THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN FIVE USA VISITORS IN ONE DAY

Diarmuid Breatnach

On Sunday in Dublin on my travels I conversed (about more than directions) on three different occasions with visitors from the United States and found a wide range of attitudes.

BOSTON, LARKIN AND THE COPS

The first of these was with an elderly couple outside Kilmainham Gaol Museum. The man had “Boston” displayed on his T-shirt and I started talking about Dennis Lehane’s novel “The Given Day”, which is set in Boston and which I had just finished reading. They had read it, really liked it and told me it was the first of a trilogy to which I responded that I would certainly be looking for the follow-ups.

Jim Larkin's "mug shots" when charged with "criminal anarchism" in New York 1919 (he served time in Sing Sing penitentiary). (Photo sourced Internet)

Jim Larkin’s “mug shots” when charged with “criminal anarchism” in New York 1919 (he served time in Sing Sing penitentiary).
(Photo sourced Internet)

I talked about Lehane’s slant towards the cops as opposed to the revolutionaries and how of course my slant would be the other way but that in any case Lehane had not done his research on Larkin, who figures in the novel with other revolutionaries and radicals. Lehane refers to Larkin’s “gin-breath” but Big Jim was well known as a teetotaler, which I explained to them.

Then I talked a bit about the Irish Citizen Army that Larkin had founded with James Connolly and others, how they grew up out of the 1913 Lockout/ Strike and that Larkin had served time in Sing Sing prison later as a punishment for his revolutionary oratory in the USA.

I didn’t get the feeling that I and the two Bostonians were in agreement with my revolutionary sympathies but certainly did when it came to the workers fighting the Lockout in 1913. We parted amicably as they went off to enjoy some more of their holiday.

(Photo sourced Internet)

(Photo sourced Internet)

The Jim Larkin monument in O'Connell Street today/ El monumento de Jim Larkin in la Calle O'Connell hoy en día

The Jim Larkin monument in O’Connell Street today (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Encounter No.2 took place in Cornucopia, into which I had dropped for a cup of coffee.

I took my ‘Americano’ to a vacant table. The one next to me became vacant for awhile and was then occupied by an elderly lady who left her handbag open next to me. I advised her that was an unwise thing to do in Dublin and she remarked. in US accent upon the Leonard Peltier badge that I had been unconsciously wearing all day, so we talked about his case for awhile. She didn’t seem sympathetic to the FBI and expressed horror at the treatment of Peltier, now approaching his 40th year in prison for an act of which he was unjustly convicted.

The lady asked me for advice about literary events in Dublin and as she was, sadly, leaving the day before Culture Night, all I could suggest was a visit to Books Upstairs, where someone might be able to advise her. After I jotted down the address and a rough map for her, I left.

THE DEVIL AND THE TRUMPETTES

It was my intention to attend later that evening the Song Central session, on their first night back after their summer break. Song Central is a monthly gathering of singers and listeners upstairs in Chaplin’s pub, across from the Screen cinema. But I needed to eat first and so headed for a burrito in Pablo Picante, a small place serving Mexican food in Temple Bar (well, at the western end of Fleet Street).

Sitting eating my burrito and facing out into the street, I noticed passers-by pointing at the window and laughing. I could have become paranoid except it was clear that they were pointing to an image painted on the window further to my left. Then a late 30s or early 40s couple who in their style looked kind of to the Left maybe laughed at the image and took photos. The female whipped out a lipstick and wrote something over the painting, then had the man take a photo of her next to what she had written.

Curiosity had me now and after they wandered off, I went outside and saw that the painting on the window was a caricature of US Presidential candidate Donald Trump and underneath it the artist had written in big letters “DIABLO”. Of course, that would be because Trump wants to build a wall along the border with Mexico due to the negative impact he accuses Mexican migrants of having on the US, which Trump wants to “make great again”.  And he has also impugned a US Judge’s ability to rule impartially on his case, due to the judge’s Mexican heritage.

The painting in the window of the Pablo Picante burrito restaurant in Fleet St. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The painting in the window of the Pablo Picante burrito restaurant in Fleet St.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

The woman had scrawled something along the lines of “He’s not, we love him” with a heart sign on a part of the painting – clearly far from being Lefties!

I went back inside, got a serviette, came outside and rubbed off her comment, then back inside to continue my assault on the burrito.

Not long after, I was not a little surprised to see the woman and the man standing outside again. She noticed the removal of her comment and commenced to write again. I went to the counter to tell the staff what was going on and returned to find the woman inside, leaning on my jacket on the window shelf and working on rubbing out the painting from the inside!

