seamus dubhghaill

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


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Birth of Margaret (May) Tennant, Promoter of Workers’ Rights & Public Health

Margaret Mary Edith (May) Tennant (née Abraham), promoter of workers’ rights and public health, is born April 5, 1869 at Rathgar, County Dublin, the only daughter of Dr. George Whitley Abraham, a lawyer in the civil service, and his wife, Margaret, daughter of Cornelius Curtain.

Abraham is educated at home by her father. Following his death in 1887, finding herself in financial straits, she moves to London, where she takes lodgings in Bloomsbury and works for Lady Emilia Dilke. Dilke is a social reformer and an advocate of trade unions for women, and as her secretary Margaret gains first-hand experience of the exploitative and unsanitary conditions afflicting women working in industry, a cause that she devotes the next decade to ameliorating. She is treasurer of the Womens’ Trade Union League, where she negotiates with employers on behalf of league members, organises meetings, and sends deputations to the House of Commons. From 1881 she coordinates a successful campaign to render regular government inspections of laundries mandatory (legislation is passed to this effect in 1908).

Abraham’s dedication to her work soon attracts wider recognition, and in 1891 she is appointed an assistant commissioner to undertake field inquiries for the Royal Labour Commission. In this capacity she travels incessantly throughout England and Ireland, gathering information and writing reports on often appalling working conditions. It is mainly because of this work that in 1893 the home secretary appoints her the first female factory inspector in England. Her new position marks a career shift from agitator to skillful and effective administrator. Traveling incessantly, the inspectors target illegal overtime, poor sanitation, and dangerous trades. In her first year alone she brings eighty prosecutions for illegal overtime.

In 1895 Abraham serves on a departmental committee at the Home Office on dangerous trades, where she meets Harold John Tennant, liberal MP for Berwickshire. The couple are married the following year, and have four sons and one daughter.

By 1896 Tennant is the superintending inspector of five more women inspectors, and her extensive experience in workers’ rights and public health is reflected in the book she publishes in that year, The law relating to factories and workshops, which runs to six editions. She finds it increasingly difficult to balance the pressures of her work with the demands of her private life, and she resigns her post soon after her marriage. However, she remains a committed social activist, serving as chairman of the Industrial Law Committee and on the Royal Commission on Divorce (1909). She is also an original member and treasurer of the Central Committee on Women’s Employment (1914–39).

During the World War I Tennant is chief adviser on women’s welfare to the Ministry of Munitions and director of the Women’s Department of the National Service Department. In recognition of her services the British government awards her the Companion of Honour in 1917, the same year that her eldest son, Harry, dies while on active service. Between the wars she turns her attention to women’s health, campaigning to improve maternal mortality and nursing care.

During the World War II, despite her failing health, Tennant works for the RAF Benevolent Fund. She is a member of the Central Consultative Council of Voluntary Organisations and the National Association for Prevention of Tuberculosis, chairman of the maternal health committee, governor of Bedford College, and a JP. She is also a director of the Mysore and Champion Reef Gold Mines, an enterprise of her husband’s family, and in this capacity travels to India and New Zealand in the mid-1920s.

The Tennants have homes in Edinglasserie, Aberdeenshire, and at 12 Victoria Square, London, as well as a restored country house, Great Maytham, at Rolvenden in Kent. She is a noted authority on gardening, and is director of The Gardener’s Chronicle (other interests included fishing, tennis, and gambling). After her husband’s death in 1935 she moves to a smaller house named Cornhill at Great Maytham, where she dies on July 11, 1946. Some of her correspondence is in the British Library, London.

(From: “Tennant (née Abraham), Margaret Mary Edith (May),” contributed by Sinéad Sturgeon and Georgina Clinton, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie)


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Birth of Charles McCarthy, Trade Unionist & Academic

Charles McCarthy, trade unionist and academic, is born on January 25, 1924, at 12 Annmount, Friars Walk, Cork, County Cork.

McCarthy is the second child of John George McCarthy of Cork, plumber, and Agnes Abina McCarthy (née O’Donoghue). He is educated at Presentation Brothers College, Cork, University College Dublin (UCD), and King’s Inns, where he enrolls in 1948. He is called to the bar in 1956.

