Sunday, 8 March 2015

Michael Davitt 60 year Memorial Celebrations and also the Michael Davitt 100 years celebrations when the President of Ireland came to Haslingden

Photo showing the unveiling of the Michael Davitt Memorial Plaque May 1956
Photo: taken from Haslingden Guardian May 18th 1956 issue (thanks to Jackie Ramsbottom)

This shows a close up of the Memorial Plaque and area as it was from 1956 up until the 100 years celebrations - (Click over to enlarge)

On the 11th May 1956 was the
UNVEILING OF A MEMORIAL PLAQUE to celebrate MICHAEL DAVITT and erected on the site of his past home (from 1853 to 1867)

The memory of the Irish patriot Michael Davitt was perpetuated in Haslingden on Saturday by the unveiling of a memorial tablet on the site of his home from 1853 to 1867.

The esteem in which he is held found expression in the support accorded the ceremony and subsequent celebrations.  Approximately 1,000 people braved a strong wind to see Liverpool barrister Mr. W. J. Loughrey perform the unveiling, which revealed the bronze plaque centred in the specially constructed broken right angle corner walling.  A small flower bed was immediately in front and below the tablet, giving the layout an attractive appearance.
As already reported, the plaque was provided by members of the Irish Democratic League, Haslingden (Davitt) branch.  They sought the co-operation of the Town Council, who constructed the terraced corner walling and laid out the site.
On Saturday members of the Council and officials joined in the 500 strong procession which, led by the Mount Carmel Pipe Band, from Salford, paraded from the club by way of Deardengate, Pleasant Street, Bury Road and King Street to the memorial.  There club president Mr. E. Davison acted as chairman, and the Mayor (Coun. W.J. Everett) extended a civic welcome to the visitors

He described the day as an important one in the town’s history and commented that three years ago, when representatives of the club met the Council on the matter, he had been deeply impressed with their sincerity of purpose.

He knew Michael Davitt as a national figure and he welcomed visitors on behalf of the people of Haslingden because he felt the townspeople would like to be connected with the day’s ceremony.
The Pioneer
Mr. Davison extended a special welcome to 73 years old Mr. John Bourke of 3 Grane Street, who sat in an armchair close to the platform.  Mr. Bourke was venturing out for the first time in seven months and defied illness to be present.  Pioneer of the idea of the memorial and the writer of the inscription on the tablet, he had “just lived for the day.”
Mr. Loughrey, who commented that he always regarded Haslingden as one of the most hospitable towns in the country, said they were honouring one of their greatest citizens and one of the greatest Irishmen of these times.

His life was divided into two distinct parts his undying service to Ireland and his unselfish service to the democracy of England. He was a great Irish patriot and a great British reformer.

The day his family were evicted from their humble home in Ireland he determined to destroy for ever the landlordism which, in those days, was the most tyrannical in the whole of Europe.  He founded the Land League in 1879 after serving penal servitude for his part with the Fenian movement – the only organisation Irishmen could join.  The League had as its object the destruction of landlordism.
Shortly afterwards came his association with Parnell, whom Mr. Loughrey described as one of the great Protestant leaders of the Irish People.  Davitt knew the destruction of landlordism was necessary before he could get freedom for Ireland.  In destroying landlordism be performed the work he set out to do and, with Parnell, laid the foundation for the freedom of Ireland – though he did not live to see it come true.

Exhausted Himself
There was, he went on, no platform in England of a democratic character (particularly Labour) on which Michael Davitt did not exhaust himself in his efforts to obtain freedom and democracy.  Those efforts, coupled with all he had gone through, took so much out of him that he died in 1906.

Davitt preached a definite kind of democracy.  It should not persecute nor terrorise, but be the free march of free men for the common good.  His name was a memory never to be forgotten by the people of this country and the people of Ireland.

Among the guest of honour was His Excellency the Ambassador of the Irish Republic, Mr. Frederick H. Boland, who, on behalf of the Irish government, expressed thanks to the Mayor and members of the Council for the facilities they provided for the erection of the memorial and to the club for their initiative.
Not Forgotten
People in Ireland, he said, would read with pleasure and appreciation of the ceremony and would be grateful to know that the community in which Michael Davitt once lived and in which he went to school, had not forgotten him or his work.  He was not only a great Irish nationalist but a great internationalist, and it was fitting that his memory should be commemorated in Haslingden.
Irish people, he went on, had found homes in many places throughout the world, and although they always kept a deep love for Ireland, they also made a solid contribution to the communities in which they had made their homes.

A son of Michael Davitt, Dr. R. Davitt, a consultant physician in Dublin, flew over specially for the ceremony, added his thanks to the Council and the club for the memorial.

Referring to his father’s accident at a Baxenden cotton mill, he concluded:  If my father left his arm in Baxenden, he left a lot of his heart in Haslingden.
M.P.’s Remarks
Member for the Division (Mr. Tony Greenwood) commented that they had with them at the ceremony the diplomatic representative of a free and independent Ireland which embodied everything Michael Davitt stood for.
He recalled that after losing his arm Michael Davitt went to work for a Haslingden printer who was also the post master, and Davitt would be delighted that attending the ceremony was a member of the Post Office who was also a member of the Town Council in the person of Coun. Bernard Molloy – something which in Davitt's day would have been almost undreampt of.
Tremendous courage was the hall mark of all that Michael Davitt did throughout his life.  He had a love of the working people and founded one of the first Labour papers in this country, and in everything he did there was that genuine integrity that great sincerity and wonderful courage which, one time and another, landed him in prisons in this country.

A man who was prepared to spend nine years of his life in prison for the things in which he believed was a man of infinite courage and deserved to be commemorated in the way they were doing that day.

