Piper Frank Nichols pipes a lament at the Ladysmith Cemetery graveside of Joseph Mairs during last year’s Joseph Mairs Memorial. This year’s memorial takes place Sunday

Piper Frank Nichols pipes a lament at the Ladysmith Cemetery graveside of Joseph Mairs during last year’s Joseph Mairs Memorial. This year’s memorial takes place Sunday

Sunday memorial marks 100th anniversary of Joseph Mairs’s death

The Joseph Mairs Memorial Committee hosts a memorial for the labour martyr Sunday, Jan. 19 in Ladysmith.

One hundred years ago, a 21-year-old coal miner and trade unionist named Joseph Mairs died while serving time in prison during the Occupation of Ladysmith.

Mairs was one of many coal miners who went on strike against four coal mines in Nanaimo and Ladysmith in 1912.

Mairs had worked at the Canadian Collieries mine in Extension and was embroiled in a bitter struggle between miners, fighting for the eight-hour day, health and safety regulations and union recognition under the banner of the United Mine Workers of America, and their employers, which lasted from September 1912 to the start of the First World War.

In 1912, United Mine Workers member Oscar Mottishaw reported dangerous levels of gas in one of the mines. He was fired and blacklisted. In response, his fellow miner held a one-day strike on Sept. 12, 1912. The companies retaliated with lockouts at all the mines, and they used scab labour to continue business.

A year later, the miners in Ladysmith, who were still on strike, had lost patience with scabs. Forming into a large crowd and arming themselves with stones and dynamite, they drove out the strikebreakers and police from the town.

The militia was dispatched, and mass arrests followed.

Mairs was arrested Aug. 15, 1913, and sentenced to one year in jail and a $100 fine. Mairs became ill in January, and after receiving no medical attention, he died on Jan. 20, 1914, one month shy of his 22nd birthday.

Mairs rests in the Ladysmith Cemetery beneath a stone cairn his fellow miners erected in his honour with the inscription “A Martyr to a Noble Cause — The Emancipation of His Fellow Men.”

For the past 11 years, the Joseph Mairs Memorial Committee has been honouring Mairs with a formal memorial the Sunday closest to the anniversary of his death.

The 12th annual Joseph Mairs Memorial will take place this Sunday (Jan. 19) at 1 p.m. at St. Mary’s Catholic Church Hall at 1135 Fourth Ave. in Ladysmith.

The topic of discussion this year will be “The Next Hundred Years,” featuring a panel of young people discussing the future of B.C., Canada and the globe in the context of Labour and its contributions.

“We’re really aware it’s the 100th anniversary, and we wanted to do something special,” said committee founder Alastair Haythornthwaite. “We thought we’re looking back 100 years, but we’re also looking forward to the next 100 years.”

Five or six young people will sit on the panel this year.

“I think it’s going to be quite surprising,” said Haythornthwaite. “I know we’ve had some preliminary discussions with the panel, and their take on politics and society and change is quite different from ours. I think it’s going to be very interesting to hear what these people have to say and the interaction between them and the audience.

“One of our catchphrases is ‘our common condition’ — with Joseph Mairs and with each other. It will be very good for young people and older people to hear this dialogue. We can teach them a lot, and they are looking at it with fresh eyes.”

The event will also feature live music by local musicians linked to the labour movement,  including Art Farquarson and friends, Beverley McKeen and friends, and Charlie Fox, plus new musical addition Lily Haythornthwaite. Mike Gagnon volunteers to do the sound for them.

Piper Frank Nichols, who has been part of the memorial for the past decade, will lead a procession from the church to the cemetery and play a lament for the fallen at Mairs’s graveside.

Haythornthwaite says the memorial is an event for trade unionists to remember Joseph Mairs and miners from the past and also to link their struggles to the struggles workers face today.

“It’s a non-partisan atmosphere, and it’s a place for us to come and discuss our issues,” he said. “We always have a forum so all the audience can participate.”

“Our struggle as Canadians for justice and democracy is an ongoing process, and Joseph Mairs and all his fellow miners, they were taking part in it 100 years ago, and here we are continuing it on,” he added. “We are trying to do our bit in the world, just as they did. Now, I think our biggest challenge is democracy, to get our politicians to legislate in the interest of the population instead of the corporation and the elites.”

For more information, click here.

Just Posted

The Crofton trailer park home where the bodies of two people were found. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Mom still waiting for answers after daughter and her fiance found dead in Crofton

Pair discovered dead in their Crofton home in May identified as Rachel Gardner and Paul Jenkins

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

CVRD to increase enforcement after audits reveal that curb-side recycling contamination in the district is well above acceptable limits. (File photo)
CVRD reports contamination in recyclables well above acceptable levels

Increased enforcement planned starting this summer

A conceptual rendering of the commercial plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Road. (Town of Ladysmith/June 15 Council Agenda)
Rocky Creek commercial plaza passes public hearing

The proposed plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Road would bring commercial activity to Ladysmith’s north end

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Most Read