On June 7, 1951, McCarthy marries Muriel, daughter of Liam Breslin. She becomes (1989) keeper of Marsh’s Library, Dublin, receives an honorary LL.D from National University of Ireland (NUI), and is also made an honorary lay canon of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh. They live at 367 Howth Road, Raheny, Dublin, and have one son and two daughters.

After graduating from UCD McCarthy briefly works as a clerk on a building site and as an insurance agent before becoming an actor with the Radio Éireann Repertory in 1947. During his time with Radio Éireann he also writes four plays, one of which, entitled Jericho’s trumpets, is based on his experiences in the insurance industry. He is later employed as a speech and drama teacher by Cork vocational educational committee. At the same time, he develops an interest in industrial relations as treasurer of the actors’ trade union Equity and then as secretary of the Civil Service Alliance. In 1956 he becomes full-time general secretary of the Vocational Teacher’s Association, which later becomes the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI). Through this post he eventually becomes president (1963–64) of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and sits on the executive committee for ten years. As secretary to the International Committee of Technical Teachers he organises conferences around the world and develops countless international contacts.

In 1968 McCarthy publishes his first book, The distasteful challenge. A damning indictment of the static nature of Irish society at the time, it stresses the need to face up to change, particularly in the areas of education, the civil service, and local government. This is followed in 1971 by Industrial democracy. The following year he takes a leave of absence from the TUI to become a research fellow at Trinity College Dublin (TCD). In 1973 his dedication to the arts is rewarded with a seat (1973–76) on the RTÉ Authority and in the same year he publishes Decade of upheaval, which documents the experiences of the trade union movement during the turbulent era of the 1960s. In 1977 he becomes a lecturer in industrial relations at TCD and his 670-page magnum opus, Trade unions in Ireland, 1894–1960, is published to critical acclaim. In 1979 he is appointed to the chair in industrial relations at TCD and becomes head of the school of business and administrative studies. He is later appointed dean of the faculty of economic and social studies and made a fellow of TCD.

McCarthy is a firm believer in resolving industrial relations problems through negotiation. Both unions and management alike respect his views and abilities and he is frequently called on by the private and public sectors, as well as governments, to use his expertise to bring an end to protracted disputes. He sits on numerous public bodies including the National Industrial & Economic Council and the Irish National Productivity Committee. In 1985 his ability to bridge the divide between management and unions is recognised with his election to the council of the Irish Management Institute. Despite his career in industrial relations he maintains his interest in drama and is an original shareholder in the new Abbey Theatre. In 1973 he is appointed to the board of the theatre, serving as chairman from 1982–85. He is also a member of the board of governors and guardians of Dr. Steevens’ Hospital, Dublin.

McCarthy dies on September 8, 1986 in Dublin of atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries.

(From: “McCarthy, Charles” contributed by Shaun Boylan, Dictionary of Irish Biography, http://www.dib.ie)


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Bus Éireann Strike Over Cost-Reduction Measures

Tens of thousands of people have to make alternative travel arrangements on March 24, 2017 due to a strike at Bus Éireann over the company’s implementation of cost-reduction measures without union agreement. The bus and coach operator warns that the strike will worsen the company’s financial situation, which it describes as perilous.

Iarnród Éireann, the operator of the national railway network, says some Intercity services are affected by the dispute due to picketing. It says there is significant disruption, with some services cancelled and others curtailed. But Iarnród Éireann says special late-night trains for football fans returning from the Republic of Ireland vs. Wales match will operate to Cork, Limerick and Galway.

The Minister for Transport Shane Ross says that he will “categorically” not be intervening during the strike and calls on both sides to get back to the talks. He says an industrial relations dispute is not a matter for the minister and that both parties should go to the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court for talks. He adds that the only reason people are calling on him to intervene is to pay taxpayers’ money and he says he will not be doing that. He says the company needs to reform and that can be done maturely through talks by the two sides.

