an exhibition on the life of Mother Jones by Jim Fitzpatrick. A concert organized by Richard T Cooke featuring a host of Cork talent attracted a capacity attendance to the Firkin.

The inaugural Mother Jones lectures provided a focus for some stirring debates on the afternoon with Joe O’Flynn, General Secretary of SIPTU, Professor Elliott Gorn of Brown University and Marat Moore, author and founder of the Daughters of Mother Jones. This event also featured a wondeful re-creation of the speeches of Mother Jones performed by internationally renowned actress Kaiulani Lee.

The festival, which attracted huge publicity for Shandon featured on TV3 and most of the national media, also attracted international media attention with even a front page story on the Mount Olive Herald and in the widely read Mother Jones Magazine as well as numerous labour and history websites throughout North America.

A host of Cork artists and musicians appeared at the festival, including Two Time Polka, Hank Wedel, Jim Williamson, Cork Memory Lane Group, Hugh Moynihan, the Cork Singers Club, Richard T Cooke, traditional musicians, while Andy Irvine played at a sell out concert at St.Anne’s Shandon.

Following a recent meeting of the organising committee, it was decided to hold the annual Mother Jones festival in 2013 in Shandon from Tuesday 30th July to Thursday 1st August. Further announcements will be made in relation to the events as they are confirmed.

Mother Jones – A True Cork Rebel

Our sincere thanks to Catherine M. Courtney for this professionally produced short video of the unveiling of the Mother Jones plaque on 1st August 2012.  The opening music is the Cork Butter Exchange Band playing “She’ll be coming round the mountain”, a song believed to be about Mother Jones.  The song which follows is “Mother Jones – A True Cork Rebel”, newly composed and sung by Richard. T. Cooke, member of the Cork Mother Jones Commemorative Committee.