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Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Irish Ferries Protest

irish-ferries-protestNearly 150,000 people take to the streets on December 9, 2005, as the Irish Ferries protest mushrooms into the largest public demonstration the country has seen for two decades.

The national day of protest is called by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which is demanding Government action to combat exploitation of migrant workers and the displacement of jobs. There are rallies in Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Limerick, Galway, Sligo, Athlone and Rosslare.

An Garda Síochána estimate that 40,000 people take part in the march in Dublin, although organisers claim the figure is far higher. Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin, Pat Rabbitte of the Labour Party and John Gormley of the Green Party participate in the march in the capital. Staff on board the MS Isle of Inismore in Pembroke and the four engineers holed up in the ships control room say they are overwhelmed by the level of support shown by marchers in the rallies.

Bus and rail services are disrupted during the protest but return to normal for evening rush hour.

The Irish Small & Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) strongly criticises the National Day of Protest. In a statement, ISME Chief Executive Mark Fielding says the protest is undermining the industrial relations process in this country and has very little to do with the Irish Ferries dispute and is in fact an attempt by the unions to influence negotiations in advance of any new national pay agreement.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland, Services Industrial Professional Technical Union (SIPTU) President Jack O’Connor says the rallies give workers the chance to take a stand.

Director General of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC) Turlough O’Sullivan says there is nothing to be gained from disrupting business and the general public. He adds that whatever one’s views on the Irish Ferries dispute, nothing can justify calling a national work stoppage when discussions are already underway in a bid to resolve the row.

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Death of Aeneas Coffey, Inventor & Distiller

Aeneas Coffey, Irish inventor and distiller, dies in England on November 26, 1852. He is born in Calais, France, to Irish parents in 1780. He is educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and enters the excise service around 1799–1800 as a gauger. He marries Susanna Logie in 1808, and they have a son, also named Aeneas, who may have been their only child.

According to British customs and excise records, Coffey is a remarkable man with widespread interests and multiple talents who rises quickly through the excise service ranks. He is appointed sub-commissioner of Inland Excise and Taxes for the district of Drogheda in 1813. He is appointed Surveyor of Excise for Clonmel and Wicklow in 1815. In 1816 he is promoted to the same post at Cork. By 1818 he is Acting Inspector General of Excise for the whole of Ireland and within two years is promoted to Inspector General of Excise in Dublin.

Coffey is a strong, determined upholder of the law, but aware of its shortcomings. He survives many nasty skirmishes with illegal distillers and smugglers, particularly in County Donegal in Ulster and in the west of Ireland, where moonshining is most rife. On several occasions he proposes to the government simple, pragmatic solutions to rules and regulations which have hampered legal distillers. Not all of his ideas are accepted. Between 1820 and 1824 he submits reports and gives evidence to Parliamentary Commissions of Inquiry on many aspects of distilling, including formalising the different spellings of Irish whiskey and Scotch whisky. His 1822 report is solidly backed by the Irish distillers. He believes in making it viable to distill legally, and illegal distilling might largely disappear.

He assists the government in the drafting of the 1823 Excise Act which makes it easier to distill legally. It sanctions the distilling of whiskey in return for a licence fee of £10, and a set payment per gallon of proof spirit. It also provides for the appointment of a single Board of Excise, under Treasury control, for the whole of the United Kingdom, replacing the separate excise boards for England, Scotland and Ireland. The 1823 Excise Act also provides for not more than four assistant commissioners of excise to transact current business in Scotland and Ireland, under the control of the board in London. Coffey resigns from government excise service at his own request in 1824.

Between his Dublin education and his work as an excise officer, Coffey has ample opportunity to observe the design and workings of whiskey stills, as Ireland is the world’s leading producer of whiskey in the 19th century, and Dublin is at the center of that global industry. This is how Coffey becomes familiar with a design differing from the traditional copper pot alembic still commonly used in Ireland, the continuous, or column, still. First patented by a Cork County distillery in 1822, the column still remains a relatively inefficient piece of equipment, although it points the way towards a cheaper and more productive way to distill alcohol. It is that last point that captures Coffey’s imagination. He makes his own modifications to existing column still designs, so as to allow a greater portion of the vapors to re-circulate into the still instead of moving into the receiver with the spirit. The result is more efficient, producing a lighter spirit at higher alcohol content. Coffey patents his design in 1830, and it becomes the basis for every column still used ever since.