Dublin Bus services operate as normal. GO-BE, the joint venture company between Bus Éireann and Go-Bus, suspends its services between Cork and Dublin and the Dublin Airport. While it is not meant to be affected by the dispute, it is understood there are issues at its base in Cork and the service is suspended. Aircoach, which has a sizable part of the market for the Cork to Dublin route, contracts ten buses from a private bus operator to meet the additional demand.

The general manager of the Irish Citylink private bus service says the company has increased their departures by 25% on the Dublin to Galway route and other services around the country to meet demands. Irish Citylink usually has 100 daily departures on services that include 14 different towns on the “off motorway route” to Dublin from Galway, but has around 25 additional buses out to meet demands.

The Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) issues a number of steps to its members to assist in ending the strike by Bus Éireann workers. Earlier, a SIPTU official says the blame for the strike must be laid at the door of management and the Minister for Transport Shane Ross.

Divisional Organiser Willie Noone says staff had “no other choice” but to strike in an attempt to protect their livelihoods, but acknowledges that it is unfortunate for commuters. He says that the unions had worked hard to keep staff at work to this point given the anger at company proposals to cut pay.

National Bus and Rail Union General Secretary Dermot O’Leary says disputes such as that at Bus Éireann are solved by discussions sitting around a table behind closed doors and that is where his union would like to be. He acknowledges the strike will exacerbate financial problems at Bus Éireann, but says his members have demanded for many weeks this action be taken in response to what the company has done since January.

Stephen Kent, Chief Commercial Officer with Bus Éireann, apologises to customers for the “highly regrettable” inconvenience caused by the strike. He says the company has run out of time and absolutely needs to implement the cost-cutting measures it has put forward. He adds that the company is doing everything it can to minimise all non-payroll costs and has eliminated all discretionary spending and that the issues at Bus Éireann can only be resolved through discussion with the workforce but they need to deliver work practice changes that will deliver urgently needed savings.

The strike represents a serious escalation of the Bus Éireann row, which could push the company over the edge. It lost €9.4m in 2016 and a further €50,000 a day in January 2017. But each strike day will cost another half a million, which the company insists is unsustainable. Management says that it had to proceed with unilateral implementation of cuts due to the financial crisis, and because unions would not agree to any reductions in take-home pay or unnecessary overtime. However, the unions have accused the company of seeking to introduce so-called yellow-pack terms and conditions in a race to the bottom, to groom the company for privatisation.

The strike affects businesses as well as disrupts the travel plans of 110,000 passengers each day, though not all are stranded. The National Transport Authority reminds passengers that there are alternative private operators on many routes. If Bus Éireann passengers defect to them, they may never return, further damaging revenue at the State-owned company. No further talks are planned as of this date.


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Birth of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, First Honorary Citizen of Ireland

Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, mining engineer, philanthropist, art collector, and the first honorary citizen of Ireland (1957), is born in New York, New York, United States on February 7, 1875 on the site of what is now Rockefeller Center. He plays an important role in the development of copper deposits in Central Africa.

Beatty is the youngest of three sons born to Hetty and John Beatty, a banker and stockbroker. After studying engineering at the Columbia School of Mines and Princeton University, he helps to develop porphyry copper ores in the United States, first as a consulting engineer and later as a director on the boards of several copper-mining firms. In 1913 he relinquishes his mining interests in the United States and settles in Great Britain, becoming a naturalized British subject in 1933. In 1921 he forms a prospecting company that initiates the development of the Copperbelt region of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). For this, he becomes known as the “King of Copper.”

An early family anecdote recalls that, as a young boy, Beatty catches the collection bug, bidding at auction for mining samples. In 1931 an announcement in London‘s The Times casts him as a great collector. Between 1939 and 1949 he acquires over 140 nineteenth-century paintings to display in the Picture Gallery of his London home. These are now part of the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland.

Beatty supports the war effort, contributing a large amount of raw materials to the Allies. He receives a belated knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in the 1954 Birthday Honours list for his contribution to the wartime effort. By the late 1940s, however, he has become disillusioned with Britain. Political deviations from his free-market values, coupled with increased foreign exchange restrictions impacted both his personal and collecting interests in Britain.

