ON THIS DATE (19TH JUNE) 84 YEARS AGO : BIRTH OF A SOCIALLY-CONSCIENCED JOURNALIST.
Although we here in '1169 Towers' had our differences with Mary Holland (pictured) in relation to her pro-abortion outlook (she had endured such a procedure herself), we couldn't fault her for the way in which she highlighted the effects of the unwanted (and on-going) British military and political presence in the North-East of this country.
Mary was born in Dover, in Kent, England, on the 19th June, 1935 - 84 years ago on this date - but was practically raised in Ireland, and was said to be an inquisitive child who not only asked 'why?', but 'why not?'. As a young adult, she worked for a while for 'Vogue' magazine, reporting on fashion trends, which brought her to the attention of 'The Observer' newspaper, which employed her (in 1964) and where her observations on the political situation in Ireland were published. Her Irish articles were considered to be 'hard hitting' by the political establishment in London, as she tended to stray from the 'British peacekeepers in Ireland'-type of printed commentary, which was prevalent among British and Irish journalists (/political activists) at the time (and, to a large extent, still is today).
Conor Cruise O'Brien (pictured) was appointed editor-in-chief of 'The Observer' newspaper and his new position afforded him the opportunity to extend his anti-republican/pro-British political beliefs and to further integrate himself with those in Westminster that he admired - he sent a memo to Mary Holland stating "..it is a very serious weakness of your coverage of Irish affairs that you are a very poor judge of Irish Catholics..that gifted and talkative community includes some of the most expert conmen and conwomen in the world and I believe you have been conned.."
The writing was on the wall, Mary knew it and, true enough, she was sacked by O'Brien in 1979 : O'Brien claimed he was "personally ashamed" by the (truthful/accurate) articles that she was writing and he referenced one in particular - a piece in which she highlighted the issues and problems faced by women in the Six Counties when visiting loved ones in Long Kesh prison. But Mary wasn't out of work for long - she was almost immediately appointed as the Irish Editor of 'The New Statesman' magazine and assisted Vincent Browne in establishing 'Magill' magazine, was a columnist for 'The Irish Times' and returned to 'The Observer' newspaper after O'Brien left in 1981.
The following piece was written by Nell McCafferty and published in 'Magill' magazine in July, 1983 :
'In the North of Ireland, a dossier of irrefutable information was being painstakingly compiled by the 'Campaign for Social Justice', fore-runner of the Civil Rights Movement : it was just a matter of presenting it to the Wilson government in Westminster and getting them to move on it. But the British government did not want to know the facts - in 1967, a party of Stormont Nationalist MP's were received in Westminster by Roy Jenkins, then Chancellor of the British Exchequer. After they had presented their case and left, a horrified aide said to Roy Jenkins "something will have to be done." Jenkins replied that nothing would be done because any Englishman who set foot in Northern Ireland (sic) affairs would be setting a foot in his political grave.
Mary Holland, a journalist in 'The Observer ' newspaper at that time, heard the story from the aide after she had been persuaded by Gerry Fitt to break the 'paper wall' on the North that existed in the British media at the time ('1169' comment - hard to believe that a Conor-Cruise-O'Brien-wannabe like Fitt would be worried about something like that!). In the summer of 1968 she had been writing a series of articles entitled 'Them And Us', in which she detailed cases of discrimination against individuals : "A lot of it had to do with the difficulties experienced by black people, whose problems in England were then attracting a lot of attention. I got a phone call from Gerry Fitt, saying Catholics were undergoing the same discrimination in Northern Ireland (sic). It's a measure of our ignorance in England at that time that I asked him if he was sure he could prove his case. I'd had a lot of difficulty establishing actual discrimination against black people, given the subtleties of bureaucracy, and I was about to drop the series and accept promotion to a position as 'Arts Columnist' on the Observer."
Gerry Fitt was insistent and she agreed to meet him for lunch ; "I named a restaurant in Soho - Wheeler's - and then there was something about his accent and his way of talking that made me add by way of caution 'it's very fashionable and it only serves fish dinners.' "Ah Jaysus, Mary," he said, "I want a real dinner. We'll go to the Irish Club and eat meat." When she arrived there, Gerry Fitt ordered drinks and opened a suitcase of documents and cuttings from the Irish News newspaper, gospel of Belfast Catholics, and The Skibbereen Eagle newspaper, of everything Unionists had ever done anywhere in the North against the Nationalist population. He held her spellbound for several hours : "I couldn't believe it" she says, of the things she heard that afternoon. Fitt cajoled and charmed and bullied and lured her across the Irish Sea. Three days later, on Tuesday October 1st, 1968, the reluctant would-be arts columnist found herself in the Fitt home on the Antrim Road - "It was a complete culture shock.
