Sep 16

“ALL BAR NONE ” – Culture Night 2017 at the Sean O’Casey Theatre

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Sep 12

Coffee Morning to support Hospice Service

St Francis hospice coffee morning

Aug 22

Burlesque & Brawling … at the Sean O’Casey Theatre

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There really is something for everybody at the Sean O’Casey over the next two weekends.

On Friday , 25th August , for the first time ever an evening of Burlesque entertainment will be taking place . Featuring East Wall’s own Vixyn Von Trix (Miss Burlesque Ireland 2015) , this promises to be “a night of glamour, sparkles, comedy, and show stopping performances. From classic burlesque and live singing, to contemporary dancing, hula hooping and all things in between, this first-time production is sure to release your “wild and foxy” side!”.

http://drsketchyireland.com/events/the-wild-fox-cabaret/

On Friday , 1st September , an evening of pro-wrestling entertainment  , where for the first time ever , East Wall’s own high-flying superstar  Darren Kearney will compete in front of his ‘home-town’ fans.

https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/ffpw-presents-episode-2-now-that-weve-roped-you-in-tickets-36651567826

 

COME OUT , SUPPORT OUR LOCAL TALENT & HAVE A GREAT NIGHT .

 

 

Aug 05

Historical Trees , Fairview Park & the Irish Forestry Society

“…turn unsightly districts in town and country into places pleasing to the eye and most conductive to health.”

Fairview and Howth Rd

As a campaign to prevent the destruction of a large number of trees along Fairview Strand gains widespread community support , Hugo McGuinness of the East Wall History Group tells the story behind the original planting and illustrates  their importance both in local and national history .

An almost treeless landscape in Connemara , early 20th Century.

An almost treeless landscape in Connemara , early 20th Century.

In the 1880s Dr. Robert D. Lyons, MP, commissioned a Professor Howitz, a renowned Forest Preserver from Denmark, to report on the possibilities of using waste land in Ireland to grow trees. Lyons had been compiling information on Irish Forestry for some years and he presented Howitz’s report to Parliament in 1884 which was then quietly set aside. The report proposed planting a quarter of Ireland’s landmass (in a somewhat fanciful but impractical plan) at the rate of 100,000 acres a year for ten years which would cost over £2 million. The plan coincided with a project driven by Father Flannery, Parish Priest of Roundstone in Connemara, who persuaded the Congested Districts Board to plant over 1000 acres near Knockboy, Galway, at a cost of £10,000. It was a disaster and became known as the Knockboy fiasco in government circles as almost all the trees, planted over a ten-year period, died. While the parliamentarians weren’t impressed by Howitz’s report, other people were, and among them was Charles Dawson, Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1883, and in later life Controller of the Rates Office in Dublin Corporation. Among the many notable achievements of Dawson’s tenure as Lord Mayor was the first planting of trees on O’Connell Street.

By the early 20th Century it is estimated that there was just 301,000 acres of forest in Ireland. Much of this was ornamental, a legacy of the great private estates of the 18th Century. Some timber was grown for commercial purposes but this was declining at the rate of about 1000 acres per year. Between £20-28 million worth of timber was being imported into Britain and Ireland annually from Scandinavia, Russia, France, Germany, Canada, and the USA. Stocks in these countries were declining, despite vibrant replanting programmes, and with it came an increase in the costs of imported timber into Ireland at the rate of about 3% each year which was hampering the competitiveness of Irish artisans and manufacturers using wood.

Robert Thomas Cooper

Robert Thomas Cooper

 

In 1902, Robert Thomas Cooper, a successful London based Doctor, founded the Irish Forestry Society (IFS). Cooper, originally from Co. Carlow, was an enthusiastic believer in the healing powers of plants, his obituary stating that he saw vegetation as the “medium for protecting man from calamities of all kinds,” and it was said that “the national neglect of forestry was to him a source of the deepest pain.” He also believed that much of Ireland’s agricultural poverty came from the deforestation which had taken place in the previous centuries. Unfortunately, Cooper died the following year from influenza, and although his replacement as President of the IFS, Lord Courtown, was highly capable, it was the Secretary of the Society, Charles Dawson, who would become the driving force of the organization.

Charles Dawson MPThere were few real experts among the early members of the Irish Forestry Society. Dawson, for example, ran a successful chain of bakeries until he took the post of Controller of Dublin Corporation’s Rates Office, and others included owners of large landed estates, scholars, enthusiasts, politicians, and amateur gardeners. However, they did win over T.P. Gill, Secretary of the newly created Department of Agriculture, and a strong advocate of Forestation in Ireland. In 1907, he was appointed Chairman of the Department’s Commission on Forestry. What they lacked in expertise they made up for in enormous dedication and enthusiasm, and perhaps more remarkably, were willing to put their political allegiances aside for what they saw as the greater good of the country. Dawson sat as a Home Rule MP for Carlow in the 1880s while Lord Courtown was a Unionist who sat in the House of Lords.

