Friday, 26 October 2012

Dear All, Although I have not received an electronic version detailing the tree planting event in memory of Terence MacSwiney in Southwark, I have a hard copy of a letter addressed to Megan Dobney, Secretary of the South East Regional Trades Union Congress, from the Cork Association in London. If anybody needs a hard copy, please do not hesitate to contact me. Nevertheless, I will provide details from the letter itself in italics. The tree planting ceremony will take place on Sunday, October 28th at 1.00 pm in the Mary Geraldine Harmsworth Park, Kennington Road, London SE1. The organiser is seeking help in ensuring the participation of certain London Trade Union Councils in the event. The reasons are provided at the bottom of the page. "The two trees being planted have been donated to the London Borough of Southwark by the Cork Association. This donation will fill gaps in a fine collection of trees which chronicles the arrival of tree species in Britain at the end of the last ice age. This tree planting will take place after the Terence MacSwiney Mass held each year in the St. George's Roman Catholic Cathedral, which is situated close to the Harmsworth Park. This Mass takes place on the Sunday nearest to October 25th, the date when Cork's Lord Mayor died in Brixton Prison in 1920 as he entered the 74th day of a hunger strike. The Mass for Terence MacSwiney continued to be held in St. George's during the difficult period in Anglo - Irish relations which prevailed from 1968/1969 to the siging of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. The Mayor of Southwark will plant one of the two trees and a representative of Cork City Council will be present at the event. The second tree will be jointly planted by two secondary school students from North Monastery CBS (Terence MacSwiney's old school in Cork) and two pupils from a Southwark Secondary School. The organiser stated in his letter that he would provide the reasons for the longstanding ties of friendship between the people of Southwark and Ireland which arise from events connected with the death of Terence Mac Swiney. Large numbers of Irish migrants settled in Southwark in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and contributed to the development of the area. This inward migration of Irish people continued into the twentieth century until the late 1960s. Particularly, close ties were forged between Southwark and Cork following the death of Terence MacSwiney. The MacSwiney family needed a large venue in London for obsequies connected with the death of the Lord Mayor. Bishop (later Archbishop) Peter Amigo kindly permitted Terence Mac Swiney's remains to lie in a state in St. George's Cathedral. The British government had urged Bishop Amigo to deny the MacSwiney family access to the Cathedral's facilities. However, the Bishop resisted this pressure pointing out that the Lord Mayor was a Catholic and entitled to the services of his church. Alderman George Alfed Isaacs, the Mayor of Southwark and a full time official of a print worker's trade union, led a party of four other London mayors as Terence MacSwiney's remains were taken in possession from St.George's Cathedral to Euston Station for the journey to Ireland. This participation of mayors from the metropolitan boroughs of Fulham, Lambeth, Poplar, Southwark and Stepney was a fine act of solidarity with the Irish people at a time when the two countries were locked in conflict. Bishop Amigo was indefatigable in his efforts to promote peace. He wrote letters to the London Times about untoward events taking place in Ireland and opposed Lloyd George's plicy of repression in the island. The Bishop urged the British government to enter into negotiations with the fledgling Irish administration with a view to settling the Anglo - Irish conflict. St. George's was destroyed by incendiary bombs during World War II and Irish people acknowledged a debt of gratitude when they helped in the post - war reconstruction of the Cathedral. Church gate collections were held throughout Ireland to help defray the cost of rebuilding St. George's - Irish people had not forgotten the friendship shown by Bishop Amigo to the MacSwiney family four decades previously and contributed gerously towards the cost of rebuilding of this English Cathedral. When St. George's was formally reopened in 1958 An Toiseach de Valera and Cork's Lord Mayor came to this event as did many other Irish dignitaries. The Brugha/MacSwiney family were, also, present at the reopening of St. George's and remain in contact with the Cathedral to this day. The Cork Association is keen to acknowledge the links between Southwark and Cork, and the forthcoming tree planting in Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park will celebrate these bonds of friendship forged some ninety - two years ago. The Association would very much appreciate a message of support from SERTUC for this tree planting venture. The Association would, also, value your help in getting the active participation of the local Hammersmith, Lambeth, Souhtwark and Tower Hamlets Trades Union Councils because of the involvement of the labour movement in Fulham, Lambeth, Sothwark, Tepney and Polar in the 1920 procession which took Terence MacSwiney's coffin to Euston station. Dagenham and Barking have strong links to Cork because of the Ford facotry in metropolitan Essex and the Ford works in Ireland. It would be excellent if the Barking and Dagenham Trades Union Council could, also, participate in the forthcoming tree planting in Southwark. The Association is particularly keen to get the local trades union council banners present on display at the actual tree planting." Kind regards Austin Harney, Secretary of Barnet Trades Union Council

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