Thursday, November 01, 2007

Donation of books to Loughrea Library honours the memory of the late Senator Bobby Burke.

Bobby Burke, a Senator who represented the Labour Party
and who was a member of Galway County Council in the 1940s was honoured in Loughrea Library on Tuesday night October 15th. Senator Burke was a man who believed strongly in working on behalf of the poor and the marginalised.

On the initiative of his niece, Claire Besnoye, a special collection of books to mark his memory has been placed in the Loughrea Library. This collection is a tribute to the life and work of Bobby Burke, and the books reflect the political and social philosophies by which he lived and the historical tradition from which he emerged. The collection was donated by Claire Besnoye and by friends who wished to honour the work of the former senator.

At the launch of the collection both Professor GearĂ³id O Tuathaigh, Professor of History at NUI Galway and Dr. John Cunningham, lecturer in history at NUI Galway gave short lectures on Bobby Burke.

Senator Burke established a co-operative farm near Tuam and the men who were working on the co-operative farm in Tuam were ordinary agricultural labourers.

Senator Burke could have employed the labourers in the ordinary way, and paid them a day's wages when they worked and let them remain idle when he did not require their services. Instead of that, he brought them in on his land, built houses for all of them, and gave them a voice in the running and management of the farm. He believed in giving the worker a share in the management of the farm. To him this was exceedingly desirable because of the sense of responsibility which it develops and because, he believed, "it places at the disposal of the employer the genius that is often found latent in a man in a humble position. It gives the worker greater interest in life and makes him feel that he is not merely a wage slave, that his opinion is valued and that, if he has any good ideas, they can be exploited to his own and his employer's advantage."

Senator Burke followed through on this philosophy in full measure. He gave these men comfortable homes. He formed them into a management committee where he had only one vote, the same as they. They meet periodically to decide in regard to various operations on the farm. He made himself an allowance for his work as he did for his men. Allowance was made for seeds, manures and so on and, at the end of the season, the accounts were made up and the profits were divided in equal measure amongst all.

The staff of Loughrea Library, Ms. Anne-Marie Callanan, Mary Donnellan and Sheila Kelly ensured that the event was well-attended, well-organised and that it ran smoothly.

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