In 1950, at the age of 75, Beattys over the reins of Selection Trust to his son Chester Jr. and relocates to Dublin. He purchases a large townhouse for himself on Ailesbury Road, in the Ballsbridge area of Dublin and a site on Shrewsbury Road for the construction of the Chester Beatty Library, which houses the collection, opening on August 8, 1953. The library is moved to its current location at Dublin Castle in 2000.

Beatty spends the remainder of his life between Dublin and the south of France. He is made a Freeman of the City of Dublin in 1954 and is the first person granted honorary citizenship of Ireland in 1957. He continues to collect in the 1950s and 1960s, acquiring important Ethiopian manuscripts and Japanese printed material during that period.

Beatty dies in Monte Carlo in Monaco on January 19, 1968. His Irish estate is valued at £7 million. He is accorded a state funeral by the Irish government, the first private citizen in Irish history to receive such an honour. He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.


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Death of Jim Larkin, Union Leader & Socialist Activist

James (Jim) Larkin, Irish trade union leader and socialist activist, dies in his sleep in Dublin on January 30, 1947. He is one of the founders of the Irish Labour Party, the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU), the Workers’ Union of Ireland and the Irish Citizen Army (ICA).

Larkin 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 lockout 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 in Dublin. 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.

Today a statue of “Big Jim” stands on O’Connell Street in Dublin, completed by Oisín Kelly and unveiled in 1979.


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Irish Nurse’s Organization Votes to Reactivate Industrial Action

Two hundred delegates of the 24,000-strong Irish Nurses Organisation (INO) nurse’s union vote unanimously on October 27, 1998 to reactivate industrial action if their claims are not met. The delegates gather at the Burlington Hotel in Dublin.

The more difficult task is to modify the pay demands made by the State’s 2,500 ward sisters. The INO executive calls for senior ward sisters to receive salaries of £31,000 a year, or £6,400 more than the current maximum. However, one of the INO branch amendments calls for a new maximum of £35,000, the same salary as directors of nursing in major hospitals.

The conference is called to report on progress to date in talks, spell out objectives and obtain a mandate for strike action if negotiations break down. There is little progress to report. Talks at the Labour Relations Commission the previous week failed to resolve claims on extra long-service increments for staff nurses, or better rates of pay for ward sisters. Both issues are now referred to the Labour Court, which is already dealing with allowances for extra professional qualifications held by nurses.

The Labour Court is due to hear submissions from the INO, other nursing unions and health service managers on the qualifications issue the following day. About half of the State’s staff nurses have such qualifications, worth £347 a year. The union wants them re-rated at 10% of basic salary, worth up to £2,200 a year for staff nurses at the top of the scale. Despite the negotiating gap, this issue is less difficult to resolve than the others, because it is less likely to lead to follow-on claims from other public service unions.

The union is looking for new long-service increments at the top of the current 15-year scale, which will add 18% to basic salary. As 80% of nurses never graduate to ward sister level, the INO argues that a nurse with 22 years’ service should be earning £25,000.

It is also seeking a minimum 10% pay differential between the maximum amount staff nurses can earn and the pay for the new Clinical Nurse Managers I, recommended by the Nursing Commission. The differential for Clinical Nurse Managers II should be 15% and that for Clinical Nurse Managers III should be 25%.

The union argues that any smaller differentials will make it unattractive for staff nurses to accept promotion and forgo the opportunity for unsocial hours premiums. Recent offers from the management on overtime pay could make promotion even less attractive.

A week earlier the nursing unions defer a nationwide overtime ban only after management agrees to introduce a national framework for overtime payments. Ominously, the concession comes after an overtime ban was introduced in Cork. For the first time nurses nationwide will be paid time-and-a-half, or double time for overtime.

But the unions also demand permanent part-time nursing posts be introduced, as a means of combating the increasing nursing shortage. That there is a shortage of staff nurses is the one issue unions, health service managers and the Department of Health are agreed on. It is severest in Dublin hospitals, where over 300 beds have closed.


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Birth of Irish Billionaire Tony Ryan

tony-ryanThomas Anthony “Tony” Ryan, Irish billionaire, philanthropist and businessman, is born in Thurles, County Tipperary on February 2, 1936. He works for Aer Lingus, before going on to found their aircraft leasing arm, wet-leasing out their aircraft in the quieter winter months.