Michael Davitt, once branded by this country as a traitor was to-day an honoured name throughout the world – as so many had seen the insides of prisons in various parts of the British Empire, but in their lifetime had seen independence for their people and held the highest positions in their countries.
Didn’t Live To See It.
It was a matter for great regret for all that Michael Davitt did not live to see his country enjoy the freedom for which he had worked and struggled for so long.
Thanks to those officiating at the ceremony were voiced by Coun. Molloy and seconded by Mr. G. Bourke and thanks to the Council were voiced by Mr. J. Flynn and Mr. V. Butler.  The Mayor responded.
After the memorial had been dedicated by Father Knowles a wreath “In memory of a great leader” was laid on the memorial by Mr. Davidson on behalf of the club members.
Approximately 100 guests were entertained to an enjoyable chicken and salad tea in the Co-operative Hall and a concert followed in the club at night which included the following artiste: Ivan Dixon of Burnley (tenor), Jimmy Quinn of Blackburn (ventriloquist and comedian), the Connolly Brothers of Bacup (versatile) and Miss Barker and Miss Barbara Hopkinson (Irish dancers), Mr. Albert Hamer and Mr. W. McGowan were pianists and chairmen were Mr. Davison (upstairs) and Mr. J. Gorman (downstairs).
Each member received a chit entitling him to 10 shillings of drinks during the evening and the general arrangements for the event were in the hands of a sub-committee comprising Mr. Davison, Vice-president, Coun. Molloy, Secretary Mr. L. Gill, treasurer Mr. D. Feeney, and Messrs. T. Rowan and V. Butler.
Among the principal guests were Ald. Hugh Llie, a former Lord Mayor of Manchester, and Ald. Lee Wright, of Liverpool; and also present were representatives from other clubs in the Lancashire and Yorkshire Federation, some coming from as far afield as Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield and Dewsbury. 

(The above is extracted from the May 18th 1956 issue of the Haslingden Guardian which has been kindly contributed by Jackie Ramsbottom)

Michael Davitt's Memorial - March 1970

Also Celebrating 100 years since "Michael 

Davitt" (12th April 2006)

when the President of Ireland came 


visit Haslingden.

President of Ireland Mary McAleese unveiling the Irish flag to show the new inscriptions at the Davitt memorial on Wilkinson Street on 12th April 2006

It was buzzing! with police everywhere, and a good atmosphere was created whilst we waited to get a glimpse of the Irish President Mary McAleese and her entourage as they left the Irish Democratic League Club and make the short journey to the Davitt memorial on nearby Wilkinson Street.

President leaving the IDL on way
to Davitts Memorial 

Click over photo to enlarge
The Irish leader was in town to unveil a plaque and attend an exhibition in honour of the historical figure who lived in Haslingden with his family from 1853-1867.  The visit was organised by the Irish Heritage in Haslingden Committee to celebrate the life of Michael Davitt, renowned as a leading figure in Irish history who rose to international political fame. The "People's President" was guest of honour at a civic reception hosted by the Irish Democratic League Club.

Whilst at the IDL Club, President McAleese told the audience there that "the fact they had gathered together 100 years after the death of Michael Davitt, showed just how strong his legacy was.  She continued to say "He overcame the worst cruelty that life could inflict on any human being and he returned to Ireland to champion the land reform and completely changed Irish history.  His work was key to the national regeneration and it was an extroadinary campaign which took phenomenal personal courage.  I like to think that it was here (in Haslingden) that he learned tolerance.  Many years later he came back to this town where he had grown up and they gave him a great reception. He loved Haslingden and he loved the people of Ireland and the two countries now enjoy their best relationship for 800 years.  We now drink from the well that he dug and the IDL clubs are a direct continuing link to Michael Davitt and the Land League".

Police taking a well deserved rest
Click over photo to enlarge
At the end of Wilkinson Street there were several police motorbike riders who were parked up and taking a well deserved rest after they had escorted the President to the Club (see photo to right). There were lots of interesting people in that crowd that day including well know local historians, and a Reverent father who I had known for a decade or two who had travelled to be at the celebrations. It brought lots of people out who I had not seen for years and it gave some of us the chance to catch up.  I took a few more photographs whilst at the memorial and will try and include them at the end of the blog or give a link to them.

Also among the dignatories on the day was the Ambassador of Ireland and also several direct descendants and members of the Davitt family who had travelled from all parts of the Country. There were lots of local dignatories representing historical, cultural, educational and political authorities.

President McAleese addressing the
guest at the IDL Club. See Angus
in the background. (Click over to enlarge
She later left the IDL Club to go to her next appointment which was at the Haslingden Library on Higher Deardengate where she met lots of Haslingden Schoolchildren and also addressed around 90 invited guests about how important the Library had been to Davitt's career. Davitt studied Irish history in the town's Library after losing an arm at the Stelfox Mill in Baxenden.  He went to a local Wesleyan School and was an apprentice at Cockcroft's printers, learning to become a typesetter and book-keeper.

His East Lancashire education would see him play a leading role in the Irish Republican Brotherhood and the Land League of Mayo, battling the influence of wealthy landlords.

Davitt was the founder of the land league, which sought to help poor tenant farmers.  The IDL club was formed in 1880 and was housed in several locations before settling in George Street in 1911.

Here is a copy of where President McAleese signed the visitors book on the day
Click over to enlarge
A photo of yours truly with the man who is the Davitt authority, Dr.John Dunleavy. The photo
was taken whilst at the Davitt Memorial on that day by our mutual friend the Late Father Peter Knowles. 
(Click over to enlarge)
The president leaving the Davitt Memorial.
Click over to enlarge