My challenge on what did she think she was doing elicited the response that Donald Trump was going to be (or might be?) their next President and that the painting was disrespectful. I stood between her and the painting, telling her that we have free speech in this country (which is not strictly true but as the nearest weapon I could reach ….) and just kept repeating it. Then the guy came in and told me I had “no idea”. He kept repeating that and I kept repeating the “free speech” stuff, alert in case he took his case into the physical arena (and he looked fit, too). I also wondered what I would do if instead, it was the woman who attacked me. But they left soon afterwards.

Soon after, a member of staff (Mexican, presumably) went outside and rubbed off her comment, returning with a wry smile.

SINGING THE USA

At the Song Central session later that evening, post-burrito and post Trumpettes, the theme happened to be about the USA, songs from there or about travelling there etc, it being the anniversary of the “9/11” attack on the Twin Towers. If I’d remembered about the theme, I’d have learned the Allende song recorded by Moving Hearts, or brushed up on the lyrics of “Hey Ronnie Reagan” by Christie Moore. Because “9/11” ( in 1973) is also the anniversary of the CIA-instigated military coup in Chile, which over time claimed the lives of 32,000 people.

Interestingly, most of the song contributions during the night that referred to the USA (and most of them did, though people are not obliged to follow the theme), were critical of the US state, whether because of its endemic racism towards blacks and Latinos or its genocide towards the First People, or because of its wars. One song I felt pretty sure would be sung – and it was — was about the firemen on 9/11 running up the stairs of the doomed building while occupants ran down – a powerful song about the heroism of a section of public service emergency workers.

Luckily I could remember some US song material and sang “The Ludlow Massacre” and “How Can I Keep From Singing”, both composed in the US: one written by a revolutionary and the other adapted in the US by a progressive singer.

I had set out that day without remembering the significance of the date for the USA and yet throughout the day had a significant level of engagement with people from the US and, at the end of the day, with the terrible event itself.

End.

Postscript:

On Tuesday, while taking a photo of the Trump caricature in the window to accompany this piece, another US couple began to talk to me.  The man opened with: “The man IS a devil” (referring to Trump).  

I remarked that Trump was not going to get elected but his role would be to make Clinton look good, then she could carry on bombing and invading countries if she got elected, no problem.

The woman told me they didn’t like Clinton either.  They were from Boston and the man and his father before him had been union organisers.  He was complained about the weakness of the unions nowadays.  

We talked about cops breaking strikes in the USA in the 1930s and how the cops themselves went on strike in Boston during that period.  He talked about what the cops are like nowadays against pickets and demonstrations, militarised ….

FIRST PEOPLE WARRIOR JEAN-ANN DAY WALKS ON

Diarmuid Breatnach

Jean-Ann Day, who has just died, visited Dublin in January 2012 to help push an international campaign to free Leonard Peltier, also a warrior of the First People and longest-serving prisoner in the US after a travesty of a trial in 1977.

Jean-Ann speaking at picket on the US Embassy in Dublin in solidarity with Leonard Peltier. The photographer's back is to the Embassy.

Jean-Ann speaking at picket on the US Embassy in Dublin in solidarity with Leonard Peltier. The photographer’s back is to the Embassy.

Jean-Ann Day — photo placed with her official obituary on funeral home site

Due to a family tragedy hitting her contact here I had to step in as Jean-Ann’s contact but it was an honour for me. I progressed arrangements and took her to see Joan Collins TD and arranged for a radio interview with a program on Near FM.

I remember that on our way across the Liffey, Jean-Ann took a pinch of tobacco and offered it to the river with a prayer. The Gaels also thought of their rivers as divine, most of them goddesses. Although an atheist, to my thinking such belief systems seem greatly superior to those that think it fine to convert a river into a sewer or a toxic waste outlet.

On Saturday 4th February 2012 a small crowd of varied political backgrounds, including a significant proportion of independents, staged a protest outside the US Embassy in Ballsbridge as part of a world-wide week of protests seeking Peltier’s release. Jean-Ann delivered a simple speech there that I believe reached into the heart of every one of the participants as it did into mine.obama-free-peltier-placard

Poster produced for the Dublin solidarity picket of the US Embassy (regret the name of the artist does not come to mind at the moment)

Poster produced for the Dublin solidarity picket of the US Embassy (regret the name of the artist does not come to mind at the moment)

A small musical evening in Dublin organised by supporters was another occasion at which she appeared and I understood she went to Belfast and Derry too.

Jean-Ann, warrior for justice has walked on and left us her memory. Her former comrade, another warrior, Leonard Peltier, remains in jail in serious ill-health.