An IFS excursion to Killruddery Estate

An IFS excursion to Killruddery Estate

 

The IFS saw their main aims as educational and to lobby parliament. It was 1904 before they planted their first trees at the Spa Hotel in Lucan and the Phoenix Park as a symbolic gesture which they hoped would lead to the creation of an Irish Arbor Day. They organized demonstrations at annual events such as the RDS Spring Show and Cork Exhibition as well as excursions to forested estates of native Irish Trees. In 1905, they ran competitions with a £5 prize for the best essay on how each of Irelands four provinces could be reforested. In 1906, they had demonstrations and plantings at the Irish School of Gardening for Women at Terenure, the members of which included the wives of many prominent business and political leaders in Dublin. They had lobbied the Government in April that year and been told by the Chief Secretary, Augustine Birrell, that they should concentrate on showing “what could be done, the way in which it could be done, and the prospect of remuneration.” Birrell was very much in favour of their activities and agreed that much could be achieved to alleviate the chronic unemployment in Ireland through tree planting. However, he pointed out that much “scientific work” needed to be done before the Government would commit to a national programme. He also admitted that he feared that the native supply of timber would run out within the next 30 – 40 years. Apart from its use in construction, wood was an important source of fuel in certain parts of Ireland and if the country was to rely solely on imported wood the effect on inflation could be disastrous. He said he was always struck by the barrenness of the Irish Landscape when travelling through the country but acquiring the rights to land for planting would always be a stumbling block due to privately held grazing and turf-cutting rights.

"How the scenery of Bogs may be improved by Tree Planting" from Irish Gardening Magazine 1910

“How the scenery of Bogs may be improved by Tree Planting” from Irish Gardening Magazine 1910

It’s difficult to imagine just how bare Ireland was at the beginning of the 20th century. Newspaper commentators of the time noted that Ireland was “a country denuded of timber, a saddened spectacle … from the bare, unsheltered tracts where woods and forests at one time flourished, represented a commercial loss as well as a scenic deficit.” Another writer noted how “bare places, unsheltered places, ugly places,” could through tree planting, “turn unsightly districts in town and country into places pleasing to the eye and most conductive to health.” The Department of Agriculture had suggested that up to a million acres of waste or poor land in Ireland could be turned into forest. Taking up the challenge the IFS hoped that in setting up a National Arbor Day they could help to achieve this. They settled on the first Saturday in November as the chosen day, although Ulster counties, in a fit of patriotism, decided to pick the 17th March as an alternative.

Cover of Weekly Irish Times announcing Arbor Day 1908

Cover of Weekly Irish Times announcing Arbor Day 1908

Starting in July 1908, the Society held a meeting with Dublin Corporation at which it was agreed to allow them plant trees at sites such as the new reservoir. IFS members then travelled the country, persuading the various Corporations to pass a resolution calling on the Lord Lieutenant to support the institution of National Arbor Day. Charles Dickson, whose family ran extensive nurseries throughout Dublin and Belfast, donated 6000 trees, with the provision that many be used to educate children and be used in child orientated planting events.  F.W. Moore, Director of the Botanic Gardens, claimed children must be taught that trees were living things and be warned of the “wickedness of breaking the bark, breaking the branches, and otherwise mutilating them.” Dawson was aware that they needed national publicity and as they neared the appointed day, (actually Saturday the 31st October that year), an inspired idea was developed.

Advertisement for Arbor Day at Fairview 1908

Advertisement for Arbor Day at Fairview 1908

When Clontarf township was absorbed into Dublin Corporation, one of the agreements was that a public park would be developed on what had been knows as the Fairview Sloblands; waste mudflats created by the coming of the Great Northern Railways in the 1860s. Reclaiming the land had been ongoing and as part of the process, the Sloblands, now known as the Fairview Improvement Grounds, were being used as the City Dump, the Corporation charging 3 pence per load of private waste. The smells from the sloblands upset many Clontarf residents with several business owners claiming that their livelihood was being affected. Many felt that the slow progress was caused by the money the Corporation Cleansing Department received from privately dumped waste so a coalition developed between Clontarf and Fairview residents and the IFS to make a very public demonstration through tree planting. Talks were quickly held with the Corporation Cleansing Department who offered their full assistance, and a plan to plant six trees named after the six Corporate Borough Cities, Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Limerick, Derry, and Waterford was formulated (under the Local Government Act Galway wasn’t a city). The idea caught the public’s imagination and the ceremony received an extraordinary amount of publicity in both National and Local press.

Arbor Day planting of trees at Fairview ,31st October 1908.

Arbor Day planting of trees at Fairview ,31st October 1908.

