There is a strong West Cork flavour to this year’s 8th Mother Jones festival in Cork, celebrating the life of one of America’s best-loved activists, who was born near the city’s famous Shandon Bells
A DOCUMENTARY on the Ballinscarthy Ford family’s car factory on Cork’s marina is one of the highlights of this year’s Mother Jones festival in Cork.
The seventh Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and summer school takes place in Shandon next month and this year will mark the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote.
Running from Wednesday, August 1st August to Saturday, August 4th there’s a varied line-up for the festival which honours the most celebrated trade unionist in US history.
It has expanded this year and will run in Firkin Theatre and the Maldron Hotel, as well as at the Cathedral Visitor Centre attached to the historic North Cathedral.
‘In effect Mary Harris (‘Mother Jones’ as she was known in the US) is coming home, as it was on 1st August, all of 181 years ago, that she was baptised at the North Cathedral in the very same 200-year-old baptismal font which is still used today in the Cathedral,’ said an organiser.
Among the major highlights of the festival will be the premiere of a new documentary, Fords – Memories of the Line, which looks at the plant which operated on the Marina from 1917 to 1984.
It will be premiered on Wednesday August 1st at 7.30pm in the Firkin Crane Theatre on John Redmond St in Shandon.
‘There will be a red carpet for any former Ford employees who want to come along - we would love to see them,’ festival organiser Ger Omah told The Southern Star.
The documentary was produced by Frameworks Films, a Cork-based production company, in collaboration with Ford’s ex-workers group. It documents the closure of the factory in 1984 and the impact this had on the men, their families and the city of Cork. This should be of interest to anyone connected to the Ford Motor Company and its car factory in Cork.
The Ford company was established in Detroit in the US by descendants of the Ballinascarthy-based family of the same name, who had emigrated from West Cork during the famine, in 1847.
The Mother Jones committee also intends to celebrate the achievements of the suffragette movement and the 100th anniversary of the right of women to vote, which took place in the 1918 election.
Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, the grand-daughter of suffragette leader Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, has agreed to speak about her grandmother at the summer school.
Hanna Sheehy Skeffington was born in Kanturk in 1877, and went on to spend a lifetime fighting for the rights of women, including the right to vote until her death on 20th April 1946. Hanna’s husband Francis Sheehy Skeffington was murdered during the 1916 Rising.
In an extraordinary coincidence, during a visit to America in 1918, Hanna Sheehy Skeffington had shared a speaking platform in San Francisco with Mother Jones.
The two Cork-born women met and spoke together at this meeting on April 16th 1918.
Hanna’s American visit and her meeting with Mother Jones will be described by Micheline at the Mother Jones summer school on Saturday 4th August, 2.30 at the Firkin Theatre in the Shandon Historic Quarter.
Professor Louise Ryan, a native of Cork, is professor of Sociology at the University of Sheffield, who has published extensively on the suffragette movement. Her recent publication Winning the Vote For Women is a huge contribution to an understanding of the period will examine the connections between the Irish campaigners for womens’ rights and the trade union movement.
Further Cork highlights include a specially commissioned lecture from noted Cork historian Anne Twomey who will speak on the lives and influence of Mary, Annie and Muriel MacSwiney. This will be of major interest to many people in view of the role of the MacSwiney family during the War of Independence and in the new State.
University College Cork historian Luke Dineen will lecture on Cork born Thomas ‘Corkie’ Walsh, a member of the Irish Citizen Army, who fired the first shot of the 1916 Rising in Dublin. A memorial was recently erected to Corkie Walsh in St Finbarr’s Cemetery.
James Nolan, spokesperson for the Mother Jones Summer School, said: ‘We are thrilled that Dr Sheehy Skeffington and a wide range of the other speakers have agreed to come and speak at the seventh annual Spirit of Mother Jones summer school.
‘They will explore the various connections between the campaigns for votes for women and the trade union movement as well as the war of Independence over hundred years ago while others will speak on current international and national topics.
‘The summer school has gone from strength to strength and many hundreds are expected in the Shandon area as a further indicator of the growing importance of this unique event and the line-up of speakers and films this year is testament to this.’
‘The addition of the new venue, the Cathedral Visitor Centre will allow for a further expansion of the summer school and we are so happy that Mother Jones is returning close to her birthplace and indeed the very place where she was baptised in 1837.’
For more see www.motherjonescork.com
Louise O’Keeffe and her 20-year battle for justice
KINSALE woman Louise O’Keeffe who, having failed in the High Court and Supreme Court, and who then took the Irish government to the European Court of Human Rights, where she was successful over its failure in its duty to protect children in Irish schools, will speak about her lengthy 20-year battle through the Irish courts.
Mary Manning who, on July 19th 1984, refused to register the sale of two Outspan South African grapefruits at the Dunnes Stores Henry Street branch and set off a chain of events, will speak at the summer school. She will tell the story of the Dunnes Stores Strikers and their historic fight against apartheid which aroused the interest and gratitude of Nelson Mandela himself, on Friday August 3rd at the Firkin Theatre at 7.30pm.
Investigative journalist Frank Connolly will speak on Nama, and how the transfer of billions of euro in public assets enriched a new elite which is the subject of his latest best-selling book.
The festival’s strong American connection is again reinforced this year by the presence of Dr John Barimo who will talk on the reasons why many American trade union and working class people supported Donal Trump.
Dr Emily Twarog of the University of Illinois will discuss the role of gender and the female vote in the USA, which had an influence in the election outcomes. Actress Loretta Roberts from Illinois will re-enact Mother Jones at her fiery best.
Other films include the Cork premiere of Up to the Last Drop – The Secret Water War in Europe, produced by Small Planet Productions in Greece and directed by Yorgos Avgeropoulos.
There will be a wide range of musical events, featuring Jimmy Crowley, John Nyhan, William Hammond, Richard T Cooke and the Shandon Shawlies and the Cork Singers Club in the wider festival at various locations in the Shandon Historic Quarter to celebrate the life and spirit of Mother Jones.
For more see www.motherjonescork.com