Anarchist newspapers sold by a Dublin newsagent in 1916

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A guest post from Sam of the excellent Come Here To Me blog

After nearly 130 years of production, the anarchist newspaper Freedom moved its operations online last year.  Sadly unable to sustain a regular printed publication in this era, the East London-based Freedom Press now publishes its news and opinions on the web accompanied by a quarterly freesheet and a monthly email digest.  From 1886 to 2014, it was the stalwart organ of the English-speaking anarchist movement and could boast of links with some of the world’s foremost anarchist thinkers including Peter KropokinMarie-Louise Berneri and Colin Ward.

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While reading a copy of Freedom (sub-titled the “Journal of Anarchist Communism”) from March 1916 on the Libcom website, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that along with major cities like London, Manchester, Glasgow and smaller ones such as Plymouth, Yeovil and Falkirk – names and addresses of Freedom newspaper sellers are listed for Dublin and Belfast.

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They were:

“Belfast – W. Robinson, 167 York Street

Dublin – J.C. Kearney, 59 Upper Stephen Street”

Jospeh C. Kearney (c. 1887 to 1946) was a bookseller and stationer who lived above his shop at 59 Upper Stephen Street his whole life. There are a small number of fleeting references to him and his family online. I think it could be assumed that he had some sympathy to socialist or anarchist politics he was happy to both stock Freedom and let the newspaper publicly advertise the fact.

In 1901, Joseph C. Kearney (14) was living at home with his widow mother Lilly Kearney (38) nee Walsh and two younger brothers Thomas (11) and Alfred (10). Lily was a tobacconist and employed an assistant, Mary Callaghan (19) from Cork, in the shop downstairs. Obviously reasonably financially well off, the family also enjoyed the services of a servant Ellen Byrne (16) from Carlow.

On the first anniversary of her death, a notice was put into The Freeman’s Journal (4 December 1891) in memory of a Mrs Anne Walsh of 59 Upper Stephen Street . I suspect this was Lilly’s mother.

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The Kearney family put an advertisement in the Freeman’s Journal (8 March 1902) looking for a “respectable, strong, young country girl” to work as a general servant. They inserted similar notices in 1904 and 1911. The family were decidedly middle-class.

By 1911, Lily (50) had re-married a Royal Dublin Fusiliers Army Pensioner by the name of Vincent Walter (60). Her three sons Joseph (24), Thomas (22) and Alfred (20) all still lived at home with her and listed their profession as “News agent shop men”. Lily’s brother Alfred Walsh (52), an “Engine Fitter”, and a cousin Louie Wilson (16), a “Drapers Shop Assistant” from Liverpool also lived in the house at that time.

In August 1918, Joseph C. Kearney was fined after his wife Louisa Kearney illegally sold matches to a customer. It was the first prosecution, according to the Irish Examiner (28 August 1918), under a new act which “provided that matches must be sold in boxes and not in bundles under any circumstances”.

On 23 February 1922, a notice was put into the Irish Independent by Lily Kearney-Walter who then living in California, San Francisco to mark the 5th anniversary of the death of her brother Alfred. Lily obviously moved back home as she died in Harold’s Cross Hospice on 6 June 1924. The notice in the Irish Independent (9 June 1924) mentioned her late husband V.B. Walter was late of the SMRASC which I think stood for Service Member (?) Royal Army Service Corps.

Kearney had another brush with the law but this time for more interesting reasons than selling matches. In April 1928, Joseph C. Kearney was found guilty and fined a total of £60 for selling two “obscene” publications entitled “Family Limitation” and “The Married Women’s Guide”. It could be concluded from this that Kearney was still politically inclined.

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In court, the state prosecutor Carrigan was quoted in the Irish Times (20 April 1928) as saying:

“The theories contained in the publications might find support in England or in large communities, but in a comparatively small community, like that in Ireland, he did not think that they would find favour, not that the Irish were superior people, but they, happily, were more old-fashioned than were people elsewhere. The public good in Ireland would not be served by the circulation of these books.”

Joseph C. Kearney tragically lost his wife and two children in the 1920s and 1930s.

His wife Louisa Kearney died on 8th October 1923. Emily Lousia, his second daughter, passed away on 10 March 1939 aged 22 and was buried in Glasnevin cemetery. His youngest son Vincent Joseph Kearney died on 24th February 1936 aged 15 after a short illness.

Joseph C Kearney himself died on 29 January 1946 and was buried in Glasnevin with his family.

After his death, the newsagent at 59 Upper Stephen Street was taken over  by a P. Smyth. This house and that whole row at the corner of Upper Stephen Street and South Great George’s Street was demolished and replaced by a modern office block (Dunnes Stores head office) in 2007.

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Pat Read – another Irish anarchist who fought fascism in Spain

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Sean Cronin’s* article from the Irish Times in 1969 about Irish-Americans and the Industrial Workers of the World mentions Pat Read, “an Irish born rebel who fought with the Anarchists in Spain”.  Thanks to Sam McGrath for passing this on.