 

As the day drew near disaster struck as Clontarf experienced a serious outbreak of Typhoid which many residents put down to the Corporation’s activities at the “Improvement Grounds.” Around 150 were struck down with the fever and at least 11 died. Nonetheless, the ceremony went ahead with Sir Charles Cameron, Chief Medical Officer of the Public Health Department of Dublin Corporation, planting the “Belfast” tree. In reporting the event later that week the Belfast Newsletter noted that there had been no further outbreaks of the fever at Clontarf. The Lord Mayor, Gerald O’Reilly, planted the “Dublin” tree and expressed the hope that in the future “it would not be shifted from the spot where it was planted.” The sequence of five was completed by other luminaries such as T.P. Gill of the Department of Agriculture, and then fifty trees were planted by local dignitaries such as Dr. J. L. Morrow, Minister at Clontarf Presbyterian Church, Fr. James Brady, and Fr. Denis Petit, local Roman Catholic Parish Priests, and Rev. W. J. Lumley, Rector of St. John the Baptist Church on Seafield Road. The former Lord Mayor and IFS Secretary, Charles Dawson, stated that not only would the trees being planted at Fairview assist in the battle against the “scourge of consumption”, but he noted that many of those involved in the ceremony “worship at different alters” yet it showed that it was “in the power of all creeds and classes to join together and do something for their common country.”

St Laurence O'Toole's , before the trees were planted.

St Laurence O’Toole’s , before the trees were planted.

Similar events took place at Portumna, Doneraile, Blackrock, and Sandycove, with demonstrations organised later in the week at local Dublin schools to show the process and benefits of tree planting. Fr. James Brady, apparently a serial tree planter, provided the demonstration involving local school children at St. Laurence O’Toole’s at Seville Place the legacy of which is those fine mature trees still there today. They were probably the first trees planted in the North Docklands for 200 years. As Fairview caught the imagination, Sir Hugh Lane, then in Spain on business, telegrammed the Board of Guardians at the North Dublin Union simply stating plant trees and send me the bill. The Gaelic League, together with local Unionist landowners at Ardagh, Co. Kerry, set their politics aside to organized an extensive planting in that town around schools, churches, and other public buildings, under the banner of La na gCrann, with many other events taking place in the subsequent weeks involving over 300 National Schools throughout the country. The Mayor of Limerick planted a Lime Tree near Island Bank and hoped that the entire area with be tree-lined in the coming years. Limerick Corporation then announced a plan to plant 150 trees throughout the wards of that city. Then the Irish National Foresters Benevolent Society offered the assistance of their nationwide membership with the organizing and implementing of future tree planting projects. The final event was the planting of 150 trees at the Dublin University Boat Club at the end of November. Most importantly, the publicity organized around the Fairview planting allowed T.P. Gill’s Committee to report to Government that the scheme they were proposing “had the approval of the whole public.” Remarkably, Government funds were made available for a reforesting programme, leading A.C. Forbes, manager of the Forestry School at Avondale from 1905, to claim that despite their naivety and “utopian view” the IFS “was probably responsible for State Afforestation being inaugurated in Ireland.” It was the first programme of its kind in Britain or Ireland.

Fairview from Annesley Bridge Road showing the saplings planted by Picton Bradshaw in 1909.

Fairview from Annesley Bridge Road showing the saplings planted by Picton Bradshaw in 1909.

 

Fairview had been a small first step by the IFS. Residents of Fairview and Clontarf saw it as an opportunity to lay down a marker of how they wanted their park to develop. In recalling the event the following year, a writer in Irish Gardening magazine questioned what it had achieved other than providing an opportunity for speech-making, although they did admit that it was near impossible to get a shovel in Dublin as a tree planting mania had erupted. Another writer sarcastically noted the regular visits of the great and the good of the political world to The Improvement Grounds to inspect the trees and speculate on how the parklands might develop. In truth, while a park had been discussed it was unclear exactly what use the reclaimed lands commonly known as the Fairview Sloblands would be put to, or how much of the land would be set aside for a public park. The actions on the 31st October 1908 certainly pushed things in favour of the creation of modern day Fairview Park, one of the jewels of the present-day Dublin City Council Parks Service. The following year, local landowner, Thomas Picton-Bradshaw of Mount Temple, donated a large number of trees and shrubs for a similar event at Fairview on Arbour Day 1909 to be planted between Annesley Bridge and the Malahide Road. One writer noted that the passer-by “can now see the promising beginnings of a growth that should give ample and graceful decoration to the park of the future.”
As the Fairview planting caught the public imagination many counties began to ask why they didn’t have similar events. The Lord Lieutenant and his wife, Lord and Lady Aberdeen, agreed to plant trees at Bray in 1909. The IFS were invited to make presentations at various Government enquiries and commissions, showing statistical and practical examples of the potential use of trees in Ireland for both commercial and health benefits. Slowly the wheels turned in their favour. In his address at that 1908 ceremony, Charles Dawson stated that the object of that day’s exercise was to “make a demonstration with a view to compelling the Government to undertake the work of re-afforesting Ireland. The people could not do it; but the Government could.” Large tree planting schemes were set up by the Government from 1911 onwards, only briefly interrupted by the Great War in 1914. Grants were instituted, and in 1919 during the War of Independence, the Dail adopted reforestation as policy.