Peltier is incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary of Coleman in Florida and given that he is 72 years of age and that his next scheduled parole hearing will be in July 2024, it is clear that the FBI and USA state want him leaving jail only in a coffin. Barring appeals, parole or presidential pardon, his projected release date is October 11, 2040.

 

 End

Jean-Ann Day, Bear Clan of the Ho-Chunk Nation, age 65 of Stevens Point, Wisconsin walked on Sunday, September 4, 2016 at the University…

APPENDIX

Leonard Peltier Regarding the Passing of Jean-Ann Day

When I heard the news of Jean’s passing I was both saddened and surprised. I did not know she was ill. If I had known I would have reached out to her and tried to support her in any way I could.

Jean was a true friend to me for all the years I knew her. Her passing reminds me of so many things back in those days at Oglala so long ago.

She was a such a bright light and a young woman full of courage who came to Oglala without hesitation to join us in protecting the elders there. And she did so much work to free me from prison all these years. I am grateful to her for that.

Poster in the style of Jim Fitzpatrick's famous Che Guevara poster (Regret artist unknown to me)

Poster in the style of Jim Fitzpatrick’s famous Che Guevara poster (Regret artist unknown to me)

Over the years here I have thought of her often and in my dreams of freedom there were always a few faces I expected to see if I ever walked out of here. Jean’s was one of them.

I know she was doing wonderful work in the effort to bring healing and positive change to her Ho-Chunk people and I was always proud of her for that.

I regret that I could not be there for her ceremonies so I could offer comfort to her children and grandchildren, but I can only send these few heart-felt words.

You were a great woman and your life made a real difference to me… and to so many others.

Rest in peace, my dear friend. ‘Til I see you again.

Doksha,

Leonard Peltier

 

Part of the gathering at the US Embassy in solidarity with Peltier and seeking his urgent release in 2012

Part of the gathering at the Dublin US Embassy in solidarity with Peltier and seeking his urgent release in 2012

JOE HILL — new song by David Rovics on 100th anniversary of the singer-organizer’s death by capitalist firing squad

Tribute by David Rovics in 2015, the anniversary year of the execution of Joel Haglund, alias Josef Hilstrom a.k.a. Joe Hill) 

 

 

David Rovics is a socialist troubadour from and in the USA of many years’ standing and has composed many songs about many issues.  He also regularly tours and this year plans to go on a tour of Joe Hill’s homeland to celebrate this worker organizer, singer, song and other text writer and martyr.  You can look him up on

davidrovics.com

 

(The punctuation arrangement below is mine — there was none in the text I received).

1.

Joel Haglund came from Sweden

Which was very far from Eden:

By the time he left most of his family died;

His sisters and his mother,

His father and his brothers

So with one remaining sibling at his side,

He got a notion

To sail across the ocean

Where he heard the streets were paved with gold;

Not long after his arrival

As he toiled for survival

He realized the bill of goods that he’d been sold.

Joel Haglund, aka Joe Hill

Joel Haglund, aka Joe Hill

2.

He got a whole lot wiser —

Became an organizer —

And he organized with artistry and skill.

He spoke up, raised his fist

Got right on the blacklist

That’s why he changed his name to Joe Hill.

He heard that it was best

If he headed to the west

Where the Industrial Workers of the World

Were finding the solutions

For making revolution

With red songbook and red flag unfurled.

Chorus:

A hundred years ago, the bard

With the union card,

Proved his music was too powerful, too strong;

They couldn’t stand the sound —

They had to take him down —

Lest he organize the working class in song.

3.

Soon as he paid his dues,

He tried hard to light the fuse,

Speaking, singing, writing lyrics and cartoons;

He sent off the whole mess

To the Wobbly press

And they sang his songs as they fought the goons!

He joined a singing movement

That fought for improvement

By abolishing wage-slavery worldwide;

He sang the Wobbly line

Beseeching workers to combine

Learn from Mr Block — the bosses lied.

(Chorus)

4.

His life would be cut short

By a kangaroo court

Eager to determine one man’s fate;

Evidence was circumstantial

But that’s inconsequential

When you’ve become an enemy of the state.

They put him up against the wall

And that was all

They gunned him down in 1915 —

He took all the bullets he could take

There by the Salt Lake

For being the best bard they’d ever seen

(Chorus)

 

JANUARY — BIRTHS AND STATE EXECUTIONS

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

The month of January is the start of the year, according to the calendar most of us use but, for the Celts and some other peoples, it was the last month of winter, which had begun in November, after the feast of Samhain.

I am notified of many birthdays in January from among my Facebook friends.  That would seem to indicate a higher rate of conception at the end of March/ early April and onwards but a quick search on the internet did not supply me comparative figures.  However, in our climate, new food begins to be available inland in January as salmon arrive to spawn and with sheep lactating from February.  Onwards from there, plants begin to grow again and birds lay eggs, animals give birth and so on.  The pregnant mother needs a ready supply of food to sustain a viable pregnancy.

