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”)
A previously unrecorded song about Mother Jones, written in 1902, has surfaced in the United States where it was written to welcome Mother Jones to a gathering of miners in Iowa.
On the Appalachian activists listserv, Marat Moore heard about a new CD on the Battle of Blair Mountain. It won’t be released until August 1, next coincidentally Mother Jones Day in Cork and on it is this previously unrecorded song from 1902 called “Welcome, Mother Jones” sung to Mother Jones when she went to see coal miners in Iowa. Marat, a former US miner, writer and founding member of the Daughters of Mother Jones will be participating in our festival in Cork on August 1st.
Welcome Mother Jones
Submitted to the United Mine Workers Journal, printed October 16th, 1902.
Note from Journal: “The following verses, composed by the local bard Jenkin D. Reese were sung by him and family Monday evening at the meeting in the courtroom.” (Mahaska, Iowa).
All Hail, Mother Jones, to Mahaska,
The Garden of Eden in soil;
That has been the gem of all Iowa
In production of coal and of toil.
The smiling of faces that greets you,
Our heroine of labor and right,
God bless your dear soul, is our feeling
For visiting ‘Aska tonight.
The themes of your speeches are grander,
And richer than silver and gold;
The life of the mansions eternal,
Where wisdom and love will unfold.
Steer forward! March on with thy mission;
Through strife and injunction be brave,
And follow the steps of the leader,
The starving and toilers to save!
The world of today is advancing,
But Nero is yet on the throne;
And Croesus with iron rod ruling,
The devil will soon take his own.
The light of millennium is dawning,
The ages unborn will be blest;
Mother Jones will be ever remembered
When her soul joins the heavenly rest.
Hank Wedel has been part of the music scene around Cork City and County for over 20 years with his eclectic mix of folk, country, jazz and rock and other music styles.
Singer-songwriter Hank Wedel was born in the USA in the 1960s,
grew up in New York City and Mallow, Co. Cork in the ‘70s, he lived for awhile in NYC in the ’80s and ’90s but is based in Cork City
Hank is well known for his involvement in the live music scene in that city, working with bands such as “Princes Street” and “Open Kitchen”, as well as a long-standing Monday night residency at Charlies Bar on Union Quay with mandolinst Ray Barron.
Hank has also performed with Irish music legends Kila, Shane McGowan and Bono.
Irish folk-singer legend Christy Moore recorded Hank’s song “Listen” and made it the title track of his best-selling 2009 album on the Sony records label.
Hank will be one of the headline performers at a night of music, song and dance at the Maldron Hotel as part of the Mother Jones Festival on Wednesday 1st August.
Thanks to Richard T. Cooke for organising the lunchtime concert which will take place as part of the Cork Mother Jones Festival on Wednesday, 1st August 2012. This will be a free concert starting at 1.00pm and the venue will be the Firkin Crane centre in Shandon.
Performers will include:-
- Cork Memory Lane Group
- Cork Shakespearean Company
- James P. McCarthy
- The Publiners
The concert will last for approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes and will be rounded off with a medley of Cork songs with the finale being a new song about Mother Jones written and performed by the inimitable Richard T. Cooke.
Great song / video about Mary Harris Jones from the famous cowboy singer of the 1930s & ’40s, Gene Autry