Archive for December 8th, 2013

Ten young women and one young man, the Dunnes Stores strike and the disappearance of the man
December 8, 2013

Today’s Irish Times carries an article on page two by Kitty Holland, in it she states:

“The picket would be there, on the shops three entrances, manned by 11 young women from the inner city, for two years and nine months.”

And that is typical of what is being printed right now.

Well they were all young, but not all from the inner city, and definitely not all women. That only one young man joined the courageous women in the strike is bad enough, but that is no reason to revise him out of history.
It was a principled workers strike, supported and opposed by both men and women, many of whom traveled from all over Ireland and even abroad to support the strike, or sadly, to take joy in passing the picket and even abusing those on the picket line.
I have searched the web and very few references are made to the one man, but the fact that cross gender working class solidarity was shown is mentioned in two songs. This is by the late great Ewan MacColl.

Ten Young Women And One Young Man

A song by Ewan MacColl ©EwanMacColl 

Pause a while my friends and listen to what I’m going to tell to you
About the events in Dublin City and the girls of the IDATU
Dunne’s stores branch in Henry street was where the trouble first began
That led to the strike, the famous strike
Of ten young women and one young man

At the union conference that year they said we should not compromise
With apartheid, and they voted to boycott all South African merchandise
Karen Guerin, and the Dunne’s shop steward, told their mates about the ban
They said “We’ll stick by the resolution”
Ten young women and one young man

Mary Manning, from Kilmainham, a twenty one year old cashier
Was put to the test the very next morning and she spoke up loud and clear
“No, I’m afraid, I cannot serve you. That grapefruit’s South African
Some of us here are opposed to apartheid”
Ten young women and one young man

Well what a hell of a hullaballoo, the groans and threats and angry cries
The management foaming at the mouth and the suits running round like blue-arsed flies
“You’ll sell that fruit or be suspended, we’ll tolerate no union ban”
Little did they understand the will
Of ten young women and one young man

Mary Manning got the push, a lass of independent mind
And ten of her workmates came out and her and joined her there on the picket line
For days and weeks and months they stood there held their nerve and kept the ban
Showing the will and determination
Of ten young women and one young man

So here’s to the girls of Dublin City who stretched their hands across the sea
That action surely is a lesson in workers’ solidarity
Here’s to the folk who heed the boycott, won’t buy Cape and spurn Outspan
And to the lad who joined the lasses
Ten young women and one young man

From here

And from Christy Moore:

Close your eyes and come with me back to 1984
We’ll take a walk down Henry Street to Dunnes Department store.
The supermarket’s busy and the registers make a din’
The groceries go rolling out and the cash comes rolling in.

Mary Manning is at the checkout and she’s trying to keep warm,
When a customer comes up to her with a basket on her arm
The contents of the basket Mary’s future is to shape
But the label clearly stated “Produce Of The Cape”

I can’t check out your oranges Mrs, now won’t you bring them back.
For they come from South Africa, where White oppresses black
I’d have it on my conscience and I couldn’t sleep at night
If I helped support the system that denies Black People’s rights

Our union says “Don’t Handle Them. it’s the least that we can do.
We Fought oppression here for centuries, we’ll help them fight it too”
The managers descended in an avalanche of suits
And Mary was suspended cos she wouldn’t touch the fruits.

Dunnes Stores Dunnes Stores
Dunnes Stores with St Bernard Better Value Beats Them All

Well, her friends are all behind her and the union gave support
And they called a strike and the pickets brought all Dunnes’ Stores to a halt
No one was going to tell the Boss what he bought or sold
These women are only workers, they must do as they are told.

Isn’t it just typical of a partite screwball law?
It’s not just in South Africa, the Rich Temple and the poor.
He wouldn’t have a boycott, he couldnt give a tinker’s curse
Doesn’t matter how he fills the shelves as long as he
Lines his Purse


The messages came rollin’ in from all around the world
For such concern and sacrifice and for courage brave and bold.

When 14 months were over, 10 women and a man
Had helped to raise the consiousness all around the

Cleary’s in O’Connell street wouldn’t sell South African shoes.
Best Man sent all their clothes back, Roches Stores sent back their booze.
Until all South African goods were taken off the shelves in Dunnes.
And Mary Manning was down in Henry Street sticking to her guns.


And a rare non-song mention:

One thing I did that sticks in my memory is the trip to Dublin. This was a lovely experience – there were these (I think) five [sic] women and one man, a small group of workers at Dunnes Stores in Henry Street in Dublin who had refused to handle or take money for South African produce and they were sacked by their employer. The union IDATU backed their case and I went over there on our behalf. That was a very nice trip; and they came over to us. They were decent folk who had just taken a moral stand. (Interview with Andy Higginbottom, April 2012).

From here

So there you have it….when next you hear someone talk of the Dunnes Stores women remind them that there was a quiet young man who saved us men from total shame.

I have forgotten his name, and that may be the way he would want it, but if he reads this I just want to say…..thank you.

Eamo  8 December 2013

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