Though January may be a month of births, from what I see of history it is also a month of deaths … early, unnatural deaths …. of executions, in fact.  These particular executions to which I refer took place in Ireland and in the United States of America and they were carried out by the respective states of those countries.

 

Executions by the Irish Free State

This week saw the anniversary of five such executions, on the 15th January 1923 — executions by the Free State of IRA Volunteers.  Four of these were in Roscrea and the fifth was in Carlow: Vol.F. Burke; Vol.Patrick Russell; Vol.Martin Shea; Vol.Patrick MacNamara; Vol.James Lillis.

They were not the first executions by the Free State: eight had been executed the previous November and thirteen in December.  The killing for the new year of 1923 had begun with five in Dublin on the 8th January and another three in Dundalk.

The Mountjoy Four executions by the Irish Free State in 1922 of one IRA Volunteer from each province.

The Mountjoy Four reprisal executions by the Irish Free State on 8th December 1922 of one IRA Volunteer from each province.

Nor were those executed on the 15th January to be the last for that month: on the 20th another eleven stood against a wall to be shot by soldiers of the Irish state; on the 22nd, another three; on the 25th, two more; and another four on the 26th before the month’s toll of 34 had been reached. As we progress through the year, each month will contain the anniversary of an executed volunteer and in all but one, multiple executions.

Apart from those who died while fighting, seventy-seven Volunteers and two other supporters of the struggle were officially executed by the Irish Free State between November 1922 and 29th December 1923. In addition there were many (106-155) murdered without being acknowledged by Free State forces — shot (sometimes after torture) and their bodies dumped in streets, on mountains, in quarries .1

Soiidarity demonstration outside Mountjoy Jail, probably organized by Cumann na mBan, perhaps in protest at Mountjoy executions December 1922

Soiidarity demonstration outside Mountjoy Jail, probably organized by Cumann na mBan, perhaps in protest at Mountjoy executions December 1922

These deeds and others led to the composition of a number of songs, among the best of which are in my opinion Martyrs of ’22  (sung to the air of The Foggy Dew) and Take It Down from the Mast.  The latter was written in 1923 by James Ryan, containing two verses about the Six Counties which one doesn’t normally hear sung.  Dominic Behan in the 1950s added a verse of his own about the four executions by the State in reprisal for the assassination of TD Sean Hales, when the State deliberately shot one Volunteer from each province, each of whom had been in custody when the assassination took place: Rory O’Connor, Liam Mellows, Richard Barrett, Joseph McKelvey,  Dominic Behan recorded the latter in the 1950s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-b2EL8Jytao

This was the bloody baptism of the new state, a neo-colony state of twenty-six counties on a partitioned island, with six counties remaining a British colony.

 

MARTYRS OF ’22

1

When they heard the call of a cause laid low,
They sprang to their guns again;
And the pride of all was the first to fall —
The glory of our fighting men.
In the days to come when with pipe and drum,
You’ll follow in the ways they knew,
When their praise you’ll sing, let the echoes ring
To the memory of Cathal Brugha.

2

Brave Liam Lynch on the mountainside
Felll a victim to the foe
And Danny Lacey for Ireland died
in the Glen of Aherlow
Neil Boyle and Quinn from the North came down
To stand with the faithful and true
And we’ll sing their praise in the freedom days
‘Mong the heroes of ’22.

 3

Some fell in the proud red rush of war
And some by the treacherous blow,
Like the martyrs four in Dublin Town,
And their comrades at Dromboe:
And a hundred more in barrack squares
and by lonely roadsides too:
Without fear they died and we speak with pride
of the martyrs of ’22.

 

 
Executions of “Molly Maguires”

Wednesday, 14th January, was the anniversary of the executions of James McDonnell and Charles Sharp at Mauch Chunk jail, Pennsylvania. Both had been accused of being “Molly Maguires”, a resistance group of workers, mostly miners, in the Pennsylvania region. Today, the 16th, is the anniversary of the execution of another “Molly”, Martin Bergin; 20 were executed over two years. And many more had been murdered in their homes or ambushed — many others had been beaten; these activities were carried out by “vigilantes” hired by the coal-mine owners and by Iron & Coal Guards, also employed by them.

The exact origin of the name Molly Maguires is uncertain but they were among a number of agrarian resistance organizations of previous years in Ireland; according to accounts, they gathered at night wearing women’s smocks over their clothes to attack landlords and their agents. Since these smocks tended to be white in colour, Whiteboys or Buachaillí Bána was another name for them.  