I sat in the room he uses as a clinic on the ground floor - the basement underneath was the kitchen where his family spent their time. He had a wife and five daughters. Everytime he wanted a cup of tea he'd stamp three times on the floor, and up from the basement beneath would come a woman with a tray. I sat there and listened to him and the stream of constituents who called into the room to see him. They were still calling well after midnight."
Paddy Kennedy ('Republican Labour Party') said - "When he first started operating out of Dock, the Falls Road was Outer Mongolia to him!" Politically, Dungannon must have seemed beyond Mongolia to Mary Holland. Austin Currie told her of the house allocated to the single unmarried female secretary of the local Unionist party branch, and the dozens of large Catholic families on the waiting list. Currie had squatted in the house in protest and the RUC had evicted him.
Gerry Fitt whirled her onto Derry that evening ; she was worried that they hadn't made appointments - "Ah, not at all," he said, "you just arrive in the City Hotel and it all happens." They arrived, she ordered tea and sandwiches, he went out into the street for a few minutes and returned with Eamonn McCann, Ivan Cooper, and the future Brigade Staff of the Official IRA, Provisional IRA and the INLA. On that night, though, they were no more than what they represented themselves to be - young militant civil rights activists. Ivan Cooper was the 'radical mascot', a Protestant who had defected from the Unionist Party. They were going to march in Derry that coming weekend.
Mary Holland flew back to England on Wednesday with her story, which she had titled 'John Bull's Political Slum'. It was scheduled as a major feature on the inside pages of 'The Observer' newspaper for Sunday 6th October, 1968. Gerry Fitt came on the phone again pleading with her to return to Derry for October 5th, "just to see, just to see..". Three Labour Party MP's had agreed to come - "Ah come on Mary, for Jaysus sake.." : 'The Observer' agreed, and sent over a photographer as well. He was the only photographer from a British newspaper. The picture he took of Gerry Fitt being batoned on the head by the RUC and the blood spurting down his shirt went all over the world, accompanied by RTE film. Was she frightened? - "I was outraged ; this was a part of Britain (sic) and the police were hitting a Westminster MP over the head.."
Mary Holland phoned the story in from a fish and chip shop in Duke Street, dictating amid the screams and shouting, and standing in a crush of bodies drenched with water from the RUC cannons and blood from their wounds. The proprietor of the fish and chip shop handed her his card, hoping for a mention - there was a sense that the North was about to attract journalists on expense accounts...' ('1169' comment - it is not only the journalists who are on expense accounts : some of the republican activists at that time are now in receipt of a regular stipend from Stormont/Westminster and/or Leinster House. And their tastes have evolved from fish and chips.)
Mary Holland, born on the 19th June, 1935 - 84 years ago on this date - died, from the tissue disease 'scleroderma', in her 69th year, on the 7th June, 2004.
'SINN FÉIN CANDIDATES'.
From 'The United Irishman' newspaper, December 1954.
Armagh - Tomas MacCurtain, Cork.
South Down - Kevin O' Rourke, Banbridge.
North Down - Joe Campbell, Newry.
North Antrim - John Dugan, Loughguile.
Mid Ulster - Tom Mitchel, Dublin.
Fermanagh/South Tyrone - Phil Clarke, Dublin.
West Belfast - Eamon Boyce, Dublin.
East Belfast - Liam Mulcahy, Cork.
North Belfast - Frank McGlade, Ardoyne.
South Belfast - Paddy Kearney, Dublin.
Candidates have yet to be selected for Derry and South Antrim constituencies.
(END of 'Sinn Féin Candidates'. Next - 'One Dance', 'A Generous Gesture', 'Prisoner Elected Vice-President Of NCAI' and 'Art for ? Sake', from the same source.)
ON THIS DATE (19TH JUNE) 122 YEARS AGO : DEATH OF AN INFAMOUS BRITISH 'LANDLORD'.
From 'Harpers Weekly', 1880 - 'At present the miserable constructions on Irish farms are a source of amazement to a visitor who knows that he is among a people that pretend to live by agriculture. In vain he looks for specimens of the quadrangle straw yard, with surrounding buildings, which distinguishes most English farms. Except on the few large holdings, there are no straw yards at all, and no farm premises beyond the small thatched houses or hovels which are here honoured with the designation of barns, cow-houses, and stables- usually joined on to the farmer's dwelling-house, with manure heaped just outside the doors.