It would be 1934 before Dublin Corporation formally adopted a set of bye-laws which would make Fairview Park a reality. But back in 1908 the influence of those embryonic steps of the Irish Forestry Society, together with the local clergy, business, and political community, was far-reaching. As you stroll around Fairview and Clontarf, and look at those numerous mature trees in churches, schools, and gardens, it’s difficult not to speculate how many were planted in the aftermath of Saturday 31st October 1908. The week after those trees were planted, Dr. John Love Morrow, presided at a meeting at Clontarf Town Hall to deal with the Typhoid Outbreak. He told the audience that they were tired of Unionist Associations, tired of Nationalist Associations ,tired of Sectarian divisions. They were there as Citizens of Clontarf and together they would decide a course of action which was best for all the Citizens. The lesson of the previous week had been well learned. A Clontarf Improvement Association was founded soon after and was vocal in promoting the Citizens wishes, particularly in relation to their park.

Alderman Healy, Alderman Crozier, Charles Dawson (IFS), Rev. Dr. J.L. Morrow (Clontarf Presbyterian Church), Alderman Gerald O’Reilly (Lord Mayor), T. P. Gill (Dept. of Agriculture), Sir Charles Cameron, Alderman Woodhead, Dr. M’Walter, planting trees at Fairview, 31st October 1908.

Alderman Healy, Alderman Crozier, Charles Dawson (IFS), Rev. Dr. J.L. Morrow (Clontarf Presbyterian Church), Alderman Gerald O’Reilly (Lord Mayor), T. P. Gill (Dept. of Agriculture), Sir Charles Cameron, Alderman Woodhead, Dr. M’Walter, planting trees at Fairview, 31st October 1908.

As the Fairview Trees near their 110th anniversary it’s unlikely that anyone could tell you which tree is called Dublin, let alone Belfast or Cork today. However, they are a constant reminder of how a community coming together and working with their local authority, first British and then Irish, were determined to direct the shape their environment would take. At that time, it was estimated only 1.5% of Ireland’s lands had forests. A succession of acts since the 1920s and an ambitious EU funded programme since the 1980s sees over 650,000 hectares of woodlands in Ireland today. So much of what we love about our environment can be trace back to that day at Fairview in 1908 when the vision of Charles Dawson combined with the hopes and wishes of the Citizens of Clontarf. Those dynamic Clontarf and Fairview residents 109 years ago little realized what they were starting that day at Fairview. Those first small steps along the sloblands have left us an extraordinary legacy of National importance. It’s a legacy which we should be celebrating in 2018 not destroying by the removal of over 50 of those wonderful mature trees.

IFS Logo

© East Wall History Group

Comments , corrections and clarifications : eastwallhistory@gmail.com

Jul 23

Fairview’s Trees – a part of local and National history

 

“…the promising beginnings of a growth that should give ample and graceful decoration to the park of the future.”

Annesley Bridge rd

On the 31st October 1908 , in honour of Arbor Day , The Irish Forestry Society (IFS) organized the planting of six trees along the Fairview Improvements Grounds, which were in the process of being reclaimed for what would become modern day Fairview Park. It was quite an impressive ceremony, and each tree, named after a county borough, (Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Limerick, Derry, and Waterford), was planted by one of the visiting dignitaries who included the Lord Mayor, as well as Dr. J.L. Morrow of Clontarf Presbyterian Church and Fr. James Brady, and Fr. Denis Petit, local Roman Catholic Parish Priests. Then “a considerable number” of other trees, part of a consignment of 6000 donated to the IFS by Alexander Dickson, were planted. Similar events took place at Portumna, Doneraile, Blackrock, and Sandycove, with demonstrations organised later in the week at local schools to show the process and benefits of tree planting. Fr. James Brady, for example, provided the demonstration at St. Laurence O’Toole’s School at Seville Place. In planting the “Dublin” tree, the Lord Mayor, Gerald O’Reilly, expressed the hope that in the future “it would not be shifted from the spot where it was planted.”