In 1975, with Aer Lingus and the Guinness Peat Group, Ryan founds Guinness Peat Aviation (later GPA Group), an aircraft leasing company, with a $50,000 investment. GPA grows to be the world’s biggest aircraft lessor, worth $4 billion at its peak. However its value dramatically collapses in 1992 after the cancellation of its planned IPO.

Ryan makes €55m from the sale of AerFi, the successor to GPA, in 2000. In 2001, he acquires Castleton Farm near Lexington, Kentucky from the Van Lennep Family Trust. He renames it Castleton Lyons and undertakes renovations to the property while returning to its original roots as a thoroughbred operation. He is a tax exile who lives in Monte Carlo, but also owns a stud farm near his home in Dolla, County Tipperary. He is the 7th wealthiest individual from Ireland in the Sunday Times Rich List 2007 with over €1.5bn(£1bn).

Ryan is best known in the public mind as the founder of the eponymous Ryanair with Christopher Ryan and Liam Lonergan. Ryanair is believed to be the main source of his wealth in later life. Ryanair is now one of the biggest airlines in Europe and is valued at over 15 billion Euros as of December 2019.

Ryan over the years helps nurture two successful business protégés, Denis O’Brien and Michael O’Leary, both of whom become billionaires.

Ryan holds honorary doctorates from several universities, including Trinity College, Dublin, the National University of Ireland, Galway and the University of Limerick.

Ryan is an active and innovative funder of university education in Ireland. He donates a marine science institute to NUI Galway in 1993 which is named the Martin Ryan Marine Science Institute in honour of his father. He shows interest in marine science and aquaculture development in the west of Ireland. He also funds The Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurship at the Citywest park, that is run by Dublin City University.

At the time of his death Ryan owns 16% of Tiger Airways, a discount carrier based in Singapore which is founded in December 2003.

Ryan dies on October 3, 2007 at Celbridge, County Kildare following an 18-month battle with pancreatic cancer. His eldest son, Cathal, dies just three months later, aged 48, after being diagnosed with cancer.


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Groundbreaking for the West Clare Railway

File source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CIE_F502_(17156275240).jpgCharles Stewart Parnell turns the first sod for the construction of the West Clare Railway (WCR) on January 27, 1885, although actual work on the line had begun in November 1884. The line is opened on July 2, 1887.

At the end of the Great Famine there is a new growth in local businesses. The British Government determines that an improved railway system is necessary to aid in the recovery of the West of Ireland. The West Clare Railway and the South Clare Railway are built by separate companies, but in practice the West Clare Railway operates the entire line. The lines meet at Milltown Malbay. In due course the entire line becomes known as the West Clare Railway.

The West Clare Railway originally operates in County Clare between 1887 and 1961. The 3-foot narrow gauge railway runs from the county town of Ennis, via numerous stopping points along the West Clare coast to two termini, at Kilrush and Kilkee, with the routes diverging at Moyasta Junction. The system is the last operating narrow gauge passenger system in Ireland and connects with the mainline rail system at Ennis, where a station still stands today for bus and train services to Limerick and Galway. Intermediate stops include Ennistymon, Lahinch and Milltown Malbay.

On 27 September 27, 1960, CIÉ gives notice of its intending closure with effect from February 1, 1961, despite the dieselisation of passenger services in 1952 and freight in 1953. CIÉ says that the West Clare is losing £23,000 per year, despite the considerable traffic it handles. In December 1960 it is announced that the line would close completely on January 1, 1961 although actual closure does not take place until January 31, 1961. CIÉ begins dismantling the line the following day.

A preservation society maintains a railway museum at Moyasta Junction station, and successfully re-opens a section of the railway as a passenger carrying heritage line with diesel traction in the 1990s, and with steam motive power from 2009.


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The Allihies Copper Mine Museum

engine-house-allihiesOn January 7, 2000, experts underline the important heritage value of a 19th Century relic that stands on the site of a disused copper mine. A conservation appeal is launched to safeguard a unique engine house at a mountain mine in the Beara peninsula. A rare surviving symbol of Cornish type mining technology, the structure is the primary surviving embodiment of a once thriving copper mining industry in Allihies, County Cork.

