Sunday, April 26, 2015

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Follonsby Wardly Banner Coming To Ireland

Ciarán Cunningham writes on the journey of a historic radical banner. Ciarán Cunningham lives in the Clonard area of West Belfast. Since coming to Belfast as a student in the mid 90s he has campaigned on political issues relating to the Social and National question here. After his release from Maghaberry Prison in 2006 he has worked as a benefits adviser and Tribunal Representative on a Voluntary and full time basis. He is currently involved in campaigning against Tory/Stormont cutbacks, and benefits cuts in particular.

Follonsby banner

An historic banner originally commissioned by English miners in 1928 and which has seen so much controversy over the decades that it has warranted the writing of a book in its honour is being taken to Ireland, as a centre piece for two anniversary lectures on the Miners Strike of 1984-85.

The ‘Follonsby Wardly’ banner was originally commissioned by the Durham Miners Association in 1928, just four years after the great General Strike which brought England to the verge of a Revolution.

In reflection of the radical and militant mood of the time, it depicted amongst others the Iconic Irish Republican Socialist leader James Connolly. Given the sensitivities of the time, the depiction of an Irish rebel on an English workers banner attracted no small degree of attention as well as some derision; indeed the banner itself was burned in mysterious circumstances in the 1940s. Never the less the striking image of Connolly being held aloft by English workers became an iconic image for Socialists and Internationalists world-wide, a copy of the image sits on the wall of Conway Mill.

In later decade’s controversy continued to follow the Follonsby Wardly pit banner, with new additions consciously leaving out the bust of Connolly in favour of more publically acceptable figures from the English Labour movement.

However thanks to the efforts of the National Union of Mineworkers, political activists as well as members of the Irish Community in Tyneside the original banner has in recent years been restored in its identical and original state, costing no less than £7000 to make.

The banner is being brought to Derry & West Belfast by veterans of the 1984-85 miners strike, including long term coal miner and NUM organiser Dave Douglass, who is also the author of a book on the History of the Follonsby Wardly banner as well as 'Ghostdancers', his own authoritative opinions on the 84-85 strike.

The delegation are coming as guests of ‘Teach na Failte’ the Republican Socialist ex-Prisoners association and will be staying in West Belfast from where they will travel to Derry for a lecture on Friday evening before joining the main Belfast May Day rally on Saturday 2nd of May. Immediately after the Belfast rally they they will address a lecture in the Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre on lessons of the 84-85’ Miners Strike.

Teach na Failte west Belfast representative Gerard Murray explained:

it’s a great honour for us to host this delegation of Workers in West Belfast, as well as the Follonsby Wardly banner, an object which should hold great significance to all Irish Workers, Socialists and Republicans alike. The miners’ strike struck a chord with most people in West Belfast, who amongst other things associated with the miners struggle against Margaret Thatcher, indeed some who went on to become Republican Socialist prisoners were active on the streets along with the miners in 1984, so this is a very important visit for us all.

The Follensby Wardley miner’s banner will be on display at the Derry lecture which is taking place at the City Hotel on Friday May 1st at 7pm and the next day in Belfast Unemployed Resource centre, Donegal Street, following the main May Day rally on Saturday 2nd of May, which takes place at 12 noon.

Banner of the Follonsby Lodge

2 comments :

marty said...

we put up members of the RED CHOIR here at that time they enjoyed their visit here and to Derry their bus had a window smashed leaving Derry by loyalists ,it was an eyeopener for our comrades from Wales, the laugh about the banner in the Mill is those "socialists\reps who run this center were only to willing to take £ millions from the princes trust for the renovation of the mill.

Anthony Higgins said...

WOW! Wardley is 3 miles from my mothers house. Was huge Irish community in that area.