seamus dubhghaill

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


Leave a comment

Baptism of Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, Union Organizer & Activist

Mary G. Harris Jones, known as Mother Jones, an Irish-born American schoolteacher and dressmaker who becomes a prominent union organiser, community organiser, and activist, is baptised on August 1, 1837, in Cork, County Cork. Her exact date of birth is uncertain. She is once deemed “the most dangerous woman in America” because of her union activities.

Jones is the daughter of Richard Harris, a Roman Catholic tenant farmer and railway labourer, and Ellen (née Cotter) Harris. She and her family are victims of the Great Famine, as are many other Irish families of the time. The famine forces more than a million families, including the Harrises, to immigrate to North America when she is ten years old. She lives in the United States and Canada, where she attends and later teaches in a Roman Catholic normal school in Toronto. In the United States she teaches in a convent school in Monroe, Michigan and works as a seamstress. In 1861 she marries George Jones, an iron-moulder and labour union member in Memphis, Tennessee. After the death of her husband and their four children in a yellow fever epidemic in 1867, she relocates to Chicago, Illinois, where she becomes involved with an early industrial union, the Knights of Labor. Her seamstress shop is destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

In the 1890s Jones becomes known as ‘Mother’ Jones and begins a long association with socialist causes and the United Mine Workers of America. She attends the founding convention of Social Democracy of America, later known as the Cooperative Brotherhood, in 1897 and in the same year organises support and publicity for striking bituminous coal miners in West Virginia, including a children’s march and parades of farmers delivering food to the miners’ camp. These types of defiant mass action become her trademark. Notable activities include organising women in support of an 1899 anthracite coal strike in eastern Pennsylvania, directing strikes of young women working in textile mills, a 1903 ‘children’s crusade’ against child labour which includes a ninety-mile march from Philadelphia to New York City, participating in 1905 in the founding convention of the Industrial Workers of the World, a radical labour union committed to the organisation of unskilled workers, campaigning for the release of Mexican revolutionaries imprisoned in American jails, and testifying in 1915 in congressional hearings against the abuse of corporate power by Rockefeller interests.

Jones reportedly meets with James Connolly, Irish socialist and labour organiser, in New York City in 1910. She is arrested for the first time for violating a federal injunction during a miners’ strike in West Virginia in 1902. In 1904, during a Colorado miners’ campaign, she has to avoid the authorities to escape possible deportation. During a 1914 strike in Ludlow, Colorado, she is imprisoned without trial for nine weeks. In 1919 she is arrested in Pennsylvania during a steelworkers’ strike for defending freedom of speech and the right of workers to organise unions. She remains active in the labour movement and radical causes into her nineties.

During her later years, Jones lives with her friends Walter and Lillie May Burgess on their farm in what is now Adelphi, Maryland. She celebrates her self-proclaimed 100th birthday there on May 1, 1930 and is filmed making a statement for a newsreel.

Jones dies on November 30, 1930 at the Burgess farm then in Silver Spring, Maryland, though now part of Adelphi. There is a funeral Mass at St. Gabriel’s in Washington, D.C. She is buried in the Union Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive, Illinois, alongside miners who died in the 1898 Battle of Virden.

In 1932, about 15,000 Illinois mine workers gather in Mount Olive to protest against the United Mine Workers, which soon becomes the Progressive Mine Workers of America. Convinced that they have acted in the spirit of Mother Jones, the miners decide to place a proper headstone on her grave. By 1936, the miners have saved up more than $16,000 and are able to purchase “eighty tons of Minnesota pink granite, with bronze statues of two miners flanking a twenty-foot shaft featuring a bas-relief of Mother Jones at its center.” On October 11, 1936, also known as Miners’ Day, an estimated 50,000 people arrive at Mother Jones’s grave to see the new gravestone and memorial. Since then, October 11 is not only known as Miners’ Day but is also referred to and celebrated in Mount Olive as “Mother Jones’s Day.”

The farm where she died begins to advertise itself as the “Mother Jones Rest Home” in 1932, before being sold to a Baptist church in 1956. The site is now marked with a Maryland Historical Trust marker, and a nearby elementary school is named in her honor.


Leave a comment

Birth of Classical Guitarist John Feeley

John Feeley, classical guitarist, and a teacher and editor of guitar music, is born Ballinasloe, County Galway, on May 24, 1955.

Feeley starts playing guitar in popular music, and at age seventeen is recognised as one of Europe‘s best electric guitarists. After graduating from Trinity College Dublin, with a first class degree in music, he moves to the United States to study with Oscar Ghiglia, Angel Romero, and David Russell, completing a master’s degree at Queens College, City University of New York. In the following years he teaches at Memphis State University in Memphis, Tennessee. He now teaches at the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) Conservatory of Music and Drama, Dublin. His past students include all current members of the Dublin Guitar Quartet, along with Redmond O’Toole, Michael O’Toole and Alec O’Leary, director of the Guitar Festival of Ireland. Composers Benjamin Dwyer, Ciarán Farrell, David Fennessy and David Flynn, all of whom have written music for Feeley, are also guitar students of his.

In 2006 Feeley completes a doctorate (Doctor of Philosophy in Music [Performance]) at Maynooth University, which involves a major thesis in three volumes with the title Classical Guitar Music by Irish Composers: Performing Editions and Critical Commentary.

Feeley has appeared at such festivals as the Guitar Festival of Ireland, Bath International Music Festival, the Dundee International Guitar Festival, and the Wirral International Guitar Festival. He has won numerous awards including the Special Award for interpretation in the 1984 Mauro Giuliani competition, Italy. He has appeared as a soloist with the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, the Ulster Orchestra, the Irish Chamber Orchestra and the Contempo Quartet. He performs regularly in duet with the flautist William Dowdall.