Molly Maguires tribute statue by Zenos Frudrakis in Molly Maguires Memorial Park, Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, USA

Molly Maguires tribute statue by Zenos Frudrakis in Molly Maguires Memorial Park, Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, USA

Somewhat Ironically, the state of Pennsylvania was itself named after a man with connections to Ireland: William Penn’s father, the original William, had commanded a ship in the Royal Navy during the suppression of the Irish uprising in 1641, for which he had been given estates in Ireland by Cromwell.

His son, William went to live on the Irish estates for a while and was suppressing Irish resistance there in 1666. Not lot long afterwards he became a Quaker in Cork.

In 1681 the younger Penn’s efforts to combine a number of Quaker settlements in what is now the eastern United States were successful when he was granted a charter by King Charles II to develop the colony. The governance principles he outlined there are credited with influencing the later Constitution of the United States.
 Charles II added the name “Penn” to William’s chosen name of “Sylvania” for the colony, in honour of the senior Penn’s naval service (he had by then become an Admiral).

Less than two hundred years later, Pennsylvania was one of the United States of America and the anthracite coal discovered there was being mined by US capitalists. The mine owners squeezed their workers as hard as they could and regularly replaced them with workers who were emigrating in mass to the United States in the mid-19th Century.

According to James D. Horan and Howard Swiggett, who wrote The Pinkerton Story sympathetically about the detective agency, about 22,000 coal miners worked in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, at this time and 5,500 of these (a quarter) were children between the ages of seven and sixteen years. According to Richard M. Boyer and Herbert M. Morais in Labor’s Untold Story, the children earned between one and three dollars a week separating slate from the coal. Miners who were to injured or too old to work at the coal face were put to picking out slate at the “breakers”, crushing machines for breaking the coal into manageable sizes. In that way, many of the elderly miners finished their mining days as they had begun in their youth.  The life of the miners was a “bitter, terrible struggle” (Horan and Swiggett).

Workers who were illiterate and immigrants without English were unable to read safety notices, such as they were. In addition immigrants faced discrimination and Irish Catholics, who began to arrive in large numbers in the United States after the Great Hunger of 1845-1849 faced particular discrimination although (or because) most spoke English (as a second language to Irish, in many cases). The mine-owners often employed Englishmen and Welsh as supervisors and police which also led to divisions along ethnic lines.

As well as wages being low and working conditions terrible, with deaths and serious injuries at work in their hundreds every year, the mine-owners cut corners by failing to ensure good pit props and refused to install safety features such as ventilating or pumping systems or emergency exits. Boyer and Morais quote statistics of 566 miners killed and 1,655 seriously injured over a seven-year period (Labor, the Untold Story).

In 1869 a fire at the Avondale Mine in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, cost the lives of 110 miners. There had been no emergency exit for the men’s escape. It is a measure of the influence of the mine and iron capitalists that the jury at the inquest into the deaths did not apportion blame to the mine-owner, although it did add a rider recommending the instalation of emergency exits in all mines.

Earlier at the scene, as the bodies were being recovered from the mine, a man had mounted a wagon to address the thousands of miners who had arrived from surrounding communities: “Men, if you must die with your boots on, die for your families, your homes, your country, but do not longer consent to die, like rats in a trap, for those who have no more interest in you than in the pick you dig with.”

The speaker was John Siney, a leader of the Workingmen’s Benevolent Association, a trade union that had been organizing among the miners for some time; his words were a call to unionize and thousands did so there and then and over the following days.

Trade union organisers in the USA throughout the 19th Century (and later) were routinely subject to harassment, threats and often much worse and the workers at times responded in kind. Shooting and stabbing incidents were far from unknown, with fifty unexplained murders in Schuykill County between 1863 and 1867. The mine-owners had the Coal and Iron Police force and were known to hire additional “vigilantes” to intimidate and punish trade union organisers. They also hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to gather intelligence on union organisers and on the Molly Maguires.

The employers watched concerned as the WBA trade union grew to 30,000 strong with around 85% membership among the coal miners of the area, including nearly all the Irish. The “Great Panic” of 1873 changed the situation. A stock crash due to over-expansion was followed by a decrease in the money supply and staggering levels of unemployment followed. As is often the case, the capitalists maintained their life-styles while claiming inability to pay living wages to their workers. As is often the case too, they used the opportunity of high unemployment to force worse wages and conditions upon the workers.

One of those capitalists owned two-thirds of the mines in the southeastern Pennsylvania area; he was Franklin B. Gowen, owner of the Reading & Philadelphia Railroad and of the Reading & Philadelphia Coal & Iron Company. Gowen was determined to break the WBA and formed his own union of employers, the Anthracite Board of Trade; in December 1874 they announced a 20% cut in wages for their workers. On 1st January 1875 the WBA brought their members out on strike.