Read extract

Click here to download the full article

More recently Ciaran Crossey has written about Read for the Ireland and the Spanish Civil War site.  He has also authored a pamphlet, Pat Read – An Irish anarchist in the SCW.

Below is his obituary from the Industrial Worker, Nov. 22nd 1947.

Patrick J Read, former editor of the Industrial Worker, dies

Patrick J Read, former editor of the Industrial Worker, life-long battler for bona fide unionism, died Sunday morning, Nov. 16, of cerebral haemorrhage, in a Chicago hospital. His fellow workers arranged for an IWW funeral the following Tuesday.

Pat Read joined the fight against exploitation in his boyhood. He has carried on that battle in many lands. In Ireland, off whose coast he was born half a century ago; in England, in France, in Spain, in Canada, as well as in these United States. A staunch supporter of the militant struggles of James Connolly in Ireland, he carried that philosophy with him wherever he went, and did his utmost to put it into action. He was associated with the most militant syndicalists of France, proud of his membership on the CNT while fighting Franco during the Spanish Civil war, as he was proud these many years of his little red card in the IWW.

During the First World War he married while in France, but his wife died and his son was killed during WW2. He is survived by his friends and fellow workers, and by a working class whose eyes he laboured diligently to open.

Pat Reid in Spain

Pat Reid in Spain

Read was a fighter intellectually and physically. He stopped more than one of Franco’s mercenaries from further murder, and left his mark on the scabs of more than one big strike. Gifted with a warm heart, a keen mind and a caustic tongue, he lashed at the humbug and hokum of labor fakirs and politicians; at the futile reformer and the labor-shacking ‘do-gooder’.

For various reasons writing under various names he contributed much too the analysis of the labor movement. His approach was predominantly the psychology of what makes it tick – and what stops it from ticking. For many years he was endeavouring from his approach to make a complete analysis of unionism. Some of this material was run up as “The ABC if unionism”, a study of the fervour and fife that goes into the building of a union, and of the processes whereby in too many instances it has degenerated into the drabness of a labor brokerage. His more serious analyses received the limited attention such hard work usually receives; the lash of his irony is best known through an incidental piece of writing that has been reprinted many times and translated into many languages, a letter ‘Chicago Replies to Moscow’ in which he told off the Commies as they have never been told off before….or since.

The thinking of the labor movement is richer, and the fires of revolt burn the brighter, because Pat Read lived and wrote and fought.

*Cronin was a member of the IRA, and its Chief of Staff in the late 1950s.  After the failure of the IRA’s border campaign (1956-1962) he was among those republicans who moved sharply to the left.

The Gurriers (1969)

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Gurriers* was produced in 1969 and handed out at University College, Dublin and also at the anti-apartheid demonstration against the Springbok Rugby tour that year.  It was produced by Phil Meyler and was heavily influenced by Raoul Vaneigen’s situationist pamphlet, The Revolution of Everyday Life.  Phil was invited to visit the University President, and his mother had a visit from the Special Branch who wanted to question him.  Phil declined both invitations.

In the Ireland of 1969 you could not publish writings like “The various images of Jesus, from the little underpants on the cross to the unbelievable Sacred Heart, all the martyrs, etc….what pickings for the sadists.  For masochist; the suffering of hellfire, threats, and the whip actually permitted.  For scapular fetishists, relics, Rosary beads, Mary’s garters, Saint Patrick’s shamrocks. Every perversion that one would ever desire..” without expecting a rather fevered response!

Gurriers cover

Click here to download

Situationism is a minor variant of libertarian Marxism, originally developed by ‘avant grade’ artists.  Whilst not anarchist, neither is it hostile to anarchism.  Perhaps the high point of its influence was among students during the 1968 revolt in France.

Phil Meyler (aka Phil Mailer) was born in Dublin in 1946 and has been a teacher in Portugal, the US and Ireland for many years.  After living in London, where he was on the fringes of the ‘King Mob’ situationist group in the late 1960s, he went to Portugal in 1973 to teach English. There, he participated in the events following the Revolution of April 1974, become an editor of the newspaper Combate and managed a radical bookshop in Lisbon with other Portuguese revolutionaries.

He has been a long-time translator from Portuguese and has translated the song-lyrics and poems of José Afonso (whose song Grandola was a signal for the 1974 revolution).  He is the editor of Livewire Publications, which has published Misfit, the autobiography of Captain Jack White.  White was a founder of the Irish Citizen Army during the 1913 lockout, and one of the Irish who went to fight fascism in Spain in 1936, where he became a supporter of the anarchists.

