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This week I’ll (also) mostly be listening to…. Songs of the Molly Maguires May 7, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Thanks to Joe Mooney for the following!

This week sees the Irish premiere of John Kearns play “Sons of Molly Maguire” at Liberty Hall Theatre, as part of Mayfest 2017. This year marks the 140th anniversary of the execution of ten Irish emigrants in 1877, accused of acts of violence against mine owners, foremen etc, in the Pennsylvania coal fields. Remembered as “Day of the Rope”, a further ten men would also be hanged over the next two years, mainly based on evidence from a fellow Irishman who infiltrated their community on behalf of the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Having previously played at the Midtown International Theatre Festival in New York, where it was nominated for five awards, these performances of “Sons of Molly Maguire” will be the first time this story has ever been told on an Irish stage.

For many people, their knowledge of the Molly Maguires extends to the song by the Dubliners, recorded in the late 1960’s.


A popular and rousing sing-along , the song sheds little light onto the story of the Mollies , though it does reassure us that while they have their faults they do have one important saving grace – “They’re drinkers, they’re liars but they’re men” and also gives us plenty of warning that we’ll “ never see the likes of them again” .

Far more interesting in terms of historical relevance are these two songs recorded by the Irish Balladeers, and appearing on their 1968 album simply titled “The Molly Maguires”.

“If you stand in the dark with your ear to the wind
you can hear the Sons of Molly.
Down in the dark of the old mine shaft
you can smell the smoke and the fire.
And the whispers low in the mines below
are the ghost of Molly Maguire.”



This next one has a very light-hearted jaunty sound, released by the Irish Rovers in 1971. This Irish / Canadian band are probably best remembered for the incredibly stupid song “The Unicorn”, but also released a version of the even more stupid “Snoopy vs the Red Baron”. Their “Lament for the Molly Maguires” actually has a decent bit of the history in there (more than the Dubliners one), but probably stands out most for being the only song here which explicitly refers to the questionable claim that “Many’s a Welshman lost his ears”.


In 1970 Sean Connery and Richard Harris starred in “The Molly Maguires”, which is the other common reference point for people when they’re mentioned. The score by Henry Mancini is very well considered, and if you’ve got 14 minutes to spare here’s a selection from it.




1. Michael Carley - May 7, 2017

They also pop up in a Sherlock Holmes story.

Liked by 1 person

Ramzi Nohra - May 14, 2017

The Valley of Fear. Conan Doyle bumped into Pinkerton on a cross Atlantic journey of some sort (I keep thinking it was in a balloon but surely that can’t be right) and he turned it into a novel. He slightly de-hibernicised it to (supposedly) avoid irritating Irish American readers.
Also ties in Moriary with the Mollies. There’s a canon of literature tying moriary with fenianism actually. Those interested May want to read this:



Liked by 1 person

2. roddy - May 7, 2017

If there is a group anywhere more”stage Irish” than the irish rovers,I have yet to see them..


3. shea - May 8, 2017

Mcfarland was the spy. spent a night googling him before after watching the movie. pure dirt and held up as a hero for decades for high up law enforcment in america, a level of policing was basicly privatized with that pinkleton agency and its competitors, it was a free for all . A book some where on line from the 19th century can’t find it now, pointing out similar tactics he used in the molly maguires and attempts to break other unions in the states.


CL - May 8, 2017

Interesting articles here, although the writers are wrong about the ‘largest mass execution in U.S. history’


“On Dec. 26, 38 Dakota Sioux were led to the scaffold; they sang their death songs as they walked, and when they had mounted the scaffold and the hoods were drawn down over their faces, they continued to sing and sway, and clasp one another’s manacled hands. At a drum signal, the trap was sprung, and the watching crowd of thousands cheered.”


Joe Mooney - May 8, 2017

True regarding the Sioux executions . I think the distinction is that the Molly Maguires was a ‘judicial’ execution rather than a military tribunal. Likewise, I think a larger number of San Patricios than Mollies were also executed , again a military tribunal. Not that the difference matters when the trap is sprung. There’s a 1912 book by a former Pinkerton which in which he claimed that the agency had been guilty of “jury tampering, fabricated confessions, false witnesses, bribery, intimidation, and hiring killers for its clients…” , with McParland central to these crimes.

Piece on McParland here, and as stated above a despicable character.



4. shea - May 8, 2017

irishcentral for history articles is like the history you learn of your uncles. Everything is embellished past the point of myth and not as good at it as irelands own.


5. CB - May 10, 2017

Here is an interview on the Irish History Show with John Kearns talking about the Molly Maguires. http://irishhistoryshow.ie/17-the-molly-maguires/


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