The Irish Forestry Society had been founded in 1902 in the wake of a privately commissioned report in the 1880s which suggested that the proper reforestation of Ireland would not only have important health benefits for the country but would potentially create a substantial amount of employment. As the then government failed to act in the intervening years the Irish Forestry Society was born and decided to take matters in hand through demonstrations at annual events such as the RDS Spring Show and Cork Exhibition as well as organizing trips to forested estates of native Irish Trees. Former Lord Mayor and MP, Charles Dawson, stated that not only would the trees being planted at Fairview assist in the battle against the “scourge of consumption”, but he noted that many of those involved in the ceremony “worship at different alters” yet it showed that it was “in the power of all creeds and classes to join together and do something for their common country.”
The following year, local landowner, Thomas Picton-Bradshaw of Mount Temple, donated a large number of trees and shrubs for a similar event at Fairview on Arbour Day 1909 to be planted between Annesley Bridge and the Malahide Road. One writer noted that the passer-by “can now see the promising beginnings of a growth that should give ample and graceful decoration to the park of the future.” In truth, while a park had been discussed it was unclear exactly what use the reclaimed lands commonly knowns as the Fairview Sloblands would be put to, and these actions certainly pushed things in favour of the creation of modern day Fairview Park one of the jewels of the Dublin City Council Parks Service.
Fairview and Howth Rd
As the case for and against the park was argued the First World War broke out in 1914 and for its duration the Local Government Board took over the then small amount of reclaimed land at Fairview for a type of Outdoor Relief scheme growing cheap vegetables for Dublin. This pushed back the possible opening of the park, and the then Corporation, finding the 3 pence charge per load quite lucrative, extended the dumping of waste at the area well into the 1920s covering much of the already reclaimed land used by the Local Government Board during the war. In 1920, the prompt actions of Alderman David Quaid, had stopped a motion being rushed through which would have seen much of the reclaimed parkland leased to a market farmer.
It would be 1934 before Dublin Corporation adopted a set of bye-laws which would make Fairview Park a reality. But back in 1908 the influence of those embryonic steps of the Irish Forestry Society, together with the local clergy, business, and political community, was far-reaching. Limerick had been “excited greatly” by happenings at Fairview, and that city’s Corporation announced they were purchasing 200 trees to be planted in various wards throughout that city. Others would soon follow.
As the Fairview Trees near their 110th anniversary it’s unlikely that anyone could tell you which tree is called Dublin, let alone Belfast or Cork today. However, they are a constant reminder of how a community came together and working with their local authority, first British and then Irish, were determined to direct the shape their environment would take. In his address at that 1908 ceremony, Charles Dawson, Honorary Secretary of the IFS, stated that the object of that day’s exercise was to “make a demonstration with a view to compelling the Government to undertake the work of re-afforesting Ireland. The people could not do it; but the Government could.” At that time, it was estimated only 1.5% of Ireland’s lands had forests. A succession of acts throughout the 1920s and an ambitious EU funded programme since the 1980s sees over 650,000 hectares of woodlands in Ireland today.

Dublin Corporation letter to schools in 1977

Dublin Corporation letter to schools in 1977

Those dynamic Clontarf and Fairview residents 109 years ago little realized what they were starting that day at Fairview. Those first small steps along the sloblands have left us an extraordinary legacy. It’s a legacy which we should be celebrating in 2018 not destroying.

All comments , clarifications and additional information welcome. Contact : eastwallhistory@gmail.com

Jun 12

Tommy Seery : A tribute

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It was with deep sadness that we all learned of the passing of our friend Tommy Seery on Saturday last , 10th June 2017 . A true gentleman , and surely one of East Walls finest . This tribute was written by Paul Horan on behalf of the East Wall PEG Drama & Variety Group :

Tommy has been a great stalwart of our group since it’s inception. An immensely talented actor and performer, Tommy’s inordinate talents were constantly in demand on various stages both amateur and professional, however he always found time to return to East Wall PEG to perform in our various projects, perhaps most memorably as Hennessy in “The Risen People”or as the blind Richard Harkin in “The Seafarer. For some however, particularly the younger members of the community, Tommy’s most fondly remembered performances will doubtless be as the Dame in our annual Pantomime.

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Those who were fortunate enough to see Tommy on stage can bear testimony to his superior capacity to vividly portray any character, but what they failed to witness and what we as fellow performers continually witnessed over many years, was his constant generosity and encouragement to his peers, particularly younger members of the group. He was a pleasure to know and perform with, and he leaves behind him a void that will not soon be filled.

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Our deepest sympathies to his wife Rose and Family.

 

Image-5We leave you with this wonderful clip of  Tommy appearing in the RTE television show “Senior Moments” , where his quick wit and unmistakable laugh are very much on show.

 

 

 

May 24

1917 Submarine victims – Media coverage of appeal for family contacts

Great coverage in the  Southside People

Great coverage in the Southside People

 

This year will mark the centenary of two u-boat attacks on Dublin Port ships, which led to a substantial loss of life from the Dublin Dockland communities. On 14th December 1917 the SS Hare was targeted as it travelled from Manchester to Dublin Port, while less than a fortnight later, on the 27th December the SS Adela was sunk as it travelled to Liverpool. 

As we approach the  centenary of these events, a group of relatives of attack victims along with local historians and community groups from the Docklands area have come together to ensure that the occasion is properly commemorated. An appeal for family members of the victims of both attacks was issued which has some success so far . See very comprehensive  coverage in The Southside People newspaper , and link below to excellent interview on NEAR FM with local historian David Cotter and Hilary Wallner , grand-daughter of one of the SS Hare casualties. Sets out very well why the whole commemoration programme is so important. 

 http://nearfm.ie/podcast/?p=21942

Further media coverage included an interview with Joe Duffy on the special Easter Monday  Liveline , broadcast from the Custom House , and an upcoming feature in Newsfour community paper . If you are interested in getting involved or can help us contact family members please get in touch

adelahare1917@gmail.com

 

 

May 13

SONGS of the Molly Maguires:

This past week saw the Irish premiere of John Kearns play “Sons of Molly Maguire” at Liberty Hall Theatre, as part of Mayfest 2017. It was very well received , and if you missed it we are delighted to announce that two additional performances have been added , Tuesday 16th May and Wednesday 17th May at the Sean O’Casey Theatre , East Wall .