The history of the coal mines of Pennsylvania and their terrible conditions and mortality in the 19th Century, the extreme exploitation of the mine-owners’ systems and their use of prejudiced and corrupt courts, media and vigilantes to have their way, is a long one. The history of the workers’ resistance is also a long one and the “Molly Maguires” were a part of it. Their own history is also dogged by controversy, with some even doubting the existence of the Mollies, claiming that the secret society was an invention of the employers to create panic and to associate the unionized workers with violence in the minds of the public. The brief notes following are part of a narrative accepted by some historians but not by others.

In order to defend themselves, the miners developed two types of organisation which, in many areas where the workers were Irish, existed side by side. One was the Workingmen’s Benevolent Association, a trade union the methods of which were those of industrial action, demonstrations and attempts to use the legal system in order to improve working conditions and gain better remuneration for the workers. The leaders of the WBA condemned violence used by workers as well, of course, as denouncing the employers’ violence.

The other was the Molly Maguires, a secret oath-bound society which organized under the cover of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. The AOH in turn was a self-help or fraternal organization for Catholics of Irish origin, mostly in the Irish diaspora, particularly in the USA, where early Catholic Irish migrants had encountered much hostility and discrimination from the WASP establishment and from “nativist” groups. In keeping with the history of their namesakes, the Molly Maguires of the USA were prepared to use violence in response to the violence of their employers.

In March1875, Edward Coyle, a leading member of the union and of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, was murdered, as was another member of the AOH; a miners’ meeting was attacked and a mine-owner fired into a group of miners (Boyer and Morais).

Reprisals by the Mollies followed as attacks on their members and the miners in general escalated. These attacks were carried out by State police, the Coal and Iron Police of the mine-owners and in particular by the “Vigilantes”, also hired by the mine-owners.

The information supplied by the Pinkerton Agents in their daily reports, although often only initial speculations from surveillance, were used to target individuals who were then often murdered2. One of the Pinkerton agents, James McParlan3 from Co. Armagh, who had penetrated the Mollies under cover of the alias “James McKenna”, was reportedly furious that his reports were being used to target people for the “Vigilantes”, including people he considered innocent. His job as he saw it was to gather information which would stand up in court to convict the leading Mollies, sentence them to death and break the organisation. Although his employer tried to pacify him in fact Alan Pinkerton himself had urged the mine-owners to employ “vigilantes”.

John Kehoe Molly Maguire

John “Black Jack” Kehoe, allegedly one of the leaders of the Molly Maguires

 

The mine-owners pursued a dual strategy of violence against Mollies and other leaders and members of the WBA, while also preparing legal charges against trade union officials and collecting evidence to have the Mollies tried for murder. The courts collaborated, as did the mass media. Much of the clergy were not found wanting either and denounced the union leaders to their congregations.

The state militia and the Coal and Iron Police patrolled the district, maintaining an intimidatory presence during the strike. On May 12th John Siney, a leader of the WBA was arrested at a demonstration against the importation of strike-breakers. Siney had opposed the strike and advocated seeking arbitration. Another 27 union officials were arrested on conspiracy charges. Judge Owes’ words while sentencing two of them are indicative of the side on which the legal system was, at least in Pennsylvania in 1875:
“I find you, Joyce, to be President of the Union and you, Maloney, to be Secretary and therefore I sentence you to one year’s imprisonment.”

Stories appeared in the media of strikes as far away as Jersey City in Illinois and in the Ohio mine-fields, all allegedly inspired by the Mollies. Much of the anti-union propaganda in the media was directly provided by Gowen who planted stories therein of murder and arson by the secret society.

With the workers starving and deaths among children and the infirm, surrounded by armed representatives of the employers and the state militia (also friendly to the employers), their leaders arrested, the union nearly collapsed and the strike was broken, miners going back to work on a 20% cut in their wages. The strike had lasted six months but the Mollies fought on and McPartland noted increased support for them, including among union members who had earlier declined to support their methods.

When the Mollies were brought to trial in a number of different court cases of irregular conduct, Gowen had himself appointed as Chief Prosecutor by the State. One of the accused, Kerrigan, turned state’s evidence and his and McPartland’s evidence helped send 10 Molly Maguires to their deaths: Michael Doyle, Edward Kelly, Alex Campbell, McGeehan, Carroll, Duffy, James Boyle, James Roarity, Tom Munley, McAllister.