On his retirement from service, Coffey goes into the Irish distilling business. For a short time he runs the Dodder Bank Distillery, Dublin and Dock Distillery in Grand Canal Street, Dublin, before setting up on his own as Aeneas Coffey Whiskey Company in 1830. The development of the Coffey still makes distillation of his own whiskey much more economical.

Nothing is known of the final years and last resting place of Aeneas Coffey. His only son, also called Aeneas Coffey, emigrates to South Africa and manages a distillery. He marries but his wife dies childless. He returns to England and spends his final years near London.


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Bloody Sunday 1887 in London

Bloody Sunday takes place in London on November 13, 1887, when a march against unemployment and coercion in Ireland, as well as demanding the release of Member of Parliament (MP) William O’Brien, is attacked by the Metropolitan Police Service and the British Army. The demonstration is organised by the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) and the Irish National League. Violent clashes take place between the police and demonstrators, many “armed with iron bars, knives, pokers and gas pipes.” A contemporary report notes that 400 are arrested and 75 persons are badly injured, including many police, two policemen being stabbed and one protester bayonetted.

William Ewart Gladstone‘s espousal of the cause of Irish home rule has split the Liberal Party and makes it easy for the Conservatives to gain a majority in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. The period from 1885 to 1906 is one of Tory dominance, with short intermissions. Coercion Acts are the answer of British governments perturbed by rural unrest in Ireland, and they involve various degrees of suspension of civil rights. Although one purpose of the November 13 demonstration is to protest about the handling of the Irish situation by the Conservative government of Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, it has a much wider context.

The Long Depression, starting in 1873 and lasting almost to the end of the century, creates difficult social conditions in Britain, similar to the economic problems that drive rural agitation in Ireland. Falling food prices create rural unemployment, which results in both emigration and internal migration. Workers move to the towns and cities in thousands, eroding employment, wages and working conditions. By November 1887, unemployed workers’ demonstrations from the East End of London have been building up for more than two years. There have already been clashes with the police and with the members of upper class clubs. Trafalgar Square is seen symbolically as the point at which the working-class East End meets the upper-class West End of London, a focus of class conflict and an obvious flashpoint.

This attracts the attention of the small but growing socialist movement – the Marxists of both the Social Democratic Federation and Socialist League, and the reformist socialists of the Fabian Society. Police and government attempts to suppress or divert the demonstrations also bring in the radical wing of the Liberal Party and free speech activists from the National Secular Society.

Some 30,000 persons encircle Trafalgar Square as at least 10,000 protesters march in from several different directions, led by Elizabeth Reynolds, John Burns, William Morris, Annie Besant and Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham, who are primarily leaders of the Social Democratic Federation. Also marching are the Fabian playwright George Bernard Shaw and Charlotte Wilson. Two thousand police and 400 troops are deployed to halt the demonstration. Burns and Cunninghame Graham are arrested and imprisoned for six weeks. Annie Besant, who is a Marxist, Fabian and secularist, speaks at the rally and offers herself for arrest, but the police decline to do so. Of the 400 arrested, 50 are detained in custody.

In the fighting, many rioters are injured by police truncheons and under the hooves of police horses. There are both infantry and cavalry present. Although the infantry are marched into position with bayonets fixed, they are not ordered to open fire and the cavalry are not ordered to draw their swords.

The following Sunday, November 20, sees another demonstration and more casualties. According to a report in the partisan Socialist Review, among them is a young clerk named Alfred Linnell, who is run down by a police horse, dying in hospital a fortnight later from complications of a shattered thigh.

The funeral of Linnell on December 18 provides another focus for the unemployed and Irish movements. William Morris, leader of the Socialist League, gives the main speech and advocates a holy war to prevent London from being turned into a huge prison. A smaller but similar event marks the burial of another of those killed, W. B. Curner, which takes place in January. The release of those imprisoned is celebrated on February 20, 1888, with a large public meeting. Henry Hyndman, leader of the SDF, violently denounces the Liberal Party and the Radicals who are present.

(Pictured: Bloody Sunday, 1887. This engraving from The Illustrated London News depicts a policeman being clubbed by a demonstrator as he wrests a banner from a female protester.)


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Birth of John Fitzpatrick, Trade Union Leader

John Fitzpatrick, Irish-born American trade union leader, is born in Athlone, County Westmeath, on April 21, 1871. He is best remembered as the longtime head of the powerful Chicago Federation of Labor, from 1906 until his death in 1946.