The one or two cows and their calves on each holding are in the field all winter - a treatment which the mildness of the climate renders possible, though the loss in the milk producing capability of the country from this measure must be enormous. The calves are shut in at night and fed with hay, and they are not in first-class condition in the spring when sold as yearlings to the large grazing farmers. The occupiers could make good use of cattle sheds and food houses if they had them; in fact, improved husbandry in root-feeding and manure-making- the very basis of proper agriculture- is prevented by this pitiable absence of any reasonable description of farm buildings. It is a puzzle how the tenants on hundreds of farms manage to shelter their live stock, including the active well-fed ass which so commonly pulls their little cart to market with produce or turf for sale.'
still occurring in this Free State today) ; on the 21st October 1879, a meeting of concerned individuals was held in the Imperial Hotel in Castlebar, County Mayo, to discuss issues in relation to 'landlordism' and the manner in which that subject impacted on those who worked on small land holdings on which they paid 'rent', an issue which other groups, such as tenants' rights organisations and groups who, confined by a small membership, agitated on land issues in their own locality, had voiced concern about. Those present agreed to announce themselves as the 'Irish National Land League' (which, at its peak, had 200,000 active members) and Charles Stewart Parnell (who, at 33 years of age, had been an elected member of parliament for the previous four years) was elected president of the new group and Andrew Kettle, Michael Davitt, and Thomas Brennan were appointed as honorary secretaries.
Charles Cunningham Boycott was born on the 12th March, 1832, in Burgh Saint Peter, in Norfolk, England and, as well as being a 'landlord' in Ireland - family money allowed him to hold a 31-year 'lease' on three-hundred acres near Lough Mask - he was employed as an English 'land agent' and operated in that position in the Mayo area, from his base in Loughmask House. A known gambler on the horses, he was also known to be vicious in his dealings, 'legally' and socially, with Irish 'tenants' on the land he managed for his English masters. Before taking up his 'land agent' work, he had been an officer in the British Army 39th Regiment, a position which brought him to Ireland to 'keep the peace/maintain law and order'. After retiring from his 'peace keeping duties' here in Ireland, this English 'landlord' also worked as a 'land agent' for 'Lord' Erne, a major 'landlord' in the Lough Mask area of County Mayo, who lived off the exorbitant rents he charged tenants. Boycott was kept busy, and all his actions consisted of the use of force, whether necessary or not, and resulted in bloodshed and homeless families. The 'Boycott Campaign' hit him hard, so much so that he complained to the then 'Times newspaper' about "...people collecting in crowds upon my farm and ordering off all my workmen. The shopkeepers have been warned to stop all supplies to my house. My farm is public property, I can get no workmen to do anything, and my ruin is openly avowed as the object of the Land League unless I throw up everything and leave the country.."
And leave the country he did, eventually (under an armed military escort, in an ambulance, supplied to him by the English political administration, for his own safety), as a result of his own vicious actions against 'the natives' in Ireland ; a shaken man, he went on a holiday to America and then returned to England, where he was employed as a 'land agent' in Suffolk for Hugh Adair. Charles Cunningham Boycott, a piece of English vermin, died, aged 65, in Flixton, Suffolk, in England, on the 19th June, 1897 - 122 years ago on this date.
A bus for this commemoration, which is organised each year by the Republican Movement, will leave from outside the old McBirneys/Virgin Megastore site on Dublin's Aston Quay at 12.45PM on the day : the Commemoration itself starts at 2.30PM. The same bus will leave Bodenstown at 5.45PM that afternoon on its return to Dublin city centre. The fare is ten Euro per person.
For information on the death of Wolfe Tone, scroll through this piece (article starts on March 9th on that page) : "To subvert the tyranny of our execrable government, to break the connection with England, the never-failing source of all our political evils and to assert the independence of my country - these were my objectives. To unite the whole people of Ireland, to abolish the memory of all past dissensions, and to substitute the common name of Irishman in place of the denominations of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter - these were my means..." - Theobald Wolfe Tone.
ON THIS DATE (19TH JUNE) 221 YEARS AGO : "THIS IS THE HEAD OF WATTY GRAHAM, THE CRATHUR.."
The soldiers were hot on his trail and when they did not get answers to their satisfaction they burned the house to the ground...Walter Graham continued his journey and again stopped at the Rectory of (Tamlaght) Magilligan with the intention of collecting four hundred pounds of a debt owed to him by a Reverend Church. This man, 'Church', once came from the Maghera area and was inclined to be a tout for the soldiers. Mr. Church saw a way to get out of his obligation to Watty Graham and also enrich his own purse. He told Watty he had to go to Maghera to collect some money he was owed. So off he went, gloating about the reward he could get...' (from here.)
