IN THIS MONTH (JUNE) 143 YEARS AGO : “YOU’LL NEVER SEE THE LIKES OF THEM AGAIN..”
The graphic shows alleged members of the ‘Molly Maguires’ being led to their death.
‘On 21st June 1877, in the anthracite-mining county of Schuylkill, Pennsylvania, ten Irish immigrant men alleged to have been members of an oath-bound secret sect of vigilantes called the ‘Molly Maguires’ were hanged in what came to be known as ‘The Day of the Rope’. Twenty members of the group in all would be executed, following a kangaroo court that American historian John Elliot called “one of the most disgraceful episodes in the history of the bench and bar in the United States.” Oppression, exploitation, racial and ethnic bigotry, strikes and union-busting are common enough themes in the American labour movement, but the story of the ‘Molly Maguires’ and the ruling class’s attempts to destroy these Irish workers is so especially contemptible it has achieved legendary status..’ (from here.)
On what became known as ‘Black Thursday’ (21st June, 1877), ten coal miners were hanged until dead in eastern Pennsylvania ; all ten had been born in Ireland but were forced to leave because of the attempted genocide known as ‘An Gorta Mór’. It was claimed that they, and others, were involved in ‘organised retributions’ against corrupt and unfair employers and other members of the establishment, and operated as such under the name ‘Molly Maguires’ (‘Molly Maguire’ had become famous in Ireland [or ‘infamous’, as the ‘landlord’ class described her] for refusing to bow down or bend the knee to the monied ‘gentry’).
The workers had been arrested for their alleged part in several killings and, despite much doubt cast over the ‘evidence’ used against them, they were convicted and sentenced to death. The court case was widely seen as employers drawing ‘a line in the sand’ in regards to what they considered to be ‘uppity’ workers looking for better wages and conditions, and an excuse for the establishment to vent its anti-labour and anti-Irish prejudice – the first trials began in January 1876. They involved 10 men accused of murder and were held in ‘Mauch Chunk’ (an Indian name meaning ‘Bear Mountain’) and Pottsville.
A vast army of media descended on the small towns where they wrote dispatches that were uniformly pro-prosecution. The key witness for the prosecution was yet another Irishman, James McParlan : back in the early 1870’s, when bosses had hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to spy on workers, McParlan had gone under cover to infiltrate the ‘Mollies’ and gather evidence. And gather he did — or at least he claimed he did during the trials. On the stand he painted a vivid picture of ‘Molly Maguire’ secrecy, conspiracy and murder. With Irish Catholics and miners excluded from the juries, the verdicts were a foregone conclusion.
All 10 were convicted and sentenced to hang. No doubt seeking to send the most powerful message to the region’s mining communities, authorities arranged to stage the executions on the same day — June 21st, 1877 – in two locations. Alexander Campbell, Michael Doyle, Edward Kelly, and John Donahue were hanged in ‘Mauch Chuck’ (where the four men “all swung together”), while James Boyle, Hugh McGehan, James Carroll, James Roarity, Thomas Duffy, and Thomas Munley met a similar fate in Pottsville (where all six “swung two-by-two”). Although the hangings took place behind prison walls, they were nonetheless major spectacles that drew huge crowds and generated international news coverage. It was reported that there was “..screams and sobbing as husbands and fathers were bid goodbye..” and that “..James Boyle carried a blood-red rose and Hugh McGehan wore two roses in his lapel (as) James Carroll and James Roarity declared their innocence from the scaffold..”
Over the following two years, ten more alleged members of the ‘Molly Maguires’ were hanged, including Thomas P. Fisher (on the 28th March 1878) and James McDonnell and Charlie Sharp (on the 14th January 1879). In 1979 – 101 years after the cruel deed – the state of Pennsylvania pardoned one of the men, John ‘Black Jack’ Kehoe, after an investigation by its ‘Board of Pardons’ at the behest of one of his descendants. John Kehoe was led to the gallows on the 18th December, 1878 – 141 years ago on this date (incidentally, Seán Connery played the part of John Kehoe in the film ‘The Molly Maguires’) ; on the 5th December 2005, the Pennsylvania State House of Representatives passed a resolution recognising the lack of due process for several of the men :
‘The basic facts of the case are clear. As the ‘Death Warrant’ indicates, Governor John F. Hartranft ordered the execution of John Kehoe. In l877, he had been tried by the ‘Court of Oyer and Terminer’, a ‘court of criminal jurisdiction’, and was found guilty of the murder of Frank W.S. Langdon, a mine foreman, fifteen years earlier. He was sentenced to death by hanging. Kehoe’s attorney appealed the decision to the State Supreme Court, which supported the lower court. Governor Hartranft signed Kehoe’s death warrant in February 1878. As a last resort Kehoe’s attorney issued three pleas for clemency to the Pardon Board, which also denied his appeals. The Governor eventually signed a second death warrant on November 18, 1878. Kehoe was executed before a large crowd in Pottsville on December l8, l878..’ (from here.)
Make way for the Molly Maguires,
They’re drinkers, they’re liars but they’re men.
Make way for the Molly Maguires,
You’ll never see the likes of them again.