Fitzpatrick attends grammar school in Ireland before coming to the United States in 1882, at the age of eleven, settling in Chicago. Following completion of his formal education, he goes to work as a horseshoer, becoming involved in the International Journeyman Horseshoers’ Union (IJHU), with which he remains affiliated for the next three decades.

Fitzpatrick serves variously as the President, Treasurer, and business agent for the Chicago local of the IJHU, being selected as a delegate to conventions of the union as well as its representative to the American Federation of Labor (AFL). This connection is instrumental in his appointment as the organizer of the Chicago Federation of Labor, city affiliate of the AFL, in 1902. Additionally, he is elected President of that organization in 1906 and remains in the capacity of President and Organizer throughout the ensuing half century.

Fitzpatrick is widely regarded as a progressive voice in the trade union movement, active in political fights beyond the ordinary hours-and-wages concerns which have traditionally dominated the union movement. He is active in the defense campaign on behalf of accused bomber Thomas Mooney, and is active in helping to organize packing house workers and steel workers in 1919.

During these campaigns, Fitzpatrick comes into close contact with radical trade union organizer William Z. Foster, founder of the Trade Union Educational League and outspoken advocate of the amalgamation of the hodge-podge of existing craft unions into unified, and thus more effective, industrial unions.

Fitzpatrick is also an advocate of independent labor politics and is one of the organizers of the Illinois Labor Party as well as its local affiliate, the Cook County Labor party. In November 1919, he runs for mayor of Chicago on the ticket of the Cook County Labor Party and receives a substantial vote of 60,000 of the 580,000 ballots cast. Bolstered by the degree of support which the new organization receives from voters, Fitzpatrick calls a national convention of local Labor Party movements, which is held in Chicago on November 22, 1919.

Fitzpatrick remains as President of the Chicago Federation of Labor until his death in 1946, with the exception of a single year, 1908, when Charles M. Dold serves as head of the organization.


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Birth of Union Leader Jim Larkin

james-larkinJames (Jim) Larkin, Irish trade union leader and socialist activist, is born to Irish parents in Liverpool, England, on January 21, 1876. He and his family later move to a small cottage in Burren, County Down. Growing up in poverty, he receives little formal education and begins working in a variety of jobs while still a child.

In 1905, Larkin is one of the few foremen to take part in a strike on the Liverpool docks. He is elected to the strike committee, and although he loses his foreman’s job as a result, his performance so impresses the National Union of Dock Labourers (NUDL) that he is appointed a temporary organiser.

Larkin moves to Belfast in 1907 to organise the city’s dock workers for the NUDL. He succeeds in unionising the workforce, and as employers refuse to meet the wage demands, he calls the dockers out on strike in June. Carters and coal men soon join in, the latter settling their dispute after a month.

In 1908, Larkin moves south and organises workers in Dublin, Cork, and Waterford, with considerable success. His involvement, against union instructions, in a dispute in Dublin results in his expulsion from the NUDL. The union later prosecutes him for diverting union funds to give strike pay to Cork workers engaged in an unofficial dispute. After trial and conviction for embezzlement in 1910, he is sentenced to prison for a year. This is widely regarded as unjust, and the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Aberdeen, pardons him after he has served three months in prison.

After his expulsion from the NUDL, Larkin founds the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU) at the end of December 1908. The organisation exists today as the Services Industrial Professional & Technical Union (SIPTU). In early 1909, Larkin moves to Dublin, which becomes the main base of the ITGWU and the focus of all his future union activity in Ireland.

In June 1911, Larkin establishes a newspaper, The Irish Worker and People’s Advocate, as a pro-labour alternative to the capitalist-owned press. In 1912, in partnership with James Connolly, Larkin helps form the Irish Labour Party.

In early 1913, Larkin achieves some successes in industrial disputes in Dublin. Two major employers, Guinness and the Dublin United Tramway Company, are the main targets of Larkin’s organising ambitions. The chairman of the Dublin United Tramway Company, industrialist and newspaper proprietor William Martin Murphy, is determined not to allow the ITGWU to unionise his workforce. On August 15, he dismisses 40 workers he suspects of ITGWU membership, followed by another 300 over the next week. On August 26, 1913 the tramway workers officially go on strike.