As happened before and after in situations like this, the tout 'done the dirt' ; Watty Graham was 'arrested' by the British and he was hanged, on the 19th June, 1798 - 221 years ago on this date - in Coleraine, from a tree which stood beside the gate of the local rectory, then he was beheaded. After the deed was done, a servant from the rectory was forced to parade through the streets of Maghera, displaying the severed head on the end of a pike -
'Each community remembered the particular horrors of the executions in its own locality. In Maghera, County Derry, local tradition recalled the beheading of Walter (Watty) Graham : When Graham’s body was removed from the tree, a Roman Catholic named Cassidy was ordered to strike off the head of the corpse and carry it on a pike through the town proclaiming to all that ‘This is the head of Watty Graham, the traitor’. Cassidy, an orphan, had been reared with the Grahams and when the halberd was placed in his hand he fainted, on which one of the soldiers served the head. When Cassidy recovered he was compelled to carry a pike with the gruesome burden, but the proclamation that he tearfully made through the empty street was 'This is the head of Watty Graham, the crathur..' Graham was beheaded on the threshold of the ruins of the old Abbey Church and a mark was until recently shown on the wall where the soldiers played ball with his bleeding head...' (from here.)
Watty Graham was originally buried in Culnady, a small village near the town of Maghera, but his remains were later moved by his comrades and re-buried in St Lurach's graveyard, in Maghera. Incidentally, the tree from which Watty was hanged was brought down in a storm in 1945 ; the British political and military presence 'still stands', and touts still exist...
ONE IN FOUR ON LOW PAY.
By Colm Keena.
From 'Magill' Magazine, May 1987.
Martina and Edel are in their late teens, working in a clothing factory in Dublin. They are both seamstresses with 'Shamrock Apparel', a Hong Kong-owned company based in Coolock, North Dublin, which set up here in 1985 with the support of £7.5 million in IDA grants. Young, female and working in the clothing industry, theirs is the classical profile of the low paid worker in the Irish economy.
But a survey of low pay commissioned by the 'Irish Congress of Trade Unions' and due to be published later this month, concludes that 23 per cent - or nearly one quarter of the workplace - can be considered as low paid. 'Shamrock Apparel' is not the 'typical' small sweatshop of the traditional 'rag trade' ; it is a new enterprise, employing 600 people, and exporting its products.
Martina and Edel are given a job to do, perhaps to sew in pockets or waistbands, and have to complete a certain number of such jobs per day or risk being suspended or fired. The factory produces skirts, trousers, shirts and jumpers, but they do not know what the brand names are, as they rarely see the finished products - "They don't let you talk, if they see you talking they tell you to stop. The place is stuffy, dusty, and there are no windows. They can sack you if you are not doing your quota of work, or if you do something wrong, like not tie up your bundle, when the bell goes at five." Martina, who has been with the company for two years, is paid £75 per week for her forty hours work but, after deductions, she gets "about £60". Edel receives £67 per week, or, again, "about £60", after deductions. Edel has been with the company for one year... (MORE LATER.)
'POLAND AND OURSELVES'...
Space will not permit a description of the activities of the Polish Underground ; their story, like that of the IRA, is an epic in the struggles of small nations against the forces of tyranny. For those who are interested, this story is told by the commander of the underground, Colonel Bor Komorowski, in his book 'The Secret Army'.
While they were unfortunate in the outcome, during the struggle itself they were constantly supplied with up-to-date equipment and munitions from the armouries of their allies. We in Ireland have always had to rely on our own resources.
Just as the Civil War in Ireland bereft us of our most loyal leaders, and completely disrupted the National Movement, the Polish Underground lost most of her most energetic fighters when they came out of hiding to assist the advancing Russian Army and were arrested by the Russian secret police. But now we see that fresh leaders have come to the fore and the struggle is being resumed against present occupation forces. Although the strategic position is entirely different in Ireland, we may gain courage from the story of the achievements of those heroic men and women and nerve ourselves for the resumption of the struggle against our own traditional enemy.
We should not forget that the zeal and patriotism of those men and women is due to the motivating power of their native language and traditions, which influences each new generation, and imbues it with a love of liberty which death and dungeon cannot destroy. (END of 'Poland and Ourselves' ; next - 'The Old Story', from the same source.)
Thanks for reading, Sharon.