Molly-2017-B

This year marks the 140th anniversary of the execution of ten Irish emigrants in 1877, accused of acts of violence against mine owners, foremen etc, in the Pennsylvania coal fields. Remembered as “Day of the Rope”, a further ten men would also be hanged over the next two years, mainly based on evidence from a fellow Irishman who infiltrated their community on behalf of  the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Having previously played at the Midtown International Theatre Festival in New York, where it was nominated for five awards, these performances of “Sons of Molly Maguire” represent the first time this story has ever been told on an Irish stage.

Playwright John Kearns with cast & crew at Liberty Hall

Playwright John Kearns with cast & crew at Liberty Hall

As we look forward to these not-to-missed performances , we thought we’d take some time to look at some popular (and not so popular) SONGS of the Molly Maguires . We start of with the most obvious one . For many people, their knowledge of the Molly Maguires extends to the song by the Dubliners, recorded in the late 1960’s.

A popular and rousing sing-along , the song sheds little light onto the story of the Mollies , though it does reassure us that while they have their faults they do have one important saving grace -  “They’re drinkers, they’re liars but they’re men” and also gives us plenty of warning that we’ll  “ never see the likes of them again” .

IRISH BALLADEERS

Far more interesting in terms of historical relevance are these two songs recorded by the Irish Balladeers, and appearing on their 1968 album simply titled “The Molly Maguires”.

“If you stand in the dark with your ear to the wind
you can hear the Sons of Molly.
Down in the dark of the old mine shaft
you can smell the smoke and the fire.
And the whispers low in the mines below
are the ghost of Molly Maguire.”

The Irish Rovers All hung up

This next one has a very light-hearted jaunty sound, released by the Irish Rovers in 1971. This Irish / Canadian band are probably best remembered for the incredibly stupid song “The Unicorn”, but also released a version of the even more stupid “Snoopy vs the Red Baron”. Their “Lament for the Molly Maguires” actually has a decent bit of the history in there (more than the Dubliners one), but probably stands out most for being the only song here which explicitly refers to the questionable claim that “Many’s a Welshman lost his ears”.

molly maguires - cinema quad movie poster (1).jpg

In 1970 Sean Connery and Richard Harris starred in “The Molly Maguires”, which is the other common reference point for people when they’re mentioned. The score by Henry Mancini is very well considered, and if you’ve got 14 minutes to spare here’s a selection from it.

 

18342430_1838674432828588_7617285063684967636_nNOT TO BE MISSED … at the Sean O’Casey Theatre

May 06

“No one dares to push them around” – The story of The Molly Maguires

Sons of Molly poster

It is remembered as “The Day of the Rope”, when, on the 21st June 1877; ten Irishmen were hanged in Pennsylvania. By the end of 1879 a total of twenty Irish Immigrants had been executed for their alleged role in the deaths of mine owners, foremen and police in the Pennsylvania coal fields. And now, for the very first time, their story will be told on an Irish stage. As part of MayFest 2017 at Dublin’s Liberty Hall Theatre, “Sons of Molly Maguire” by John Kearns will receive its Irish premiere on 10th and 11th May.

John Kearns is the Treasurer and Salon Producer for Irish American Writers and Artists (IAW&A).  He is the author of the short-story collection, Dreams and Dull Realities and the novel, “The World”, along with plays including “In the Wilderness” and In a Bucket of Blood. “Sons of Molly Maguire” has previously been performed at the Midtown International Theatre Festival in New York, and this is the first production outside of the United States.

While telling a fictionalised version of the Molly Maguires’ story, the play blends realism with pageant, mime and flights of poetry. It also questions the construction of history itself, since the illiterate alleged Mollies left no records preserving their point of view. In this short feature, Joe Mooney of the East Wall History Group explains the historical background to their story.

Remembering the Mollies in Pennsylvania

 

“Thousands are sailing…”

In the mid to late 1800s thousands of Irish immigrants arrived in America. They had left their homeland to escape famine, land seizures, poverty, religious and political oppression. For many, the dream of a new life in the land of the free was soon to end as they found themselves facing old oppressions in a new guise. Those who settled in the mine fields of Pennsylvania had carried more than dreams across the Atlantic; they also brought the traditions and tactics that had flourished at home. A merging of agrarian revolt and developing proletarian organisation gave birth to the militancy associated with the Molly Maguires.

The Pennsylvania coal-fields were booming as Irish Immigrants arrived. Conditions for all workers were appalling, and competition for jobs was fierce, with the companies using immigrant labour to force down wages. The mining bosses often owned the housing the workers lived in and food and other essentials were sourced from the overpriced company store. Children as young as seven were employed. Long hours, a rush to meet quotas, and unsafe conditions led to fatalities and disasters. In Schuylkill County, home to thousands of the Irish, 566 deaths and over a thousand and a half serious injuries were recorded in a seven year period. In one fire 110 miners died as there was no secondary exit available to them. Safety laws did exist, but as the coal companies themselves were responsible for enforcement these were ignored.

"Friends claim their dead" . Newspaper illustration after death of 110 men in fire disaster

“Friends claim their dead” . Newspaper illustration after death of 110 men in fire disaster

Organise!

In 1868 a miners union, the Workingmens Benevolent Association (WBA) was established to fight for improved pay and conditions. Its Irish born founder John Siney had previous trade union experience in Lancashire. Most of the Irish miners became members of the WBA and were well represented in its leadership.

The WBA was not the only group they joined. Aside from Labour concerns, the Irish again faced racism and religious discrimination. Being rural, Catholic and Gaelic speaking they stood out amongst other immigrant communities. Many had gravitated towards the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), to enjoy the associated fraternal benefits.

And then, of course, there were the Molly Maguires.The Irish in Pennsylvania had come mainly from north western counties, particularly Donegal, associated with agrarian secret societies and land war violence. The tactics of groups such as the Molly Maguires, Ribbonmen and Whiteboys —intimidation, threats, assaults and assassinations —that had targeted landlords, land agents and bailiffs at home were just as effective against mine owners, foremen and the police. New enemy, new battlefield, same response. The origin of the name is uncertain – it had been used previously in Eire, and legend says Molly Maguire was the victim of an early eviction who had sought retribution. The expression “Take that from a Son of Molly” was supposedly shouted before a killing in revenge attacks.

"Take that from a Sin of Molly"

The Coal, Iron and Rail baron

Just as William Martin Murphy is synonymous with the 1913 Lockout in Dublin, one name stands out amongst the capitalists of Pennsylvania – Franklin B.Gowen. He was no friend of the workers, and was determined to smash their organisations – when locomotive engineers had asked for a pay rise he demanded that they leave the union or give up their jobs. During the great railway strike in 1877, he thought himself immune, and bragged that “the men have no organisation, and there is too much race jealousy existing among them to permit them to form one.” They did in fact strike, and ten unarmed people were shot dead by the state militia. He also had many political connections, and a private force, the ‘Coal and Iron Police.’

In 1874 he initiated the Anthracite Board of Trade, an employers’ federation, and instigated a strike by imposing a 20% pay cut. The ‘Long strike’, ended in defeat as workers were starved into submission. Jailings, vigilante attacks and murders took place at this time.

Franklin B. Gowen

Franklin B. Gowen

“…print the legend”

Court cases attributed 16 deaths to the Molly Maguires. The first was a mine foreman beaten to death in 1862, the last a foreman, shot dead in 1895. Other acts associated with the ‘Mollies’ were sabotage, arson, assaults and intimidation. ‘Coffin notices’ – threats with pictures of coffins (or pistols) were posted against enemies, some signed M.M. Many of the actions were carried out by men with painted faces and wearing long dresses, not only as disguise but a theatrical flourish in imitation of their Irish forefathers. This suggests cultural awareness as well as economic necessity in their actions.

 'Coffin notice' - A warning from the Molly Maguires

Gowen was determined to smash all threats to his empire, and targeted with equal venom the legal WBA and the outlaw Mollie Maguires. He unleashed a wave of violence using his private police force and vigilantes, and employed the notorious Pinkerton Detective agency to infiltrate the Irish workers. Even amongst his own class some concerns arose about his approach, buthe was a canny propagandist, and he used the newspapers to justify his actions. Soon the press was full of terrifying tales of the savagery in the coalfields, and the WBA, the AOH and the ‘Mollies’ were branded as all part of the same  foul Irish conspiracy. These were often accompanied by illustrations depicting the miners as ignorant and often ape-like, familiar racist propaganda. Anti-Catholic prejudice was also invoked, even though the Church of Rome threatened excommunication for belonging to a secret society.

A meeting of the Molly Maguires

A meeting of the Molly Maguires 

 

James McParland in the 1880's

James McParland in the 1880′s

Infiltration and executions

Gowen’s most successful step was the employing of Pinkerton detective James McParland. Using the alias James McKenna, he utilised his county Armagh birthplace to integrate himself into the Irish Community. The majority of the Irish were illiterate and poorly educated, and the fact that McParland/McKenna could read and write gained him access into the local organisations.He became secretary of the local AOH and close to the militants. It later emerged that his two brothers were also involved in this infiltration.His investigation and testimony would lead directly to the trial and execution of twenty alleged ‘Mollies’. During his years of subterfuge, information provided by McParland was used by company vigilantes to identify targets for murder. McParland had no scruples about this, but had a crisis of conscience when the wife of an alleged Molly Maguire was shot dead. In a letter of resignation (soon to be withdrawn) he asked “What had a woman to do with the case—did the ‘Molly Maguires’ in their worst time shoot down women?” and added that “I will no longer interfere as I see that one is the same as the other and I am not going to be an accessory to the murder of women and children. I am sure the ‘Molly Maguires’ will not spare the women so long as the Vigilante has shown an example.”