Phil Meyler

Phil Meyler

Meyler is probably best known as the author of Portugal: The Impossible Revolution?  After the military coup on April 25th, 1974, which saw the overthrow of almost fifty years of fascist rule and an end to three colonial wars, there followed eighteen months of struggle and change, which challenged every aspect of Portuguese society.  That book is the story of what happened in those months after April 1974, as seen and felt by a deeply committed participant.

“Mailer portrays history with the enthusiasm of a cheerleader, the ‘home team’ in this case being libertarian communism. Official documents, position papers and the pronouncements of the protagonists of this drama are mostly relegated to the appendices. The text itself recounts the activities of a host of worker, tenant, soldier and student committees as well as the author’s personal experiences.” —Ian Wallace, Library Journal

 

*Gurrier: Irish synonym for hooligan or corner boy, usually applied to teenagers and younger children.

Irish anarchist interviewed about the 1970s and 80s (part 2)

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This is the story of Alan MacSimoin a long-time Anarchist activist who, as a young man, joined the Official Republican Movement (Sinn Fein).  MacSimoin was part of the Murray Defence Committee in 1976-77 to stop the state execution of anarchists Noel and Marie Murray for the killing of a member of the police.  He was a founder member of the Workers Solidarity Movement in 1984.

nmmurrays-coverrep

In this interview, filmed in October 2014, MacSimoin talks about the death sentence handed down to Noel and Marie Murray, the H-Block hunger strike, the current crisis within capitalism, also the lack of a response to the Palestinian struggle from western governments, and why socialists need to be a lot positive.

Alan lives in Stoneybatter, where he is involved with the Stoneybatter and Smithfield Peoples History Project and the local campaign against the Water Tax.

The interview was conducted by the Irish Republican and Marxist History Project, and is at https://irishrepublicanmarxisthistoryproject.wordpress.com/2015/02/22/alan-macsimoin-a-long-time-anarchist-activist-part-two/

Irish anarchist interviewed about the 1970s and 80s (part 1)

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Belfast Anarchist banner at a Peoples Democracy march (1969?)

Belfast Anarchist banner at a Peoples Democracy march (1969?)

As a teenager Alan MacSimoin joined the Official Republican Movement but soon moved towards anarchism, later being a founder member of the Workers Solidarity Movement.

In this interview filmed in October 2014 he talks about republican debates about militarism and mass politics, the Northern Ireland civil rights movement, the Peoples Democracy march from Belfast to Dublin, the successful anti-nuclear campaign of the late 1970s and the Dunnes Stores anti-apartheid strike of the mid-1980s.

The man beside Alan on the picket at Dunnes Stores in Dublin's Henry Street is fellow WSM member Eddie Conlon,  later Honorary Secretary of the Teachers Union of Ireland.

The man beside Alan is fellow WSM member Eddie Conlon, later Honorary Secretary of the Teachers Union of Ireland.

The interview was conducted by the Irish Republican and Marxist History Project, and is at
http://irishrepublicanmarxisthistoryproject.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/alan-macsimoin-long-time-anarchist-activist/

 

Red Rag (1975)

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click here to download

This little magazine was published by the William Thompson Republican Club, which was formed by two members of the Official Republican Movement (i.e. Official Sinn Fein/Workers Party and Official IRA) who were school students at Newpark Comprehensive School in south Dublin.  It is interesting that as late as 1975 an obviously anarchist influenced publication could come from within a movement which was being increasingly dominated by Stalinism.

The editor, a then 17 year old teenager, remembers

We produced about 100 copies of this on a Gestetner duplicating machine and had no problem selling them in a school of about 550 students.  

Although the pro-Soviet Union crowd didn’t like it – at one internal OSF meeting Eoin O Murchu denounced it as ultra leftist for opposing exam-based education – we were not censured or told to stop by the leadership.  However a second issue never appeared as both of us finished school that summer, and none of the sympathisers we drew to the Club actually joined Official Sinn Fein.  

It was also shortly afterwards that I resigned from the Movement because of its decision to regard the Soviet Bloc countries as “actually existing socialism” and to describe the 1956 Hungarian uprising as fascist.

Outta Control – Belfast – January 1983

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Outta Control 35 pngClick here to download

The cover story tells of how the British Army were able to veto the building of new houses on Belfast’s Crumlin Road, despite the Housing Executive, the Planning Office, and the local community association all being in favour of the development. It goes on to report that Housing Executive managers were holding regular meetings with the Army, and that Belfast Development Officer John Steel had been photographed in military uniform during a visit by the Queen to Hillsborough Castle.

Their Dublin correspondent details the fatal shooting – in the back of the neck and while unarmed – of Eamon Byrne. Byrne was a known robber whose life had previously been threatened by Gardai.

Other stories look at Northern Ireland Electricity’s heartless treatment of families in debt; plastic bullets; the Shoot-To-Kill policy of the RUC and British Army which saw seven unarmed men killed in an eight week period; and how the punk band Crass and 50 friends occupied a disused music venue in London, repelled the police and gave a free concert to 1,500 fans.

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