Execution of Molly Maguire 1877 (French soure: I have been unable to find the name of the victim or the exact date of his execution

Execution of Molly Maguire 1877 (French soure: I have been unable to find the name of the victim or the exact date of his execution)

In that area and in many other major industrial areas across the United States throughout the rest of that century and well into the next, employers continued to use spies and “vigilantes”, company police, local law enforcement agencies, state militia, labour-hostile press, fixed juries and biased judges to break workers’ defence organisations, often martyring their leaders and supporters.

A number of books have been published about the Molly Maguires and their story of has been dramatised in the film of the name (1970), starring Sean Connery as Jack Kehoe and Richard Harris as McPartland. The Mollies have also been celebrated in a number of songs, among which the lyrics of the Dubliner’s version is probably the worst and those of The Sons of Molly Maguire are the best I have heard (see Youtube recording link below end of article).

Molly Maguire tribute banner ITGWU (Cork branch)

Molly Maguire tribute banner ITGWU (Cork branch)

In June 2013 the East Wall History Group organized a talk on the Mollies by US Irish author John Kearns at the Sean O’Casey Centre in Dublin’s North Wall area (video of the talk and audio of a radio interview with the author are accessible from this link:http://eastwallforall.ie/?p=1505).

In 1979, on a petition by one of John “Black Jack” Kehoe’s descendants and after an official investigation, Governor of Pennsylvania Milton Shapp posthumously pardoned Kehoe, who had proclaimed his innocence until his death (as had Alex Campbell). Shapp praised Kehoe and the others executed as “martyrs to labor” and heroes in a struggle for fair treatment for workers and the building of their trade union.

 

End

 

The Sons of Molly Maguire: 

 

Footnotes:

1  I gratefully acknowledge the listing of that wonderful voluntary and non-party organisation, the Irish National Graves Association, which has done such important work to document and honour those who have fallen in the struggle for freedom of the people of our land http://www.nga.ie/Civil%20War-77_Executions.php

2  In what one may see as a strange coincidence, among the Mollie victims of Vigilante violence were cousins of Pat O’Donnell, with whom he had stayed for some time. Pat O’Donnell shot dead Carey in 1883 because he had turned state evidence against the Invincibles (see https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/pat-odonnell-patriot-or-murderer/).

3  Also sometimes referred to as “McParlan”. In addition some researchers have expressed the opinion that there in fact two McParlands, brothers, working for Pinkerton against the Molly Maguires.

 

“SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW” WAS WRITTEN BY A ‘RED’

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

DID YOU KNOW IT WAS A ‘RED’ WHO WROTE “BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE ME A DIME?” WELL, NOT SO SUPRISING, MAYBE. BUT HOW ABOUT THE SONGS FOR “THE WIZARD OF OZ” and “FINIAN’S RAINBOW”?

 

Yip Warburg, author of lyrics of many songs, including those in the Wizard of Oz.

Yip Harburg, author of lyrics of many songs, including those in The Wizard of Oz musical.

Yip Harburg, born in the poor Lower East Side Manhattan to Russian Ashkenazi Jew migrants, was a socialist and the writer of the lyrics of the songs in The Wizard of Oz and worked on the music too.   In fact, a lot of the production team and actors were “pinkos” of some kind, including Judy Garland.  The “Brother Can You ..” melody was based on a Russian lullaby. In this Amy Goodman interview on Democracy Now TV (see link bottom of piece), Yip’s son Ernie Harburg talks about his father and included is quite a bit of footage of Yip himself, talking and singing, as well as footage of the first Wizard of Oz film.

When some people think it appropriate, while supporting the Palestinians, to synonymise the words “Jew” and “Israeli”, confusing the ethnic grouping of Jews with the fascist, racist and colonist ideology of Zionism, they are ignorant of or forget not only those Jews who combat Zionism today like Finkelstein and Chomsky but also the public criticisms of Zionism and the creation or actions of the state of Israel expressed by Albert Einstein, authors Erich Fromm, Howard Zinn, Isaac Asimov, Philip Roth, I.F. Stone; violinist Yehudi Menuhin; journalists Joe Klein (Time magazine), Roger Cohen (NY Times); Richard Falk (UN Special Rapporteur), historian Gabriel Kolko and many, many others. Those Jews are following a tradition: political and religious dissidence was endemic in Western Jewry and Jews have been to the forefront in socialist movements in Europe and in the USA, as well as in the struggles against racism and for civil rights in the latter.

“Music makes you feel; words make you think; songs make you feel the thoughts,”  said Yip Warburg.  At the time of the Depression in the USA (caused by the financiers, surprise, surprise), with massive unemployment and poverty, the authorities and some of the public wanted songs like “Happy Times Are Here Again” and no-one was writing songs about the suffering except for his father, says Yip’s son Ernie Harburg. Not on Broadway, maybe, but in some speakeasies, in some bars and on some radio shows, the blues and folk singers were composing and singing those songs, some writers like Steinbeck were writing their stories and photographers like Dorothea Lange, Jack Delano, Gordon Parks and others were recording their faces.