The resulting industrial dispute is the most severe in Ireland’s history. Employers in Dublin engage in a sympathetic lockout of their workers when the latter refuses to sign the pledge, employing blackleg labour from Britain and from elsewhere in Ireland. Guinness, the largest employer in Dublin, refuses the employers’ call to lock out its workers but it sacks 15 workers who struck in sympathy.

For seven months the lockout affects tens of thousands of Dublin workers and employers, with Larkin portrayed as the villain by Murphy’s three main newspapers, the Irish Independent, the Sunday Independent, and the Evening Herald, and by other bourgeois publications in Ireland. The lock-out eventually concludes in early 1914 when calls by James Connolly and Larkin for a sympathetic strike in Britain are rejected by the British Trades Union Congress (TUC). Larkin’s attacks on the TUC leadership for this stance also lead to the cessation of financial aid to the ITGWU.

Some months after the lockout ends, Larkin leaves for the United States. He intends to recuperate from the strain of the lockout and raise funds for the union. Once there he becomes a member of the Socialist Party of America, and is involved in the Industrial Workers of the World union (the Wobblies). He becomes an enthusiastic supporter of the Soviet Union and is expelled from the Socialist Party of America in 1919 along with numerous other sympathisers of the Bolsheviks during the Red Scare of that year.

Upon his return to Ireland in April 1923, Larkin receives a hero’s welcome, and immediately sets about touring the country meeting trade union members and appealing for an end to the Irish Civil War. In September 1923, Larkin forms the Irish Worker League (IWL), which is soon afterwards recognised by the Communist International as the Irish section of the world communist movement.

James Larkin dies in his sleep on January 30, 1947 in the Meath Hospital. Fr. Aloysius Travers, OFM, who had administered last rites to James Connolly in 1916, also administers extreme unction to Larkin. His funeral mass is celebrated by the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, who had visited him in hospital before he died, and thousands line the streets of the city as the hearse passes through on the way to Glasnevin Cemetery.


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Birth of Marcus Daly, “Copper King” of Butte, MT

marcus-dalyMarcus Daly, Irish-born American businessman known as one of the three “Copper Kings” of Butte, Montana, is born in Ballyjamesduff, County Cavan, on December 5, 1841.

Daly emigrates from Ireland to the United States as a young boy, arriving in New York City. He sells newspapers and works his way to California in time to join the gold rush in what is to become Virginia City, Nevada, and the fabulously rich silver diggings now known as the Comstock Lode, in 1860.

Daly gains experience in the mines of the Comstock under the direction of John William Mackay and James Graham Fair. While working in the mines of Virginia City, Daly meets and befriends George Hearst, father of William Randolph Hearst, and Lloyd Tevis, co-owners of the Ophir Mining Company. In 1872, Daly recommends purchase by the Hearst group of the Ontario silver mine, near Park City, Utah. In ten years, the Ontario produces $17 million and pays $6,250,000 in dividends.

Their business friendship extends for many years and helps establish the Anaconda Copper Mine in Butte, Montana. Daly originally comes to Butte in August 1876 to look at a mine, the Alice, as an agent for the Walker Bros. of Salt Lake City. The Walkers purchase the mine, install Daly as superintendent, and award him a fractional share of the mine.

Daly notices, while working underground in the Alice, that there are significant deposits of copper ore. He gains access into several other mines in the area and concludes that the hill is full of copper ore. He envisions an ore body several thousand feet deep, some veins of almost pure copper, and hundreds of millions of dollars. He urges his employers, the Walker Bros., to purchase the Anaconda and when they refrain, Daly purchases it himself. Daly finds his fortune on the Anaconda Copper Mine in Butte, after selling his small share of the Alice Mine for $30,000.

The Anaconda began as a silver mine, but Daly’s purchase is for the copper, found to be one of the largest deposits known at the time. However, he lacks the money to develop it, so he turned to Hearst, Haggin and Tevis. The first couple hundred feet within the mine are rich in silver, and took a few years to exhaust. By that time, Butte’s other silver mines are also playing out, so Daly closes the Anaconda, St. Lawrence, and Neversweat. Prices on surrounding properties drop and Daly purchases them. Then he re-opens the Anaconda. Due to Thomas Edison‘s development of the light bulb the world would need copper which is a very excellent conductor of electricity. Butte has copper, hundreds of thousands of tons of it, waiting to be taken from the ground.

He builds a smelter to handle the ore, and by the late 1880s, has become a millionaire several times over, and owner of the Anaconda Mining and Reduction Company. Daly owns a railroad, the Butte, Anaconda and Pacific Railroad, to haul ore from his mines to his smelter in Anaconda, a city he founds. He owns lumber interests in the Bitterroot Valley and a mansion and prized stables in the same valley, south of Missoula.

