Mayor pays tribute to Gralton

SLIGO MAYOR alderman Declan Bree paid tribute to Leitrim socialist Jim Gralton, during a recent visit to New York.

Declan Bree

Speaking at the Leitrimman's grave in Woodlawn cemetary in the Bronx, Bree said that Gralton personified all that was positive about the Irish and American labour movements. "He was a life-long socialist and trade unionist and a fighter for the rights of ordinary people. Jim Gralton was a working class hero," said the Sligo mayor (pictured right).

Gralton was a native of Effernagh, Co. Leitrim and immigrated to America as a young man. It was in the United States that he became involved in the labour struggles of the time. Never breaking his links with Ireland he was active in the Connolly Club in New York, which also counted among its members Jim Larkin, Nora Connolly and Liam Mellows.

On his return to Leitrim in 1932, to help his aged parents, he became immersed in political activity. He joined the Revolutionary Workers Group, spoke at numerous anti-eviction meetings and re-opened the Pearse-Connolly Hall in Gowel, Co. Leitrim. When a massive 'red' scare enveloped the country in 1933, Gralton became the victim of a political witch-hunt and was deported from Ireland as "an undesirable alien". Gralton was the only Irishman ever deported from his native land.

The Leitrim socialist was never allowed to return to Ireland and spent the remaining days of his life in the American labour movement. On his return to New York he again became involved in the Irish Workers Clubs and was active in assisting the organisers of the subway and bus workers, who were largely Irish.

In October 1933 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Communist Party in the borough elections in New York. He also stood for alderman in the 13th district of Manhattan.

In the years following he reprinted James Connolly's pamphlets, raised funds for the International Brigades in Spain and participated in the many campaigns of the period.

He died in New York on 29 December 1945 and was buried in the Bronx. A modest headstone erected by the Irish Workers Clubs marks his grave in the cemetery overlooking part of the great city where Gralton spent so much of his life.

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2005-06-13 13:26:06.
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