A postcard of Joseph Mairs sold by his fellow miners to raise funds for his cairn (Submitted photo)

Joseph Mairs Memorial pays homage to young trade-unionist

January 19 marks the 18th annual Joseph Mairs Memorial

January 19 marks the 18th annual Joseph Mairs Memorial.

In the summer of 1913, striking Ladysmith coal miners chased European strike breakers out of town by pelting their residence with rocks. The strikers gained control of Ladysmith, but were quickly overwhelmed by militia forces bolstered by a section of the Seaforth Highlanders. The militia forces then began arresting strikers. Mairs was identified as a rock thrower. He was fined $100, and sentenced to one year in Okalla prison. Mairs died in the winter of 1914 after falling ill in prison – just one month short of his 22nd birthday.

His legacy lives on through a large cairn at the Ladysmith cemetery, which was paid for by his fellow miners. His legacy also lives through the Joseph Mairs Memorial. Every year, organizers honour Mairs’ life and host speakers that present on a range of subjects.

Eden Haythornthwaite and her family took on an organizational role with the Joseph Mairs Memorial Committee after learning about his story. Since then, they have helped to bring speakers from far and wide to come to the event – often paying for the guest speakers’ travel expenses to attend the memorial.

This year there are two speakers. Dipti Baranwal, a south Asian immigrant who has been teaching in Los Angeles for 11 years. Baranwal helped initiate and sustain Students Deserve, a student-teacher-parent organization that is working to end racism, challenge privatization, and shift public consciousness. Baranwal will be joined by Noah Lippe-Klein, a history teacher at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles for 20 years. He is on the Board of Directors of UTLA, the union that led last year’s 6-day strike. He also supports the student movement in LA called Students Deserve, which leads the Making Black Lives Matter in Schools campaign.

Their talk is titled: The Historic LA Teacher Strike and the Work of Making Black Lives Matter in Schools.

The memorial will also feature live music from Art Farquharson and friends, Beverley McKeen and friends, and Lily Haythornthwaite.

The event begins at 1:00 pm at St. Mary’s Catholic Church Hall in Ladysmith, and will include an outdoor walk to the cemetery to visit Joseph Mairs’ grave site.

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