His conscience didn’t trouble him for too long. His actions would lead to the deaths of twenty alleged men ,including John Kehoe (also known as ‘Black Jack’), branded as ‘King of the Mollies’. Aside from McParland’s testimony, paid informers and pardoned criminals provided the ‘evidence’, and Gowen himself had been appointed special prosecutor.

Execution of John Kehoe

Execution of John Kehoe

Many of those executed proclaimed their innocence until the end. Alexander Campbell slapped a muddy handprint on the wall of his cell and promised that It will remain forever to shame the county for hanging an innocent man”, and can still be seen today. A century after his death, John Kehoe received a posthumous pardon from the Pennsylvania governor Milton Shapp in 1979.

Alexander Campbell handprint as photographed by Playwright John Kearns

Alexander Campbell handprint as photographed by Playwright John Kearns

Failure follows success

It is possible that some of those hanged were involved in militant activity, but it was for the ‘crime’ of self organisation that they were really ‘guilty’. Gowen later promoted a similar conspiracy relating to the Knights of Labor but was unsuccessful. He died from a gunshot wound to the head in 1889. It would be wishful thinking to accept the theory that this was an act of Molly vengeance; it seems most probable that he committed suicide.

McParland also continued his crusade to undermine the growing trade union movement in the rail and mine industries,including attempts in Kansas, Colorado and Idaho. He took on the Western Federation of Miners (WFM). Despite placing an agent on the unions legal team,he failed spectacularly in a trial aimed at securing the execution of the WFM leaders. All were acquitted, including Big Bill Haywood. McParland was now notorious, and one labour leader characterised him thus: “He will do anything, no matter how low or vile, to accomplish his purpose”. He died in 1919 of natural causes.

James McParland in later life

James McParland in later life

Myth versus truth

The full truth of the Molly Maguires is probably lost to history. The fact that the Irish men involved were mostly illiterate, (and in a secret society), means that they left no accounts of their own. Sensationalist journalism, propaganda, detective reports, trial testimonies and popular ‘histories’ published by the Pinkerton Agency all exist , but tell the story from the other side.

Some believe that the ‘Mollies’ were a fiction, playing on anti Irish/Catholic bigotry to justify the smashing of the WBA and A.O.H, two lawful organisations. There are good reasons to believe this – any union was anathema to a robber baron, and Jack Kehoe , a community leader, intelligent, and willing to throw his hat into the political arena, could have very easily created a power block among the Irish miners.

However while the ‘Molly’ threat was undoubtedly exaggerated and manipulated by Gowen and McParland, it is not credible to state that no such organisation existed. Whether as an oath bound secret society or a loose association of militants, linked or not with other organisations, there is no doubt that they existed in some form and engaged in violent action. Creating the impression of an ever present and all powerful movement would have been an appropriate tactic to adopt.Given the circumstances of the time and district, it is clear that those involved in ‘Molly’actions would also be members of both the AOH and WBA, which does not mean that all were part of one unified grouping.

Remembered by the Irish Trade Union movement

Remembered by the Irish Trade Union movement

Martyrs to the cause of Labour

The Irish immigrants were thrown in at the deep end of the industrial revolution, part of the new proletariat and combatants in a bitter class war. They responded in a manner consistent with their own traditions and history of struggle.

No matter which way we interpret events or judge those involved, we must remember that twenty men were hanged. They were casualties in a class war and are rightly recognised as working class martyrs both in Ireland and America.When Kehoe received his pardon in 1979, Governor Shapp said all Pennsylvanians should pay tribute to “these martyred men of labor.”

Powerful statue at Molly Maguire Park , Pennsylvania

Powerful statue at Molly Maguire Park , Pennsylvania

“Sons of Molly Maguire” , written by John Kearns and directed by Dara Carolan will receive it’s Irish premiere as part of Mayfest 2017 at the Liberty Hall Theatre on Wednesday & Thursday 10th and 11th May @ 8pm . All tickets only 10 euro.

Two additional performances will also take place at the Sean O’Casey Theatre , East Wall on Tuesday & Wednesday 16th and 17th of May @ 8pm .

May 01

“Ladies & Rogues” – Sean O’Casey Theatre , May 2017

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The Collective Theatre Company presents :

“LADIES AND ROGUES”


A spitfire comedy based in 19th century London.
Five Aristocrats are trapped within the opulent Rochester mansion…. amidst societal revolution.
They can surive the night, if they put down the sherry & their ignorance of the world around them.

The five actors playing them, are on the cusp of their greatest performance of their lives.
They can surive the budget constraints and preview night ….if they put aside their egos and their incessant need to sabotage each other.

 

SEE FACEBOOK EVENT PAGE HERE: 

https://www.facebook.com/events/1274468802642804/permalink/1274480392641645/

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