In 1894, Daly spearheads an energetic but unsuccessful campaign to have Anaconda designated as Montana’s state capital, but loses out to Helena. Daly is active in Montana politics throughout the 1890s, because of his opposition and intense rivalry with fellow copper king, and future U.S. Senator, William A. Clark. He attempts to keep Clark out of office by lavishly supporting his opponents.

Daly invests some of his money in horse breeding at his Bitterroot Stock Farm located near Hamilton, and is the owner/breeder of Scottish Chieftain, the only horse bred in Montana to ever win the Belmont Stakes.

In 1891, Daly becomes the owner of Tammany, said to be one of the world’s fastest racehorses in 1893. He also arranges the breeding of the great Sysonby, ranked number 30 in the top 100 U.S. thoroughbred champions of the 20th Century by The Blood-Horse magazine. However, Daly dies in New York City on November 12, 1900, before the horse is born.

Following his death, New York’s Madison Square Garden hosts a dispersal sale for the Bitterroot thoroughbred studs on January 31, 1901. One hundred eighty-five horses are sold for $405,525.


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Birth of Arthur Guinness, Founder of the Guinness Brewery

arthur-guinnessArthur Guinness, Irish brewer and the founder of the Guinness brewery, is born in Celbridge, County Kildare, on September 28, 1725. He is also an entrepreneur and philanthropist.

Arthur Guinness is born into the Protestant Guinness family, part of the Anglo-Irish aristrocracy. They claim to descend from the Gaelic Magennis clan of County Down. However, recent DNA evidence suggests descent from the McCartans, another County Down clan, whose spiritual home lay in the townland of “Guiness” near Ballynahinch, County Down.

Guinness’s place and date of birth are the subject of speculation. His gravestone in Oughter Ard, County Kildare, reads that he dies on January 23, 1803, at the age of 78, and that he is born some time in 1724 or very early in 1725. This contradicts the date of September 28, 1725 chosen by the Guinness company in 1991, apparently to end speculation about his birthdate. The place of birth is perhaps his mother’s home at Read homestead at Ardclough, County Kildare.

In 2009 it is claimed that Guinness is born in nearby Celbridge where his parents live in 1725 and where his father later becomes land steward for the Archbishop of Cashel, Dr. Arthur Price. In his will, Dr. Price leaves £100 each to “his servant” Arthur and his father in 1752.

Guinness leases a brewery in Leixlip in 1755, brewing ale. Guinness also purchases a long lease of an adjacent site from George Bryan of Philadelphia in 1756 that is developed as investment property. He leaves his younger brother in charge of the Leixlip enterprise in 1759 and moves on to another at St. James’ Gate, Dublin. He signs a 9,000-year lease for the brewery, effective from December 31, 1759. The lease is presently displayed in the floor at St. James’ Gate. By 1767 he is the master of the Dublin Corporation of Brewers. His first actual sales of porter are listed on tax data from 1778. From the 1780s his second son, Arthur, works at his side and becomes the senior partner in the brewery in 1803.

Guinness’ major achievement is the expansion of his brewery in 1797–1799. Thereafter he brews only porter and employs members of the Purser family who have brewed porter in London from the 1770s. The Pursers become partners in the brewery for most of the 19th century. By the time of his death in 1803, the annual brewery output is over 20,000 barrels. Subsequently Arthur and/or his beer is nicknamed “Uncle Arthur” in Dublin. Guinness’ florid signature is still copied on every label of bottled Guinness.

From 1764, Guinness and his wife Olivia, whom he marries in 1761, live at Beaumont House, which Guinness has built on a 51-acre farm which is now a part of Beaumont Convalescent Home, behind the main part of Beaumont Hospital, between Santry and Raheny in north County Dublin. His landlord is Charles Gardiner. Beaumont, meaning beautiful hill, is named by Arthur and the later Beaumont parish copies the name. From March 1798 he lives at Mountjoy Square in Dublin, which is then in the process of being built in the style of elegant Georgian architecture. Three of his sons are also brewers, and his other descendants eventually include missionaries, politicians, and authors.

Sir Arthur Guinness dies in Mountjoy Square, Dublin, on January 23, 1803 and is buried in his mother’s family plot at Oughter Ard, County Kildare.