The industrial mines in Allihies date back to 1812, when they are first opened by John Puxley. Mining activity reaches its peak there in 1845, when the mines employ around 1,600 people, after which the mines suffer with the local area during the Great Famine. The mines are operational until 1962, when they are finally closed. Large Cornish engine houses are constructed around the mining site, ruins of which survive today. These are used to pump out water to allow for deeper mining, and to transport miners and equipment down shafts that go below sea level. The site still contains a number of engine houses, mining shafts and a church. These are constructed by and for the Cornish miners who are brought to the area in the 1800s to mine copper ore. Once the mine becomes unprofitable, many of the miners emigrate to Butte, Montana.

The Allihies Copper Mine Museum (ACMM) is housed in a renovated Methodist church dating from 1845. It is officially opened by President Mary McAleese on September 13, 2007, after ten years of work by the Allihies Mines Co-op, a group that is formed to preserve the history of the area and mining heritage in the Allihies area, supported by the Mining Heritage Trust of Ireland.

The exhibitions cover all aspects of the history of copper mining in the area, from prehistoric times all the way up to the nineteenth century and the Industrial Revolution. The displays also cover the local geology and the social history of the mining heritage. The collections contain examples of mining equipment and tools from the various eras of activity. The exhibition space is also used to display artworks, with local artists such as Charles Tyrrell, Cormac Boydell, Rachel Parry and Tim Goulding exhibiting there.

(Pictured: Engine House, Allihies by John Gibson, view of the 1862 house for the 36″-cylinder beam engine that powered the man-engine and winder on Mountain Mine)


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Birth of James Graham Fair, Mining Tycoon & U.S. Senator

james-graham-fair

James Graham Fair, banker, mining tycoon, and United States Senator from Nevada, is born in Clogher, County Tyrone on December 3, 1831. He is credited with discovering the Big Bonanza, one of the richest pockets of gold and silver on the Comstock Lode.

Born in what is now Northern Ireland in 1831 to Scotch-Irish parents, Fair immigrates with his family to the United States when he is a boy and grows up on a farm in Illinois. Following the 1849 California Gold Rush, he travels to California. He earns a reputation for understanding ore bodies, inspiring his eventual employment as superintendent of various mines.

The 1859 discovery of the Comstock Lode in Nevada provides Fair with new opportunities. In 1865, he becomes superintendent of the prestigious Ophir Mine. Two years later, the Hale and Norcross Mine in Virginia City hire him as assistant superintendent, but the owners dismiss him within a year for unclear reasons.

While at the Hale and Norcross, Fair meets John William Mackay, whose success at the Kentuck Mine made him a millionaire. The two Irish immigrants recognize common interests and form an alliance. Mackay gives Fair the position of superintendent of the Rising Star Mine in Idaho, a property he had recently acquired. The venture proves unsuccessful, but it solidifies a working relationship between the two.

Fair works quietly with Mackay and investors James C. Flood and William S. O’Brien to obtain control of the Hale and Norcross Mine. Fair turns it to profit with better management. He and Mackay combine their expertise to acquire and explore other claims. In 1873, largely through Fair’s persistent search in the Consolidated California and Virginia Mine, the partnership discovers the famed Big Bonanza, one of the richest ore bodies in history. Fair and the others become extremely wealthy. He uses his assets to defeat the incumbent William Sharon for a seat in the United States Senate, which he holds in an undistinguished way from 1881-1887 as a Democrat.

Fair develops real estate in San Francisco and acquires mining property outside Nevada. Theresa Fair, his wife, is respected in Virginia City for donations to causes including those of the Catholic Church and the Daughters of Charity. When she divorces her husband in 1883 for habitual adultery, national public opinion turns against the senator. During his bid for reelection, he finds little support. Even Mackay fails to come to his aid, and he easily loses his seat to William Morris Stewart in 1887. He then moves back to San Francisco.

James Fair dies on December 28, 1894 in San Francisco of diabetes mellitus at the age of 63. He is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, California.