People were out on the streets and picket lines too, shouting, marching, holding placards, getting their heads busted by cops and sherrifs and goons and breaking some of their heads back too. Sometimes the protesters and campaigners were shot and sometimes even executed. As the financiers swing us around to those times again, we celebrate the victories and learn from the defeats, take pride in the courage of all those who fought and mourn those who fell, whether they fought against the police and municipal authorities, the witch-hunters like McCarthy and the ignorant red-haters, the National Guard, the FBI …

Scene from the Musical Theatre production of Americana, which featured Warburg's song "Brother Can You Lend Me a Dime?"

Scene from the Musical Theatre production of Americana, which featured Warburg’s song “Brother Can You Lend Me a Dime?”

And we singers, singing the lyrics and melodies of others and of our own, written in the past or in the present, give honour to the fighters in whole periods of struggle even as, in the book of history, the first lines in the next chapter are being written.

LETTER TO MEMBER NY ST. PATRICK’S DAY PARADE COMMITTEE

To: Patrick Brian Boru Murphy                                             From: Cornelius McSclawvey,
NY St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee                                            Teernagoogh.
New York.                                                                                                  Republic of Ireland.

20th March 2014.

Re. invitation to PSNI to march in NY Parade

 

Dear Patrick Brian Boru Murphy,

I’m so sorry to hear of all the abuse you had to endure over your Committee’s decision to invite the Police Service of Northern Ireland to participate in the NY City’s Parade this year. To be honest, it was an overdue decision – even Sinn Fein accepted the PSNI years ago!  And of course urged your Committee to stand by the invitation — fair play to them although I’ve never liked them, I have to say.

But just who do these yobbos think they are? Those Irish-Americans who objected are living behind the times. And the gall of them to remind you of Peter King, selected Grand Marshall for the 1985 NY Parade, visiting IRA man Joe Doherty when he was in NY jail fighting extradition back to the UK! And the Philadelphia Parade committee making the same Joe Doherty Grand Marshall of their Parade back in 1989. Sure are we not all permitted a mistake or two in our lives?

Of course it was from the Irish Consulate that the suggestion first came to invite the PSNI. Some people, like that Larry Kirwan (of “Black ’47” musical notoriety), accused the Consulate of catering only for the rich Irish-Americans, the lace-curtain crowd. Yes, he did – he even put it in one of his books! Or so I’ve been told – I wouldn’t waste my time reading any of his rubbish. What’s wrong with lace curtains anyway? They let in light and keep your nosy neighbours’ eyes out – not that any neighbours live on our couple of acres of garden anyway, but still …

The cheek of that Wexford blow-in! And even if it were true, aren’t the successful Irish-Americans the ones who really matter? The likes of the Kennedys, O’Neill and even Republicans like Reagan (I mean the US political party), the ones who made — and keep on making – the USA great! Sure you couldn’t expect a country’s consulate to be looking out for the likes of building workers, bar and hotel staff, nurses and nannies! And even computer programming is pretty run of the mill these days.

Anyway, the Consulate lobbies for more green cards for Irish migrants, allowing them to emigrate to the USA legally, helping to sustain the economy back home through relieving us of paying them social welfare benefits and allowing them to earn money to send back home instead. Of course we know there are not enough green cards and a lot will still be illegal migrants but what can one do? And no doubt that helps keep the wages down … and stops them going on demonstrations and the like ….

Sorry, I’ve been drifting off topic. Your critics have been saying that the PSNI are just the RUC under a different name – that they are the same repressive and sectarian force as always. Well, maybe, but some things we have to just grin and bear, don’t we? And as for repression, sure they’re only persecuting dissidents, people who don’t agree with the Good Friday Agreement. The dissidents say that they’re being persecuted because of their legal political activities and not for breaking any laws. But if you stand against the tide, you must expect a good soaking, I always say.

Anyway, I just wanted to say “well done!” to you and to the rest of the Parade Committee. Hopefully next year you can not only invite the PSNI again but the Ulster Defence Regiment as well! As you know, they were formed from the B-Specials, much as the PSNI were from the RUC. It’s healthy to change the name of organisations every once in a while ….  And maybe the year after that, you can invite the British Parachute Regiment! They will probably never change their name but they are so colourful, with their red berets and wing badges … Fág an Balaugh!

Yours most sincerely,


Cornelius Mc Sclawvey