Down the mines no sunlight shines,
Those pits they’re black as hell,
In modest style they do their time,
It’s Paddy’s prison cell.
And they curse the day they’ve travelled far,
Then drown their tears with a jar.
Backs will break and muscles ache,
Down there there’s no time to dream
of fields and farms, of woman’s arms,
“Just dig that bloody seam”.
Though they drain their bodies underground,
Who’ll dare to push them around.
So make way for the Molly Maguires,
They’re drinkers, they’re liars but they’re men ;
Make way for the Molly Maguires –
You’ll never see the likes of them again.
The ‘Molly Maguires’ were an organised labour group that had allegedly been responsible for some incidences of vigilante justice in the coalfields of eastern Pennsylvania, defending their actions as attempts to protect exploited Irish-American workers. We badly need the ‘likes of them’ again.
‘THE CULT OF THE FALSE PROPHETS…’
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, June, 1955.
The ‘Gaelic League‘ and early Sinn Féin were autogenous movements which not only drew strength from the force of Irish tradition, but added to it. The ensuing military movement, being built upon solid foundations, enjoyed a partial success, but a complete success might have been achieved had our people, in 1921, known their full strength, which was moral as well as military, passive as well as active.
After 1921 we lost our unity and our self-confidence, and entered that wilderness in which we have remained to this day ; it is the duty of the Republican Movement to be to Ireland’s people as Moses was to the children of Israel, and lead them to the ‘Promised Land’. To start again that pilgrimage through the centuries which began before Rome and ends with the second coming of Christ. The fetters of partition (‘1169’ comment – such as this political institution) prevent the forward march of our nation at present.
The breaking of these is a means to the end of fulfilling our destiny, the necessary preliminary to further advances. Partition aside, there is one other factor which impedes our progress – the ‘Cult of the False Prophets’. Let the ‘Legion of the Rearguard’ (‘1169’ comment – ie that which Fianna Fáil consider themselves to be!) first stand the examination of its fruits, and this by the convenient yardstick of its own publications, the ‘Press’ newspapers… (MORE LATER.)
KICKING AGAINST THE PRICKS…
The heavy-handed official response to a number of Irish publications and websites has drawn attention to this country’s growing satirical network. Which can only be a good thing. By Noel Baker.
From ‘Magill’ magazine, July 2002.
‘Alan’ from the ‘Evil Gerard’ website said – “I don’t think there’s anything we wouldn’t touch. I mean, we had an ‘Abortion Referendum Special’ and a ‘September 11th’ issue, so I don’t think there’s anything we wouldn’t write about – not that we’re fearless or anything.”
But the ‘Gerard’ man admits, a la Portadown’s ‘Newt’, that Irish politics’ mixture of the banal and the ridiculous is a confused blessing. “There’s only so many jokes you can make up about brown envelopes, or whatever, before people start going ‘Oh God please stop!’ he says. “Sometimes you think ‘Yeah, it’s about time we did another bribe story’, but we don’t force ourselves into doing it.”
‘Everything’s Just Fine!’ screams the most current headline on ‘The Portadown News’ – and thankfully for those charged with kicking against the prick’s, it’s not. And in case you’re thinking that these cerebral, irascible/pissed-off people, who have offered assurances that they bear no resemblance to the comic-book store guy in ‘The Simpsons, have lost their sense of humour and perspective while discussing satire in ‘A Serious Manner’, Portadown’s ‘Newt’ makes a few pertinent points –
“Portadown News is a bad ecstasy comedown in the back of a Vauxhall Corsa. Sometimes I think I’ve created something really cool, at other times I think I’m the biggest teenager this side of Newry. And journalists who write about journalism are like big stadium rock bands who sing about the loneliness of touring.”
(END of ‘Kicking Against The Pricks’. NEXT – ‘Freedom of Information Or Fumbling Of Information?’, from the ‘Magill Annual’, 2002.)
‘IN MEMORIAM’ AND ‘BARNES AND McCORMACK MEMORIAL’.
From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, November 1954.
‘IN MEMORIAM’ –
Maurice O’Neill (Kerry), executed in Mountjoy Jail, 12-11-1942.
. Jack Gaffney (Belfast), died on the prison ship ‘Al Rawdah’, 18-11-1940.
John J. Kelly (Donegal), John J. Reynolds (Leitrim), Charles McCafferty (Tyrone), killed in accidental bomb explosion 28-11-1938.
‘BARNES AND McCORMACK MEMORIAL’ –
The Offaly County Executive Committee, Chaired by Tom Kenna, met at Tullamore on Sunday, 24th October last. Every town and village are getting organised to help the Memorial Fund. Mr. P. McLogan attended from Portlaoighse and received a warm reception and assured the committee of all the help possible from the Republican Movement.
A ceili has been arranged for the County Ballroom, Tullamore, on Wednesday 8th December next ; the ‘Gallowglass Ceili Band’ will attend and it is expected that the function will be a great success.
(END of ‘In Memoriam’ and ‘Barnes and McCormack Memorial’. NEXT – ‘UNION JACK TORN DOWN’, from the same source. )
Thanks for reading – Sharon and the ‘1169’ team. Stay safe, and ‘play’ safe.