Feeley is an enthusiastic champion of contemporary Irish music and in this capacity has commissioned works from many of Ireland’s leading composers including Seóirse Bodley, John Buckley, Jerome de Bromhead, Jane O’Leary, Brent Parker and Eric Sweeney. He also has a great interest in traditional Irish and Scottish music and has recorded with The Chieftains and published his own arrangements of traditional melodies.

Feeley has been described by The Washington Post as “Ireland’s leading classical guitarist” and by Michael Dervan in The Irish Times as “a trailblazer … when it comes to the guitar and guitar-playing in Ireland.”


Leave a comment

Release of U2’s “Rattle and Hum”

Rattle and Hum, the sixth studio album by Irish rock band U2, is released on October 10, 1988. The album is produced by Jimmy Iovine. A companion rockumentary film directed by Phil Joanou is released on October 27, 1988.

Following the breakthrough success of the band’s previous studio album, The Joshua Tree, the Rattle and Hum project captures their continued experiences with American roots music on The Joshua Tree Tour, further incorporating elements of blues rock, folk rock, and gospel music into their sound. A collection of new studio tracks, live performances, and cover songs, the project includes recordings at Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee and collaborations with Bob Dylan, B. B. King, and Harlem‘s New Voices of Freedom gospel choir.

Although Rattle and Hum is intended to represent the band paying tribute to rock legends, some critics accuse U2 of trying to place themselves amongst the ranks of these artists. Critical reception to both the album and the film is mixed. One Rolling Stone editor speaks of the album’s “excitement”, another describes it as “misguided and bombastic.” The film grosses just $8.6 million, but the album is a commercial success, reaching number one in several countries and selling 14 million copies. Lead single “Desire” becomes the band’s first U.K. number-one song while reaching number three in the United States.

At the end of 1988, Rattle and Hum is voted the 21st-best album of the year in the Pazz & Jop, an annual poll of American critics published by The Village Voice. In other critics’ lists of the year’s top albums, it is ranked number one by HUMO, second by the Los Angeles Times and Hot Press, 17th by OOR, 23rd by New Musical Express (NME), and 47th by Sounds.

Lifetime sales for the album have surpassed 14 million copies.


Leave a comment

Birth of Pop Singer Dusty Springfield

dusty-springfieldMary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien, English pop singer and record producer known professionally as Dusty Springfield, is born on April 16, 1939, to Irish parents in West Hampstead, North London.

With her distinctive sensual mezzo soprano sound, she is an important blue-eyed soul singer and, at her peak, is one of the most successful British female performers, with six top 20 singles on the United States Billboard Hot 100 and sixteen on the United Kingdom Singles Chart from 1963 to 1989. She is a member of both the U.S. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and U.K. Music Hall of Fame. International polls name Springfield among the best female rock artists of all time. Her image, supported by a peroxide blonde bouffant hairstyle, evening gowns, and heavy make-up, as well as her flamboyant performances on the black and white television of the 1960s, make her an icon of the Swinging Sixties.

Born in West Hampstead, London to a family that enjoys music, Springfield learns to sing at home. In 1958, she joins her first professional group, The Lana Sisters, and two years later forms a pop-folk vocal trio, The Springfields, with her brother Tom Springfield. Her solo career begins in 1963 with the upbeat pop hit I Only Want to Be with You. Among the hits that follow are Wishin’ and Hopin’ (1964), I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself (1964), You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me (1966), and Son of a Preacher Man (1968).

As a fan of U.S. pop music, she brings many little-known soul singers to the attention of a wider U.K. record-buying audience by hosting the first national TV performance of many top-selling Motown artists beginning in 1965. Although she is never considered a Northern Soul artist in her own right, her efforts contribute a great deal to the formation of the genre.

Partly owing to these efforts, a year later she eventually becomes the best-selling female singer in the world and tops a number of popularity polls, including Melody Maker‘s Best International Vocalist. She is the first U.K. singer to top the New Musical Express readers’ poll for Female Singer.

To boost her credibility as a soul artist, Springfield goes to Memphis, Tennessee to record Dusty in Memphis, an album of pop and soul music with the Atlantic Records main production team. Released in 1969, it has been ranked among the greatest albums of all time by the U.S. magazine Rolling Stone and in polls by VH1 artists, New Musical Express readers, and Channel 4 viewers. The album is also awarded a spot in the Grammy Hall of Fame. Despite its current recognition, the album does not sell well and after its release and Springfield experiences a career slump for several years. However, in collaboration with Pet Shop Boys, she returns to the Top 10 of the U.K. and U.S. charts in 1987 with What Have I Done to Deserve This? Two years later, she has two other U.K. hits on her own with Nothing Has Been Proved and In Private. Subsequently in the mid-1990s, owing to the inclusion of Son of a Preacher Man on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, interest in her early output is revived.

In January 1994, while recording her penultimate album, A Very Fine Love, in Nashville, Dusty Springfield falls ill. When she returns to the United Kingdom a few months later, her physicians diagnose breast cancer. She receives months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment and the cancer goes into remission. In 1995, in apparent good health, Springfield sets about promoting the album, which is released that year. By mid-1996, the cancer has returned and, in spite of vigorous treatments, she dies in Henley-on-Thames on March 2, 1999. Her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, has been scheduled two weeks after her death. Her friend Elton John helps induct her into the Hall of Fame, declaring, “I’m biased but I just think she was the greatest white singer there ever has been … Every song she sang, she claimed as her own.”

Springfield is cremated and some of her ashes are buried at Henley-on-Thames, while the rest are scattered by her brother, Tom Springfield, at the Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland.