“Anti-Christ” Jim Gralton
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A brief write-up on the great Irish republican socialist, Jim Gralton, who was deported from Ireland in 1933
On August 13, 1933 Jim Gralton was forced to board a Trans-Atlantic Liner in Cork which was to set sail for the USA. Jim had been arrested on August 10 at a friend’s house in Gorvagh, County Leitrim and brought to Ballinamore Barracks where he was detained before being brought to Cork for his deportation. He had been living on the run since February of that year following the issuing of a deportation order by the courts who ruled that he had to leave Ireland by March 5. His deportation 77 years ago makes him the only native Irishman to be deported from this state.
He was born in Effernagh close to Carrick on Shannon in County Leitrim on April 17 1886. His education, such as it was, was received in nearby Kiltoghert school. Like most young people at the time, he left school early, aged just 14. After working for a number of employers in the local area, fed up with the harsh treatment he and others suffered at their hands, Jim headed for Dublin where he enlisted in the British army.
His rebellious behaviour was not long coming through and he endured punishment of 84 days on “bread and water” for his refusal to shine the leggings and buttons of one of his officers. He was then posted to India, but refused to go in protest at British policies in Ireland. For his defiance and protest, Jim was jailed for a year and subsequently deserted the army, going to work for a time in the coal mines of Wales and in Liverpool docks.
He then got employment as a ship’s stoker and eventually settled in New York where he became a US citizen in 1909. In the midst of the great wealth in the USA, Jim was appalled at the harsh, slave-like conditions that workers endured, which led him to become a firm believer in supporting the rights of workers and in socialism.
From the time he arrived in the US, Jim was active in supporting and raising much needed funds for both the Irish republican struggle and for fellow workers in New York. He became a member of the US Communist Party and became heavily involved in trade union activity. In the wake of the 1916 Rising, and after studying of the writings of James Connolly, Jim became a founding member of the James Connolly Club in New York.
Almost a decade and a half after arriving in the US, Jim decided to return home to Ireland in June 1921, just a month before the truce in the Tan War commenced on the 11th of July. During the war, the notorious Black and Tans had burnt the local Temperance Hall beside Gowel Church to the ground. On his return, Jim promised local people he would replace it and set about, with his own money and with local support, building a new hall on his father’s land near Effernagh crossroads.
The new hall, named the Pearse-Connolly Hall, was eventually opened on December 31 1921 and became an integral part of the everyday lives of the local community. Amongst its many uses was the holding in classes of a wide range of subjects including Irish, English, music, dancing, civics and agricultural science. This was also a time of many land disputes and the Hall was also used to hold Land Courts to settle many of these disputes. Despite the good work Jim was doing for his community and despite the valuable educational service that was been provided, not everyone was happy.
The Catholic Church in particular were extremely unhappy. They denounced him at every opportunity, at the pulpit during mass and in letters, going as far as to describe him as an extremely dangerous socialist and even an “Anti-Christ”. They accused him of “leading a campaign of Land agitation”, of trying to take the youth of the area away from the Catholic Church and of teaching communism to them in his classes.
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